Online marketing and social media tips for business from Shannon Belew, best-selling author of "Starting an Online Business For Dummies, All-in-One"
Are you supporting local businesses? With another Black Friday and Cyber Monday just on the horizon, shoppers are encouraged to make a detour to small businesses in their town and shop local on what’s been declared Small Business Saturday.
Not familiar with this recent shopping phenomena? American Express gets credit for creating an outstanding marketing campaign that uses social media to take a grass-roots style approach to supporting local businesses. At a time when U.S. shoppers typically focus on Black Friday as a much-anticipated national event, scouring big box retailers for big post-Thanksgiving deals, someone had to stick up for the little guys. So American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010.
It’s now THE day to salute local shopkeepers and drop some cash on those smallest of retailers. Why has this campaign worked, becoming less of a marketing campaign and more of an annual initiative? First, American Express made it about their customers…those small business owners. It’s all about supporting them and getting people to shop with them – after people have gotten those big deals from Wal-mart and Best Buy. The credit card company also provided their customers, those small businesses, with tools (both offline and online marketing material) to help promote the big day themselves. They also used social media to create a groundswell of support and attention, American Express says that last year alone, “1.5 million Facebook users, public and private organizations and elected officials declared their support for the Small Business Saturday.” People want to support small businesses, notes the credit card retailer on their blog, because they help create jobs, pay taxes in your local community and help make your community more vibrant and unique.
I applaud this tremendous effort that America Express undertakes each year to get people excited about shopping locally. As a small business advocate, I think it’s important to keep the cash flowing to your local entrepreneurs. But, I would add that there are ways to support local businesses even if you can’t make it to their brick-and-mortar locations on the official Small Business Saturday.
Here are 5 more ways to support your local small businesses:
1. Buy online: If you can’t shop local at your favorite storefront, don’t forget many of these small businesses have e-commerce enabled websites and would welcome you to shop online, too! Why not take advantage of that convenience and shop online, just as you would from other big box retailers? Even better, you can save on shipping fees and pick up directly from the stores.
2. Write online reviews: Whether it’s on the company’s website or on review sites like Yelp, take time to provide a review or leave a comment when you’ve had a positive experience. People look to both friends and strangers to influence their buying decisions and a positive online review can help your favorite small business attract new customers.
3. Share on social media: As American Express has demonstrated, social media is an effective tool to show and spread support of local retailers. So take time to “Like” their Facebook page or Google+ page. Share their product pictures on Pinterest and Instagram. Or Tweet about the great customer service you got while shopping local. Whatever your favorite social media platform, use it to help spread the word about your favorite small business.
4. Capture your experience with video: Whether you prefer Vine or Instagram, or love to upload videos to YouTube, it’s so easy to give your favorite business a boost with video. For example, make a Vine showing the great meal coming out of your favorite food truck; or take a quick video demonstrating how to use the product you purchased, or just have fun showing you and your friends out shopping. It may seem silly, but video is another powerful tool to support businesses and it’s easy to spread on social media, too.
5. Shop often – all year long: Why wait for a special initiative like Small Business Saturday to show your support? Your favorite business is probably open year-round and its website is open 24/7. So buy anytime, all the time!
No matter what, it’s nice to have the spotlight shine on your favorite local businesses. And, Small Business Saturday is a great time to show your support. Happy shopping!