There are several commercial “movements” gaining steam nowadays expressing the desire of smaller communities to get residents spending more of their money at local, usually small, businesses. Small Business Saturday’s Facebook page has almost 3 Million “Likes”. My city of Simi Valley has spent a fair amount of money promoting the concept. Locally it’s called “Shop Simi Valley First“. Unfortunately, the money that was used to create the website and other marketing efforts to support it has now dried up, possibly never to return. On the bright side, some of our citizens created a Facebook page for them and it’s approaching 1K “Likes”. It might increase now that the “official” effort is unfunded. I think this is a good thing and here’s why.
For the last year or so I have been gently pushing the city, and local small businesses, to recognize the power available to them in the use of social media to market themselves, as well as to create connections that just haven’t been possible in the past. I think, when it comes to marketing – especially in terms of encouraging local residents to patronize small businesses in our city – the connectivity and mutual support provided by services like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp may prove a decisive factor in reasonable, if not substantial, growth.
As I see it, local small businesses can use these services not merely to promote themselves individually but, as long as there’s no conflict of interest, they can also promote each other. Here’s what I imagine happening.
Let’s say you have a restaurant that serves a reasonably upscale clientele. You know there is a certain demographic that’s not terribly likely to frequent your business. Maybe they’ll patronize your place on special occasions, but not regularly. Would it be a bad thing to give props to other eating establishments more desirable or affordable to those people? Would it threaten your business or might it not actually result in your being recognized as more friendly and approachable? I’m betting the latter is more likely.
Perhaps you own a clothing store, a dry cleaners, or you’re a Dentist or other professional or service provider. I see no reason why you can’t agree with other businesses to post on each others’ Facebook pages once in a while, sharing what you have to offer or special deals you’re running at the time. Frankly, I haven’t worked out all the details in my head yet. I’ve tried to work with local businesses and the City to encourage this type of practice using social media but, much like my experience at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I’ve met a lot of inertia and resistance to change, even in the face of impending closure or bankruptcy. Part of it is a lack of understanding and part of it is a lack of resources, but the result is the same. Nothing much is happening.
What I envision happening is essentially two-fold. The first thing is that participating businesses benefit from the following of the other businesses on whose Facebook pages they promote themselves. This increases the likelihood of their being noticed by a larger group of residents. Secondly, it also increases the chances people in outlying areas will become aware of local businesses, thereby increasing the possibility people from neighboring cities may drive on over and patronize our local businesses a bit more frequently.
Does this make sense to you? What do you think about promoting local small business and how well do you think the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp can increase awareness of certain types of businesses? I’d sure like to see a more coordinated, concerted effort at making it happen.