Small businesses like us have miniscule marketing budgets. If you can increase your exposure, or your media presence, without spending any money, then generally that’s a good thing.

One way to achieve this is by entering into Theo Paphitis’ Small Business Sunday competition on Twitter. Theo Paphitis is chairman of Rymans, Robert Dyas, and a former star of Dragons Den on BBC TV. Each Sunday, Theo invites small businesses to tweet him a description of their business, using the hashtag #SBS, and each week he chooses 6 winners. He re-tweets those winners to his 450,000 Twitter followers, and the winners also spend a week on the home page of the #SBS site. Winning businesses benefit from the extra exposure, publicity and networking opportunities. There are in the region of 1,800 entries each week, so 1,800/6 = a 300-1 chance of winning.

After trying on and off for over 2 years, on 6th July 2015 we were selected as a winner. After the winners were announced on Monday evening our Twitter feed @lushgardens went crazy. We received congratulations and messages from dozens of other small businesses, some previous winners, others not.

It says on the #SBS site:

“The benefits range from increased Twitter followers, to positive media publicity and crucially for many, increased sales! Of course, none of this is guaranteed as it is largely down to perseverance and hard work. A smidgen of luck comes in handy.”

Now, 7 days later, when all the fuss has died down a bit, I thought I’d take a look at the results of the extra exposure, to see in real terms what the numbers were like. Using Twitter Analytics and Google Analytics, it’s possible to look at exposure and clicks through to our site. Just bear in mind that I’m no statistician.

Exposure

Starting with tweet impressions (how many times our tweets appeared on peoples’ feeds). Over the last 7 days our tweets (or re-tweets of our tweets) were seen 31,200 times. The previous week this figure was 946. That’s a 3,198% increase. The majority of that increase was seen on the Monday (the day the winners were announced) and the Tuesday.

Our Small Business Sunday winning tweet is below:

Small Business Sunday Winning Tweet

The top right figure shows that this one tweet (the one re-tweeted by Theo) accounted for over 23,000 of those impressions.

Our Twitter follower count also rose dramatically during our #SBS winning week, up 94 to 2,650, a rise of 3.67%

Clicks through

As all our marketing is aimed at bringing people to the website, the real interest to me is seeing what the extra exposure meant in terms of actual clicks through to our site.

As #SBS is a Twitter phenomenon, the first area to look at should be Twitter hits on the site, taken from Google Analytics. During the year July 2014 to July 2015 we received 42 hits via Twitter (not very good at all, must do better). During the 48 hours after we were announced as #SBS winners we received 36 hits – almost our entire annual amount, although admittedly 36 hits isn’t a massive amount either. But if you compare this week to the previous week our Twitter hits rose by 740%.

The knock-on effect can also be seen on other social media – we publicised the win on Facebook and on Linkedin, and comparing to the previous week’s figures Linkedin referrals were up 450% and Facebook referrals up 52%.

If you compare page views week to week, they were up a modest 4.69% – presumably because the vast majority of our page views come from search results, not social media. Unique page views were up 8.6% and time spent on site up by 62%.

Taking ‘sessions’ coming from social media as a measure, our week as #SBS winners saw a 153% increase over the week before, rising to 119 from 47.

It’s too soon to measure the effect of appearing on the #SBS site homepage, as the listing only went live on Thursday evening.

So what is the Small Business Sunday effect?

Well, as I said at the start, any increase in exposure is a good thing. If you pay nothing to achieve it then even better. Our rise in exposure was very short-lived, but the rise in our Twitter followers will I think last a lot longer. We saw a modest rise in website visitors, but given most of our web traffic comes from areas other than social media, we’re quite happy with that.

I think the key thing to do if you win #SBS is to build on it – there are press release templates on the #SBS winners site which you can use to gain local media coverage. We didn’t do this – if your business is as small as ours, there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is! But we are very grateful to Theo and the team around #SBS for choosing our tweet and for the boost it’s given us.

What I haven’t mentioned is the fact that the #SBS winners’ community, which we’ve hardly experienced, seem to be very supportive and will, I’m sure, prove to be a useful network. This is the one aspect of Small Business Sunday which I think will have lasting benefits for us.

If you are a small business and you’re on Twitter, it costs nothing to enter #SBS, so why not give it a try? Full details are here on the #SBS site.