In the offices of Main Street Hub, dozens of employees stare at computer screens, scanning for social media posts relevant to their customers. Somewhere in Austin, somebody hashtags “birthday” on a Twitter feed and the employee in charge of the bakery client tweets a birthday greeting and mentions the client’s custom cakes. Across town, somebody tweets about a check engine light coming on and the writer in charge of the mechanic client bangs out some clever offer, with a link to the store.
This is only one of the services offered by Main Street Hub, an Austin company that manages social media for brick-and-mortar companies locally as well as in all 50 states, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong and Canada.
The company creates a social media strategy for its customers including creating snazzy social media profiles, helping craft social offers designed to promote sales, responding to fans and customers on social media sites and responding to reviews. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, they take social media off their customers’ plates on channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Trip Advisor.
For client Jim Medina, who owns Van Ness Auto Repair in Fresno, California, Main Street Hub answers auto repair questions on social media sites and via email.
“It works for me because they answer questions for me about mechanical problems. They know the automotive field. I have 2,200-to-2,500 clients and each has two to three cars. This saves me time I need for my family. “
“The practice we have is to actually write a message that’s going to get people talking,” said Co-founder Andrew Allison. “It’s about an ongoing conversation. We write messages that are unique to people to spread word of mouth. It’s not about writing stuff that’s going to be annoying. The proof is in the results. If it was spam, we would get crickets.”
Sheila Likar, office manager for Palo Alto Laser and Skin Care said it took about six months with Main Street Hub to take their business from $40,000 a month revenue to about $40,000 weekly.
Natasha Bajic, owner of Brass Ovaries, an Austin company that teaches pole dancing for fun and fitness, said Main Street Hub not only exponentially increased her audience and ability to communicate with her customers, but tackled a couple of social media issues she would not have had the time or knowledge to fix quickly.
When she moved her business, it took Google maps a long time to make the change; Main Street Hub got it done, keeping customers from driving halfway across town only to learn that the location was closed. And when someone else committed a trademark violation, trying to set up social media accounts with her company’s name “They actually went after it and got it removed right away,” Bajic said. That’s something that would have taken time away from my business and they just handled it.”
“They look for different things,” she said. “If somebody Tweets ‘I need to get in shape’ they have this matrix that looks for that and they engage the customer. If the person is within five miles, they try to get them to come in…. They have experience to know which posts will promote engagement.”
Allison and his Co-founder, Matt Stuart, met at Stanford and founded their company in 2010 in Silicon Valley but moved to Austin in the summer of 2011, saying they believed could recruit more easily here.
“There’s a talent pool here in Austin which has both the breadth and depth we needed,” said Stuart. “There’s great talent in all three areas–account management, engineering and sales. We get something like 200 resumes for every opening on the team.” The company had 26 employees when it moved to Austin. It now employs 160.
Main Street Hub was Allison and Stuart’s answer to the question of how to make an impact on the world.
“I was going to be an attorney for progressive causes,” said Allison, who is originally from New York. “I decided I could do more good more quickly in entrepreneurship.”
Stuart, who got his MBA from Stanford, also was looking to create a business that had impact. They were introduced by a mutual friend.
“We started kicking around ideas and realized we had similar approaches and values,” Stuart said. “One of those was making a big impact…. Local businesses are the backbone of a local economy. They create the most jobs, most of the spending. We believe we can have the biggest impact if we support them and create thriving local economies throughout the world.”
To do that, Main Street Hub created in-house technologies to support their mission.
“We started out with very little technology,” said Stuart, “So we could understand what our clients were asking for. We built in-house tools that enable us to do this for them. We knew we needed to leverage technology. With that said, we’re also investing in relationships with our clients. We’re always on the phone with our clients, talking strategy as well as doing actual content.”
In October of 2011, the company got $2.6 million in funding from angels back in Silicon Valley, including Michael Dearing of Harrison Metal, that allowed them to grow. They received another private round of funding from Silicon Valley angels for an undisclosed amount.
The company charges about $300 a month, depending on the service plan. Some other social media management companies, such as Virtual Social Media, charge between $1,000 a month for the starter package and $15,000 for the corporate package.
Main Street Hub has recently added helping clients with their web presence and is getting ready to launch email marketing services.
The data they’ve collected, Allison said, has helped them hone what is effective for all of their different client types.
Allison and Stuart said they’re not looking for an exit. They’re still focused on impacting the world with local business.
“We plan to build a big, independent, long-term company,” Stuart said.