This is How the Internet Can Get Your Small Business Off the Ground

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Nowadays, everybody knows that a good social media presence is critical to any company, big or small. But what’s not-so-common knowledge is how to really use that social media to your advantage. So you’ve made yourself a twitter account or snapped a few Instagrams – how do you start turning these online followers and “likes” into real-life customers and revenue?

After doing some research, I came across a few small businesses that made social media work for their business in a big way! Want to know their secret? They made their online presence cater to the needs of their local customers! Take a look at these companies that pounded the pavement and involved their businesses in the everyday lives of the people in their communities.

Buttermilk Inc.

Buttermilk started as a food truck business trying to “share their love of decadent breakfast dishes with Los Angeles residents and visitors.” Food trucks, which are treasured culinary hotspots for LA locals, are exactly the kind of business model that can get eccentric companies like Buttermilk the buzz they need.

Then the company started developing its Red Velvet Pancake mix as a product to sell on the web, setting up an online store and some accounts on Instagram and Facebook. That’s when the rest of the world started paying attention!

How They Did It:

  •      They bundled their products with recipes and YouTube cooking tutorials on their web store. Not only does this offer customers extra bonuses for shopping online, but they build a personal relationship with the customer!
  •      Its Twitter account uses hashtags and trending topics to keep its online conversations relevant. That may sound like a no-brainer, but keeping with the times can be tough – especially online! That’s why a lot of people choose to hire an intern to run their companies’ social media accounts.
  •      It hosts Instagram contests, encouraging customers to interact with the brand instead of just treating them like a passive audience. Let your audience show you their creativity! You might be surprised at the kind inspiration your products give them!

Now selling products nationally, Buttermilk Inc.’s food trucks are off the road, but the company has retained its sense of community involvement online.That’s the trademark of a business that knows how to get its brand image out there in the digital age!

Paper or Plastik

But that doesn’t mean you need two axles and a set of wheels to get involved in your area – your business should be a place where customers want to come to you! Paper or Plastik, a café in one of LA’s underrated “mid-city” neighborhoods, does exactly that by making itself a place for art, comedy, and community expression.

If you look at the chalkboard outside the café’s West Pico location, you’ll see a list of all its upcoming events: it hosts a Friday night film club, monthly shows from a local comedy troupe, and dance performances in the building’s adjacent studio, just to name a few. Night after night, Paper or Plastik brings in plenty of customers who come for the art, but stay for the coffee!

How They Did It:

  •      The company’s Twitter account reminds customers of what events are being hosted before they happen. That way, online customers have a new reason to swing by every time they check their Twitter feed!
  •      Their Instagram and Tumblr feeds display photos of each performance, celebrating its performers and its customers for taking part. This makes customers feel like they’re a part of the action even when they’re spectating, inviting them to get involved in a community unique to their business!
  •      Each one of their social media accounts are linked with one another – that means that any post, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Instagram, is automatically linked to on each one of those accounts! This way, each user, no matter how many of those sites they use, don’t miss a single one of the company’s updates.

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Social Media is for Being Social!

But the heart and soul of these businesses didn’t start on social media – it started with an idea to help them get closer to their customers, not just sell something to them. As the corporations that people rely on become bigger and bigger, there’s always going to be a demand for a smaller brands that really care about their audience. Social media is about developing intimate relationships with your customers, not making you look more “professional.”

The Internet helps you broadcast that brand to the rest of the world, but before that strategy can work, you need to broadcast your business to the rest of your community. What is it your customers need, and what’s the best way to offer it to them? Before you ask your customers to help you by spreading the word about your business, ask yourself how can you help them.

 

by Ryan Mach

Ryan Chapin Mach is a recent graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier OH, where he studied English and political science. Ryan served on the editorial board of the political magazine the Kenyon Observer and cofounded the Fabulist, an undergraduate literary publication. A native of Alexandria, Virginia, Ryan has recently moved to Los Angeles and now works as a creative contractor and freelance writer.

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