I have been meaning to write this post for over a year. It started last Fall in a conversation with Jason Frasca and Carlos Abad – these are two entrepreneurs and leaders in the New Jersey startup ecosystem who have been tremendously helpful with feedback and suggestions as we have gone through our evolution to serve hyperlocal communities via the Bizyhood platform.
Our conversation centered around the question of “How should a small business owner act online vs real life?” We agree that small business owners need to be authentic – both online and offline. We were discussing too many situations where a business owner will do something online that doesn’t match with their real life persona and how that makes little sense. Since last year, I have been conducting free seminars to local business owners on Digital Marketing and Social Media for SCORE, and this same topic comes up in every seminar. Small business owners want to know the “tricks” they can do online to get a leg up on their competition and to give them more visibility online.
My feedback has become the same for every question in this area:
Small business owners – be your authentic self online.
Pro tip: you should do the same things online that you do offline. Examples include:
- What should go on my website? It’s shocking to me the number of small business websites that I see where the “About Us” page is a random selection of buzzwords and boilerplate sentences about their business – and nothing at all about the people themselves that run the business! I can’t think of a single small local business that doesn’t excel because of their people. And yet, no personalization of that page or most of the pages on the website. Just typical content that you could (and probably do) see on pretty much every other website for that type of business. So, how are you differentiating yourself with this approach?
- How should I write my blog posts? I get many questions about how blog posts should be written – how often to use their keywords, how long should a post be, how often should people blog. I typically answer that you should write your blog with your authentic voice – just write down what you would say out loud to somebody who asked you to explain the topic you are blogging about. Don’t worry about keywords, or length (although SEO experts do say it should be at least 300 words). Blog consistently, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly – pick a consistent cadence that you can keep up with.
- How do I respond to reviews? This is a very popular question. Business owners are always concerned about negative reviews and how to reply. I always ask business owners to consider how they would reply if this customer said what is in their review to them in person. Whatever you would say, put that down in writing… review it to make sure it reads well (since what you are writing will persist vs. what you would say live, it does warrant an edit process), then post it.
- How often should I post on social media? There are many business owners that are the nicest people and would never call you multiple times in one week to ask you for a favor. Yet, they’ll post their ad, or flyer, or event multiple times per day on social media. Each social media platform has different cadences you should be aware of, but one thing that is different in a hyperlocal market is that you likely have regular followers that see most of what you do, and then everybody else who sees very little of what you do. So, you are likely only frustrating your existing loyal customers, who will see you effectively repeating yourself multiple times per day, and everybody else won’t see you saying anything at all. How often would you remind your loyal customers about an event or promotion? Don’t post much more than that.
Learning and understanding all the nuances of social media and being online is hard enough – you shouldn’t have to learn how to be somebody else online as well! If you focus your online energy to being yourself, that will yield the best results and take the least amount of time. Of course, don’t forget to measure your online activities so you can tune what things work best – you won’t have time to do everything, so be sure to focus on the most effective things.