The Green Garmento was a new and completely unknown company, heading to the International Housewares Show for the first time. 

A simple post on Facebook that Jennie and I were off to Chicago for the event changed everything. A friend replies that I should look up her friend Sissy Biggers while we’re there; Sissy will be looking for new and innovative products to showcase on the TODAY SHOW. Four days later, Kathie Lee and Hoda were talking about how great our bags in front of a national TV audience. 

Much of our company’s early success can be traced back to social media. Social media has helped us choose the new colors for our bags, helped us get onto SHARK TANK. Our cultivation of some 10,000 friends and followers has given us credibility, making it easier for us to garner more television opportunities and from that, entice Bed Bath & Beyond and Walmart and other marketers to start selling our product. And we continually work to add to our Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, CafeMom and LinkedIn presence. 

It’s never-ending… and often our efforts are created not to point attention on ourselves, but heralding the efforts and ideas of our drycleaners, incorporating not just our followers, but also to our publicists 100,000+ friends and followers. 

You might be thinking, ‘okay, Rick, but you’re selling a product; I’m a drycleaner, a local business.’ True, which may make social messaging even more important. Not only is reach and penetration important; a strong social media presence helps inure your business from negativity. 

Recently our veterinarian asked us to add our voices to his YELP page, hoping to counterbalance a single bad review.  We love our veterinarian. He is gentle, patient, reasonably priced, and a terrific diagnostician: we know it because so many of our friends count on his professionalism. 

With just asking his hundreds of long-time clients, he would have had a mountain of loyalists writing five-star stories about his skills outweighing one or two disgruntled outliers. 

That said, even bad reviews when handled correctly can end up being an opportunity.

Our friends recently had a meal so bad they felt it was important enough to YELP that experience. The restaurant reached out, apologized, invited them back and they had an experience just as awesome as the last one was awful. Here is even the more interesting part: along with getting two new loyal customers, the restaurant found more value by not having the bad review be deleted, but by having readers know that they will stand up for the quality of their place by having the same reviewer write a second, more favorable review. 

Last year a YELP representative was invited to speak at the FIVE STAR Brainstorming Conference; but more than saying anything, he heard an earful about YELP hurts businesses. Here’s the thing though; YELP and other like sites aren’t going away. So the best thing to do is accept them and appreciate how you can use them to show just how good your service is, how satisfied your customers are, and maybe even talk about the good things your customers do for your community. 

To some, social media is a place to share cat videos. But for savvy marketers, social media is one of the most useful tools for business success in today's marketplace. Jan Baillargeon believes Package Supply use of Twitter to update the company’s customers ensures the message that they are continually working “for you.” 

Think of it this way: if you first use social media to better your bottom line, you won’t feel guilty for watching this cat play with two dolphins…