Boystown businesses find unique use for social networking

Fri. January 29, 2010 12:00 AM

pie hole pizza in boystown, chicago

photo credit // anthony meade
Chicago, IL - On the heels of Pie Hole announcing that its lease will end on May 31, 2010, owner Doug Brandt has found a creative and possibly unprecedented use for social networking sites.

Against conventional and strategic business thinking, Brandt intends to share his experience of finding a new home for Pie Hole using ChicagoPride.com, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

"We've received a lot of public interest in our displacement," said Brandt, "so I thought online status updates would be a unique way of including our customers in our progress, event-by-event, as things happen."

Unique, indeed. Most negotiation takes place behind closed doors, especially something as confidential and strategic as Pie Hole's situation. But Brandt is committed to "transparency," a current boardroom buzzword that describes a corporation's desire to be forthcoming with information in an era of national corporate scandal.

To announce such updates is one thing, but to post such updates openly on the internet takes the risk one step further.

"Some of my friends think the whole idea is crazy," admits Brandt, "but everyone I've asked agrees that, if it catches on, it'll be genius."

He quickly corrects them: "‘When' it catches on."

While social networking sites have been integral in personal relationships, only now are sites like Facebook and Twitter discovering applications for commercial relationships.

Businesses are quickly signing up for Facebook Pages, and Facebook's online advertising services help optimize marketing efforts by serving ads to members whose profiles match chosen criteria.

Twitter has hinted that they are developing robust commercial applications for its online micro-blogging service. Until then, savvy small businesses use existing Twitter functionality to establish stronger relationships with their constituencies.

Brandt initially used Twitter to announce nightly specials at Pie Hole, but soon realized "Twittering" wasn't the best medium for that application.

"Twitter doesn't help much with hard-sell calls-to-action; it's better for public relations and community building."

And Pie Hole's online followers continue to grow daily.

Chicago Male, Boystown's male-focused salon, can also be found online.

"For me, it's mostly a matter of tracking the numbers," explains owner Scott Neasham, who joined MySpace almost immediately upon opening his business nearly five years ago. But now Facebook seems to be his social network of choice.

"The market has shifted," explains Neasham. "It used to be all about MySpace, but suddenly Facebook stepped up and took over."
Neasham uses Facebook's pages and ad campaign capabilities to market his business to potential clients.

"[Facebook] is almost like email," he adds. "You pretty much have to be on it if you want to be where the people are at."

Compared to traditional print advertising, businesses like Pie Hole and Chicago Male are finding that the reach, the frequency and – perhaps most importantly – the quality of social networking can't be beat.

Brandt hopes the unprecedented level of interaction will help generate excitement about Pie Hole's search to find a new location.

"We enjoy sharing the updates this way," Brandt said. "Meeting with architects, negotiating with landlords, planning with designers… we keep everyone in the loop on our progress. The good, the bad and the ugly."

But how will it all turn out? Follow "PieHolePizza" on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace to keep up with the play-by-play as the cast journeys to find a new Hole.

Become a fan of Chicago Male Salon by searching on Facebook.
 

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