Local businesses often feel like social media just isn’t for them. That just isn’t true and, in fact, the low cost/ high returns from social media make them perfect tools to support your local business. Similarly, blogging (which many people don’t realize is also social media) is still a good way to make money, even if you never want to make money from your blog. You can use these tools to help your local business see a huge increase in sales by driving customers to your physical or online store, as you can see below. Compare these returns with those offered by traditional marketing channels such as radio and print, which offer minimal returns and represent other factors that make them a poor choice for a local business.
Let’s say you have a retail store selling children’s shoes.
How will customers find you online?
Either they’ll search for children’s shoes or they’ll listen to what their friends say about your brand on Facebook or another social media platform. Of course, you can do traditional advertising, too. Unless you have a very favorable location (which is also expensive), customers won’t discover your store without spending money to reach them with your brand message.
Research shows that, in 2023, 93% of consumers used a search engine to find a local business. To attract this traffic, called organic traffic, your business must use SEO (search engine optimization) to appear near the top of an internet search query related to your products because users rarely click on links beyond the first page of search results and most commonly click on a link in one of the top three positions. SEO is based on a complex algorithm but factors with the most weight include the creation of valuable content on a consistent basis (on your website) and generating engagement on social media platforms. Of course, that also means you must create a website and using website builders like Wix means your website is invisible in search (unless the user specifically searches using your brand name). If you need a self-hosted website (the only reasonable option), I wrote an ebook that steps you through the process with tons of images. It’s available free on this site.
Generating buzz about your store on Facebook, or another social network, requires consumers willing to talk about your brand or share your messages with their networks. We call this SMM (Social Media marketing). You can learn about creating engagement on social platforms here.
How you can make money blogging using SEO principles
No one knows exactly what’s in Google’s algorithm but SEO experts play around with different tactics (actually experimenting and carefully monitoring results) to find out some things that have a big impact on where you show up on the results page. Here are just a few things we know help you show up higher in search:
- Fresh, valuable content on your website. Metrics include time on site, repeat visitors, and page depth.
- Keywords used in content properly and the keywords match the search terms used in the query. Because more users employ voice-activated devices like Siri, keywords are more likely phrases of a few words.
- Engaging consumers in social media
- Gaining backlinks from reputable websites, which signals the value of your content
- and more, as you can see below. As a bonus, this image breaks down key metrics associated with each stage of the process leading to conversion and loyalty.
How you can make money blogging using SMM principles
Here are some things you can do on social media platforms that encourage consumers to engage with your brand:
- Have a plan that works toward reaching your marketing goals. Use tools like a calendar to ensure you publish consistently and automation tools like Hootsuite to ease the burden of frequent sharing
- Share interesting facts about your products and offer backstage views of your company
- Talk about consumers
- Have consumers help create new products or services
- Share accolades for your company
- Talk about your wonderful employees and have employees create content
- Show your commitment to your community, sustainability, and other values to help consumers identify with your brand
- Only commit resources to platforms where your target market hangs out and commit sufficient resources to meet your goals
- Share a wide range of different types of content, including video. Use hashtags and match your content to the norms of the platform
- Consider using influencer marketing as a tool to reach new markets with a message that resonates with users
- Share content on the right schedule (see below). Marketing automation tools like Buffer can help you determine the optimal times to share content on each platform
How a blog helps you make money
While some of the things that help you gain a favorable spot in search results can be done without a blog, some can’t and ALL of them can be done with a blog. Here are some examples of things you can do with a blog to make money in your retail store:
- Blog about the material in your shoes, where your shoes come from, or fun facts about shoes such as how they impact development or foot health. This increases the keyword density on your site and likely brings traffic from folks who don’t need shoes right now, but will remember you when they do.
- Take pictures of customers who come in for shoes or collect pictures of them wearing your shoes in interesting places and post these pictures to your blog. You can even host contests to encourage more submissions. Maybe they have to hold a picture of your store or a sign about it to enter the contest. This encourages consumers to share the pictures with their friends meaning they’re also spreading the word about your store. For instance, a local dentist gave away an iPod (when that was a coveted item) to patients who took a picture wearing the branded t-shirt he gave all new patients. The contest awarded prizes for the most interesting location and sparked interest as users were attracted to these interesting places and got competitive among patients who wanted bragging rights about the interesting places they visited.
- Ask customers to suggest new products or services and get their friends to vote for their ideas. Again, you’re spreading the word about your store through your blog.
- Create a cause for your local business. Maybe you’ll donate shoes like Toms or talk about sustainable practices in your store or some other cause marketing efforts. For instance, McDonald’s supports the Ronald McDonald House which has nothing to do with their core business but is appealing to their target market — families with kids. Increasingly, global consumers care about your values when they make purchase decisions.
- Of course, even if you decide not to blog on your website (which offers a much higher SEO value), you can turn it into an e-commerce site with less expense and effort than if you had created a static website. All you need is a plugin like WooCommerce but there are several other plugins available at low cost or free. An e-commerce site is also more dynamic – meaning you can change products or layouts much more easily than on a static website. During the pandemic, businesses positioned to easily transform to deliver online products and services that seriously lessened the probability of infection and avoided local shutdown orders, survived while others failed.
Don’t forget other social media platforms
While your blog is your home base online, other social media tactics help bring traffic to your site. Here are just a few options local businesses should use to bring more traffic (and money) into their business:
- Google My Business – claim your physical location and link it to your website. Google returns websites located nearby at the top of related searches since searchers often want to find businesses nearby. Not only do these results show up at the top of the results page, they offer enhanced listings that include ratings, mapping, and phone numbers. Recent enhancements offer buttons for users to automatically call the business, order online, or visit the website.
- Yelp and other rating sites are great to ensure folks find your local business. Encourage patrons to rate your products and services and share their ratings with their Facebook and Twitter (now X) networks.
- Facebook and X are, of course, nearly mandatory given the huge number of users of these social media platforms, although with Musk’s threat to charge users, the platform may decline precipitously. TikTok and Instagram are gaining steam quickly and represent better time-on-site stats. These platforms also offer a marketplace to sell your products right on the platform.
- Develop relationships with other local businesses and link your sites together. For instance, other retailers in your shopping center might create an online shopping venue supporting all the local businesses. At a minimum, these local businesses should cross-link their digital properties. Also, hosting events with your neighbors draws attention to all of you as well as giving you fodder for social media and blog posts. For instance, the local bookstore, along with independent bookstores around the country hosts a Where’s Waldo contest every July. The bookstore provides little cardboard Waldo images to local stores, which they hide in their store. Participants get a passport containing blocks where the business stamps to verify the participant found Waldo in their store. It’s a favorite among my grandkids who won’t stop until they’ve found all of them. Local businesses benefit from the increased traffic and images posted on social media by participants in their search for Waldo.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.