Not long ago, I noticed an interesting pattern in social media management: The smaller you are, the stronger your social media presence has to be.
Think about it. Big, recognizable brands have no problem growing followers and attracting customers. The reputation of these companies dominate their respective markets, pushing smaller competitors to work harder for visibility. Therefore, small businesses must employ creative marketing tactics, including a higher social media dependency, to get their message out. This isn’t easy, especially when Facebook algorithms and content saturation seriously threaten unpaid exposure.
But there is one tactic many businesses overlook when trying to get a foothold on social: targeting your local audience.
Several, if not most, social media publishing platforms offer the ability to gauge your local demographic through custom feeds, reports and insights—Twitter, Hubspot, Facebook, Hootsuite to name a few. By taking data from these reports into consideration, we can make informed decisions on who, and where, to target our posts. Genuine social advocacy (engagement) often germinates when we combine brand messaging with an enthusiastic respect for the town, city or state our target audience lives in.
I can’t think of anything better for a small business than a strong local reputation. Below you’ll find three examples of Austin companies leveraging local pride on social media to grow and share their reputation.
Amy’s Ice Cream (1984) is a well known sweet spot to Austin residents and tourist alike. Its flagship shop, close the University of Texas campus, has served homemade ice cream to sweaty students for almost 30 years and has since branched out into Houston and San Antonio.
Ice cream aside, what makes Amy’s so great? From a local marketing perspective, the company’s branding seamlessly aligns with Austin's culture: unique, fun and laid back. This alignment is replicated on Facebook and Twitter (as it should be), with pictures of smiling customers (Austinites) having fun—combined with the occasional local sponsorships or event. Take a look at Amy’s most recent contest offering tickets to this year’s ACL Music Festival. What better way to get people involved with your social content than offering something your followers can compete for at the local level.
Amy’s target audience can relate to its social content because the company includes its strong Austin reputation into its social strategy. A smart move considering its expansion into surrounding cities.
Chilanto, a famous food truck from Austin (now expanding into Houston) known for its Korean-Mexican fusion, is another small business that employs social media marketing at the local level. According to Mashable, Chilantro’s owner/founder actively uses Twitter, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare to keep customers up-to-date on new menu items, catering services and, most importantly, location. This is social management at its finest. Not only is the CEO engaging with his following directly, but he’s also directing the success of his food truck business through the social space. This is a mobile food truck and customers on the move depend on accessible location information to find trucks around town. Twitter serves as the perfect platform for real-time updates and location notifications.
Yes, it takes time, testing and creative energy, but if you’re a small business committed to your social presence like Chilantro, unique opportunities to communicate with local customers start to appear. Then, when your content starts to speak to the local demand, the transparency of the social web will naturally boost your visibility (through shares, reviews and retweets).
I’ve personally tweeted the Chilantro account to find if it was open on Sundays, and I received a response minutes after sending! (Unfortunately they were closed that day, but I was satisfied with the account’s timeliness. As a prospective customer, I was not disappointed, just hungry.)
Mass Relevance, a SaaS company founded in Austin (2010), offers a distributed social engagement platform to some of the world's largest brands and entities (NBA, Yoplait). Although they may seem too big to care about the local Austin community, the social admins of Mass Relevance still make time to mention their hometown by promoting company culture and local events on Facebook and Twitter. This not only humanizes the Mass Relevance brand, but also serves as a spotlight on local involvement as a company.
Mass Relevance has a worldwide, B2B customer audience that isn’t necessarily looking to buy on Facebook or Twitter. As a matter of fact, LinkedIn would be the company's best bet for finding qualified leads, but the company’s use of locally emphasized social content takes a break from SaaS specific marketing jargon to introduce a friendly social conversation. In other words, by focusing on locally appealing content, the brand instantly becomes more relatable. “Oh they support Austin nonprofits? Cool…”
Showing deep involvement in your local community through social media is one of the best ways to earn trust with your followers. With trust comes reputation, ultimately influencing qualified leads who have decided to embrace your brand authority—thanks to authentic activism found on social media.
We'd love to hear your ideas for keeping it local. Share in the comments below!