5 Simple Ways to Support Small Businesses Online
Do you love your community of small, local businesses and that 'love where you live' feeing? Or perhaps you get that warm fuzzy feeling when you buy or hire a service from an independent business; whether it's one, the other or both shopping small has never been so trendy!
With small businesses being able to connect so much more online and becoming pretty darn digital, we as consumers (and business owners) have the power to help our favourite stores and businesses to thrive without it costing a penny. Brilliant right?
I have noticed a dip in that online community spirit not to anyone's fault, but when we were able to go back out and physically go in to spend money with local businesses, we hadn't felt the need to continue that social media heavy support. But it's clear that utilising the power of social media to shout out about those businesses, is invaluable.
In light of this, I have explored 5 of what I believe to be simple yet effective ways that we can show our support for each other as business owners and as consumers when times are a little limited...and while we have a few moments to spare.
1. Use the Force: Instagram Stories
There have been so many exciting developments with Instagram Stories to maximise engagement as much as possible. The purpose of Instagram Stories is to let people see behind the virtual window aka your Instagram 'grid' or 'feed' and get to know you or your business a little better. It also helps businesses and creators to share what they do behind the scenes or more variety of content without it taking up room on their Instagram grid. So, stories is what I would describe as an 'expressive heaven' for sharing updates and to learn more about that account.
With this in mind, here are some personal top features available on Instagram stories that we can use to support local, small businesses remotely:
The Small Business Sticker
Conduct small business shout outs using the 'Support Small Business' sticker which offers not just the name of the business, but a preview of their latest three posts! So if their content is looking scrumptious, it'll be even more enticing for followers to click and check them out.
Do you like it? Instagram's Like o'metre
The like o'metre is great for sharing product reviews and asking if your followers like it too - don't forget to tag where you go the products from!
Instagram's Very Own Templates
Instagram's Suggestions in 'create' mode offer some fantastic template suggestions from Instagram themselves! Check it out how to access it and what's available in my tutorial below.
2. Consumer & Customer User Generated Content
User Generated Content (UGC) has been a powerful, emerging form of content that is probably the most important content type for most businesses on social media; and it doesn't just apply to Instagram...you can share UGC across all social media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc!
The purpose of UGC that most brands use as a core part (and sometimes only) of their social marketing strategy. It's content generated by clients and consumers who have taken photos or videos of them using their products / services in action.
It is a form of 'referral marketing'- and when someone posts content like this while tagging the business in that very post, it draws in their followers who could very well click through to that business which helps their overall brand awareness.
For products bought from a shop:
Take a look around your home and see what products you have sourced locally e.g. a handmade necklace or a decorative piece. Take a photo of the item and/or you using the product, give a little description and tag that business' profile in the post. If you'd like to share in your story, tag the business in text form or using Instagram's '@' sticker.
For a service you have experience:
Services are of course a bit more tricky to shout about, but shout-out-able nonetheless! We can share our experience by taking a photo of what they have helped us with, add a description (what service? Why did you need it? How did it help?) and of course tag that business' profile in our stories or our feeds!
And there you have generated not just valuable portfolio of reviews in action-form for that business, but you have also increased their visibility anywhere from 5% - 20%. Not too bad, hey?
Read the full guide on user generated content, here.
3. Review Services & Products Online
With social media taking all the limelight it's easy to forget to review our experience. Something that seems like a huge chore (specially if you buy pretty much everything online) but when it comes to local and smaller businesses, reviews are imperative to building a reputation and therefore, brand awareness.
Here is a list useful review platforms where your review matters incredibly:
Shopify / Etsy / Amazon
So whenever you feel or have time, look back at what you have purchased or experienced and review them via one or more of the above depending on wherever you sourced them through - our experiences count more than we know!
4. Engage, Engage, Engage
That's right! Follows, comments, likes and shares help businesses become more visible and suggestive on social media. When you're scrolling on your feeds, be sure to engage with posts from your favourite restaurants, cafes, shops, businesses to help the 'bot' behind social media to tell more people about that profile.
Every bit of engagement big or small, brief or long really matters. It doesn't just help in an online awareness sense, but it also helps business owners feel more positives and perhaps a boost in morale. Your comment or follow can put a smile on someones face and encourage them to keep active online, to not close the doors permanently during the bleakest of economic times.
Your click counts that's for sure, and as a business owner myself, I can certainly vouch for everything I have just mentioned above...
5. Shop Small, Online
Instagram and Facebook shopping is here for small businesses to take advantage of, for consumers to buy products more easily and. to support them while shop doors maybe closed - so let's get shopping!
Lookout on their Facebook page or Instagram profile for their linked 'shop' so you can checkout products and buy with a couple of clicks. If they haven't perhaps gotten round to implementing this feature, don't hesitate to contact them through direct messaging and ask them if it is possible to buy on a different platform.
I've already got a wish list of locally handmade items that I will treat myself to every time I achieve something.
If you don't see this option, why not ask if they do gift vouchers so you can treat someone to something local too!
So many ways to support small businesses...
There are so many, incredible and endless ways to support small, local businesses that I would simply need to write an entire book on it! But, until then I hope this blog has given you some inspiration as both a consumer or client and as a business owner as to how we can support each other in 'circle of community' at a time that needs it most.
Happy supporting everyone. Together is better.
Yasmin @ Aloha