Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Be there or be square may be the new mantra for social media. Many small business owners, entrepreneurs to professional sales people are actively using this technology marketing channel to attract attention and build relationships. QR Codes are one such example.
During a recent presentation to the Lake County Advancement Committee delivered by Spero Batistatos, CEO and President of the Southshore Convention and Visitors Authority, earlier this month, Batistatos directed those in attendance to visit YouTube and search using this phrase: “Built by Steel; Changed by Tourism.”
The YouTube video told a story beginning with the history of the “Region” and how by being proactive this organization has created economic development.
After watching this well crafted five-minute marketing video, I am more firmly convinced social media has one hidden gem very few people discuss or even recognize – sustainable economic engine for local businesses.
Earlier this year, Hubspot released some significant marketing research. Among the data released was that 71percent (of potential customers) more likely to purchase based on social media referrals.
Should we be surprised that buyers (people) trust other people (friends) over advertisements?
Now imagine just for a moment, each small business owner or business professional in Northwest Indiana made a weekly goal to share just one referral through Facebook, LinkedIN, Twitter or even Yelp. This referral could be as simple as making a comment about the person or individual, to writing a written recommendation about the product or service.
For example, adding the hash tag (search term) #nwindiana, others on Twitter could view the comment and track the local thread.
What would be the results from the economic power of such a collaborative and united effort?
Would “buy local” even have more meaning?
Where else might you secure new customers? (Maybe from some of those visiting tourists who use Yelp or other such social media sites to find places to eat or shop?)
Social media allows even the smallest, cash-strapped small business owner to be a driver for economic growth beyond his or her own self interests to increase sales. And this is how local communities will grow.
How many times have we heard, “I never knew that business existed?”
Word-of-mouth advertising, be it face-to-face or through social media, is the best way to spur sustainable economic growth. For example, in Valparaiso on the first Thursday of every month, many of the local restaurants near the Square engage in a joint promotional effort of five for $5. There are five special offerings on each menu ranging from an adult beverage to an appetizer to a main course to even a dessert. All of these specials are priced at $5. This monthly event is well publicized through social media and creates significant traffic to the downtown area for Valparaiso.
Sure the big economic endeavors are a critical boost to the region such as the expansion of the BP Whiting facility and are much needed. However, sustainable long term economic growth comes from the local small business owners and professionals here in Northwest Indiana who support other local small businesses.
Most people admit to wasting 12 minutes a day. Writing a recommendation, sharing a business or person’s name just one time a week probably takes less than five minutes. If you are active on social media, you may already be taking these actions such as through Four Square.
All those recommendations, likes, referrals can quickly add up to building an incredibly and sustainable economic engine for this community called Northwest Indiana or your own community where ever it may be.
P.S. Shout Out: Barton’s Pizza in Hammond and Griffith celebrating 50 years in business and Greek’s Pizza in Valparaiso.
SouthShore Convention and Visitor’s Authority YouTube Video