Love Small Town America is hosting two amazing giveaways right now. Enter to win a free Love Small Town America webpage or a pampering gift basket from Country Sudz full of handmade bath products. Please see individual contest rules prior to entry. Submitting your information below indicates that you understand and will abide by contest rules.
Click here to enter: Subscribe to our newsletter
To complete your entry, confirm your subscription to our mailing list and post on the individual contest entry blogs here:
We’ve been exploring social media and what it means for small businesses and community organizations over the past several weeks. After starting with why social media is important, we examined some of the top platforms for small businesses who want to make a strategic choice about where to devote their social media resources. Now, we’re delving into the how-tos and sharing some succinct steps to be a social media success, starting with the granddaddy of social media – Facebook.
1.) Create a page.
If you’re a business you need a page, not a group, and not a personal profile that you use for work. It’s free to create a page and you make it easy for fans and clients to find you, share your content, and engage. You also gain access to additional tools that can help make your Facebook page effective – tools like stats and the option to advertise.
2.) Grab your name.
Don’t let a rival snap up your name. Set up your page now and claim your rightful place on the internet.
3.) It’s all about curb appeal.
Facebook gives you a large cover photo spot in the header, a profile picture, and the option to add photo albums. You should be using all of these options to give visitors to your page a great look at what you have to offer. These can be simple – but take care to make sure that image quality is sufficient to meet Facebook’s standards. A pixelated, blurry image does you no favors. Likewise, remember that while your cover photo is only visible to fans who view your page, your profile picture is your calling card and will appear alongside any comments you share on other pages.
4.) Keep it short and sweet.
“Your fans’ News Feeds contain a lot of information. And they have limited time to read it. Keep your posts short whenever possible: posts between 100 and 250 characters (less than 3 lines of text) see about 60% more likes, comments and shares than posts greater than 250 characters.” (Source)
5.) Engage with photos and videos.
People love pictures and videos. It’s that simple. Posts that contain images or videos generate significantly higher engagement (comments, clicks, etc.) than posts that are just words. Yes, they are more work to create. But there’s a reason that a single image is worth 1000 words.
6.) Make it regular.
This is one of the cardinal rules of internet engagement. Post regularly. Even if this means that you have to ignore Tip 5. Get online and make posting to your facebook page a habit. Start with once a week if it’s a struggle to find time and move up from there.
7.) Make posts relevant.
Why should someone “like” your page and tune in to your updates? Give fans a reason to follow you. Every audience is different, but fans should get something out of your facebook page. Helpful information, special deals, early product launches, fun, entertainment. Figure out what’s meaningful to your fans (or the people who you want to be your fans) and do more of it.
Social media is a two-way street. That’s one of its greatest strengths. Facebook is not a platform for you to shout your marketing strategy to the masses. It can be — but it’s also a place to listen. To answer questions. To ask questions. To participate on other pages. There has to be a benefit to both parties – the business and the fan – for your page to grow.
9.) Timing is of the essence.
Whether it’s creating timely content that coincides with trends, holidays, and events or simply being aware of when people are reading your posts, time is a huge factor in social media success. From which day of the week to post on to what time of day is best for a specific industry, stats abound to help you guide your strategy. Start with common sense, and add statistics as you grow into a social media pro. Scheduling programs can help you make the most of the clock.
10.) Do it well.
Spelling. Grammar. Respect. Remember the lessons your mama taught you and be sure that what you’re putting out there on the internet is reflective of your company or group and of your own standards. It’s easy to feel like something is here today, gone tomorrow on the internet – but your content never dies and it’s harder than ever to track what or how someone perceives you and your organization, so don’t let silly mistakes or thoughtless remarks taint your online reputation.
What do you think? Are you ready to dive in to Facebook? Get started!
Thanks to the continued support and enthusiasm for what Love Small Town America has to offer, we have recently expanded our team. Jenny Russell and Luke Mahin of JenRus Freelance have joined the other six members of the Love Small Town America core group to bring a heightened focus to serving Love Small Town America’s members and helping more small towns join the network and access an affordable web presence. Continue reading
Last month, we started a conversation about social media (“What’s So Great About Social Media“). Understanding what social media means in a professional context is crucial for success these days, but navigating the waters of instant, online marketing can be tricky. We’re breaking down a few of the basics to help you get a jump on social media for your small business or organization so that you can make the most of being online with Love Small Town America.
You’re still reading, so that must mean that you’re curious. The first step after deciding that you’re going to poke your toe in the water of social media is to pick a platform. In the simplest terms possible, all these fancy names floating around (Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. etc. etc.) are different places you could engage. Think of them as businesses on main street. The best ones aren’t necessarily the biggest, or the newest, or even the busiest. The best ones are the ones that are right for YOU. Think about it. If you sell fish food, you’re not going to reach many people by starting conversations about fish at the mechanic’s. You might catch someone’s interest – but it would be by chance, not design. Since most of us have limited time, we can’t be everywhere at once. We have to choose. Narrowing down your social media platforms is much the same – it’s about thinking through who uses those avenues and then finding the right fit for who you are and why you are online.
For small businesses, there are a few platforms that are too big too ignore, and are almost always going to start a few conversations.
Facebook: Facebook pages for businesses and groups are essential. Everyone is on Facebook, and you and your business need to be on there, too. Claiming your page isn’t just important for developing your online presence – it keeps imposters, spammers, or competitors from nabbing your spot! Facebook can take some time to learn – and requires more frequent updates than some social media platforms, but normally, if you can devote time to perfecting only one social media presence – this is the one you want.
LinkedIn: Think of LinkedIn as a resume for your business. It’s the ultimate professional networking site. The great thing about a presence on this platform is that it takes less time than some of the others. You can be more active (say, starting a group and posting discussions) but establishing a professional presence on this network helps legitimize what you’re doing – and may even pave the way toward future success. Have trouble finding qualified employees? Looking to develop a new market? This is a great spot to explore.
Pinterest: This one is up for debate – but retail businesses especially should take note of Pinterest. Its purpose is still hazy, but this virtual pinboard connects with the visual nature of human beings – and the internet. Share, organize, and repin images that link to their website source in this open platform. Get top traffic (and repins!) by mastering keywords to make it easy for the right people to find your images. It works like a charm for retailers, especially if you sell something that photographs well!You don’t have to sell something tangible to make Pinterest a part of your social media strategy, though. Small towns could become internet sensations by sharing tourist attractions. The local church could share photos of prize-winning recipes from their cookbook. Be creative, seek inspiration as much as you offer it, and challenge yourself to stay abreast of trends and the newest ways to communicate and advertise.
Now, this isn’t an exhaustive list. You may notice we’ve omitted Twitter, for instance, as well as some other heavyweights. That’s not to say that the other platforms aren’t influential or aren’t appropriate for *you*, but we feel for beginners, they can require a higher investment and offer more risks/fewer rewards than some of the other platforms, like Facebook.
Next time, we’ll delve into some dos and don’ts for your first profile on some of giants in the social media game.
What’s your favorite social media platform for small business?
With numerous annual events, abundant access to hunting and fishing and a population of just over 3,000, Jewell County offers a high amount of recreation per-capita. Located in North-central Kansas within a short distance of major highways, Jewell County is populated by charming towns, including the county seat of Mankato, Jewell, Burr Oak, Esbon, and several others.
Normally, the blog posts you read here at Love Small Town America are brought to you by members of the staff. We delight in sharing our thoughts with you. But we know that there is a whole, wide world of people out there with thoughts and opinions that relate to small town growth and prosperity and today we’re excited to bring you our first guest post, from Phillip J. Reed on behalf of Exede. We were not compensated for this content – we just thought it might make an interesting read for all of you! Access to high speed internet is crucial to the success of small towns and especially small town businesses like ours, so this topic resonates with us. We’d love to hear what you think. Leave us a comment!
Why Small Businesses Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Operating in Rural Areas
By Philip J. Reed, on behalf of Exede
When entrepreneurs think about starting their own business, they usually do not consider rural areas as an attractive place for investment. In fact, many business owners are scared to establish a company in a rural area. However, we know that rural areas provide businesses with many advantages that cannot be matched by large cities. Although that list of advantages is almost endless, we will give you just the five best reasons to establish a business in rural America.
Reliable Communication Infrastructure
One of the most persistent misconceptions about creating businesses in rural areas is that there is a lack of infrastructure, especially when it comes to reliable communication technology. Businesses must have access to telephones and the Internet in order to stay in touch with customers, suppliers and workers.
Fortunately, modern advancements in technology have narrowed the gap between rural and urban areas with respect to communication infrastructure. For instance, penetration rates for broadband Internet access have already reached 75 percent in rural areas, and this number will only increase as more satellite Internet providers offer their services to rural customers.
Lower Business Costs
On average, business owners do tend to have more pricing power in urban areas, which have residents who earn more money than their rural counterparts. However, when it comes to profit calculations, prices are only half of the story.
Business owners must also consider the costs of doing business in a given area, and those costs are often far less in rural areas. Most of the major inputs for a business – land, labor and materials – are much cheaper in places where there is less competition for resources. Unlike rural areas, that competition can be fierce in cities.
This helps to explain one of the defining trends in America over the past thirty years: the migration of companies to the Sun Belt. Desperate to avoid the high costs in congested urban areas, many businesses have flocked to the rural areas in the South. This trend will only continue as more businesses come to appreciate all the benefits of rural living.
Loyal Customer Base
Rural areas tend to be very close-knit communities. Whereas cities are usually filled with groups of strangers, people in rural areas have much stronger social connections that bind them to their neighbors.
The same thing also applies to rural businesses, which can develop better relationships with their customers. A typical urban business may have hundreds or even thousands of customers in a given day; there is no way for those business owners to establish any deep connections with them.
Therefore, rural businesses that treat their customers well tend to garner more loyalty from the community. Word of mouth is a very strong marketing tactic in rural areas; residents will listen to their friends and frequent businesses that receive a good recommendation. This repeat business is especially valuable to entrepreneurs who are attempting to get their companies established in a new area.
Although many business owners focus on the fact that rural areas have fewer total customers than city or suburban areas, they fail to consider the logical flip side of this observation: Rural businesses also have fewer competitors.
For instance, if you were thinking about opening a restaurant, you might think that New York City would be a great place to sell your culinary delights. With a population of more than eight million people who are confined to a relatively small area, New York City would seem like the ideal place to establish your business.
However, many other restaurateurs have already come to the same conclusion, which is why there are 4,200 dining establishments in the five boroughs of New York City. If you come to any small town in rural America you will not see the kind of competition that leads to price wars, which reduce the profits of every business owner in an industry.
In general, cities impose more burdens on business owners than rural areas. Not only do cities tend to extract more money in taxes, but they also enact more regulations that increase costs for small businesses.
Alternatively, rural governments tend to work hard to attract new business owners by providing beneficial tax breaks and offering other business-friendly policies. Unlike cities that have thousands of companies, rural areas never take their businesses for granted.
In CNBC’s latest list of business-friendly states, three of the top five states – Virginia, North Carolina and North Dakota – had rural populations that were higher than the national average. The message is clear: Rural America is a great place to start a business.
It should be clear by now that business owners can thrive in rural areas. With low taxes, loyal customers and reliable broadband satellite Internet, rural businesses have access to a unique business environment that helps nurture success. Therefore, if you are a business owner, come join us and enjoy the many benefits of rural living!
This fall, why not show your small town pride by strapping a Grainfield bag to your back? JanSport co-founder Skip Yowell pays homage to his hometown of Grainfield, KS with the name of this stylish and practical messenger bag.
The rugged good looks and all-around utilitarianism of this line of bags named after frontier destinations from Grainfield to Fort Hays to Estes Park make them a great way to tote your gear in style. We love the iPad sleeve and laptop compartment on the Grainfield bag. Why not carry the Grainfield messenger bag on your next vacation through small town America?