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Shop Local. Shop Small. Shop You.

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In 2015, 95 million Americans shopped Small Business Saturday, the November shopping movement that encourages consumers to invest in their local community by supporting independent businesses, a 14% increase over the previous year’s event. Local movements have been sweeping the country with consumers increasingly shifting from desiring cheap, disposable products to quality goods and craftsmanship.  You’ve seen it take over major industries already: think local food markets and craft breweries. Millennials are spending $600 billion a year on local goods and services with no signs of slowing down, and establishing yourself as the local eyecare and eyewear provider of choice is essential to your financial success.

What you might not have realized is that social media is essential to establishing yourself as a part of the local small business community.  According to Forbes Magazine, up to 30% of potential buyers would not shop at a small business if it wasn’t on social media. Social media is essential to letting patients know you exist, and for putting a personal face on the brick and mortar store front – that feeling of knowing the local businesses customers support on a personal level is what makes the shop small movement so successful. So how do you establish yourself as small business worth supporting in your local community? Here’s how to utilize social media to join the local movement.  

Brand Yourself  Social media is the place to broadcast that you are a part of the local business community.  Make personal graphics for your business that say “shop local” or “shop small” and thank your followers for supporting your local business.  You can use with free graphic creation apps like Phonto to overlay “Shop Local” text over photos of your optical or office.  

Collaborate with other local small businesses  Is your practice located near other independent businesses? Reach out to businesses you have a connection with to collaborate on a social media campaign.  This isn’t as hard as it sounds: a simple picture post of glasses from your optical beside a donut from their bakery or a shirt from their clothing boutique creates a visual connection between your brands. Make sure you tag the small business in your post and ask them to reshare your post on their social media accounts.  The reshare is essential – it introduces your brand to all of that business’s loyal followers, and subconsciously broadcasts that your business has similar values and quality product as the small business they already support. It’s creating a mental association: “ I love Barry’s Bakery, so I’ll love Dr. Eyewise too.”

Use the right hashtag  Tagging your post with #shopsmall and #shoplocal are great ways to join the national movement, but even better is tagging them with your local community.  For example, if your practice is located in Atlanta, tag #shoplocalAtlanta in your posts. Don’t forget to go through the posts of others using this hashtag and comment and like their images.  Hashtags tell others you have common interests, but in today’s world of over saturation on social media, you have to actively alert people with your interests that you exist by interacting with their posts.

Participate in local events and tell the world all about it  You might be incredibly active in your local community already but not maximizing the marketing message – sponsor a local youth soccer team, hold community eye screenings, speak at local civic clubs or school meetings.  These are all tried and true traditional marketing methods that ECPs use to spread the word about their business, but how much are you advertising all you are doing on your social media accounts? Make sure you post frequently about your community involvement and tag the event in your posts so that followers of the event are more likely to find your page.  While you are at the event, encourage participants to take pictures during your screening exams, discussions, or glasses fittings (I know it’s against your nature to want to interrupt exam time for pictures, but it is definitely worth your patience!).  Just ask anyone taking selfies or photos to tag your business when they share on their accounts so that you can be sure to like it. People love getting likes, so they’ll be motivated to tag you to get the followers, and for you, the pay off is that they just shared your business to all of their social media followers – free advertising!  Another perk of getting others to share photos your business is tagged in is that you don’t have to worry about consent forms or HIPPA violations.  If a person posts on their own account and tags you, there’s no legal or ethical confusion about getting permission to post them.  

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