For this quarterly edition of Basically Business, we chatted with Navy Federal member and business owner Jason Szot to discuss social media strategies and best practices for small businesses. Jason is the owner of Szotski’s Cheesecakes, a popular stop for cheesecake lovers in the Pensacola, Fla. area

When did you start using social media for your business, and why?

I was on social media as soon as we opened up shop. Even prior to opening the business, I was able to use Facebook to provide family and friends with updates. It was extremely motivating to receive so much positive support from so many people. Transitioning from using social media to simply inform people of what we we’re doing, to using it strategically for marketing, was quite easy.

At what point did you realize social media was working for you? Can you explain what that “Ah-Ha!” moment was?

I knew quite early Facebook was working, simply based on the number of people in our shop mentioning they saw us on Facebook! For the first year, we posted haphazardly with the sole intention of getting the word out, and we gained nearly 2,000 followers! After that first year we were able to analyze exactly who “Liked” our page. After reviewing the Facebook data, we confirmed that our engaged demographic was women between the ages of 25 and 45. This allowed us to start tailoring our posts for these individuals. As a result of our efforts, we have nearly 11,000 followers today.

Wow! 11,000 followers is impressive. How do you continue to engage them?

We post regularly, often asking our followers and customers to answer a question or reply to us in some manner. When they reply, we do our best to respond so they know we hear them and value their engagement.

In the last couple of months, we’ve started giving away free cheesecakes through a series of contests called ‘Random Facebook Question of the Week.’ We choose a winner at random, or by the comment that relates to us the most. The winner receives six mini cheesecakes. Each week we have roughly 100 or more people comment entering for a chance to win. This is a fantastic way to engage our customers, but also gather more information about our target demographic and what appeals to them.

Most recently, we started posting short videos of us making and assembling cheesecakes.  The reaction has been fantastic!  People love to see what goes on behind the wall; they like to see there are actually people here cracking eggs by hand and individually making each of the cheesecakes right here.  It builds trust in our product.

In what ways does social media impact your business’ bottom line? How do you measure?

I feel comfortable saying social media affects our bottom line through increased sales. There is a noticeable increase in sales on days where we post about certain flavors. For example, I see this most directly on a typical Monday. Mondays are generally slow for us, but what we do is release a popular flavor and post about it on Sunday evening. We know the post is effective because on Monday, we can anticipate at least double the sales of a typical Monday where we don’t post the night before.

Have you, or would you ever consider paid social content?

Yes – paid social content is a part of our social media strategy. A $10 spend might push our post to an additional 3,000 to 6,000 people that otherwise wouldn’t see our post. We are able to use demographic targeting to be very selective when it comes to who we want to see our post. In the above example, we know $10 worth of paid social content will result in at least $10 worth of sales.

If we take the time to produce a quality post, we want people to see it. To make this happen, we pay for the post to be seen by the right people at the right time.

Do you recommend social media for other small businesses?

Absolutely. In regards to marketing, social media is relatively easy to use and cost effective. Platforms like Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and TripAdvisor also offer means for customers to leave reviews. Customers will be more willing to visit a shop if that shop is active on social media and has positive reviews.

We first spotlighted Szotski’s Cheesecakes during National Small Business Week in 2015. Has your marketing strategy changed since then? If so, how? 

Our marketing strategy has become more focused. After observing what people respond to and engage with, I’ve been able to tailor social posts to not only get people engaged, but keep them engaged as well. The more we interact with people on a regular basis, the more they think about us and the more inclined they are to walk through our doors!