All too often we see local businesses spend way too much time crafting their Facebook pages and trying to force engagement. Even if it does happen, it's not the best way to spend their social media time. They have an advantage over big brands: touching the people.

Bobs Barbeque

When Omahama Bob first started using Facebook to help market their local business, they put in a lot of effort to build up their "likes", create engagement on the page, add pictures of patrons, and turn it into a resource for their business. They have been more successful than most, creating posts that people liked and getting some comments.

They have done everything very well when viewed through the lens of a Facebook guru or social media marketing effort. The only challenge is that it hasn't actually helped to increase business.

What went wrong?

Local businesses are faced with the challenge of trying to hyper-target their messages to a local audience while still picking up enough steam from the broader Facebook community to bump up engagement and improve their Edge Rank. The problem that they often have is that this takes time both on Facebook and in real life.

Big brands have the advantage when it comes to mass attention. People are listening, liking, and engaging. For local businesses, it's a struggle.

What they don't realize is that they're not using their time and efforts for the most rewarding component of localized social media. The advantage that small businesses have over big businesses is the personal attention to the customers that gives them the opportunity to dramatically amplify their brand messaging. All they have to do is ask.

It's Not What You Say About Yourself...

People listen to other people. It's that simple. They have become almost immune to the messages that are being sent out by businesses, particularly on social media. They skip over it, block it, ignore it, report it, or whatever else they can think of doing to get the brands out of their face even if they were the ones who liked the page in the first place.

They will listen to their friends and family on Facebook. Why aren't more local businesses using this to their advantage? It's a matter of asking. That's all it takes. The messages sent out by people at the place of business mean everything and will be seen by more local people than anything a business does on their own page.

In the case of a barbeque joint like Bob's, this should be easy. Servers walk up to every table and ask, "How was everything?"

At this point, they'll get good, bad, or lukewarm feedback. Whenever they get good feedback, it's time to apply social media to the equation. "I'm glad you liked it! If you're on Facebook and you have your smartphone with you, I can offer you a free slice of apple pie if you'll let your Facebook friends know you're here."

Who can say no to that? Well, a lot of people will say no, actually, normally because they're full, they're not on Facebook, or they don't want to tell people that they just ate barbeque... but some won't. Some will love the idea. Some will pull out their smartphones immediately.

When they do, the server should ask, "Would you like me to take a picture of you guys to post on Facebook?"

You get the picture (hopefully).

That single activity will get more attention, feedback, branding, interest, questions, and most importantly new customers than any other activity a local business could do on Facebook.

It's bold. It's aggressive. It's risky. It's also extremely rewarding when done right. A slice of apple pie costs dimes. A new customer, particularly one who can eventually become a loyal regular visitor, is worth a lot more than the gumption it took to put in the practice and the extra apple pies you're going to have to keep in stock.


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+JD Rucker is President of Hasai, Inc, a Social Media Firm, Director of New Media for KPA, an Automotive SEO firm, and Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.