You may have heard that Facebook hasn’t been quite right for local businesses on Facebook, at least in 2018. For instance, clothing retailers often see more success on Instagram or Pinterest. However, Facebook is still the tried and true platform for small business owners who want to create a foundation on social media. Even millennials still prefer Facebook over other options, and 79% of all internet users log into Facebook.
Overall, promoting local businesses on Facebook is still one of the best ways to reach your audience. Facebook advertising also provides some of the most sophisticated targeting in the world.
This makes things much easier for small businesses, who might not have time to do a lot of demographic research on their own.
If you’re thinking about taking a dive into the Facebook world, or would like to improve how you promote your local businesses on Facebook, keep reading to see real-world examples that you can mimic.
Local businesses on Facebook have a tendency to get stuck in some traps that eventually lead to a lack of productivity and a dwindling community. In terms of shareable content, it’s wise to consistently test out different formats, media types, and ideas, but it’s also important to stay away from the traps that don’t add value and don’t do much to make your brand stand out as a friend of consumers.
What are these traps?
In my experience, local businesses on Facebook have follower counts ranging from staggering to underwhelming. Some have 5,000 with a steady growth rate, while others have 500 and shouldn’t expect that number to increase much.
However, the total follower count means nothing if you fail to build community and add value to that community. Facebook typically only shows your posts to people who have shown a tendency towards engagement. When your content primarily focuses on selling products or posting unoriginal, third-party articles (see below,) it’s not uncommon for posts to see 10 likes and one share from a whopping 5,000 followers.
On the other hand, I’ve seen incredible engagement from lower follower counts, making the time investment in Facebook worthwhile. Murphy’s Red Hots in Chicago has a little over 800 followers. This may sound like a lot to some or a little to others. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how Murphy’s connects with those followers.
Murphy’s makes it a habit to share pictures and videos of what’s going on in the neighborhood, in the hot dog shop, and whenever the restaurant is mentioned in the news. It sees impressive engagement for most of these posts, especially the ones where they get creative:
Check out this Mannequin challenge at Murphy's!
Posted by Murphy's Red Hots on Sunday, December 18, 2016
From third-party articles to “throwback Thursday images, and playful videos to new product graphics, the options for Facebook posts range in both style and effectiveness.
Global brands obviously have more resources to test the waters, whereas a local business owner might get frustrated after seeing poor social responses for months. It’s essential to remain nimble and utilize the wide range of post formats available to you. Are you sharing third-party articles or promotional graphics only to see a limited response?
Make it a point to test a new type of post every week, then mark down the ones that users seem to enjoy.
People Play Games is a used video and board game store. Facebook posts in the past varied from quick promotional text posts to random articles about gaming.
As time passed, and the owner went through some social testing, it became clear that video game customers enjoyed amateur photos (going along with the used video game theme,) with personalized words from the owner about how some games were found.
The likes, shares, and comments have only improved, and it’s all due to one person walking around every day and snapping simple photos of the merchandise.
Pictures and videos do well on Facebook, but there seems to be a trend where small businesses are more willing to grab articles from other sources or take a meme and try to make it somewhat relevant to the business.
Articles and memes are easy to acquire and share, yet in my experience, they waste your time.
Think of the used game store highlighted above. The store owner eventually learned that posting third-party articles was less entertaining than a photo of the shop. Furthermore, snapping a daily photo with an iPhone is less work on his end.
Yes, premade content is ready for the taking, but is that what customers want to see from local businesses on Facebook?
Gyms are notorious for posting inspirational memes, third-party articles for health and diets, and essentially forgetting how many in-house resources they have for making creative Facebook posts.
The Chicago Athletic Club’s Facebook page struggles with some of these generic posts, but a simple picture of people enjoying wine outside the gym is enough to get the followers talking a bit.
If you have experience with Facebook, you may have noticed that posting a beautiful graphic about your upcoming sale, or a new product, fails to get the same response as a fun video you took showcasing your employees.
Why is this the case?
Let’s think about the main reason people go on Facebook in the first place.
Is it to…
When you think like an actual Facebook user, this question becomes a no-brainer. Most people haven’t even thought about going on Facebook for #1 or #2.
So where does this leave you when trying to promote your local business on Facebook? After all, you can’t turn your brand into a real person to hang out with like a friend.
But…you can turn your brand into a community member. People are willing to become “friends” with organizations that put people first, including both employees and customers.
The Two Hearted Queen coffee shop in Chicago has yet to reach the 1,000 follower mark on Facebook. However, the company has become a neighborhood favorite and social success.
First of all, it’s a unique coffee shop with a cozy environment. Secondly, the followers absolutely love the owners.
They’re the faces you see when grabbing your coffee before work, and the people who smile and ask you for refills as you relax with friends on the store’s patio. In addition, the owners aren’t afraid to show their faces, or their stories, on Facebook, developing a further connection with the people in the neighborhood.
Once you get past the common mistakes you may have been making on Facebook, it becomes easier to see why some local businesses are successful with Facebook and some are still confused.
We can even put together some rules:
With your rules in hand, and some knowledge about which pitfalls to avoid, you can now move onto the exciting task of making your local business relevant and intriguing to follow. First off, we have the idea of focusing on friendly videos instead of the sometimes useful (but far more boring) written and graphic-based posts.
For instance, Toons Bar and Grill offers Cajun-style food and drinks, along with a shuffleboard and Kansas City Chiefs events. That’s quite a bit of material to get creative with on Facebook.
Although it’s necessary to talk about weekly deals, some of the Facebook promotions fall flat. The one below, for example, reads more like an advertisement than anything, with the Toons branding plastered on an image and the meme-style “mmmozzarella.” The text certainly isn’t unfriendly, but it’s nothing that gets the community excited like they would with a real friend.
But Toons excels with its videos, often showcasing the bar being packed and rooting for the Chiefs. Toons is also known for its crawfish boils, and the visual prep behind it was captured in a video to get people excited.
The video received quite a few likes, comments, and shares, along with over 3,000 views. That’s not bad for a local bar. What’s the secret sauce behinds the video’s success? After all, it’s a short simple clip with no dialogue involved.
Well, crawfish are rather unique, and people love them. The massive amount of crawfish in the video shows that Toons is prepping to serve the entire community. In addition, you get a taste of what the workers are up to and how the preparation takes place.
#CRAWFISH! Tomorrow. First come first serve (first 80 people). $40 all you can eat. Open at 11am.
Posted by Toons Bar & Grill on Friday, February 17, 2017
Pro Tip: For an even deeper connection with your fans, consider using Facebook Live.
Whether it’s a snowstorm or a new business moving in, your job on social media is to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in your town. This might involve events as well, but for this point, we’re talking more about everyday conversation. Think local politics and weather, new developments and even if someone down the street got a new dog (this probably won’t matter as much in a big city).
Hayes True Value in Ohio sells items like shovels, sleds, and ice melt. So, when winter storm warnings hit the TV screens, this business knows it’s time to capitalize.
Hayes True Value knows that a boring graphic about shovels won’t do the trick. It’s far more effective to share and laugh about the misery with the locals by posting pictures of cars covered in snow and even more snow piled ten feet high on a street.
What truly excites almost everyone when they go on the internet? I can think of a couple big ones right off the bat: sports and animals doing funny things. Many other topics get the entire world talking, like music and pop culture. However, you might want to avoid global politics for this one.
Hartville Hardware, another hardware store in Ohio, does a wonderful job of capitalizing on sports. The company sells Ohio State branded merchandise and takes to Facebook to put a spin on sales with creative sports-based media.
The one below doesn’t get much of a response, but that’s because it’s more of a generic advertisement with that big “40% off” on it.
However, Hartville Hardware gets a big A+ for its videos. The best part about these videos is that they usually only last 30 seconds, so any small business can make the time.
As many people sat down to embrace the Olympics, Hartville Hardware took out the Roomba Vacuum and some mops to advertise its floor care products in alignment with the Olympic event of curling. Pretty genius if you ask me.
If you've been looking for a way to practice your favorite winter Olympic sport while cleaning your floor, we have the perfect products for you!#hartvillehardware #miele #robot #bona #rejuvenate #olympic #curling #floorcare
Posted by Hartville Hardware on Wednesday, February 14, 2018
As mentioned before, animals doing funny things always gets a laugh, so that’s why this hardware store frequently features the owner’s dog to hire people.
With 72 shares on Facebook, that’s far better than posting a Help Wanted sign outside the store.
Pro Tip: If you notice a post doing particularly well, consider boosting it.
We mentioned the power of conversation in the community, but it’s easy to forget that people are also interested in the development of your business. A new wood burning stove in a restaurant is big news–as is a shift in location or a partnership with a local charity.
Corridor Brewery & Provisions works hard to take photos of the behind-the-scenes action and people enjoying the food and beers. However, I particularly admired this post of a gigantic fermenter sitting outside the brewery’s front window.
What may seem like a boring piece of equipment actually improves the experience of coming to that establishment for the customer. Not only that, but it raises questions like “Where’s it gonna go?” and “When’s it going to be ready?” When local businesses on Facebook look like they belong in the community, that’s when they start to gain traction.
You can achieve something similar by creating your own behind-the-scenes Facebook videos.
Seasons and holidays can play well into your promotions, and I’ve seen it done well with local businesses where they bring in Santa Claus, hold Oktoberfest events, or make something special for a local sports team.
One of my favorite posts from local businesses on Facebook is from the First Ascent Rock Climbing Gym, which hoisted Santa up to the top of a climbing wall and allowed people to climb up there with him. The promotions went well on Facebook, as did the large gallery of pictures documenting the weekend.
If your business regularly hosts events, you can also leverage the fear of missing out to catch people’s attention.
As a bonus piece of inspiration for promoting local businesses on Facebook, think about the age of your company. There must be photos from the past, even if it’s only a year old!
Uncle Dan’s Outfitters has been around since 1972, and the offerings inside the store (along with the location) have changed dramatically.
As mentioned, a new local business can take advantage of one or two-year-old pictures as well. It’s a charming way to mention an anniversary and show how things have changed.
Hopefully, these tips and examples allow you to sit back for a second and consider what types of posts are right for your Facebook audience. Location matters, demographics matter, and the style of your business matters for creating the right tone needed for a successful local Facebook strategy.
Remember, think more like a person who goes on Facebook to chat with friends and see what’s going on in the community. That way, you’ll shed the bad habits of constant advertisements and make more of an impact.
If you’re new to Facebook marketing, you’ll also want to check out our six essential tips for Facebook business pages.
Do you have questions about promoting local businesses on Facebook? Ask them in the comments section below!
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