written by Sean Smith | December 26th, 2012
It caught me off guard when I read “A Pox on online buyers….the death knell is ringing for the brick and mortar shops tied to long leases…”. This got me thinking about the small business Social Media experience.
The Facebook comment was tied to a post about Canadians embracing online shopping. The commenter owns a small, niche market, shop in my community, and I always found her to be progressive and ambitious in marketing her business. However, her business may be feeling the crunch of people letting their fingers do the walking on a keyboard, rather than their feet into her store. So, where does the small town, mom & pop, brick and mortar business fit in the world of big box, online / Social Media, shopping? The answer is simple: good, old fashioned customer service.
Small business Social Media is about engagement and content, not that much different than the old corner store many grew up with. They had what you want (or, if they didn’t, they knew how to get it), they knew you by name and they were able to cater to your needs. This is missing from the big box, online shopping. There you are an order, credit card and shipping number. No one greets you, asks how things are going or asks what you need today. I’m not talking about the minimum wage kid at the electronics store. I’m talking about the owner who comes out from behind the counter and meets their customer.
Selling your Business, Not Just Your Product
Here’s how a small business owner, in a small market, should look at Social Media.
First, it is your all-in-one business card / yellow pages / flyer / newspaper ad / word-of-mouth marketing tool. Hire someone to get your Facebook Page and Twitter account looking as smart as possible, with eye-catching images and your brand ID. Make sure it is connected to your Website, email, phone number and physical address, all those things that you need so people can contact or visit you. Then take time to learn how to create and manage Facebook ads targeting people in the areas you are looking to reach. Once that is done, launch it. Connect with customers you know who are also online, connectors / influencers in your community and local business organizations. Finally, go back to that thing you have always been good at as a small business owner in your small community; talk to your customers.
An Hour a Day, Keeps the Pox Away.
The hardest part: spending part of your already busy day doing something that doesn’t seem like part of your business.
Spend 30-minutes in the morning, checking and updating your social media accounts and another 30 in the afternoon. It’s like to getting out of your store a couple of times a day and meeting with your customers. It’s like heading to the newspaper and creating a new ad, every day. It’s like dropping your business card in the lap of a consumer, every day. Once people see you there, if the content is engaging, then your small business can start standing out from the bigger, faceless corporations. You can start building that relationship with the customer, only now they don’t have to step into your store to start the conversation.
Here are some tips to get those conversations started.
1. If no one engages your content during the day, engage them in their content.
2. Create Facebook ads that encourage a visit to your page, rather than demand it. “Check this out!” rather than “Buy my Stuff!”
3. Show that you are community minded. Share things that are happening in your community, especially things that you and your business are involved in.
4. Don’t be afraid to share. If you see someone looking for something you don’t carry, point him or her to someone who does. People will remember that assistance.