Preparing for Small Business Saturday Shoppers

small business, local business, black friday, shopping, holiday, Small Business Saturday, Amex

‘Tis the season…to shop local!

Whether you’re excited about it or begrudgingly accepting it, the holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving is next week and the bell is about to ring for full-on holiday shopping. Hopefully, Black Friday will bring you some business during the big-box store madness, but what I personally get really excited about is Small Business Saturday. It’s the small and local business-focused shopping day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday where your business gets a chance to shine and show customers why it still pays to shop local. The question is, are you prepared for it?

You want to get the word out, you want to make sure people are excited about taking time to support their local economy and find the unique products and services you provide, but where do you begin? If you haven’t previously started hyping this up, you’re at a disadvantage already, but it’s not hopeless.

  1. The first thing you need to do is start creating excitement and get the word out. Small Business Saturday has only been around for a few years, so some of your customers may simply not know that it exists. Mention it to your customers in the store, put some messages out on your social sites and get people talking. ‘Like’ the Small Business Saturday Facebook page (link at the end of this post) and start mentioning it on Facebook (tag the page so people can check it out, too). Also, just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t take a page out of the big guys’ books. Start offering ‘sneak peaks’ this week of specials you’ll be having, or plans you’re anticipating to make the day fun and different than any other shopping day. Make sure you mention any adjusted hours so people know they can hit your store earlier or later than usual.
  2. Feel out your customers. What are they most excited about this shopping season? What items are on their wish list that they should buy from you? What do they hate about holiday shopping that you can potentially make easier on them? These are the kinds of things you should be asking to get a temperature of your customers’ feelings at this hectic time of year, and try to provide the more personalized service and experience that makes shopping local so great.
  3. Not a small retail business? That doesn’t mean you have to be left out. Cater your specials to weary holiday shoppers! If you’re a restaurant, have a Small Business Saturday shopper menu with items at a discounted price. A coffee shop: Provide a discounted cup of coffee or free flavor shot to fuel up those people who are shopping locally. Spa or salon? Offer specials to local shoppers to unwind after a busy and stressful shopping day. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure to remind them that participating in “local” is what got the them their special treatment. It’s about community here, folks.

Now, the review responder in me must add this last point. This is your opportunity to shine and remind people that you exist right down the street from them. Make sure you’re properly staffed, everyone has a smile and is excited to be part of the experience. Remember that many of these customers may have already dealt with ludicrous and potentially dangerous crowds elsewhere and may be on edge. You don’t want all of your hard work to unravel in the form of a slew of unhappy customer reviews.

For more information and tips, here are a couple more resources:

  • Small Business Saturday Facebook page
  • Small Business Trends article on preparing for Small Business Saturday
  • Forbes article with some tips and ideas
  • If you find the holiday season too overwhelming to handle your social media presence, the company I work for, Main Street Hub, can alleviate the stress of handling and monitoring your online presence. Check us out!

What kind of things are you planning to make this year the best for your small business? If you’re not a business owner, do you plan to participate in all three “shopping holidays”? (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday) What are some crazy or unique specials, gimmicks or tactics that you’ve already seen?

Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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3 Tips for Doing Twitter Outreach Without Being a Creep

By now you’ve probably heard that social media does not follow the Field of Dreams mantra: “If you build it, they will come.” (I know, for all you die hard Field of Dreams fans, that’s not the factually accurate quote. But that’s what it has become in pop culture so bear with me.) Simply setting up your social media profiles and waiting for people to come swarming to them will just not happen. You have to give them a reason to come to your page. You have to seek them out by knowing your business, knowing your customers, and knowing your community. One great way to seek out potential customers is by doing Twitter outreach. I’m not going to go through the use of Twitter’s search features here. Those articles have already been written by much more knowledgeable bloggers to varying degrees. I did recently write a guest post for Main Street Hub, a social media management company that focuses on local businesses, in which I discuss three tips for doing Twitter outreach without coming across as a creep or spambot. Twitter is fraught with both, so differentiating yourself from them is critical. You can read the post here:

What are your thoughts on Twitter outreach? Have you been reached out to or poached successfully? What did the person do that worked, or didn’t? Do you have any more tips to add? Let me know below with your comments. Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on! Follow this blog on Google Currents! Download the app in your app store or marketplace and click here to subscribe.

In the Company of You – Having a Personal Brand

Personal brand: The Not-So Secret Identity?

This topic has been sitting in my Evernote folder for a while now. I recently listened to a podcast on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: The Twist Image Podcast, and he had a guest by the name of Ben Casnocha. Ben is the coauthor of a book called The Startup of You (along with Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn). The podcast was very interesting and I may have to check out the book too. One topic that they touched on while discussing The Startup of You was personal branding. The internet has allowed for anyone to be an author, anyone to be a content creator, and as such, many have ‘branded’ themselves. People are no longer necessarily identifying themselves as merely an employee of a company, but as brand of their own, leasing their talent to a company for however long they are there (as Mitch and Ben put it in the podcast). It is also discussed in the podcast as to whether this is actually a good thing for businesses or not.

I can honestly say that I have my own personal brand, which occasionally collides with what I do at Main Street Hub. I have my personal blog, which I treat more as a blog discussing small business and social media, because those are the things that interest me. There’s also occasionally funny things (Found Tweet Friday) I find and interesting music or apps that I come across. I also come equipped with my presence on just about all social networks (and the many connections that come from them). At the end of the day, all of that belongs to me and not the company. Ask any social media expert, however, and they’ll tell you that companies should encourage their employees to blog and have a presence on social media. Could this hurt your company? Will it cause your employees to focus more on themselves than your company’s image? Personally, I don’t think that’s the case in most instances.

If you’re hiring the right kind of people, then their personal brand is an extension of them that can be leveraged for the business, as long as they’re interested and invested in the business themselves. Do my blog and social media presence get occasionally leveraged for use with my company? Sure. I tweet about things going on at work (we even have our own hashtag). I ‘Like’ and share things my company posts. I post Instagram pictures from crazy things happening at my group’s desk. I even link to my company and let readers know what we do. Not because the company asks me to, but because it’s relevant to what I’m interested in. As a matter of fact, I got Main Street Hub’s attention initially by tweeting articles about social media and small business and @tagging them on Twitter. Like “Hey guys, I read this and its relevant to your business. I found it interesting and you might too!” With a little perseverance, I landed the job and now my extracurricular social media activities occasionally merge with what I do for Main Street Hub.

Personal brand is only going to become more prevalent as this generation, which already use Tumblr, WordPress, Blogger, Instagram and Twitter to amass numerous followers and fans, grows into the next workforce. They are going to come fully equipped with a social standing and personal brand, and companies will have to know how to reconcile that. Simply put, embrace it, treat your employees with respect, and perhaps their personal brand will mesh with your company’s professional presence.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel you have a personal brand outside of your company? Have you used or leveraged your presence to procure a job? Or, as a business owner, did you take social media presence into account when finding or hiring an employee? I’d love to hear some comments below, and perhaps later I can gather the responses and do a follow up post. Thanks for reading.

Now go get your social on!

The Social Gnome’s Hoard – 4 New Reasons to Monitor Online Reviews

This week we’re discussing the recently increased importance of monitoring and maintaining your presence on review sites, particularly Yelp and Google Places (now called Google+ Local).

June 13, 2012:

Social Gnome hoard image

Yelp rating system

The slow, painful decline from red to yellow

  • Siri uses Yelp to search locally – When your potential customers hit that button on their iPhone and tell Siri asks what she can help them with, Siri then asks her friend Yelp for the highest rated results in that category in your geographic area. This is applicable whether you’re a restaurant, doctor, lawyer, plumber, auto repair shop, anything. You need to make sure you’re looking as clean as you can on Yelp, or Siri may not recommend you. Yes, you are now catering your hard work on your company’s image to a digital assistant. Get used to it and move forward, because this stuff is only getting more complicated.
Google+ Local Austin recommendation

I agree, Mandola’s is delicious.

  • Google loves Google+ – Google has integrated it’s search even more fully into its social network, last week unveiling Google+ Local. Companies’ reviews on Zagat and Google Places are now merged, using the Zagat scoring system, out of 30 points, and allowing rating of multiple facets of a business. Companies can no longer have an abandoned Google Places page. They will now have to create a Google+ business page, or spruce up their Google Places page now that it has ported over and become a Google+ business page. This gives you some great options, visually, but a more social search for customer equals a more complicated job for businesses.
Screenshot from Apple.com

Apple.com explains iOS6 features

  • Apple just rocked your world – The unveiling of new iOS6 features from Apple announced the dropping of Google Maps and the addition of Apple Maps. Once again, Apple is lending preference to Yelp to assist users in navigating the best spots in the very slick looking, and exceedingly functional, Apple maps. Local restaurants, take note that Apple in also utilizing Open Table to allow users to make reservations with Siri. Let the confusion begin.
Visual.Ly infographic on food critiquing

Visual.Ly shows you how much we’re all critics

  • Everybody’s a criticVisual.Ly makes a great infographic that culminates our innate needs to have our opinions heard. From quick shout outs, epic tales of a dinner gone wrong, or outright rude chastising of a business owner for not caring enough, we love to have our opinions heard. Although there are numerous platforms out there that cater to this desire to be heard, Yelp furthers the addiction even more by rewarding those who share their opinions the most (awarding them a coveted Elite status) and Google just made it super easy for Google+ users to share their experiences very, very publicly.
UPDATE As an addendum, Bing is also pushing the local search functionality. Guess what resource Bing will be utilizing for finding local businesses. Yelp. Bing has been making major strides in order to compete with Google and the social nature of Google+ Local. It seems Bing is bringing Yelp along with it.
The push to make the local experience completely interactive has grown so exponentially in the last couple of years, it’s difficult to imagine where we’ll be in a couple more. Social search has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short amount of time. One thing is clear, the phrase “Evolve or die” could not be written any clearer. Local business owners simply can not ignore the growing need to be involved in the social digital sphere. Word of mouth is still king, but that king sits on the throne made of Yelp and Google+ Local.

I recommend you give at least a moment’s look at Main Street Hub. We handle your online reviews for you. We make sure your customers are heard, acknowledged, appeased and thanked. The time is now. Take your reviews by the horns and lead them in a direction that helps your business grow in this ever changing climate of fickle customers who have been handed megaphones to share their experiences. Tell Main Street Hub that Rob Z sent you. Thanks for reading.

Now go get your social on!

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