Unleash The Power of Social Media to Grow Your Local Business

 Is social media a valuable tool for local business? Is it worth the time investment? How do you measure the ROI? What will it do for my business?

Those are a few of the questions so many of my local business clients ask. We’ve heard it from all the experts, and there’s little doubt it’s true: local businesses need to be on social media. But, how does a local business approach the online world of likes, shares, favorites, and re-Tweets?  Let’s start by looking at some of the numbers associated with social media.

According to a study completed by Pew Research Center, in October of 2015, nearly two-thirds of adults were on social media. So, we know there are a ton of people on there. But how do social media users want to interact with businesses online? A survey conducted by Yodle in 2015 (http://www.yodle.com/company/press-releases/yodle-survey) tells us that more and more people are using the social media as we used the phone book 10 and 15 years ago. In Yodle’s survey, 75 out of every 100 people polled said they use the internet and social media to find or research a business.

Yodle’s survey also revealed that three out of every four people surveyed thought either online reviews for businesses were expected or that reviews gave local businesses a competitive advantage.

The data makes a compelling argument for what we already know to be true—local businesses need to have an online presence to engage a larger customer base in a way that is relevant to user behavior. So, how do you put your business on social media in a way that works for you and a local audience, without wasting time and money?

An incredible thing about local audiences on social media is that these audiences like to support their community by supporting area businesses. How is their social media use supporting local business? Think about what you see from your friends on Facebook. Have you seen a picture of someone’s dinner with a tag that shows which restaurant they are sitting in? Have you ever seen when someone has posted a check-in to a local venue? If you’ve seen it, then there are many other people who have as well.

While social media can eat someone’s time pretty quickly, local businesses have an advantage—you have an advantage. Why’s that? Because you have an audience eager to spread your message for you. As a local business, you don’t have to spend 10 hours on social media, marketing your little heart out. You can spend a few minutes a day publishing a post, showing your latest stock or creation or a behind-the-scenes look.

As a local business, you can provide a level of customization to your audience’s’ experience that online or big box stores can’t. For example, if you see that there will be a parade next Tuesday at noon, you can take to social media to let your customers know that the parade route is just down the block and to stop in for a cupcake after (or to cool down, or use the potty, or browse while they wait for traffic to disperse, etc.).   

So, how do you get customers to engage with your business on social media? By being exactly what you are—a local business—on social media.

How do you measure the success of your social media efforts? First, decide what you’d like to accomplish. Think about social media as part of the big picture. You may not have sales directly from Facebook or Twitter, but instead you may be driving foot traffic to your store which eventually results in higher sales. By being present on any given platform, you are raising awareness of your brand.

Is there only one right way to spread brand awareness and build a following on social media? Is there only one measurement of success? With any marketing campaign or strategy, the way to ensure it is worth your time and money is to make sure that above all else, your strategy aligns with your business values and goals. Only you can define exactly what you want to accomplish with social media for your business because it has to work for you in a way that flows with the rest of your business. Whether that goal is to bring in more foot traffic, book more appointments, or gain as many online reviews as possible is up to you. Your goals should be steering your strategy for social media, though, including which platform to choose.

The bottom line—social media is a great place to engage with people on neutral ground, where you both get to be yourselves and connect on a level that’s deeper than the typical customer-client connection.