Social media, a must-do for small businesses
By Susana G Baumann
Is social media a real important tool for small businesses? Some Hispanic business owners are skeptical about the impact of social media for promoting and selling their products. Here some ideas on why and how being in the buzz has a potential for taking your business to the next level.
“Who has time for Twitter and Facebook?” a Hispanic restaurant owner once asked me. His reasoning was that all his clients were local, he was in a very good and visible location, he was known for his “authentic Mexican food” and he was working at full capacity. The man was right in all his assertions; however, if there is something you can count on in life, that something is change.
Six months later, a big fast food Mexican chain opened a store half mile down. The novelty and the quick service together with the promise of “fresh and prepared-on-the-spot” dishes drew half of his clientele to the new place. The war was on.
Soon my acquaintance realized that the old ways were insufficient to play hard against the chain. Not only had he to bring in new customers but also position his restaurant under a different light. The “authentic Mexican food” needed to be now an “authentic Mexican experience.” However, until those customers stepped in the door, how could he show the change?
Social media offers an array of opportunity for small business owners, providing tools that –although not totally free as they require some time and attention–, are manageable at very low cost with great and unexpected results. Yes, it can be overwhelming if there is little understanding of how to use the tools. Also, it can get discouraging if the tools are not being used properly.
So here are some tips for the beginner as well as the intermediate social media user:
- Like in many other aspects of your business, you need to learn how to use the tools in order to master social media. Understanding what channel is the most adequate for your type of product, how to reach a local clientele that might be interested in your products and services, and how to adequately promote them needs some thought and know-how. Learn from the experts and apply to your particular craft or service. Attend a workshop at a local chamber of commerce –usually for free– or community college.
- Once you choose the channels you want to work on, invest time and some diner in a good page design. It should look as good as your business looks when a customer shows up at your location. A beauty parlor can share pictures of their popular haircuts and hairdos using Pinterest or a video on YouTube to demonstrate how a technique is done. While it is hard to share a recipe in 140 characters on Twitter, you can ask your Twitter followers to make comments about your place, ambiance, music or whatever makes your restaurant attractive in exchange for an offer or coupon. A real estate agent or broker can target potential local customers by showing listings, asking clients to give testimonials and providing tips on how to prepare a home for a quick sale on the right channel.
- In Latino culture, personal relationships are important. In person, a hand shake, a greeting and a warm voice can close a deal. Be yourself on social media, talk about the issues that matter to you, as a business owner but also as a person. Let your potential customers know who you really are and trust you before they step into your door. Social media is not only a way to offer products and services; it is mainly about building relationships.
- Follow up with your fans as you would do with a client who visited you at your business. Give them feedback, ask for feedback. Contact them for their services and get truly interested in what they do or have to offer. Social media is a two-way street, not a window to show off.
Join a local chamber to increase your networking opportunities and contact those new potential clients afterwards on social media. You can find a great group of business owners and professionals at the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce (MCRCC), an organization that works hard at helping Hispanic and other minority small businesses achieve their goals. Join us this year again on July 22 for the 4Th Annual Hispanic Business Expo and Latino Food and Music Festival at the Pines Manor in Edison NJ 08817.
Meet and greet other Latino entrepreneurs as well as general market businesses to exchange product offers, services and ideas. You can showcase your business in the exhibit or just stop by to enjoy delicious food and make new friends. Don’t miss this opportunity to promote your business in style!
Attendance is free but we encourage you to pre-register here.
Susana G. Baumann
Award-winning journalist, multicultural expert, public speaker