News Update :

Encouraging Local Businesses to Go Social

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of local media and find their business proposition compelling in a world where traditional print (see yesterday’s post) seems on an irreversible downward path. I’ve written about Cape Cod Today before. I post a local blog there and have become somewhat familiar with the operation. It is part of their local orientation that they have a blog design and marketing service as one division of the business. I follow them (as well as Wicked Local Cape Cod) on Twitter; it’s an interesting way to keep up with local news for someone who long ago stopped reading the print version of newspapers. They have a Facebook page which appears to be manually maintained with 135 followers as of today. Their Twitter account has 750 followers and uses TwitterFeed to automatically post items from their home page. The ratio makes sense to me.

Going through my summer info, I was interested that, having learned about Facebook and Twitter themselves, they had introduced a new service for their clients; setting up a Facebook page and/or Twitter account. I took a quick look at some of the businesses using the service.

The Facebook page of the skydiving service is vibrant—makes sense. This is an experiential service and Facebook is a good place to give a sense of the experiences. I don’t find a Twitter page for them. 140 characters doesn’t give a good opportunity to create a sense of experience but it could link back to the Facebook page or to their website. Their website offers basic information but not much fodder for the social sites; it’s connected to their Facebook page and that works. The website doesn't have a prominent Facebook logo, and given the richness of the content there it should be useful to people considering a purchase. A key question is--how much content can three people be expected to keep up? That will help reduce the number of options!

The Mediterranean-style taverna is active on Twitter—a good place to promote today’s menu items and special events. I don’t find a Facebook page for them (why is it so hard to be sure?*?), but they have a blog on their website.

The yoga instruction center is using Twitter primarily for branding. Not an ideal use perhaps, but this couple has had a blog on CCT for awhile and they use it in the same way. It’s an integrated communications program that’s likely to pay off for them over time.

Three businesses—three different approaches to social media platforms. There are two primary take-aways. First, any business must use the best platforms for their objectives, which must themselves be closely mapped to the business concept and objectives. Second, the social media platforms can be a real hog of employee/owner time. It’s important to select the right one and to use it consistently.

I checked another Facebook/Twitter combo for a local business which CCT describes as “recently set up.” No activity—no posts, no Tweets, no new fans or followers. That’s the danger. Everyone I know is surprised by how much time and effort it takes, whether “it” is a blog or a Facebook page or another social media endeavor. The exception can be Twitter, where it’s possible to feed directly from your blog or Facebook page, making posts do double duty. That’s fine. Whether it’s enough is a question.

Social media is a commitment that local and other small organizations should consider carefully. Many of them cannot afford much/any media advertising, so it seems a sensible option. However, there are possible downsides. Does an unmaintained page damage the brand of a small local business as it would a national brand? Probably not as much, but it can’t help. Will you buy from a retailer with a messy store? Unlikely. Does the same principle hold true for keeping your Facebook page up to date? Time will tell. My guess is yes!
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