How Social Media is Transforming Local Business
Social media is among the most important tools available to local businesses. When utilized strategically, your social channels allow you to reach new audiences, maintain a solid consumer base and allow more users to discover your business. Not to mention that it requires minimal upfront investment, which is invaluable when entrepreneurs in Greater Des Moines (DSM) face significant financial and administrative hurdles in other areas.
Yet, many business leaders find it difficult to use social media effectively. Successfully tapping into such a vast audience can certainly be challenging and seem daunting. Social media also tends to have a reputation as a tool for global businesses, leaving some enterprises questioning its relevance for small businesses operating in local markets. However, social media can be a powerful yet manageable way to boost digital marketing efforts, including for businesses in DSM.
Let’s take a look at how social media is transforming businesses across the region and some approaches your company should adopt to maximize the benefits of this marketing channel.
Developing Local Relationships
One of the most important ways social media is transforming business is facilitating real-time connections. Your ability to build authentic and lasting relationships with DSM consumers puts you at an advantage over larger, faceless corporations. This can happen in-store, but increasingly the first contact consumers make with companies is online. Therefore, you need to focus on social media marketing strategies that emphasize and bolster meaningful interactions.
This often involves posting content that actively encourages interaction and engagement. Don’t be afraid to be direct by:
- Asking consumers for their opinions on products or services you’re posting about
- Showcasing how you’re addressing issues or challenges specific to the DSM community
- Inviting comments or suggestions.
By helping your followers feel that they’re a key part of your operations, you may be more likely to get their attention and their business.
It’s vital to recognize that this engagement shouldn’t be one-way. Audiences expect a conversation. Your business also needs to commit to regularly responding to your local followers on social media, whether they’re asking a question or leaving a review. If you operate a local brick-and-mortar store, it can be wise to have management or other staff have a visible role here, as this helps to put faces to names. The result can be not only more meaningful social media engagement but a stronger omnichannel customer experience.
Tapping into Local Trends
To make social media work for your business, you also need to tap into current trends. However, it’s important to recognize that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to follow global trends or large trends that quickly gain traction before fizzling out. Rather, social media is transforming local businesses by enabling them to spot and leverage more localized trends.
You may be able to identify some local social media trends by looking at cultural shifts. For instance, following the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behavior trends focused on enhancing wellness. Further, local patrons are also increasingly considering eco-friendly activities. There are a variety of other consumer trends your business can respond to, ranging from digital interaction to giving back to the community. By taking time to understand the development of these shifts, you can plan your social media posts to effectively engage local patrons.
Another core consideration for localized trends is events in your area. Local festivals, sports games and concerts are generally likely to trend and garner attention on social media. As such, it’s worth looking at the downtown and DSM events calendar months in advance to identify how you can create relevant posts related to these events. Don’t just focus on the big events, either. Posting about popular local bands around the time of key shows can be as likely to resonate with consumers as international acts. Tapping such trends also reinforces your reputation for caring about and participating in local cultural interests.
Innovating With E-commerce
Real Deals, a home decor shoppe and women’s clothing boutique in Ankeny, was faced with a dilemma when the pandemic hit. “When faced with sink or swim, we turned to a live-selling platform to host weekly sales featuring new decor with styling tips,” says Lindsey Foss, owner at Real Deals. E-commerce innovation on social media was the key to keeping the small brick-and-mortar store in business.
Real Deals’ business model is one of exclusivity. It’s open for a limited number of days each week, during which time customers compete to snag merchandise that is also limited. “Between limited product and condensed operating hours, it creates a sense of urgency for customers to stop in while we're open,” says Foss. To maintain this same sense of urgency, Real Deals broadcasted live “auction-style” streams on Facebook. Viewers had a limited amount of time to comment “sold” on the post and secure items in a shopping cart.
“More importantly,” says Foss, “it was an outlet for us to reach our customers; to ‘chat’ with them online and see them briefly during curbside pickups.” Real Deals even led prayers on Facebook livestreams, allowed their kids to ride along for deliveries and donated masks to local clinics and hospitals.
Foss continues, “We were fortunate to reopen in May of 2020 but business was far from ‘usual’ so we continued the live sales videos consistently for more than a year.” The company still takes phone orders for products featured on social media and does occasional Facebook live sales “for good times' sake.”
Pandemic or no, your business can use social media to innovate and drive e-commerce sales. Doing so allows you not only to reach a local audience, but grow outward to other markets as well.
Utilizing Localized Tactics
The tactics used in an effective social media strategy need to be strategically chosen to suit your locality, as well as regularly evaluated and updated. As stated above, the needs and behaviors of local customers are constantly evolving. Your approach to social media marketing must match these developments. This should include identifying underserved areas of your target audience you still need to reach, what social media platforms they’re currently using and if your tactic to reach them are working.
Another area of strategy you need to update is the types of content you’re using to ensure they’re relevant to your customers. For example, while there may be a national focus on video content, this might not reflect the preferences of local audiences. Performing some research into this area periodically helps you to build the right balance of content formats that suit the habits of DSM residents.
In addition, try to update your partnerships with niche or even nano influencers in the area. Collaborating with DSM content creators and other local businesses — as local startup 5 Borough Bagels has done with community partnerships — can help your business build trust with the most geographically relevant demographics. New influencers are always entering the market and growing in popularity, so it’s worth doing regular research so you can form mutually beneficial relationships.
Social media offers some effective marketing opportunities for local businesses in DSM. When you commit to consistent meaningful online interactions, there are opportunities to build strong relationships. Reviewing local trends can also help you plan impactful social media content. Remember that regularly updating your tactics empowers you to make the most of the constantly developing preferences and needs of local audiences. While keeping on top of social media requires some effort and planning, it’s key to establishing a digital presence that will boost your brand.
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Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.