We’ve all heard how important it is for small businesses to connect with consumers. Anyone who’s seen a 90’s TV sitcom is familiar with the local café owner who knows the name of every Tom, Dick and Sally that comes through their doors. “Just the usual Bob?” “You betcha Sally.” This type of personal connection is one of the biggest competitive edges local small business owners have against larger competitors. But as you make the transition to digital, you’ll inevitably find yourself getting less and less face time with the consumer. When growing an online presence, you might not always have the chance nor the time to make the quality connections you can in a storefront—there’s content to produce, logistics to map out, inventory to stock, and books to keep (of course, we’d be more than happy to help you with the latter). But as you find yourself figuring out the in’s and out’s of your online storefront, social media will be there to help you recreate that intimate experience you’ve experienced during your personal interactions with customers. Social media is primarily a story telling platform, and it’s a chance for you to tell your story.
How you choose to use social media will influence the emotions consumers feel when purchasing your products. What makes you unique? Are the things you share relevant to your niche? Are you highlighting your creative process? Are you showcasing products without becoming a spambot? And most importantly, is there a human element to the picture your painting? Of course you’ve heard about Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But are you using Periscope, Snapchat, and RSS Feeds? And if so, are you tailoring unique content to each platform, or are you just shoving the same content through different pipelines?
In today’s world, mastering social media is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. But before you start pumping out content you need to have a plan that includes a self assessment, the development of a brand voice, and a well thought out schedule. If you struggle finding things that make you unique, ask your customers what it is they like most about your business. Once you’ve come up with a plan and you’re ready to take the world by storm, you’ll arrive to what is for many the most difficult part—gaining followers. Social media and Marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuckpoints out that the most important step for a brick and mortar hoping to push foot traffic to the dot-com space, is to tap their in-store base. Using old school methods such as signs, word of mouth, and informative receipts—you can push some of your most loyal and share-friendly customers to your digital outlets. This will be your most plentiful well in terms of immediate followers.
But even with an intelligent plan, creating an online community will take time. For many businesses this will mean 1-2 years of patient and consistent content production before they see a “brand cult” begin to form. Taking into account all of these considerations can be a daunting task. But as you learn what resonates with your new consumer base, you’ll come to realize that content is just as important as product. There is plenty of room in the digital space for the brick and mortar, but for you to succeed it will require a social media plan that brings that old fashion personal touch to new and exciting platforms.