Most small business owners now recognize the importance of having a working website and active presence on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, but some still struggle with understanding how to get the most out of the time they spend interacting with people online.
If you’re a local business owner, you should be connecting with and engaging with your current and prospective customers online. Wondering where to start?
We recently talked with Nick Lucs, a digital marketing specialist and expert when it comes to connecting with local communities online. We asked Nick to answer a few questions in order to help local business owners understand why and how to connect with their local communities online. Read through our questions and his answers for ideas on how to connect with your community:
What’s the first thing small business owners should know about connecting with their local community online?
Nick: They need to be aware that they are going to be part of two communities. One, of course, their local presence with the physical community and then they will have to maintain their online community. What I see too often is local businesses fall off of the online side of their community. It’s difficult to maintain both, and most of the time businesses will push their online presence aside. It definitely takes some work to maintain, but in these times online is going to be, most of the time, your customer’s first view of the business. Whether it’s through search engines, a Facebook page, a Tweet, or even a Yelp review you can easily win or lose a customer just on a poor online presence.
What are 3-5 actionable tips you can share that will help business owners connect with their local community online?
- Utilize visualizations. Showcase your best products, your team, what you’re interested in through Instagram photos, Facebook posts with pictures, blogs posts, etc.
- Find the local trends in your neighborhood, city, and industry. Utilize Twitter search for hashtags that fit your business and city, find what local bloggers are writing about, or even just straight up talk to your customers online. With my @DMFoodster project, I like to keep tabs of local bloggers through Buffer’s RSS Feed feature.
- Make sure that all of your contact information is up-to-date. No one wants to call, or visit the wrong address. One of the most important is your Google MyBusiness.
- Sadly, people don’t necessarily want to follow your business online. They’ll be more inclined to if you offer these things:
- Customer Service
- Education about new products
- The chance for them to be part of a community
- The latest industry headlines (prove that you’re an industry expert, and that you keep tabs of the latest news).
Do you have any advice on when and how often businesses should be engaging on social sites?
Nick: Maintenance is key. I always view social for businesses as tending to your lawn. You never want your lawn to die, or look mangled. So view your social sites as your lawn. To keep your lawn fresh, and green, you water it and trim it. You want your social profiles to flourish, right? So “water” your sites with fresh content that either you create, fit the industry or that your customers would enjoy. If you stop watering your lawn, it’ll look bad, and die. Similar to if you stop posting on social sites. You’ll have people questioning if you’re still around, plus it doesn’t always look the best when your last post was, say, a year ago.
I’ve learned that posting once in the morning and once later in the afternoon/evening is a good “best practice” for Facebook. You can also find out when you should post via Facebook insights. If you go into “insights” and then posts you’ll be able to see ideal posting times for when your fans are most active on Facebook.
Now, for Twitter it’s always good to shoot for about 5 tweets a day. Again, if you’re interested in posting at optimal times you can test, or I like to use followerwonk which integrates into Buffer easily – my most favorite social media management tool.
If you’re running a website that has a high amount of daily traffic, I’ve found it best to view Google Analytics and watch the “Real Time” analytics. You’ll be able to see what your most popular page is at that moment, and if you don’t have it shared yet on a social profile – get it out there! You’ll also be able to determine what your next hottest page is going to be. If you start to see a page trending up, then, again, put that page out on your social channels.
What’s the best way for businesses to determine where their customers are spending most of their time online?
Nick: You can place a pretty good bet that they’re going to be on Facebook. Really, though, it can depend on your product. It’s going to be up to you to listen, and test, to see where your customers are.
How do you figure out what your local community wants to talk about or read about online?
Nick: Usually you can find questions by searching twitter, or viewing your competitors social media posts. Find those questions, and answer them directly or point them to your blog which could have an answer. Take a look at what people are sharing to either things that your customers are finding on their own time or if they’re sharing things that you have posted.
What types of things can brick-and-mortar businesses do in their actual stores or shops to connect with people in the online world?
Nick: Make their experience continue when they leave the store. For instance – do a marketing campaign with a hashtag where they can create their own content. People love creating their own content, after all we are Creatures of Content. If we love a product or service we will share,and create things from it. Heck just look at Starbucks.
What are some examples of brands and businesses (big or small) that do a great job of connecting with their local community?
Nick: For a large brand, I’d have to say Thrillist Chicago, or any of the Thrillist cities. As with the Des Moines Foodster, Thrillist kicks ass with creative content related to Chicago – granted, that’s a massive community. They highlight what’s great about the city, and it produces creative lists that people find interesting. Who doesn’t wanna know where you can the 9 best egg-topped burgers?
What should businesses avoid doing when trying to connect with local communities?
Nick: Please, if you can avoid it, don’t post your Facebook posts to Twitter. It’s nice that you can get two things done at once but most of the time I’ll pass over content that leads me back to Facebook – you know it goes back to Facebook because you’ll see fb.me/ link. You’ll lose a little bit of engagement because it takes you to Facebook through your mobile browser, not to the app. Most of the time you’re not logged in through your browser, and then you have to go through that step just to see the content that was posted to actually interact with it.
Your community, and customers want content quick. They’ll say “see you later” when the realize they have to take extra steps. Plus, you don’t necessarily talk the same on Twitter and Facebook. Each channel has a different writing style.
Any other websites or resources readers can go to for more ideas?
Nick: Follow the Buffer blog, that’s a great resource for tips and tricks. I usually keep a Flipboard full of great content for social media topics.
Any other final tips or inspiration you want to leave readers with?
Nick: Jay Baer says it best – The next time you have a social media idea and it’s to excite your customers, call your mom and ask her to rate the idea from 1-10. If your mom gives it an 8 or less, try again. ;)How To Connect With Your Local Community Online [Q&A with Nick Lucs] Rob Wormley