There aren’t many folks who will argue that social networking isn’t a valuable tool for business.  However there are very few who are actually taking full advantage of those opportunities.  For the frost-300x191past few months I’ve had the luxury of watching a new local business not only use social networking and community building to build buzz for their business, but integrate it so much so, that it is an integral part of their day to day routine.

FROST is a new gourmet donut shop that has opened up in the Mill Creek Town Center in Mill Creek, WA.  For those of you not local, it’s a hip/trendy outdoor shopping center that is quite popular with the locals.  They have already made quite a name for themselves with their savvy marketing/community approach, and more importantly, their amazing doughnuts.  These aren’t your average, run of the mill, doughnuts.  These are high quality, always fresh, gourmet doughnuts that fly off the shelves.  Unique flavors such as Southern Red Velvet, Banana Split Fritter, or their highly sought after Maple Bacon Bars, have people flocking to see what the latest and greatest creation is.  I’ve tasted them; they’re the real deal.

But it’s not just the product that has FROST on everyone’s mind.  It’s the unique approach they’ve taken to building their business that has caught this blogger’s eye.  Daniel Sterling is the Creative/Brand Technology expert and Managing Partner and the brains behind the social networking behind FROST and in just a few short months, Daniel has been able to build an incredibly strong community of customers by using social networking incredibly well.  And it’s not just the numbers that are staggering, but the community of highly passionate customers and two-way communication that has FROST driving crazy business.  One visit to their Facebook page and you’ll see comment after comment of already loyal customers gushing about this flavor and that flavor and sharing their feedback about how to do better.  So how do they do it?

Pre-Buzz – Rather then wait for the store to open, Daniel jumped on the opportunity to build buzz and awareness using Facebook, Twitter and their website to collect emails.  As the store was being built, they placed paper over the windows with their URL, but no information of what they would sell.  Daniel used Facebook and Twitter to slowly leak out hints as to who they were and the community ate it up and offered prizes for those hot on the trail.  Fan after fan joined and contributed to the “mystery” of what FROST could possibly be.   And when the doors opened, they drove so much business; they had to close on Monday to regroup.

Active Engagement – FROST does not rest on its laurels.  They proactively engage with their customers on Facebook and Twitter regularly offering discounts, responding to feedback, and even taking flavor requests.  Their Facebook and Twitter pages are a flurry of activity.

Two-Way Communication – It’s not must about posting today’s flavors or buy one get one free.  FROST is about customer enablement through two-way communication.  Not only are they enabling their customers to feel like part of the business through flavor, pricing and logistical recommendations, they are able to move swiftly to customer demand and make changes on the fly.  Never in the history of business has their been the ability to respond in this way, and FROST is all over it.  They’ve built trust with their customers right out of the gate to ensure business will boom even beyond the honeymoon phase.

What’s even more amazing about FROST’s success is not only their impressive use of social networking to promote themselves, but how they’ve truly created a community of customers.  They are not only sharing feedback directly to FROST, but also conversing with each other about their experiences.  That’s true community, and incredibly powerful stuff.  They’ve got the masses talking about their business to each other and that’s the dream of any business.

I was so impressed with FROST’s success, that I thought it would be useful to hear from Daniel what his top 3 recommendations for business owners would be regarding using social media effectively.

“Number one is getting over the fear of doing it and just go for it.  It’s not going to consume you, nor is the tech overwhelming.  You don’t have to be an expert.  Second is making sure you are ready and willing to communicate with your customers and respond quickly.  And the third is knowing how to communicate with your customers and be prepared for negative feedback.  Know how to respond accordingly.”

For most savvy social networkers, much of this is not news, but it’s still amazing how so few businesses (especially small to mid) have not embraced and taken advantage of the social media and community building opportunities.  FROST has been able to drive significant buzz, awareness and business using tools that cost nothing but time thus far.  They have saved thousands of dollars just by incorporating the use of Facebook and Twitter as part of their normal routines, and combined with their commitment to being a part of the conversation, they’ve found a recipe for success in more ways then one.

If you are a business owner that has yet to capitalize, FROST is a great model to learn from.

Oh, and Daniel’s favorite flavor?

“Our Classic Raised Glaze.  Nothing beats an original.”

FROST website: http://www.frostology.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mill-Creek-WA/frost/57383368725?ref=ts
Twitter: http://twitter.com/frostology