Small town social media

Technology has hampered our ability to communicate effectively with one another. One would think an infinitival amount of devices to support communication would lead to effective marketing strategies. This is not the case, especially when it comes to professional wordsmiths; newspapers.

Newspapers have an image problem — they’re viewed as the news source of yesteryear by younger generations. Local newspapers, on the other hand, are prime to make a turn around in today’s murky, print waters. Unlike their national news counterparts, such as The NY Times and The Washington Post, local newspapers aren’t losing ground with their middle-aged readership. Mothers and fathers want to know how the School Board budget will effect their kid’s classrooms. Commuters are opinionated on who and what is being decided on when it comes to their roads.

Yet local newspapers are still not monetizing on their base readership. Why is this? In our efforts to not fall behind, or fall apart, we’ve overreached and over extended our offerings. We’ve tried to be emulate craigslist. We’ve tried to mirror the popularity of Facebook and Tumblrs photo sharing in print society pages. It hasn’t worked. It’s time to get back to the basics. It’s time to be a small town, small business again.

Be honest.

It’s time to get real. With your limited staff, what can you do well? Look around you. If your online reader were standing in front of you, how would you sell your product to them? Your online business mission statement or philosophy should be no different than your “in person” philosophy. One of my clients, a local newspaper in one of the richest counties in the nation, has the philosophy that it is a family owned business covering news, sports and entertainment for the community. We are able to track our reader demographic so that we can tailor our reportage to our reader. For the client, this means writing blogs and topics that speak to men and women aged 35-44. Conversely, and down the road, we need to conduct market research on why we aren’t capturing the eyeballs of 25-34 year-olds or 45 to 60 year-olds.

Assess your competition.

If you’re a small town business or media organization, chances are your competition is not vast. That doesn’t mean your one competitor isn’t doing well. Stop beating yourselves up about how many sales they make or how much press coverage they receive. Start assessing what makes your business valuable. What product or service do you have that they don’t? Who has been around longer? Maybe you take longer to produce your work, but when you do finish up the quality of your product is bar none. When you start seeing your business for its uniqueness, there in lies its value. Slowly start posting photos of your product on social media sites. Remember to do so without being sales-y. Remind people of how you’ve been in business for 25 years and thank them for it. After all, without your customers you wouldn’t still be in business. It’s not all about you.

Make a long-term investment.

Everybody knows everybody in a small town. This means they will also know how you conduct your business. If you make a commitment to invest in your community, this will return to your bottom line 10 fold. I worked with an IT firm whose CEO spent at least one day a week volunteering for a non-profit or community-based organization. Every time he attended an event or meeting he posted about it on social media outlets and uploaded photos, even if it was just a mention of the other organization. He initially entered into these relationships because he wanted to understand the environment in which his employees lived and worked. After years of continued investments, he still picks up partnerships with other high-powered business owners simply by showing he cares.

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