Peter Shankman built his business, HelpAReporterOut.com ("HARO" for short) first by creating a fan page on Facebook, this is basically like starting a group. The concept was that Peter knew lots of reporters, and he wanted to "help them out" by providing good expert sources for journalists to help them write their articles. Well, the list grew virally because a lot of smart businesspeople realized that this was a great resource to get some media coverage and free PR. And because Peter started the group on Facebook, it was easy to make it viral because friends could invite friends, and people who were browsing the profile of a member of the group, could see that they were a member of the group and check the group out for themselves.
Peter quickly outgrew the 5,000 fan limit on Facebook (which has since been raised) and moved his group to an email list where he sends emails three times a day with the "queries" from the journalists in them. He then utilized Twitter, to build his list even more. Peter sends out short messages on Twitter, called "tweets," that go out to all of his followers. It's an instant way for him to get the journalists' queries out to his subscribers.
At the time of writing this article Peter has more than 40,000 "followers" on Twitter and more than 60,000 people on his mailing list. And he monetizes the list by selling ad space on his emails that go out three times daily, five days a week. If you do the math, you can see how profitable this business is for him and he built the business all on the back of social media.
Another great example of a business using social media is Blendtec. Blendtec makes commercial-strength blenders for consumers and started a YouTube video series called, "Will it blend?" where it shows you the strength of its blenders by blending things that you would think would break most blenders. Of course, the blender makes light work of everything it shows, but it does show some impressive stuff. One of its bigger videos was when it blended an iPhone when it first came out and was hard to get. It reportedly had more than 100,000 views in less than a week, and has now gotten more than 3.3 million views! A blender! And, Blendtec reportedly increased its sales five-fold in that same week. Now, its a real competitor in the consumer space for blenders, all because of social media.
In a totally unique business model, KOGI BBQ in Los Angeles is a mobile restaurant with multiple trucks serving, get this, a fusion of Korean and Mexican food. If there aren't enough strange statements in that first sentence to make you cross-eyed, then I give up! Well, in any event, people love the food. It was very popular outside of nightclubs and other hot spots, however, there are many challenges to running a restaurant on wheels, namely, it's not in a fixed location! So, the owners use Twitter to let patrons know where they are located and to offer specials. Talk about an instant way to generate more business! If business is slow, they can just send out a Tweet to drive more people to them!