Reconnecting Small Businesses And Communities With Social Media

A lot of small business owners aim and even prefer to remain small and hyper-localized. They might be finding enough success in their particular area that they have found that massive, international expansion of their business isn’t really a necessity. Plus, that takes a lot of work and has huge risks.

And yet, despite their hyper localized business, many businesses fail to show, through social media, that they are part of their own communities, and that they have been a part of those communities for years. In some ways, that alienates them from their own customers because those customers expect a level of engagement that those businesses haven’t been able to show through social media. 

But there are some relatively easy (although time consuming) ways for businesses to regain support through social media. Let’s look at a few simple ways that small businesses can drive conversation through social media by being relevant (and intimate) to their local communities.

1. Find Relevant Conversations in Local Events

Not everything that occurs within a particular community will necessarily pertain to every business. For example, a car show wouldn’t necessarily be relevant to a restaurant, and restaurant week might not necessarily be relevant to a car dealer.

Still, there are things that occur in one’s local community that might be worth commenting on or chiming in on. If other restaurants are awarded for their success, it wouldn’t necessarily hurt to congratulate them on that success. Still, the more pertinent the conversations that a business has surrounding themselves or their local community, the more likely users on social media are going to be willing to respond, or ‘like’, or retweet.

But most importantly, businesses should find ways in which they can refocus those conversations back onto themselves, by talking about some of their accomplishments (where relevant), or highlighting some of their products. The goal should be to drive conversations that are interesting but that also contribute to the conversations that are ongoing in their respective communities.

2. Be Personal (and Personable)

Of course, social media is essentially an extension of your business. What that means is that if customer’s have expectations to be actively engaged in conversation with a business in person, they will expect them to be especially active on social media. So, beyond posting once a day (at the very least), businesses will also be expected to respond to questions, comments, crises and other related issues. The more active they are, the more likely that people will be willing to converse with them.

But it also doesn’t hurt, as employees or owners, to present a more personal, individual voice. By that, I mean that social media users will certainly respond to businesses that occasionally provide some direct input or perspective from the owners or employees, assuming that those voices are authentic. Being personal (and personable) shows customers that you truly value their opinions and support, even if those personal interactions are much less frequent than typical interactions.

3. Recognize the Good When You See It, Quickly Respond to the Bad

In close-knit communities, it is much easier to recognize good when you see it. At the same time, when somebody screws up, it is also all the more obvious. With social media, that also means that when somebody complains, their message is quickly reverberated. Not only can that reverberation be rapid, but it can also be exponential.

So, for any small business tackling social media, it becomes all the more important that those scenarios are dealt with in a quick and appropriate fashion. Crises only tend to grow more and more out of control the longer they are left unresolved.

On the other hand, it is also important to recognize and support good in the community when you see it. Whether it be by sponsoring local events, giving someone a free gift for doing something positive in the community, or simply rewarding customers for their continued loyalty, businesses can easily take advantage of the power of social media by simply being present in and around the community that surrounds them. The more active they are, the more likely members of their local community will want to be involved with their business.

Finally, as I have always reiterated, the most successful businesses on social media — big and small — are simply the ones that make a concerted effort to be a contributing part of the social media conversations that surround them. The businesses that aren’t active quickly become ghosts in the world of social media, but the ones that are active can easily become superstars. It all just depends on what sort of effort those businesses are willing to put into it.