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Blog // Connect Ohio

Going Social on Small Business Saturday

By Eric Frederick

Since 2010, local businesses have urged customers to “shop small” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and the event continues to grow, thanks in large part to an active annual social media campaign.

American Express launched Small Business Saturday in 2010 with a viral multi-media campaign highlighting rare finds at small stores. In 2011, the U.S. government officially supported Small Business Saturday and it is now the largest shopping holiday in support of small business. Every year the movement grows and an increasing number of businesses utilize the buzz online to reach out to new and existing customers. On Small Business Saturday, during the holiday shopping season, and throughout the year, technology continues to play a larger role in marketing and advertising for small businesses.

A study of small businesses (those with less than 15 employees), compiled by Connected Nation’s Connected program, shows that companies with a website make, on average, $209,000 more in annual revenue than those without. Those businesses were also 15% more likely to have recently hired new employees or planned to hire new employees soon. Small businesses that utilize social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites, were more than 40% more likely to have recently hired or plan to hire new employees. Small businesses also tend to employ a more tech-savvy workforce, with nearly 42% more employees possessing moderate or advanced technology skills than those at larger businesses.

Michaela Marks, co-founder of Escape Rooms Portland in downtown Portland, Michigan, is one of many using social media to bolster community outreach. The real-life detective puzzle game gained popularity in big cities in 2014, but social media has been a pivotal asset in bringing the Escape Room experience to a small town.

“Our biggest problem is a lack of knowledge about the Escape Room and what it is,” said Marks. “I found the most effective form of communication was reaching out to people via social media.”

Posting photos of groups that successfully “escaped” the puzzle game and encouraging participants to share their online experiences quickly built excitement in Portland and surrounding areas. With small groups of two to eight escapees reposting their photos and sharing their experience, Escape Rooms Portland reached thousands of potential visitors in just a few days. Coupled with giveaways and challenges to solve puzzles inside the cleverly themed rooms, interest spread and spots quickly filled up.

“When I started doing giveaways people were really excited about it, they were posting and sharing,” said Marks. “It just took off from there.”

More advanced technology also has benefits for small business. Users of e-commerce, or online sales, report almost 25% more annual revenue than small businesses that do not sell online. Additionally, businesses using point-of-sale software to make purchases easier report nearly three times the annual revenue of businesses without such a system.

Lindsay Potter, owner of the Yarn Garden in Charlotte, Michigan, uses point-of-sale software to manage her stock.

“I invested in point-of-sale software which enabled me to have a barcode on each unique product,” said Potter. “That way I can know, with just a few clicks, how much of something I have in stock. It also makes it more accurate for me to order things. [The software] doesn’t necessarily save me time, but I think it helps me earn more money, because I keep in stock what sells the best.”

Additionally, small businesses using point-of-sale software are more than three times as likely to hire as businesses without the software. Potter continues, “I have been able to hire two employees since I implemented the point-of-sale system…which frees me up to teach classes and do more of the owner-type duties.” (See Lindsay’s story and more about the use of technology for small businesses at http://brightside.cedam.info/episodes/episode-11/.)

Social media, websites, e-commerce, and point-of-sale systems are all driven by Internet connectivity. Faster connections allow businesses to use more advanced applications to sustain and grow themselves. Research shows small businesses with faster Internet connections earn higher revenues. Businesses with a connection speed of 100 megabits per second earn 2.7 times more revenue than businesses with a connection less than 10 megabits per second.

Shoppers can plan to see exceptional deals at their favorite local stores this weekend and may already have seen the buzz in their inbox or social media feed. Business owners can get on top of the trend with the hashtag #smallbusinesssaturday on their social platforms.

Learn more about Connected Nation's Connected program study referenced above and the important role of technology in business by clicking on the infographic below: 

 

You can read more from Connected Nation on how communities are helping businesses improve their access, adoption, and use of technology:

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