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How Can You REALLY Help Small Business Right Now?

Despite well-intended relief plans for small businesses, The Washington Post shared more than 100,000 small businesses closed forever as the COVID pandemic continues to keep America split (open? don’t open? judge people for it?). Yikes.

We’ve all seen the posts… “here’s how you can support small businesses without spending money” or “here’s how you can support your friends who own a business – without spending a dime!” and “can’t support your friend’s new business? Here’s how to help them when you can’t buy!” Let’s get real here, people. Small businesses need money. They need consistent patrionage. Honestly, if you want your favorite business to stay open, please figure out a way to buy from them. Sorry… not sorry.

With that said, I’m not here to discount the good you CAN do for your favorite small business online; especially right now because advertising and marketing should stay consistent, even in a questionable economy. My biggest issue with these memes is they never quite go into detail on what you SHOULD be doing to help out your entrepreneur peeps. So, I thought it would be helpful to break down the most common tips. Let’s get started, shall we? *cracks knuckles*

Tip #1: Follow them on social media.

Be Sure You Do This: ONLY follow them on social media if you have an interest in their product or service – meaning if you’re in the research phase of your shopping, you really do want to check out their restaurant sometime, or you’re in the market for whatever service they sell.
The Why: As a well-intentioned family member and/or friend, of course you want to help your bestie succeed! You want to see your buddy thrive. But if you’re not their target market, you’re actually going to hurt them in the long run by messing with their analytics and giving them an inaccruate picture of who their market is.
An Exception: The exception is when a business you want to support is attempting to reach a particular milestone which is only achievable by a quantity of followers (ie. me trying to get my vanity URL on YouTube… subscribe here #shamelessplug). This would also apply for adding additional tabs to your Facebook Page (as of 6/8/2020, you need 2,000!).

Tip #2: Like and Share their social media posts!

Be Sure You Do This: Don’t just Like, but Love and Wow posts you support the most! And understand what you are “selling” when you Share a post – that’s right! When you share a business’s posts, you’re technically helping them sell their product or service, so it’s important to know a little bit about the business and what they offer or how they can help people.
The Why: Likes are a positive engagement, but Love and Wow reactions on Facebook rank higher in the algorithm and for the Page’s analytics. You should know that the more you interact with an account, the more likely you are to see their content first. When you share a post, people can tell when you’re faking it. Plain and simple. They know when they’re being sold to – you’ve seen it on your own feed!! So when you share, take a testimonial approach – explain why you’re sharing and why you’re vouching for them. It’s even better if you have actually tried the products or use the service – go for authenticity and being genuine, always.
An Exception: I have a ton of friends who are involved in at least one Direct Sales company (#guilty… I’m a Scout and Cellar rep, and you can clik here to check out my website), but I have a few guidelines I’ve set up for myself so I typically avoid shoutouts for these businesses in an attempt to be “fair” and avoid hurt feelings.
IMPORTANT: I had a friend ask me to post a photo using the product, and while I LOOOVE what I purchased, she ended up sending private messages to my unsuspecting friends who just thought my picture was bomb. Understand and set limits if a friend asks you to do a review so you know what to expect and how to craft your post.

Tip #3: Comment on their posts.

Be Sure You Do This: Have something meaningful to say and take the post’s intention into account. For example, if your friend is talking about their new lunch special piggy back with how it’s such a great deal and you love the fact that it’s nearby your work, still hot on delivery, delicious, etc. You could even take it to another level by asking about their dinner menu. Again, genuine curiosity and sincere enthusiasm only! If it’s not positive, keep scrolling – so send the typo and grammar edits to them in a private message. No public shaming!
The Why: While likes and shares are awesome aspects for engagement, comments are the big kicker (at least on Facebook) for helping a business’s content to stay alive. Helping your friend by having a conversation on a post is so much better because each time a comment is made, the post stays in the Facebook feed allowing the potential for more eyeballs.
An Exception: Keep with the likes and Story shares on Instagram.

Tip #4: Write reviews and give feedback

Be Sure You Do This: As more people are pulling out from their paid advertising ,which I don’t recommend doing, small business owners are relying even heavier on organic (a/k/a not ads) posts. This includes reviews for your favorite places on all of their digital profiles. Facebook. Google. Yelp!. TripAdvisor. Foursquare. All of the review sites!!! Bonus? Include a photo from your most recent visit or of your most recent purchase.
The Why: People trust peer-to-peer reviews over advertising and marketing. I mean, I do. When I’m reviewing a product online, I read the reviews and consider the star rating (while taking it in with a grain of salt because people are cray-cray) before making a purchase. Of course a business is going to say they’re the best – why would they ever tell you otherwise?
An Exception: Only do this if you have *actually* tried the product or used the service. Be honest!! Also, if you have a beef with a business – whether it is your friend’s or not – take it up with them privately before blasting them on social media. Give them the chance to make it right.

In addition – here are some lesser known ways you can help a business’s social media accounts:

Very responsive to messages - Facebook BadgeSocial Jargn Tip #1: Let them have the last word.
Allowing a Facebook Page the last line in a conversation helps them with their message responsiveness. When a Page has a record of reponding quickly and consistently to private messages, they will have the Very Responsive badge – basically, it means they have a response rate of 90% or more with a turnaround time is less than 15 minutes. Help a page out! Let them get the last “thank you” or “have a great day” in the convo to earn or keep this badge!

Social Jargn Tip #2: Press Play, then Mute.
It’s a *bit* cheeky… BUT… find your favorite YouTuber on your computer, hit the play button, mute your sound, then go about your day. Run errands, take a nap, head to work, read a book, talk to mom, walk the dog, etc. You’ll be helping your favorite Creators and local artists with video views.