By Bill Brunelle, Co-founder of Independent We Stand

You know social media is popular, but do you know just how important it is for your business or brand? In 2017, a staggering 89 percent of all U.S. internet-goers use Facebook, and many of them visit the site on a daily basis. With that level of penetration, it’s clear Facebook — and social media in general — isn’t only useful for reaching just one demographic anymore. Instead, it’s a ubiquitous tool that small businesses can use cost-effectively to put their local brand in front of the right audiences.

First things first: to use social media effectively as a brand, you have to establish the right foundation. Social media platforms can be used by both organizations and individuals, so your small business should identify itself as an organization whenever possible. On Facebook, this means creating a “page,” rather than a “profile.” To do this, log into your personal Facebook account, then click the drop-down arrow in the upper right corner of your screen. When the menu appears, click “Create a Page.” On Instagram, your business should leverage a business account. To upgrade a personal account to a business account, click the gear icon on your profile page, then select “Switch to Business Profile.”

Once you have the right profile for your business, you’re ready to start building a local brand. Social media capabilities and algorithms are constantly changing, but a few tried-and-true principles will help your business reach the right people with the right message.

Share Visual Content

On social media, photos and videos are king. Posts with a photo or video typically receive more engagement, meaning that the audience responds better to visual posts with likes, comments and shares. Visual content is inherent to Instagram, where every post must include a photo or video. On Facebook, brands often want to drive traffic to a website by sharing a link, but it’s important to vary your content regularly between those ever-important links and the photos and videos that are going to sustain your engagement.


Another way to vary your content is to cross-promote your fellow locals. If you work closely with a local shop down the block or sponsor a local youth softball team, give them a shout-out on social media. Sharing other brands’ content can help your audience learn more about what matters to your business. Plus, if that local shop or softball team returns the favor, they’ll tell their audience about your brand, allowing you to reach a wider audience of potential new customers.

Leverage Buy Local Content

When it comes to creating social media content, you’re not alone. Buy local groups like Independent We Stand and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance regularly share content that speaks to the importance of supporting small businesses. For some quick and easy social activity, share content from buy local groups to spread the local message.

Amplify Your Content

Building a social media presence doesn’t have to cost a penny and that’s part of what makes it so valuable for small businesses. You can share photos and videos, message your fans and connect with your fellow small business owners by using everyday features that are available to brands and businesses of any size. However, if you really want to grow your audience — and, as a result, your brand’s recognition — you may want to consider spending a little.

Facebook and Instagram offer a robust advertising platform that allows brands to set a budget, choose an objective and design ads as easily as they create posts. Plus, social media algorithms tend to reward brands that advertise, meaning your social media activities may go further if you decide to spend a little money. If you do choose to spend money, be sure to set the right audience: For local businesses, it may make the most sense to reach only those people within a particular radius or city.

Bill Brunelle is co-founder of Independent We Stand, a cause-marketing campaign sponsored by STIHL, which is dedicated to educating communities about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. Independent We Stand inspires small business owners across the country to celebrate their locally owned status and help consumers understand the importance of supporting them.

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