Guest post by H. E. James, MBA
Marketing a rural business is never easy. Standing out from the crowd of larger businesses with bigger budgets isn’t easy, but social media has made the marketing world a much smaller place. At the same time, it may feel that there are too many social media platforms to choose from for marketing your business. You may be right. Choosing can be overwhelming.
Starting with a Facebook page and a Twitter feed is a great starting point, but don’t overlook some of the more niche social media platforms. Pinterest is the perfect alternative or even addition to Etsy, as it allows for more immediate social interaction, broadening your customer base. For video creation and sharing, look no further than Vimeo, the perfect alternative to YouTube for business owners doing video creation themselves. Let’s examine how these two platforms can be best used by rural businesses.
You may think Pinterest is fun to play with, but won’t help drive business to your site or to your store. That’s just not true. The platform began as a social media bookmarking site and tool. Most of the first registered users shared recipes, clothes, and artwork they found online.
Today, Pinterest has evolved into a powerful business tool. The platform offers business accounts to users who wish to market either themselves or their businesses.
You can even track analytics data for your pins, boards, and clicks to your website. In today’s world of data-driven social media marketing, the ability to track analytics on a site like Pinterest is impressive. Business owners can drill down from impressions, what Pinterest calls views, to clicks, pinpointing locations of their customers.
For business owners like my parents, who live in a small community and use their skills to create jewelry and metalwork, marketing via Pinterest is ideal. Why? Because of the visuals. Pinterest attracts users through images pinned from the web. If you’re a jeweler, like my mom, making your products stand out among the crowd is key: the more repins for a pin under “handmade copper jewelry,” the closer to the top of the search results it will be:
For rural artisans like my mom who are selling, pins can link either to an e-commerce site like Etsy or be one of Pinterest’s own buyable pins:
Pinterest has now set up its own e-commerce platform, allowing your customers to buy directly from you without linking to another site like Etsy. For rural businesses, this also gives customers from around the world greater access to your goods and services.
If your small business is service based, marketing on Pinterest is all about telling a story through visuals. For a rural welding service, marketing via Pinterest would be about showcasing completed projects, from the simple to the intricate.
Set up boards that showcase different stages of completion for projects. Customers who appreciate your work want to see how you do it. Hells Canyon Adventures (HCA), based in Oxbow, Oregon, and in Council, Idaho, uses Pinterest to share its customer’s experiences. It also posts videos taken on its white water adventures. Videos such as these not only show off your products or services, they come in handy for other social media platforms, like Vimeo.
Vimeo can work in conjunction with your other marketing platforms and channels to bring your customers to you, especially Pinterest. Vimeo has a much smaller audience than YouTube, reaching about 170 million users compared to YouTube’s 1 billion. That smaller audience, however, is a boon to rural businesses, as it is focused on people who actively engage with video users rather than simply share content.
Making your videos short and posting them on Vimeo, where you can update them if you make a mistake, unlike on YouTube, will help you stay active with your video marketing. The audience might be smaller, but depending on your audience, it might be the better choice. If you have tried even one of Heather Thomas’s 21 ways to use video, your small business will benefit from posting on Vimeo.
As Thomas points out in the No. 1 spot, you can use video to tell your company story. This is important to businesses that would otherwise be shadowed by larger counterparts. Customers return to small and rural businesses because they get to know the businesses and their owners. In HCA’s case, video shows customers what they’re going to experience. Whitewater rafting isn’t for everyone, but videos like HCA’s can show off both a location and educate customers.
For a jeweler like my mother, whose work is intricate and sometimes tedious, short videos telling of either her inspiration for a piece or a specific technique used are great ways to tell her story. One of her most popular products is a pair of etched copper earrings. Video showing how she creates the designs and the process she uses for the etching will be more engaging for customers than a set of written instructions.
You can also use your digital marketing tools to drive traffic to your retail business through promotions you can video and share via Vimeo. Are you having a sale for the holidays? Film yourself or an employee showing off your store’s holiday decorations, its location, and some of the sale items.
You don’t have to create a video for every sale or event you have, but sharing your major events regularly shows your audience that you’re not just updating old content, you’re actively creating new content. Being active is one of the top marketing strategies of digital top performers, and it often seems like a no-brainer. However, how often do you see Twitter feeds that are a year old and have less than 10 tweets?
There’s no magic formula for digital marketing, and that’s the beauty of it. You can choose the platforms that play to the strengths of your business, no matter its size or location. Take a look at your product and your audience, and see how these two lesser-known platforms could work for you.
Images provided by the author
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Hattie is a writer and researcher from Boise, Idaho, with a varied background, including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency, holds an MBA, enjoys local ciders, and tweeting via @hejames1008.