Kyle P. Lacy has become known as a bit of an expert on how to use social media to promote business clients large and small.
Just four years out of college, he and a business partner have built Indianapolis marketing startup MindFrame into an over-$320,000-a-year enterprise. [Editor's note: Lacy graduated from Anderson University in 2006.]
Lacy also has penned a how-to book on Twitter marketing, which will enter its second printing next year, and has co-authored a second book due out next month on how older unemployed workers can "rebrand" themselves to get hired.
[Photo: MindFrame's Kyle Lacy (right) holds a client meeting in Indianapolis with Stephen Schaf, a 1993 Anderson University graduate and creative director of Indianapolis marketing company Hotbed Creative, and Allison Steele, its senior designer. Photo credit: Tom Spalding.]
Larry Rottmeyer, a marketing professor at Taylor University, had Lacy speak to classes at the small Upland, Ind., college because he is "on the cutting edge of social media, not just the leading edge."
"Not many people, even young entrepreneurial types, have the courage and stamina to live in that market space," Rottmeyer said.
Lacy said he realized early that blogs and later Facebook and Twitter were not just idle chit-chat, but a communication mode for firms to get attention, set agendas and establish cyberspace identities.
"Now it's a viable marketing system," Lacy said in a phone interview, conducted before recent speaking engagements in Chicago and Denver. "Nontraditional for sure."
His 80-hour workweeks have helped him tap a growing market for digital marketing. U.S. spending on digital advertising and marketing is estimated to reach $119.6 billion in 2010, above the $111.5 billion projected for print advertising during the same period, according to a study from Outsell Inc., a research and advisory firm.
Jim Jay, the head of Indianapolis-based technology initiative TechPoint, said about 70 companies in Central Indiana provide "measured marketing," the return-on-investment tracking of using digital or social media. Small firms to much larger ones track their customers' interests, including Downtown-based ExactTarget, which said recently it is adding 500 jobs to its 580-employee head count in Indianapolis.
"Social media in Indianapolis is more than just kid stuff; it's actually a rapidly growing IT (information technology) microcluster employing thousands of Hoosiers and attracting millions in venture capital," Jay said.
Lacy has worked with and provided training for companies such as ExactTarget, Ruth's Chris restaurants and the Make-a-Wish Foundation of America.
One of his Twitter campaigns helped generate 2,000 visits to the Web site of Schlage, a security company selling an interactive locking device. He revved up Web traffic by giving the device to a group of mothers who agreed to tweet about the lock.
He also used social media, including MySpace and YouTube, to draw thousands of eyeballs to a contest website operated by client Consumer Electronics Association during that agency's publicity push to convert TVs to all-digital.
But there's been at least one instance where he thought social media wouldn't work for a client. He advised the manufacturer to stick with more traditional communications.
Lorraine Ball, a former boss of Lacy's at Carmel marketing firm Roundpeg, said he is "great with his thumbs" when sending a message on the latest mobile device but also understands the power of a handshake or phone call.
Erik Deckers, 43, is co-authoring the book coming out in December, "Branding Yourself," with Lacy and praises his accomplishments. "He has done almost as much in three years that's taken me 17 to do. In some ways, it's infuriating. But that's what's so impressive about him."
Lacy got his first taste of business at age 15. His father, Dan Lacy, prohibited him from working behind the counter of a greasy spoon and instead gave Lacy a truck and set of lawn mowers.
"He wouldn't let me get a job," Lacy said. "He wanted me to start my own thing."
Before starting his first marketing company, Brandswag, in 2007, Lacy worked with pop rock singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin on developing social and Internet applications such as MySpace and Facebook pages to increase brand awareness, Lacy said.
Now, Lacy saves his company-specific advice for $125-per-hour coaching sessions but sends Twitter messages and writes a blog with more general advice.
He solicits inquiries from his Twitter followers, like this one: What does he think is the next hot online thing for businesses?
"Geo-local stuff," he says, such as Foursquare (with 4 million users) and other web and mobile apps that let users "check in" at a location.
But most companies or nonprofits he counsels dip into social media by sticking with Twitter (175 million users), Facebook (500 million users) or both.
"It's not about what's new," Lacy said. "It's about what matters."
Lacy offers some tips
Here are just a few ways that businesses can use social media to promote themselves:
Create a company Facebook page (separate from a personal page) to promote products and services and to help build a client base. Remember to add content frequently to keep customer interest.
Share real-time company news and promotions with your customers by using Twitter.
Consider creating a blog that will also will keep customers informed and interested. As with Facebook, content should be updated regularly.
Connect and network with other professionals and companies using LinkedIn.
Sources: PCWorld Business Center; Twitter; Mashable.com
Kyle Patrick Lacy
Residence: Indianapolis' Near Northside.
Position: Principal, MindFrame.
Born: Spokane, Wash. Moved to Indiana at age 3.
Hobbies: Investigating new restaurants and working between 80 and 90 hours a week. On boards of the Exodus House, a halfway house in Anderson, and Community First Initiative in Indianapolis.
Books: “Twitter Marketing for Dummies” (Wiley, 2009, second edition due out in 2011) and “Branding Yourself” (Pearson Education, December 2010).
On Twitter: Find him @kyleplacy. With more than 17,000 followers, he's sent 24,000 tweets.
It uses data-driven techniques to develop “measured” marketing campaigns, including social media.
History: Formed in 2007 as Brandswag with business partner Brandon Coon.
Revenues: $225,000 in 2009 and over $320,000 this year.
—Tom Spalding is a reporter for The Indianapolis Star. Story republished with permission.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.