Advertising on a Budget
This post is part of my series about how small food businesses can advertise on a budget. This series explores free and budget-friendly ways owners of small eateries, home-based bakeries, food trucks, local caterers and similar businesses can advertise his or her brand without going broke. If you missed the introduction post and want to catch up, click the image below –
Why You Should Start Your Free Advertising Strategy with Social Media
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years you’ve probably noticed that Social Media has become a marketing powerhouse. Any small business not taking advantage of these free platforms is going to fall behind the curve quickly. But don’t take my word for it.
What are the experts saying?
According to shareaholic.com, Social Media has begun to rival traditional online searches for people looking for goods and services; especially when it comes to finding good paces to eat. Social Media has already run a couple laps around old school search methods like the Yellow Pages.
Articles by both Forbes and Harvard Business Review indicate customers prefer to engage with the brands they spend money with rather than being hit in the face with advertisements. ‘Engagement’ in this case, means back and forth communication. Social Media is the best platform to do that on. The good news is that Social Media is free – well, it doesn’t cost money anyway! I’ll talk about the time investment a bit more in another post in this series.
4 Beneficial Things Social Media Platforms Have In Common
The thing about the various social media sites is that they’re not that different from each other at their core, even though they have slightly different personalities and audiences. They all offer you benefits that traditional means of advertisement don’t. Here’s a quick list of the general perks you get with all social networking platforms:
This really should be called “Human Connection”. Social media allows small businesses to interact with their customers in a way no other business in history has been able to pull off. That means you can:
- Get to know your customers, which is important for making business decisions. If you know what your customers are talking about, searching for and getting up to in their day to day lives, it makes it easier to figure out how they want to spend their money. No, you don’t want to stalk your customers on their social media, but you do want to give them plenty of opportunities to tell you what they want. Customers are glad to do so, given the chance!
- Help your customers get to know you; a concept that is becoming more important, especially with the dawning of the age of the Millennial. People are more likely to do business with people they know; or at least feel like they know. Studies show that people will spend more money at a business where they perceive themselves as having a personal connection to the owner, or an emotional investment in the business.
- Build customer/brand loyalty. In other words, it creates fans for your business. A fan of your brand doesn’t just do business with you. A fan will go out of his way to patronize your business. She will sing your praises within her social network. This type of loyalty is better than gold.
'If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.' ~Howard Schultz, Executive Chairman - StarbucksClick To Tweet
CUSTOMER SHOW & TELL
Social Media gives you a chance to show the world what you’re all about using pictures and video. We live in a visual world. The scientific research egghead types have proven that people will interact more with pictures than with text alone. Using these correctly will attract customer attention, draw those people to you and get them involved.
You’re probably saying to yourself,
But traditional advertising methods show pictures and video too. What’s the difference?”
That’s a great question. To answer it, I made this completely awesome graphic:
Ok ok, I get it! Posting images on social media is better than buying ad space in a news paper or magazine, but what can they really do for my little corner cafe?
Well sir or madam, here’s a little bullet pointed list to answer your question. Making use of images and video on Social Media can:
- Show your authenticity: Use photos to help people get to know you, your staff, and your business. If people see the human side of you, then it’s easier for them to make a connection with or relate to you. People are more likely to do business with someone they perceive as a real person. No, not all your photos have to be perfect, air brushed works of art. That’s part of the charm; the realism – the authenticity.
- Show off your branding: Social media gives you a chance to put your name, your brand colors and your logo into the minds of potential customers. This is Advertising 101, folks. If I told you to imagine a large, golden set of arches that look like the letter M, what popular McRestaurant chain would you be thinking about? That’s the type of brand recognition you want to build with people. With a free way to get your logo out there, you’d be crazy not to take advantage of it.
- Show off your products! If you serve the longest chili dog in the state and take pride in the insane way you top it, then pictures of that bad boy should be everywhere. Create a hashtag for it and encourage customers to post pictures of themselves and their friends and their social media accounts showing them taking that dog down. If they use your tag, it will build a buzz. That kind of stuff is fun, engaging and sets your brand up as something special since it gives your fans something to rave about.
- Let people see events in real time: The advent and popularity of live streaming on social media offers a whole new level of customer interaction. Customers can ask you questions and comment instantly, allowing you to do the same in reply. Ideas for how you may use this include but are not limited to:
- Do a cooking demonstration with yourself or your cook/chef. Let people watch you make one of your signature dishes. If they see the care and love you put into it, they will be more likely to come order it.
- Give customers a behind the scenes look at your business. Are you throwing a holiday party for your employees after hours? Do a live stream and invite customers to join the fun online.
- Do a Q&A session with your customers about your menu, an event you’re participating in or even a business decision you’re considering. How great would it be to get immediate feedback when you’re trying to decide whether to replace your Grilled Steak and Cheese Sandwich with a Smoked Pepper Ham Sandwich?
If you’re not someone like Tony Robbins, The Dali Lama or the guy who runs the Twitter account for MoonPie, you may not actually enlighten anyone, but you should definitely be using Social Media to Inform your Customers. Think of everything, you may want to post in a newspaper or magazine ad; all the news, updates, promos, events, etc. Now think about the money you would spend on all of that stuff. And now think of ways that you could put those same things on social media and keep that money in your bank account! Here are some ideas:
- Food trucks – where are you going to be today? Tell you customers so they can come visit.
- What are your specials today? List them with a stomach-growl-inducing picture.
- Your holiday events – people want to know about those!
- Bakeries – dedicating a cookie to a local event? Let your home town fans know so they can go to that event armed with a themed snack that you provided.
- Do you have an employee that hit a major life milestone? First born child? Graduate college? Had their 100th birthday? Feature him or her and invite your customers to congratulate and celebrate with them.
- Involved in a local charity, or fundraiser? Do you sponsor a local youth sports team? Talk about those things and encourage your customers to get involved.
- Are you participating in an industry-related competition like a bake off, a BBQ Championship, or a World’s Best Burger challenge? Let your customers know so they can come out and support you! If you’ve won competitions like this, you will definitely want to show that off and let people know they have a chance to try your Award Winning Shrimp and Grits!
Ok, this one is a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning because I’ve seen several businesses forget to list their physical address or website address on their Social Media. I’ve also seen profiles where it’s a challenge to find that information. You want this info to be very easy to find. Customers simply won’t spend that much time looking for it. If they can’t find you, they can’t give you their money. See the problem there? Listing your address in an easily found location should do one of two things:
- Get customers to come to your physical location and buy stuff from you or…
- Get customers to come to your website and buy stuff from you – or at least look at your menu so they can then come to your physical location and buy stuff from you
What about you?
What reasons do you have for using social media to advertise your small food business? Comment below and let me know, or hit me up on one of my social media accounts. I’d love to hear from you! Thanks for reading.
Want more? Here are some related posts
Feature Photo of chef working in kitchen: Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Photo of food vendor cart: Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash
Photo of woman holding a Starbucks Cup: Photo by quan le on Unsplash
Research & Fact Resources: Forbes, Shareaholic, Harvard Business Review
MoonPie tweet: MoonPie