A good friend of mine asked me once, how local people from “small town, USA” were supposed to understand all of this social media and networking talk. How, he asked, can you present any of this as useful to folks who are just now accepting the fact that a website is a good thing for a business to have? This question is something that I ask and answer daily. The little town pictured is my own (Ellijay, GA), and the businesses that I deal with everyday are truly of the small mom-and-pop variety.

I am certainly a social media exception around here. My use of Twitter for example, works well for me here, largely due to the nature of my business. The fact remains though, that there are less than 100 active Twitter users (according to Twellow) in my town. There were 13 a year ago! I’m quite sure that Twitter alone, would add more frustration than it’s worth to many that I know here in my town. I do still recommend that people use, and more specifically their “TwellowHood” feature, to find local people to connect with. Twitter is a growing presence in social media; this is true here as well. You can imagine though, that talking to the corner store about Twitter could only generate so much interest here.

There are hundreds of very active social media “channels” for networking. They are many and diverse, and each has its redeeming qualities for use in different ways. I can’t delve into them all in a single blog post, but I wanted to give some input and an example to stir the creative mind. For as many channels that exist, there are countless creative ways to use each one. The fact that something hasn’t been done yet, should be looked upon as a challenge, and not a barrier!

For those of you who live in a town like mine, here’s a suggestion…a great place to start, and possibly to be used as your foundation – Facebook. If you are already on Facebook, try a search for the name of your town, see how many people and groups/pages there are. By sheer size alone, Facebook has woven itself into the lives of more people in small towns than many other platforms.  Many of us have had a presence on Facebook long before we considered using social media for business purposes. From a personal account in Facebook, users can create a group, or a fan page for their business. If you are using your personal account as your business presence on Facebook, consider starting a fan page.

From a simple search as described above, I found that I can now set out to connect with over 400 local people and more than 70 groups, all who actually live within shouting distance. This will surely yield better results than just tweeting at my 50 neighbors. I do tweet my Facebook page happenings to my Twitter followers, and vice-versa to some extent, as this just makes good sense to me. Here is an excellent post about ways that businesses can utilize and grow their fan pages. The blog itself is a great small town/small business resource.

 Facebook fan pages can be linked to a Twitter account, and there are a few ways to post Tweets to Facebook as well. While this is very convenient, don’t use one to simply regurgitate content from the other. The uses and “personality” of both are quite different. They should be used in concert with one another, and not merely to mimic or repeat each other. People will stop visiting one or both if this is the case. To give you some idea of how creative and successful Facebook can be for a business, I’ve included the video below. It’s an example from a large company using Facebook to capitalize on a specific market. I hope it incites your creative mind to the possibilities.

Owning a business, and living in a small town is special. “Community” just feels like it has a deeper meaning than it does for city-folk. Building a community around a fan page on Facebook will not be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. It’s practically built into your way of life already!  “Old Joe” down the road may have never stopped into your store, but his wife has, and I bet your kids go to the same school too. They all know who you are; you just need to build something they can all get behind! As an individual in a small town, the things you learn in social media can help your whole community and have a noticeable impact. Carving out success for yourself will encourage and inspire others, maybe more so in a small town than in a large city someplace else.

Your town may be even smaller than mine. You may be one of the first to be getting involved in social media.  Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated. Hard work and consistency will pay off for your efforts in social media; much like it does in other aspects of running a business. You may have to strive a little harder to build up your community using social media, but there is value here as well. You may become the local expert, able to truly help and advise your peers. This can only be a great benefit to you ultimately.

Do you have some input about Facebook fan pages that you can share? Do you have a small town social media success story or example that might encourage others? Be a hero and share your input in the comments. We can all appreciate and use the advice and encouragement!

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