We hear this on occasion from local businesses, “Can I just do social media… since it’s free?” Another variation we here is, “Do I need a website or can I get away with just a Facebook Page?”
The answer is – No, Absolutely Not, Are you kidding me?
Of course with all the news about social media and it’s never ending impact on – well – everything there is legitimate confusion. Which I’ll attempt to clarify here.
First, every business should have a website that professionally and effectively represents their business (sadly, few actually can claim these things). Every business should also have a Facebook Page and a profile on all the major directories and local directory for that matter. They’re free, they’ll help people find you, just do it.
Here’s the thing about social media, it’s “Interest based” that is it’s a form of entertainment. As it turns out most small businesses are, well, how do I put this, BORING! Look, when I need a plumber I need a plumber but there’s not a lot a plumber can say on a regular basis that I find terribly interesting or relevant. There are businesses that are exceptions such as restaurants, theaters and others whose businesses are effectively entertainment-oriented but most local businesses don’t fall into this category.
So are local businesses just out of luck? Not exactly. While most businesses won’t have many fans they should blog about topics relevant to their business and demonstrate their unique value – most local businesses are perceived as a commodity and that’s not a good thing for them – and when I do need a plumber all the things they’ve done online become a resume, portfolio and source of testimonials for me to consider as a customer… a differentiator.
So, social media and search engine optimization are part of a long term sustainability strategy for any small business but neither will drive new customers tomorrow, next week, or even potentially next month – you need advertising for that.
There is one type of local business that is completely exempt from this and can actually help other local businesses. That’s the local publisher, we do this with our Locable Affiliates and it just makes sense, who has a lot of interesting things to discuss on social media like sharing events, activities, articles, news, deals, etc. There’s this other thing they can share – posts from boring businesses.
Using the plumber example above, most days they don’t have much to share that’s relevant but let’s imagine it’s November and the first hard freeze is coming. Well, that plumber might post to Facebook – “Don’t forget to wrap your pipes so they don’t break.” Well their 5, 10, 20 fans may see it but the local publisher can Like (that is share the post to the publishers fans) and now 2500 direct fans and some 50,000 friends of fans may see it. This benefits the plumber via exposure, the fans because it will surely save some pipes, and the publisher as it drives more brand engagement and reinforces their role as a facilitator of community.
Social media is a conversation, you need to be a part of it and at some point it might even be your turn to be heard – get creative and add value and it might happen a little more often than you think. Both local businesses and publishers need to know their role to make this happen effectively in any community.