Chamber members discuss social media


DAPHNE – Social media can help business owners communicate with customers, but the service can also take a toll on the time needed to run that business, members of the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce said.

The chamber held a workshop on communications and social media in business Wednesday, March 31, in Daphne.

Casey Gay Williams, chamber president, said that in the current business climate, communication is vital for the chamber and other businesses.

“We have two publications every week,” Williams said. “We have the big newsletter and then we're working on the website. We have our annual magazine. Every single thing the chamber does, requires communication and so, no matter how small and how big, communication is the key, because if we can't communicate what we're doing to all of you, then it really doesn't help us to do it. So, connecting with our about 1,100 members is what we really work with every day.”

Social media can be help business owners reach potential customers, Denise Curtis, chamber communications director, said. Each application has its pros and cons and some platforms might be better for some businesses than others.

“You don't necessarily need to be on every one, you're going to wear yourself out. You don't have 40 hours a week to just do social media, because you've got to do what? run your business,” Curtis said.

Social media can be used in a variety of ways. Businesses can post videos showing what they offer and providing a personal connection with customers. Testimonials from customers can also help people connect with a business.

Another use is collaborations between businesses to allow merchants to reach out to each other’s customers.

Choices can include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and Tik Tok.

She said business owners might want to start with one or two that they can do well and work on being successful with those applications. She said, however, that business owners should create accounts on other social media so they can claim their business name on those sites.

Curtis said Facebook could be the first choice for many users. Facebook has 2.41 billion daily active users and a wide demographic. “It's the most widely used platform and it's great for brand awareness, website traffic, lead generation, online diversions. You can link people directly to your sales page,” she said.

A negative aspect of Facebook is that businesses often have to pay to reach the audience they want. Posts will only go out to a limited number of people unless they’re shared.

Instagram is the second most commonly used application with about 500 million daily users. “Instagram is a lot easier to grow organically because they have the discover feature and you can really use hashtags to get in front of extra eyeballs,” Curtis said.

A con with Instagram is that users cannot put links on the posts. One link can be placed on the users site.

Curtis said Pinterest is a site that businesses do not think of as often, but the service can be useful for retailers, particularly those trying to reach a certain demographic. Of Pinterest’s 291 million active monthly users, 81 percent are women and 93 percent say they use Pinterest to plan purchases.

YouTube is another site that has uses for businesses, Curtis said. The chamber stores videos on the site and some businesses use the application as a video network.

Bon Appetit magazine started doing culinary programs on YouTube. “They didn't have to be on network. They didn't have to be on Netflix,” Curtis said.

Twitter is not used by many residents and businesses in the Mobile and Baldwin market as in some other areas, but the site can be used for news programs or real-time updates, she said.

LinkedIn is a good site for business communications “When you're talking about things that are a little bit more complicated and a little bit more serious, that might be a great place for you,” she said.”

Another service that is not sometimes considered for business is Tik Tok, but, with 1.2 billion users, it is the fastest growing platform in the world. The average Tik Tok user spends 52 minutes a day on the app, Curtis said.

While some think that the platform is only used by teens, older people are also in the audience. The service also allows users to find the information that they want. “My Tik Tok is full of people starting businesses,” Curtis said. “It's not just teenagers doing dances.”

Curtis said businesses should also create a Google account so that people looking for their business can find it on the search engine. “Nothing is worse than someone trying to find your business. Where are they going to go? Google. If they don't find you, they're going to go to whatever comes up,” she said.