DTI-EMB’s QBO Innovation Hub is starting place for start-ups’ networking
Business Mirror
November 9, 2016

EVERY Tuesday evening since August 8, start-up entrepreneurs and like-minded people gather at the QBO Innovation Hub along Gil J. Puyat Avenue in Makati City to listen to people who started out much like them and made it.

QBO Philippines—a public-private partnership between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Science and Technology, IdeaSpace and JP Morgan—hosts every Tuesday evening an open house to bring together people interested in putting up a start-up company and those who have already launched theirs. QBO, under the leadership of its President Butch Meily, invites speakers to share how they made it work.

On October 18 Commune café owner and CEO Rosario Juan gave a talk on “Social Media: Strategy, Community and Brand Identity,” sharing how she used social media to her business’s advantage. Juan said “it’s easier to find like-minded people in social media” and that, if used to a person’s advantage, “it increases your network.”

Juan added, “You have to have a social-media strategy…you don’t just make a Facebook account…or an Instagram account and say, ‘Okay, let’s post whatever picture we have,’ just for the sake of being on social media. When you do it that way…yes, okay, you’re searchable, but it’s not really working to your advantage. But if you really think of how to make social-networking sites work for you, then it’s going to perform better.”

Juan said being online is not just for promotion, but for community-building, too. “How are you going to not just promote your business online, but also build a community online?”

She, however, explained social-media marketing alone cannot work for you. “Social-media marketing works best when it works hand in hand with all your marketing efforts,” Juan said. “Social media is meant to amplify your message.”

Juan gave five notes to make sure social media would work for a start-up entrepreneur.

Have a good product. “A good marketing strategy starts with a good product,” Juan said, adding if a brand has a good product, it would be easier to strategize social-media marketing. It is easier to talk about a good product, especially since people who are online can now easily give reviews. The power to build or destroy a brand is now right at the fingertips of the customers. If the customers are satisfied with a product, they would willingly give good reviews online, which will eventually become word-of-mouth advertising.

Have a voice. “How does your product sound online? Your brand has to have a voice. Your product has to be like a real person with a real personality. If your brand is a person, what kind of person would it be? Is this a girl, in her 30s, commuting? You can even be as specific as what she does when she wakes up. What does she eat for breakfast? Where does this person go after work? Create a voice for your brand because that’s what you’re going to sound like online.”

Listen. It is not only having a voice that will make your brand known, but also through listening. “Social media allows you to listen. This is something important that people usually forget. When you are in social media, it’s like you have a megaphone, right? Right away, I can talk to these people and send a word. And there’s always the temptation to just tell them what you want them to hear. ‘We’re on sale on these dates. Visit our store.’ We sell, sell, sell. But the beauty of social media is that we can have a two-way conversation. You can now know what people are saying. When people have something to say about your brand, you listen, because that’s how you know what your customers think about you.”

Converse. It is also important, Juan added, “that you converse with your followers. We, at Commune, as much as possible, try to reply to the comments on our social-media accounts. If people are satisfied, we thank them. If they have complaints, we try to contact them by replying to their comment and directly messaging them to ask them about the details. This way, we can make them feel important. As a customer, I would feel like I matter if the page would talk to me or contact me through DM [direct message].” Juan also shared an experience when one customer tweeted that she wanted to have cupcakes sold at Commune but wasn’t sure if there are stocks. Using the Twitter account of Commune, Juan replied they will check whether it is available. Few tweets later, the cupcakes have been reserved and the satisfied customer picked them up and went home with a box of cupcakes.

Create a community. Juan shared that her café once had to close for a few months to move to a new place. Since the social-media accounts of Commune have an established following, they made it a social-media campaign, in order not to lose the customers who frequent the café. They called it #CommuneMoves. For months, they didn’t have a brick-and-mortar café, but their followers stayed and even anticipated their comeback. “It started with this Instagram post,” she fondly recalled, showing the Instagram post where they announced that Commune is “closing.” “We got overwhelmed with the reaction of our followers. We felt, ‘Aw, they love us.’ People who personally knew me texted me. My niece called to tell me that my post would make me lose my followers. But we saw otherwise. We saw that this is an opportunity to keep our community, even while our café is moving.” Then, they posted another one announcing that they’re just going to be gone for a while to move. “For months, our only connection with our customers was our social-media accounts. And because we have established our community, they were there until we opened Commune in its new location.”

Juan said in the end, “What we are trying to achieve is return on investment. But not only that, we also want to build relationships. Because after all, social media is not about what we sell; it’s all about people.”

Juan is the sixth resource speaker QBO had. To attend the QBO Open House, visit QBO Facebook page at facebook.com/QBOphilippines. QBO Open House happens every Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the QBO Innovation Hub on the ground floor of the DTI International Building, 375 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City.□

Angelica Faye R. Tolosa, Special to the BusinessMirror