Social Media as an Avenue for Local Economic Leadership
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Social networking has always been an important part of an entrepreneur’s toolkit. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, among others, have become indispensable utilities for small and mid-sized businesses, as they reach out to customers, and create connections with local affiliates. I’ll be focusing on the latter application.
It’s typical to see small and mid-sized businesses sponsoring local events, sporting teams, and charity or benefit projects, these efforts entail a certain pitfall: ultimately, the publicity gained from such events is transient. For instance, your business might provide sponsorship to a local little league baseball team in exchange for a banner at their home field, or a logo on their uniform. Though this undoubtedly helps to cement your brand within the community for a time, this method of signaling interest and compassion for the community inevitably suffers from the same issue that plagues all traditional advertising mediums: a very limited shelf life.
Social media provides a powerful broadcasting platform for publicizing measures that your business has taken to establish itself as a leader within the local economy. One of the greatest advantages to using social media is that content published on social media platforms persists indefinitely. Hence, your business can capitalize on the whims of those persons that vaguely remember your business’s patronage of a community event or organization, but can’t quite recall which company provided sponsorship. For instance, striking up a social media ‘conversation’ – on Facebook or Twitter – with community groups and organizations that your business supports or sponsors provides a way to endow these relationships with a kind of permanence that is only possible online.
You might be thinking – but what about those appearances in local publications? Certainly, print is permanent, is it not? Of course it is – provided anybody can actually find archived publications. Most community newsletters aren’t archived online; community papers may or may not be archived online. Regardless, you need to take this question into consideration: Are you really going to trust others with managing your business’s publicity?
The correct answer to that question should be “No!”. Certainly, appearing in local publications is never a bad idea – but in a world where you have ready access to platforms for self-publication at a marginal cost, relying mostly upon the work and products of others to establish your brand as a local leader is inexcusable. In this day and age, you are able to publish to social media platforms from a cellular phone.
If you can’t take a couple of minutes out of your day to snap a photo of an event you’re sponsoring and upload it to Facebook, then find someone else to do it! Chances are, your younger employees are already toting around a smartphone or two anyway – so you might as well put them to use. Appoint a couple employees to handle publicity on social media. Set firm guidelines on what uses of social media are appropriate, and which aren’t. Assign them a minimum number of times that they must tweet or make posts per week. And be sure that they’re actively trying to engage other local firms with a social media presence to gain a wider audience.
Here’s an idea for using social media to signal your business’s local economic leadership:
Are you sponsoring a benefit event, such as a fun run? Or perhaps a community service event like a beach cleanup or tree replanting? In either case, start drumming up social media discussion far in advance of these events. But make sure that you’re not just directly reaching out to your potential customers – be sure to also make attempts at engaging other local businesses to come on board and support the event. If you have customers following you, they’ll see you lobbying other local businesses to come participate in an event that benefits the community. Plus, persons that follow the other business will also see your efforts. This way, your business appears to be more than just a sponsor benefitting the community; your business takes on the role of advocate for community interests. By using social media platforms as a means to engage other businesses in community events, you can gain an extra dimension of publicity.