Small town businesses need social media, despite a few claims to the contrary. Almost every small town business can benefit from a smart, customer-focused and community-serving approach online.
- Because local customers are actively using social networks like Facebook.
- Because visitors to town are using their smart phones and tablets to access the internet from anywhere.
- Because everyone is looking for answers online before making a phone call or just driving to your business.
“Less-populated areas” are, in fact, leading in small business social media adoption, according to a 2011 Zoomerang survey.
Small Town Style
Before you worry about what specific social media tools or particular social networks, let’s talk about the small town style of doing things. This is simply a way of communicating with customers, so treat customers online the same way you treat customers who call or walk in the door: treat them like members of your own small town. Your small town roots are your asset. You know how to be friendly, how to treat people. Use that online.
Your customers have questions. Answer them.
Spend two weeks writing down every question a customer asks you in person, by email or by phone, or by carrier pigeon. That is the starting outline for your online presence. Answer each question.
Does answering customer questions really work? Yes. One tire store tried answering questions from customers and booked over $60,000 of additional business. All they did was answer a customer’s question about snow tires in an email. Then they realized other people might wonder the same thing, so they posted the answer on their website. And then they tracked how many additional sales they made because of it. In the first year, it was viewed over 10,000 times and generated $60,000 of sales.
Be yourself. Use your own voice.
There is no need to try to be someone you are not. Don’t try to hide your small town roots, or pretend you are bigger than you are. If you’re an introvert who just likes dealing with people one on one or in small groups, imagine one person, and talk to them. If you’re friendly and outgoing, be friendly and outgoing online. If you’re worried about your writing ability, download our Writing Tips for Small Business Owners.
Vary your posts for different kinds of readers.
Your customers and potential customers are from all different personality types and backgrounds. They’ll respond to different things. Some want just the facts, some want to hear the stories, and some want to see the people. So use photos, videos, stories, and facts. Make short posts and long posts. Do a post on logical reasons, and one on the emotional reasons. In short, you have my permission to vary it up.
Be a social media mirror.
Share your customers with each other. Build a community among your customers. Let them share their stories. Brag on customers when they do something good. Talk less about you, and more about them.
Boost your local community. Your small town matters.
Share stories of what events are going on. Talk about the other businesses in town. Post links to the chamber of commerce, tourism website, the city government, and the schools. Share what makes you proud of your town. Talk about why you started your business there, and why you are still there.
Talk about your people.
Share the stories of your founders, your people, your front line people, your long-time people who have become experts. Use video. If you run the tire store, don’t back the tire guys up against the wall in the shop and shoot them like a mug shot. Take them out in the field. Let them show you and tell you like they would a customer. Your people will be much more lively and more like themselves if you let them show the context of their work.
- About the Author
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.