I will not be impressed with technology until I can download food from the internet. Well, given the way we are hacking brains and flying cars, that day may not be far.
Who would have imagined that from the invention of fire and the wheel, we would be clicking away on Facebook and Twitter. So, what beholds us in future is freely left to imagination.
Today, right from helping us to keep in touch with friends or family to sharing what is happening around the world to being one of the early catalysts for the recent revolution in Egypt, potentially changing the regime, social networking has redefined the way we use internet.
According to digitalbuzzblog.com, with over 500 million users, Facebook (FB) is now used by 1 in every 13 people on earth, with over 250 million of them (over 50 per cent) who log in every day.
As far as Indian cities go - Bangalore has 1.3 million Facebook users (after Mumbai and Delhi), ranking 38th in the world. And if you think everyone is busy posting pictures, comments or sharing links, it might not be entirely true, as there are many young online entrepreneurs in the city who take FB seriously and log in religiously, as it is the primary way they promote or sell their products or business.
This way, they get to do what they love without having to worry about spending money on advertising, marketing or paying rent for a regular office or store. FB presents them a unique marketing opportunity for businesses through the creation of Facebook business pages and FB is their virtual shop! Right from cupcakes to bags to shoes to jewellery, you will find almost everything under the sun, being sold on Facebook.
Priyanka Nayak of ‘The Sweet Boutique’, which specialises in making customised cakes, chocolates, cupcakes and desserts, says, “Social networking has definitely given me the push I needed to get me the visibility required. What specifically helps is the re-posting and sharing capabilities available on Facebook that has helped make it go viral and increase the number of followers and orders that come in.” She adds, “All our cakes and desserts are freshly baked at home by my mom, my sister and me, as and when an order is placed. I currently take orders online via our Facebook page and through phone calls that I receive.” Not even a year-old, their page already enjoys close to 800 followers.
‘No Strings Attached by Manat and Prachi’ is another venture which provides you with an eclectic mix of jewellery and hair accessories. The designer duo have been very fond of fashion accessories and everything hand-made, since childhood and they decided to convert their passion into business. They say, “Our first customers were primarily from our participation in flea markets in Bangalore. However, having gained a small foothold, sites such as Facebook have helped in letting people know we’re out there. Currently, we do not have a retail outlet for our products, though we do intend to retail our products through different stores and a website soon. We presently sell our products through exhibitions and our page on Facebook.”
Echoing a similar sentiment, Sonali Maniar of ‘Templetree-The Paper Boutique’, which makes stationery, customised cards and innovative paper products, says, “I think Facebook keeps customers interested and excited about the work we do. I try to upload new pictures on FB as often as I can. It’s easy to upload from my camera or iphone. That way, clients too have a point of reference to start their design.” Though ‘Templetree’ has a studio set-up in Belandur and they sell through various exhibitions in the city, a lot of customers know them through FB.
‘Blue Tongue’ is a page on FB run by Bangalore-based trio, Pooja, Madani and Gautham. They sell customised eco-friendly bags, made of organic fabric and they aim to re-engineer how bags look. And they are with a cause too. The idea of being eco-friendly led them to simple cotton bags which could be easily stitched. With the aim of helping women, they get the bags stitched from women, who are really in need of money, but can work only from home. Then the idea of designer bags stepped in and they trained a lady on how to stitch these special bags. Pooja says, “If there were no social networking sites, ‘Blue Tongue’ wouldn’t have existed I guess. Facebook has been a real help for marketing our products without any investment, other than time. We are really thankful to all the social networking sites specially FB. We don’t have a shop yet, but we have a small production house of designer bags.
So customers who come here are only through FB.”
And there are entrepreneurs who have a blog other than their FB pages. Imrah of ‘The Pouff’, which specialises in confectionery treats such as large cupcakes, brownies, muffins, cream puffs, marshmallows etc, says, “Since we have no physical store, I rely a lot on Facebook and my blog. This helps me connect with my customers and has also helped me build my customer base. The social media site networking has also really helped me connect to the customers I’ve met at the flea markets. It’s been a great tool for me and I’m looking to expand my presence across more platforms.”
And there are some like Suhas Vasudev, an architect by education, but prefers to call himself a ‘colour-er’ and ‘maker’ of things! His attempt to turn his hobby into something more productive gave birth to ‘Ink Me Silly’- which specialises in hand painted canvas shoes, hand painted helmets, unique lamp shades with original artwork, hand painted coasters etc. He says, “’Ink Me Silly’, right now, only has an online presence. Since most of the products are hand painted and order based, it is not very viable to stock up and retail. But the bigger picture is to eventually retail through lifestyle product outlets.” He adds, “’Ink Me Silly’ would probably not exist If I had not got the support from social networking sites. They are especially important for startups to test the market and see if they can survive in it. The kind of reach you have with a social networking site is amazing and it is very important for your product to be constantly visible to the public eye, which is just not possible on other platforms.”
All these online entrepreneurs agree that the key is to keep your customers excited about your brand. And they will take action to spread the word about you and/or your business.