People love to shop local. Give your customers a good story or other reason to support local businesses, and lots of them will choose the owned and operated community business over big box and online retailers.
Social media sites—like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok—are terrific storytelling platforms. The posts you share are an opportunity to tell potential customers what makes your local business special—and why they should buy from it. All you need is the right social media strategy.
So, let’s explore the best ways to use social media to convince more people to buy local.
The better the story you’re able to tell, the more successful you’re likely to be at convincing people to shop locally.
What do you think will get customers more excited:
- A post about a new sandwich you’ve added to the menu.
- A post profiling the small local farm that grows the produce you’re using for a new sandwich on your menu.
It’s obviously the post with the story. The next time they visit, customers can eat that sandwich and know that the lettuce has come from just down the road. It adds something extra to the meal that no amount of mayo can match.
Great brand storytelling doesn’t have to take much extra work. It’s easier to find the stories in what you already do than try and come up with new ones.
Some ideas to think about are:
- Do any staff members have an emotional connection with something that’s going on? If it’s St. Patrick’s Day, post a photo of your Irish chef.
- Have you made any business decisions for interesting reasons? Do you refuse to serve pizza with pineapple or olives? Did your grandmother inspire a dish on your menu? These are the kinds of things people love to hear.
- What local activities do you engage with? According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, for every $100 spent in local businesses, $48 goes back to the local economy. Why not show your customers what you do with that $48.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have or what you do, there will be some great story hooks you can build on.
One big caveat: Make sure the stories you tell are real. People are very good at detecting inauthenticity. You don’t want to look like a #brand jumping on the latest #viral #trend.
Whatever platform you’re using, visuals like photos, videos, charts and graphs get better engagement. According to HubSpot, tweets with video get 10 times more engagement than tweets without, while Facebook posts with photos get 2.3 times more engagement than text-only posts.
Of course, platforms like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat are almost entirely visual anyway.
Whatever story you’re trying to tell, look for ways to include images, short videos and other graphic elements. Even a photo of your local supplier or the delivery guy can go a long way.
Find your following
Because you can reach anyone in the world on social media, you have to be careful with how you build your audience. A single local customer following your business account is much more valuable than 100 random strangers in France.
This is where a lot of social media tools—hashtags, geotagging or location tagging and even some clever use of advertising—comes in. Used correctly, they can help you reach your target demographic:
- Hashtags – Entire articles can, and have been, written on using hashtags. To reach local customers, the key is to use local hashtags. Don’t use #thanksgiving, use #thanksgivingindallas (or whatever other people and businesses in your town use).
- Location tagging – Add your business’ geotag to every post you can! If someone shares your post, it tells people where your business is. Also, if you’re mentioning a supplier or other local business, tag them, too.
- Giveaways – Giveaways can be a great way to get a lot of followers fast, though you have to do it right and follow any regulations. If you’re doing one, make sure to add some kind of local stipulations, like a photo of a receipt from your store. Otherwise, you can end up with a lot of followers outside your target market.
- Facebook Groups – Local Facebook Groups are one of the best places to market your business and share your stories. Most encourage local businesses to post updates. Find the active groups in your area and get involved.
- Ads – Using ads or promoted posts gives you access to Facebook’s and Instagram’s targeting tools. Although it costs money, this can be a very efficient way to grow your local following.
Also, there’s work you can do offline to build your following online. Ask your customers to follow your social media accounts, and include some perks. So when they read your social posts, they can find any special offers you’ve included, like a free side or a discount code to use at your business.
Engage online with your community
Local social media is all about community. If you do nothing but post about yourself, people are likely to ignore you.
Instead, get active with your local community online. When someone tags your business in a post, reply to it. If someone asks a question in a Facebook Group, answer it. And leave (positive!) reviews for other local businesses on Google and Yelp.
Build local partnerships
If you’re trying to get customers to support local businesses, one of the best marketing strategies is to get other local business owners on board.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce, reach out to similar businesses and find other like-minded folks and come up with some shared plans. Some things you can do are:
- Run joint promotions where shopping in one local store gets you a deal in others.
- Promote each other’s stores and products on your social media accounts.
- Host sweepstakes where people need to get stamps from a few different local businesses to enter.
- Make your own #buylocal hashtags.
You can also find local influencers, journalists, bloggers and other people who are active online in your community. Invite them to exclusive events, give them a preview of your new menu and otherwise look for ways to get them excited to support your efforts to get people buying local.
Discounts, deals, delight
As much as people love a good story about your local suppliers or what your staff get up to at the weekend, sometimes a bit of financial encouragement can be just what’s needed to get them to make the trip downtown.
On your social media accounts, consider sharing exclusive discounts, deals, free gifts and other promotional offers for customers who visit and say the special key phrase: “I buy local.”
Of course, you can also offer the same discount to people who don’t say the magic phrase in return for a post with the hashtag #Ibuylocal[insert your town name here].