Ways social media media helps small business Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents shoots a video testimonial for AMEX Small Business Saturday at Main Street Now conference

We ❤ small business tourism partners! Leslie McLellan from Tourism Currents shoots a video testimonial for AMEX Small Business Saturday at the Main Street Now conference.

Sometimes, you’ve got to go back to the basics.

It may seem obvious by now that digital marketing and social media are not fads. Online communication is often the norm and not the exception for visitors, guests, and customers, but it is still an uphill battle to get some folks to accept that (not only accept it, but take it seriously as a key part of how their business or organization operates.)

Instead, too many set up a Facebook Page or Instagram account without any plan for tying it to their marketing or business goals.

They then turn the account over to some random intern or 17-year-old niece because “They’re young, so they understand technology,” and then after a series of crummy, haphazard posts, the account sits there without updates for weeks or months.

Sound familiar?

Here is our attempt to boil things down to the most straightforward reasons why tourism partner small businesses will benefit from social media. It is based on social media workshops that we’ve done recently for small town Chambers of Commerce – contact us if you’d like us to do something similar in your town, and feel free to pass this along to your partners.

Before we get to the 5 ways social media can help small business partners, though, we want to emphasize first that the main reason to be on social media is because visitors, guests, and customers are there. It is that simple.

All age groups and all demographics are there (yes, even “old people,”) and the numbers are only going up. We recommend the Pew Internet Social Media Fact Sheet to learn more. It is U.S. data only, though; let us know down in the Comments if you know a good “one stop shop” resource for similar worldwide info.

Secondly, we try to bring clarity, and answer the question that all busy partners and small businesses ask…. “I’m busy. What do I HAVE to do for online marketing?”

We say they must do two things:

1) Claim their listing on Google My Business, fill it out completely, keep it updated, and answer reviews. It is the best thing they can do for local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) if they want to be found online.

2) Have an active presence on at least one social network, probably a Facebook Page. Active means posting regularly (at least 3-5 times per week,) interacting with comments and Messenger, and occasionally running Sponsored posts (ads) to make sure their story is heard by the right audiences.

A 90 second video from us to pound it home….

If partners would just do those two things, they’d be way ahead of the many who do not.

Now, a quick look at the 5 things social media can do for small business, attractions, hotels, and other tourism and economic development partners:

Social Media Helps with Customer Service

A lot of people are used to taking customer service questions to social media – “Hey, Delta Airlines, where is my luggage?” etc. – so if you answer questions, give advice, and help people offline, you should do the same online.

If a business is only using social for one-way broadcasts about sales or events, it is missing the boat.

Make sure that notifications are turned on (to your phone is easiest) and answer people as soon as possible when they ping you, just as you would if they were physically standing at your customer service counter.

Social Media Helps Spread Referrals and Word-of-Mouth

Customers and visitors like to share great experiences. Is your small business helping them do that?

Heart of Texas Bowhunting Facebook Page

The Heart of Texas Bowhunting Facebook Page; they’re located in western Texas between San Angelo and Abilene.

The type of business really doesn’t matter. The referral principles are the same.

Instead of people talking about your great business with neighbors over the back fence, they’re talking about it on powerful platforms with worldwide, 24/7 reach.

Social Media Helps Humans AND Google Find You

When customers or visitors search for your business or brand name, or for the type of products you carry in your town, the links to your social media accounts will often appear at the top of search results. They have a lot of “Google Juice” ranking authority.

This is why it is so important that social profiles are filled out completely, with name, address, phone, and description consistent across profiles.

If your social profiles include the right keywords – “We specialize in vintage Anchor Hocking Fire King glassware in Webster City, Iowa” – then the links to your social accounts will often show up toward the top of search results when people look for Fire King items in Iowa, for example, even if they aren’t searching for your specific business name.

Social Media Helps Reassure People That You’re Legitimate (and Still in Business)

Active social media accounts with recent updates give customers confidence that you are open for business. Current photos of the interior, exterior, and of products in action also reinforce legitimacy.

Something as basic as interacting as the brand name with people leaving comments/questions – see customer service section above – goes a long way to convince prospective customers that you’re worth a visit, AND that you understand modern communications.

Sadly, roughly one-third of small businesses do not have a website. That forces people to hunt around for some indication that a business is still functioning and ready for customers, and they do that by looking around on social media.

Frankly, even those businesses that DO have websites do not always keep them fresh and current, so those recent Facebook Page posts or Instagram posts reassure people that yes, humans are still running the business or organization.

Stop thinking that people will pick up a phone and call to confirm that you have a pulse. Most won’t. They’ll move on to another business that looks like it has its act together. Sorry, but that’s how it is.

Social Media Helps Make Sales

We’ve seen it all…. businesses from hotels to you-pick berry farms to clothing boutiques answering people who ask on social media, “How do I buy this?”

Here are some success stories featured on Facebook Business, and below is a screenshot of a boutique that inspired a social media follower from another state to plan a road trip around visiting the shop IRL (In Real Life.)

The Rusty Rose in Plainview TX small business success from social media referral

The Rusty Rose in Plainview TX, a small business success from social media referral. Hat tip for this post to the Texas Downtown Association member forum.

It helps to be very responsive on social when people show intent to purchase.

Quickly answering simple questions about price, size availability, shop hours, or shop location not only helps the prospective customer or visitor asking the question; it also shows everyone else watching the conversation that you care about getting their business enough to show up where they are today – on social media.

In the Comments section below, share your favorite example of how social media helped a tourism or economic development partner business….

PS. Our whole focus is showing you and/or your partners how to use digital destination marketing to bring more visitors to your town. Let us know if you need workshop or conference speakers, or would like some personalized coaching and consulting.

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