23 Dec Communicate to Improve Your Small Business’ Community!
With all the available forms of digital media, it can often be too easy to forget that there are real, sophisticated and emotional people behind those screens we interact through. Our local businesses are a source of pride, influence and support between friends, family and the wider communities around us. Without a consistent approach to curating their conversation with their communities, businesses will not only lose their ability to send a message, but also their ability to keep a meaningful connection with what it is their customers really want.
Get People Talking
The great thing about conversations is that they don’t have to be about one thing. They can jump from subject to subject, topic to topic, without going pre-planned or contrived, allowing people to learn from one another and grow in their own directions. For a business, this means shying away from long promotional content in favour of true engagement, so engage with people. Share funny videos, tell interesting stories, capture dramatic events, link relevant articles, and watch as the conversation unfolds around the stories you share. If there’s a funny cat, an old friend who comes by to visit your business, a news-making event in your neighbourhood or an article that touches an issue your customers care about – they don’t just deserve to see it, they deserve to hear what you think and understand your business better through your personality.
Sometimes the hardest part is finding the cute content to share, but when you come across something like this, don’t be afraid to have a laugh with your customers.
One of the main aspects of this is to start thinking of your community as your friends. This isn’t an unconventional idea for Small Businesses, as most owners and staff often keep friends close in their business. From there, simply start considering your broader community as closer to you than you might think it is. Of course, don’t share or post content that might be inappropriate for your wider community, or inside jokes that only a few people will truly understand, but grow in yourself the willingness to reach out with the things you love and enjoy. Unique social media posts, filled with humour and thoughtfulness, can evoke emotion in the community around your business. Even if it has nothing to do with your business, this is free advertising for you – sharing content you love with others makes you a source of joy and inspiration for them.
Communicate Publicly and Privately
Simply posting on a blog or social media page isn’t enough in terms of community relationships. As social psychologists will tell you, not only do we have rapport and relationships with our entire community all at once, but we also have differing rapports, reputations and bases for the friendships we form within that community. So, in the case of managing your community like your friends, you can’t possibly ignore the advantage of giving community members individual attention. While a broad-based joke, meme, or funny video might be appropriate for your whole audience, an article on a topic you discussed with only one or two customers is better shared with them directly – not only is it relevant to them, but it shows just how much you care!
Sharing what your clients tell you can be a great way to keep a conversation going, and from the comment below you can see community can even try to bring you to new locales.
In this way, personalized text messages, phone calls, emails, chats and forms of social messaging are crucial to staying in touch with what people might be saying outside the public square, and also drawing your customers into a closer alliance with you. When you are able to address individual needs and requests, people will also be more likely to contribute and comment on what’s happening in your community. Think of it – when you have a strong private relationship with someone, aren’t you more likely to be positive and support them in public? In the most extreme cases, customers who feel a strong connection to your business will not only support you, but may go out of their way to promote you – particularly if they think your products and services are something people need to see!
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak your mind
Local issues, taxes, regulations, and authorities can often be a source of pain or pestilence for small businesses, but in society it’s mostly up to consumers to speak up for them. We know about social media’s capacity to spark revolution, but local businesses can capitalize on the desire of both people and the media to shape a better conversation.
It’s not original to the business, but it is totally relevant, and it’s not a lot of effort compared to what the community response is.
So, when you disagree with a policy, or like what someone is doing in your community, don’t be afraid to speak your mind and share your own opinion! If you really have a problem, don’t feel sorry for yourself in sharing it, as you never know who will hear you out and help you solve it. It takes a lot of work for things to really change in the world, but that work comes from the effort everybody applies, bit by bit, together.
Get Them Through Your Store
Much as a conversation online can help you get closer to your community and expand your business, if you don’t have real interactions and regular sales then what’s the point? Be sure to take advantage of your community platforms by advertising specials, promotions, new products or limited time offers without going into too much detail – maintaining a bit of mystery will only draw people in all the more.
On occasion the attractions to your products might be simple and direct – with some flirtatious good humour it will be easy to get yourself on customer’s minds, without even offering special!
You may know what people really want before they know it themselves, so consider taking risks from time to time with the products you offer. This doesn’t mean that every day you have to change your routine, but look at doing things to grab your community’s attention and keep the spice in your relationship. Not everything you throw against the wall will stick, but if you do enough, you’ll definitely be surprised at what does.
Continuing the Conversation
Leaving things on your platforms is not enough, but the conversation started by what you share is something that comes naturally to most people who already communicate through digital media. Alas, to help your communications efforts you have to make the commitment to build relationships in all areas of your business. That means incorporating everyone you relate to in ways that make them comfortable and feel attended to, and incorporating the right tools in your web presence to assure that you can build relationships from start to finish (although we do hope most never end)!