It’s no secret that I am absolutely in love with Madison, Wisconsin. There is something about fresh cheese curds, homemade ice cream from Babcock Hall and sitting outside at a cafe on State Street that enlivens my soul. When I was little, I spent my summers a little north of Madison at my grandparents’ house, and Madison has become a sort of check-in for me during different points in my life. Each time I return, I reflect on things that have changed in my life since the last time I was there, and measure up my life to my expectations as a little girl wandering the street that my mom used to wander down in her hippie high school days.
So, it also should be no secret, that before I married someone from here (and moved here!) I loved to share my love of the city on social when I am in town. My first experience worth noting was with Hilldale in Madison, a revived shopping center that is a lovely break from the normal downtown area. I sent out a Tweet from a restaurant dinner date with my mom, and within in moments the shopping center was interacting with me. Not only did they respond to my Tweet, they continued commenting throughout my trip and engaged with me even when I was back in NYC. Suddenly, I had an attachment to Hilldale which has continued to bring me back to the shopping center with each visit. I mean, who can resist a beautiful outdoor shopping center that checks in on you and your family?
My second incredible social media experience with Madison happened a couple of years ago when I was working remotely from my mom’s house. Jason Harder, known as “The Pie Guy”, responded to one of my Tweets of a barn in Wisconsin. I wrote about how in love I am with the state, and he quickly replied, “who isn’t?”. I couldn’t resist continuing the conversation since I am also in love with pie, and soon I had an invitation to the diner where he sells his famous pies, AND he asked which of my favorite pies he could prepare for my visit. A few days later, I met the vibrant pie guy in person, and had some of the best pie ever. He also made both of my favorite flavors of pie for me to take home as a gift for my dedication to visit the diner. This guy gets social media.
So, what did these two small businesses do right to cut through the noise of all of the millions of other businesses I could go to in Madison?
Sought Me Out
Jason is a great example of how proactively seeking out potential customers can benefit your business. He looked for someone that had a common interest (Wisconsin) and started a conversation about it. That way, he was able to get his business out in front of 150K people, while also fostering a genuine conversation. By seeking out people that you have things in common with, you can eventually steer the conversation towards your business, or, like me, they might be proactive themselves and start asking about your business.
Didn’t Judge Me By My Cover
It would have been so easy for Hilldale and Jason to write me off because my profile said I was from South Florida. After all, why should they spend time engaging with someone that would be hopping on a plane to another state in a few days? Both were incredibly smart to realize that I was visiting my family, which meant I would most likely be returning to Wisconsin again. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with tourists. Either they will be visiting the area again sometime soon, or they have the potential to spread the word about your business across the country, and even the world, when they return home.
Hilldale is an awesome example of a business creating an authentic relationship with a customer by following through. Even after I returned to NYC, I saw them favoriting and retweeting content I was putting out. They still cared about me as a customer, and never let me get too far away. This kept them on the top of my mind when I was back in the Madison area.
Something else I have to add here is that I received an email from my mom after I returned to South Florida. While Jason’s pies were delicious, I obviously could not take them back on the plane with me. So, come to find out, my grandpa cut them into tiny slices and took them to his “spit and argue club” at McDonald’s (his coffee group he meets every morning at 5AM). They all wanted to know where it was from, so my grandpa wrote down Jason and the diner’s name on napkins and handed them out to his club. A couple of them now can’t wait to drive to the diner. My grandpa said, “mouth to mouth…especially when it is filled with pie, works just fine. It is social media the old fashioned way.” Looks like Jason’s social media skills stretched beyond social into real life, which is what social media is really about, isn’t it?
– Marji J. Sherman