Cupcakes anyone? How one entrepreneur used Twitter to build successful online start-up

Jane Dawkins    November 5, 2014

Organization name: Foiled Cupcakes

Food, online Bakery

Company Contact: Mari Luangrath, Head Cupcakeologist of Foiled Cupcake

Web references: Foiled Cupcakes

Description of how social media is used for business performance:

In 2009, when Mari Luangrath was getting ready to launch her online home-based cupcake business she ran in a massive setback – the overseas web developer that was creating her website failed to deliver on time. With stocks of supplies ready to go, a friend recommended that she turn to Twitter, a new social media platform at the time.

The now highly successful online cupcake company, Foiled Cupcakes, originally launched as a small home business on twitter. No website, no storefront. Foiled Cupcakes is an example of how a company, no matter what its size, can capitalize on investment into social media and translate social interactions into real financial success.

At a roundtable event at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, company owner Mari Luangrath explains:

“You have to have a good product, mission, and clear intentions of what you are trying to accomplish but at the end of the day it’s about going above and beyond in creating a human experience and making sure that the customers are right for the kinds of things you are trying to accomplish.”

‘Creating real human interaction through digital space’ is the driving force behind the company,  which aims to sell customer service and  experience rather than just cupcakes.

How do they do it?  Foil Cupcakes uses basic relationship building techniques and tactics and applies them within a social environments.

Company successes and strategies:

  • Channels used: Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and social gaming such as Words with Friends to connect with potential and existing clients.
  • Implemented a relationship-building program
  • Received an order for 40,000 cupcakes
  • 97% of customers now come from social media
  • Exceeded forecast by 600% in first year
  • Outrank the 19 other cupcake shops in Chicago
  • Customer retention is over 85% and return rate over 60%
  • Achieved over 3000 twitter follower in first three weeks of social interaction

Success Through Social Networking: The Foiled Cupcake Story from Stone Cliff Productions, Inc. on Vimeo.

Lessons for others;
Foiled Cupcakes has created a strong ROI into social media by:

  • Define clear company goals and objectives.
  • Ensure that each employee understands the company’s core goals
  • Create processes to collect personal ‘data’ through social interactions.
  • Use data to help define criteria for the ‘ideal’ and ‘not ideal’ clients that align with company goals.
  • Train employees to listen in order to inject ‘human experiences through digital space’.
  • Use social tools to define audiences and ensure the appropriate messages are going to the appropriate audiences at the right time.
  • Experiment with different tools.  Use social groups and lists for business processes, in Foiled Cupcakes’ case they use twitter lists to help track delivery, identify past orders and communicate with staff as well as clients.
  • Combine digital and social interaction with traditional communications to humanize your business and stand out from the rest.
  • Use simple polling tools, such as “like photo or post” on Facebook to understand your audience and what they want from your company.
  • Use Linkedin to join groups and become a thought leader.  Be sure to listen.
  • Social media is overlooked as a meaningful way to build relationships with appropriate journalists and writers that are looking for stories.  This is a great way to get free promotion.  HARO is a good online tool for this.

Other resources:
Does social media marketing give a good ROI?5 Real Life Case studies which show how Social Media can drive sales
10 Examples of Social Media ROI [Infographic]
Twitter Success Story: Foiled Cupcakes made from scratch
Foiled Cupcakes: How a B2B cupcake brand comes out on top in the cutthroat cupcake industry

Submitted by:
Jane Dawkins, Marketing Communications Officer, University of Guelph

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