Articles: social media for local businesses

Some great articles recently from around the web on social media for local businesses and “Buy Local” campaigns.. happy reading! 

Local businesses prefer social media over search ads:

http://newcorridor.com/social-media-for-local-business/

Great article about using social media to talk to customers.. Examples from some small businesses in Utica, NY:

http://www.uticaod.com/topstories/x782943112/Social-media-helps-some-local-businesses-connect-with-customers

Are you a local business looking to expand globally? Profile of NAFFA International

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/growing-business-twitter-followers-1633/

Lake County’s efforts to support local businesses with Buy Local campaign:

http://triblocal.com/gurnee/community/stories/2011/08/lake-county-takes-steps-to-buy-local/

Replace your cash register

We are obsessed with making local businesses successful and we had to share some news from Jack Dorsey’s startup Square

Have you heard of Square? No? Square allows you to accept credit card payments with your iPhone, iPad and/or Android phone. Initially founded to help mobile small businesses that could not make use of standard point of sale devices, it now hopes to replace the purchasing process in a store all together.

Square recently launched Card Case which allows consumers to keep “cards” of their favorite businesses in the app and streamline repeat purchases.

Why would small businesses want to use Square? Well, you get simplified fees, next day payout and a way to engage your regular customers.

But, beyond the basic value props for local businesses (all of which you can read about on their web site) Square might open up some additional selling opportunities for you.

For instance, what if you could sell some products at the local 5k/10k race booth that you setup buy accepting credit cards on site? When you setup a booth at your local art fair, Oktoberfest, etc.. you can start accepting credit cards! 

Well, if you are intrigued - check out some additional articles on Square using the links below.. we are big fans!

http://www.informationweek.com/news/mobility/business/229625404

http://www.fastcompany.com/1754859/how-square-is-accidentally-disrupting-the-entire-payments-industry

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/squares-card-case-could-it-replace-cash-registers/49184

Diving into social media

I ran across the following post on Business Insider titled “Dive Head First Into Social Media With These Tricks From Experts” and two things stood out for me in the article.

First, and we have heard this many times, is that 31% of small businesses use social media. While that is still too low a number, it is at least good growth from the previous year which showed that 24% of small businesses were using social media. 

When you take the next step to understand “why only 31%?” you quickly land on a lack of time on the part of small business owners. We agree that this is at the top of the list. But, the lack of time continues to be an issue even after you decide to start your social media campaign - especially for those local businesses that are single owner and only have a few employees. I have seen many Facebook pages opened with great intentions and then after a couple of months the posts and updates dwindle down to zero.

Heck, we have not even done a great job managing our own Facebook, Twitter and FoundTown profiles - and we are in the social media business. So, lack of time plays a HUGE role.

What about those businesses that never even start a social media campaign? Well, certainly time is a factor here as well. Coming in a close second is a lack of understanding of social media. In other words, there are many businesses that want to harness Facebook, Twitter and other platforms but simply don’t know how to start. The good news is that there are many local social media consultants that can help with the setup and even the on-going task of keeping the accounts up and running. 

But, I do think the second thing that stood out for me in the article is also the most important. Understanding your target market:

"All this assumes you know who your target market is. And many small business owners don’t really understand that. A dentist, say, may simply regard his market as people with teeth. But, in reality, we know patients only travel a certain number of miles to see a general dentist. So the target market, really, is people who live within a specified area."

This is an important point for two reasons. Make sure you know that the time you spend nurturing your social media presence is time well spent. If you have limited time, try to streamline the process and keep it targeted. The article also mentions that roughly 50% of the US population uses Facebook, while only 8% uses Twitter. Those are interesting target market statistics. If your audience is young, technical and early adopters - Twitter is great. For the rest, Facebook might be the right choice (I will skip the obligatory “FoundTown is the best option” comment)

This had me thinking about our businesses on FoundTown. What are they really using?

Well, we launched late last year and currently have 204 businesses on FoundTown in a small four city area outside of Dallas (our beta launch cities). In total, we have a total of 105 social media accounts listed - 63 Facebook accounts and 42 Twitter accounts.

Now, many of our businesses list both a Facebook and Twitter accounts. This means the number of businesses that don’t list any social media presence on their profile is greater than 99. In fact, as a guess, I would place the number at around 125..

So, out of 204 businesses, roughly 40% have a social media presence - slightly above the average listed in the article. This makes sense. Many of our early customers would be early adopters and fairly savvy.

What is interesting to me is the high relative percentage of Twitter accounts. For most of the small businesses on our site I would assume that Facebook is a much more relevant place to start. Now, there are many businesses that are listed on FoundTown that have simply not listed their Facebook (or Twitter) account for some reason. So, the numbers are a little harder to truly peg.

Given all of this, the quote above also rings out for another reason. Local Relevance.

One thing that is critical in planning your social media campaign is keeping it targeted to the local community. We obviously believe this to be a vital point and the primary reason we created FoundTown!

So, two questions for our readers: What made you choose Twitter vs. Facebook?

and “What tips do you have for managing your social media presence?”



What the heck do I say?

One of the toughest things about social media for small business owners is finding something to say on a regular basis. It’s important to make sure you converse with your customers on a regular basis online - keep them engaged and active. But what do you say?

Here are some ideas:

- Talk about an employee

- Share some details of a new product

- Talk openly about your plans and ask for feedback

- Highlight a recent customer; interview a customer

- “Next person in the store that mentions this post gets 20% off their purchase”

- Answer a question that comes up often from customers

- Share your challenges

- Organize a giveaway with a neighbor store

- Post a picture of a new item in the store - explain why you carry it

- Share something happening in your industry or happening at a nearby store

Lastly, enable your employees to post and talk about your business. In most cases, they are already your biggest fan! Plus, they love to talk about what they do.. enable them to share their experiences, talk about what’s new, extend unique offers and engage customers online. You trust them to represent your brand in the stor (or business) - enable them to extend this same enthusiasm online!!

Any other ideas for how you can connect with your customers?

Stretching your small business dollars with Fiverr

           Fiverr is a website where everyday people go to sell their services for $5.  It is truly amazing the wide range of services available at Fiverr.  One of the categories is “Graphics” where people sell services such as drawing a cartoon character, making flash banners, creating Photoshop projects or creating newsletters.  The “Writing” category is a popular category at Fiverr.  Writers will sell services such as writing articles, blog posts, poems and short stories. A lot of people are also looking for quality advertising at a reasonable price.  At Fiverr, there is a category just for your advertising needs.  Some of the sellers get pretty creative when it comes to advertising services.  One person will post 50 flyers of your business around Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Another will stand on the side of the road with your company name on a sign.

            So if you own a small business, Fiverr is the place to go for all your small business needs.  You are probably wondering how you can be sure that you are getting quality work from this site, right?  Well there are a few ways to check this out.  The first way is when you find a seller that you like, check out their feedback rating.  Once a seller completes the assignment, the buyer can rate the seller.  If they have a good feedback rating, you can probably expect quality work.  Another way to be sure is to look at the buyers’ comments.  These are available for the public to see on the sellers gig page.  If you see comments such as professional work, great job on the project or superior writing, this seller is more than likely a winner and someone you want to work with.  The last way to tell if you are getting quality work from a seller at Fiverr is to view their profile.  In each profile, there is a short bio on each seller.  This biography is created by the seller to sell themselves and to let prospective buys see their expertise, Education and experience.  If you are looking for someone to write a blog post for you and the seller you are looking at is a professional writer, you can expect high quality work.

Here are some real examples of sellers on Fiverr.

Your very own professional radio spot

Have an Advertisement or Banner created

Customized Twitter background 

SEO/SEM report for your business

And one last note. We actually did not even write this article! We hired gordanfan24 to write the article - for $5!! You can find gordanfan24 here !!

Let us know if you end up using Fiverr for any of your needs and share them in the comments!

Local, social marketing

One of the things that we noticed before we started FoundTown? There was not a great way to find what was new at local businesses.

There are quite a few ways to find out what consumers think about local businesses - Yelp, for example. You can find tons of reviews about the business, but very little about what’s new.

What new item was added to the menu? 

What’s the name of the new employee? 

What new, cool product has been added to the shelf? 

What event is coming up? What discounts can I find?

Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter are two common ways that you might gather these kinds of updates. You probably follow your favorite businesses on Facebook and it is very effective for keeping up to date - but, how would you search quickly for coupons from businesses around you to see if a coupon is available? Same with twitter? You probably only follow a fraction of the businesses on Facebook you actually frequent - or would frequent if you knew more about that them.

It gets a bit harder.. When you want to find new places in your neighborhood and see what new products and sales are being announced there is not a place where this activity is aggregated..

With FoundTown, we want to not only aggregate the voice of the local business, but we also want to provide a local, social marketing platform for them - maybe customers can subscribe to their favorite store updates via SMS? Provide some insight into their customer base and allow them to customize offers to their customers. Send a coupon to a customer on their birthday!

There are all kinds of unique things that we can enable businesses to do to increase the awareness and targeting of their messaging - and have it be useful for consumers.

We are working hard to do that at FoundTown.. Not sure we have it just right, yet.. but, we are working on it! Please give us feedback..

We look forward to evolving with you!