Social media can add immediacy to small businesses

Laura Pensiero

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of monthly columns by members of the Town of Red Hook Economic Development Committee, a volunteer advisory group that promotes businesses and services that provide jobs and help diversify and broaden the tax base. The EDC’s nine members are local farmers, business people, entrepreneurs and professionals.

Owning a small business is rewarding on many levels, but it certainly has its challenges. Spreading the word about the vision and benefit of what your business has to offer, often on a limited budget, is tough work. But the skill in running a business is thinking creatively about connecting with your community.

Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can be invaluable in building your brand because they are all about two-way communication, about talking with and listening to people. An added bonus for small businesses on a budget: there is no cost involved, just the investment of some time.

But how to get started without feeling overwhelmed? Here are some tips:

1) Open a Twitter account and create a Facebook page. Both are far easier than you think and can be done in a few minutes.
2) Think about what you want to share. What do you want people to know about your business? Thinking about content and doing a little planning ahead makes the process of getting started a lot less overwhelming.
3) Understand that pictures pack a punch. Using compelling images draws people into what you are doing.
4) Remember that social media isn’t one-way communication like more traditional mediums. Ask people questions, engage them in discussion.
5) There are already lots of businesses using Facebook and Twitter. Research what other like-minded companies are doing to get some ideas.
5) It is important to realize that using social media takes time and is an ongoing process. Think in the long term of using Facebook and Twitter as a bridge to reaching your community.

As this list makes clear, integrating social media into your marketing and branding campaigns takes some time and thought. But, with some effort, patience, and commitment, it will go far in entrenching your efforts in the community and providing great opportunities to cross-network and promote with other companies as well. And that’s a win-win for any local business.

Laura Pensiero is the owner of Gigi Trattoria in Rhinebeck, and Gigi Market & Café, and Gigi Catering in Red Hook. She is a registered dietitian and author of “Hudson Valley Mediterranean: The Gigi Good Food Cookbook,” published by HarperCollins.

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