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Using Social Media to Reach a Niche Market

Instead of reaching the masses with your social media campaign, hone in on your target customers with the content they need. Here's how one sole proprietor did it.

When Johnny Shelby decided to open his own endurance and physical training business, Third Coast Training, back in 2008, he knew he needed to use social media to help get the word out to the 2,500 competitive athletes in the Houston area who were his potential customers.

While he already had experience using pay-per-click advertising like Google AdWords, he also tried reaching out through other channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. The rub was that he was investing close to a full working day clipping articles and finding ways to generate new content to post through social media--a no-no for a sole proprietor. "It was eating up a lot of my time and I didn’t feel like I was doing it effectively," says Shelby, who says he struggled with everything from cutting and pasting to shortening links to fit within a Tweet. "It was like I was a kindergartner going into college."

Shelby’s fortunes changed, however, when he began using a product called VerticalResponse Social. While he had been using the company’s other product to help him manage an email newsletter, the new tool provides a dashboard that allows him to search and save content related to health and nutrition and then schedule all of his social media posts in advance with just a few clicks.

After launching his new social media campaign in June, Shelby has seen sales increase 30%, mostly from referrals and return customers. Due to that healthy bump, Shelby was then able to drop his PPC campaigns, which he was spending about $500 a month on, and instead invest those dollars in sponsoring races, which allow him to promote his business and network with potential customers face-to-face.

Using VerticalResponse Social, which costs about $18 a month, Shelby says he also cut the time he was investing in his social media campaigns from an entire day down to just an hour or two, which freed him up to work with an additional customer each week, which is the equivalent of more than $450 of additional ROI. "I can now crank out a campaign in minutes," he says. "It’s makes me look like one of the big dogs and helps me stay ahead of the curve."

Last updated: Nov 19, 2012


Darren Dahl is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine, which he has written for since 2004. He also works as a collaborative writer and editor and has partnered with several high-profile authors. Dahl lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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