by Frank Strong
There’s no shortage of advice for businesses looking to tap social media to enhance their profile and brand. Sometimes we learn best by learning from others and to that end, he’s a quick look at one hard-hitting small business in the DC area that is making in-roads in the social media world.
Founded by a former grade-school teacher with no formal training in business, Jeremy Lafreniere has grown his passion for mixed-martial arts (MMA) from a weekly club held in a church basement into a world-class training program. Capital Jiu-Jitsu now has three-area locations in the greater Washington, DC-area and is the only MMA school in the area affiliated with the legendary Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy.
Aside from my personal admiration for my friend’s tenacity and self-learned business savvy, I’ve been greatly impressed by his ever-increasing presence on social media sites including, Facebook, Twitter and his own YouTube channel.
I asked Jeremy a few questions over e-mail and since we often learn best by learning from others, feel it’s best to simply share his answers in his own words. Keep in mind, Jeremy is not a marketing guy per-se, though undoubtedly he has learned much about marketing in the course of growing his business.
When did you open the account and why?
I opened an account on Facebook early in 2008 as an experiment in what was becoming a very successful form of social media. I wasn’t sure how to go about having a Facebook account, because there was Capital Jiu-Jitsu the business and my personal life. I ended up with two separate accounts. I use my personal account to update friends and family with media and information about my personal life, and the Capital Jiu-Jitsu (CCJ) account with media and information relevant to the staff and students of CJJ.
Do you feel it has helped your business? What aspect is most effective?
I do feel it has helped my business. Of course not in a concrete way (we generated 10 additional leads this month), but in the sense that we can disseminate relevant information. We also use our news blog, our training network site, our message board, our newsletter, and are just now getting into Twitter.
In your own words, what sort of “things” do you do with FB?
I put up relevant media, occasional “What’s on your mind?” posts, and might send out an e-mail here and there. I disabled the “chat” feature, because I was receiving too many requests from people I’ve never met wanting to debate the legitimacy of our training methodologies (i.e. “Ninjitsu is better than Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, because…”) Unfortunately, I enjoyed the occasional chat session with students and friends, but those were less frequent than the former.
You have a lot of “friends” (nearly 2,000 at the current count) — what was the rate of growth or how fast did this accumulate when you opened the account?
I requested friends of students, staff, schools, fighters, and those who seemed interested in our programs. That was initially, and since then, we grow at about 5 friends a day.
Did you invite people (friend them) or are they “friending” you?
Initially I requested friends mostly. But now, people request us mostly.
Why would people friend you….and once they do, why visit your FB page?
I think most people make friend requests to grow their presence on Facebook. After that, people will make the request because they are legitimately interested in what is going on at Capital Jiu-Jitsu.
How do you balance the line between being a marketing-pest on FB and being a thoughtful contributor to the social media discussion?
I try to keep my posts to information relevant to students and staff. Not so much as an effort to “market” but to bring awareness. I still have a long way to go regarding this, but I get better all the time.
How much time do you think you put in a week on FB?
I’d say two hours a week. I get on once a day, check e-mail, make a post, and see what people are writing in the home feed of “What’s on your mind?” posts.
Do you promote events and do you think FB drives traffic?
I do promote events in the sense that I will attempt to make friends aware of events through the “What’s on your mind?” posts, but not through Facebook e-mails.
Of the social media outlets you’ve used, which are most effective?
It is hard to say. Our message board sees the most conversation. Our training network site sees the most posts. Our Newsletter gets to the most people. And we are brand new to Twitter.
What advice would you give to other small business owners looking to use FB for marketing reasons?
Keep it current, relevant, friendly and fun!
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I should point out that in Jeremy’s school, Jiu-Jitsu and MMA isn’t just for rough-and-tumble men. Capital Jiu-Jitsu has a variety of programs for women’s self-defense, kids and fitness including, CrossFit and Yoga. Having been a student in his school, there’s no doubt in my mind that his experience as a grade-school teacher has enabled him to excel in teaching martial arts.
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