In April 2009, Mari Luangrath was set to launch her new business. Foiled Cupcakes, a baked-to-order cupcake delivery service for Chicago, would not have a storefront. Instead, Luangrath planned to rely primarily on orders placed on the company website.
Then she got the bad news. The company website couldn’t accept credit cards securely and needed to be completely redone. The process, her developer said, would take six weeks.
“I hit a stopping point where I literally had six weeks to do nothing,” Luangrath recalls. “My entire storefront was not going to work.”
Luangrath, who is a veteran entrepreneur, had planned to launch Foiled Cupcakes using a traditional marketing campaign. Her friends helped change her mind.
“Over dinner, one friend said, ‘Maybe you should check out this Twitter thing,’” Luangrath says. “I went on, signed up for an account for Foiled Cupcakes and left it there. I didn’t do a thing. I didn’t know how to use it.”
Two weeks later, another friend gave Luangrath a rundown on Twitter. His best take-away: Twitter can connect you with people you’ve never met before in your life.
And then the light bulb went off.
Luangrath, a natural connector, jumped right onto the Twitter bandwagon and began introducing herself just like she might at a cocktail party. “All of a sudden, I knew all of these people I hadn’t actually met in real life,” she says. “I was building these relationships online and they were all local.”
Soon, one of her new friends announced plans for a tweet-up. Luangrath tweeted with the Foiled Cupcakes handle that she would bring cupcakes to the tweet-up. “Immediately everyone on Twitter was like, ‘Foiled Cupcakes will be here!’” she says. “I was like, ‘We don’t even have a website, don’t get so excited about it!”
But the cupcakes were a hit at the tweet-up and Luangrath knew her business couldn’t wait another day. Foiled Cupcakes went old-school and started taking its first orders over the phone. A few weeks later, the company website quietly without a hitch.
Today, Foiled Cupcakes’ business is thriving thanks to social media. Its revenue for 2010 exceeded projections by 600 percent, and dozens of Fortune 500 companies have ordered from Foiled Cupcakes.
Luangrath estimates that social media accounts for 93 percent of all Foiled Cupcakes’ sales. At least 50 percent of sales comes through Twitter. “That’s pretty incredible because the Twitter community in general is tiny compared to Facebook,” she says. “We still only get about 30 percent of our sales through Facebook.”
Asked what advice she has for business owners on using Twitter, Luangrath insists on jumping right in. “Don’t get caught up in this frenzy of what you’re supposed to do and not do on Twitter,” she says. “You run a small business—you have enough to worry about. Just try it and see how it goes. I was one of those people who waited, and I wasted two weeks.”
Her second piece of advice is to find the people on Twitter who are passionate about what you are selling. “If you are able to network with the right people, they will help you develop your brand and bring your presence into the Twitter community,” she says. “It will be a lot better than if you try to do it alone.”