November 16, 2018PrevNext Email Share × Share On: Small business owners are feeling more optimistic than ever. A recent survey given at our Los Angeles show found 88 percent of respondents feel optimistic about the state of small business in the U.S. With the biggest retail holiday of the year coming up there’s all the more reason to keep that industry momentum going well into the new year. Small Business Saturday is a little over a week away which means small business owners are thinking about how to not only promote their services but, further, how they will set themselves apart from large-scale competitors.For small business owners it is more than just how they’re selling or pricing their products and services, but how they’re creating relationships with their customer base through social and digital platforms. We’re living in a digital era and small businesses without an online presence are at an immediate disadvantage. While all businesses, small or large, compete for customer’s attention, small business owners have the advantage of knowing their customers by face. They interact with them on a daily basis and can use the insights and relationships they’ve developed to provide unique online experiences for them. This is crucial during a time like Small Business Saturday when local businesses are in direct competition with the Targets and Walmarts of the world who are pushing out social and digital deals on a daily basis.In this digital-first era, small businesses need to understand how to use tools like social media to engage with consumers. This means taking the time to understand how social platforms can be used to entice new and current customers into stores or onto their websites. What are the platforms most effective for what they’re trying to achieve? On top of that, which of these platforms can be used year-round to create engagement with their customers?Last month eMarketer revealed over 31 percent of the U.S. population is on Instagram. Additionally, they’ve estimated that more than 52 percent of U.S. social network users will access Instagram at least once a month while Instagram itself estimates that 80 percent of users follow a business’s profile. This type of engagement makes Instagram a must-have tool for small business owners to easily reach their audiences with something as simple as a sponsored advertisement, social post, or even an instagram story, with the confidence that they’re reaching a wide audience. It also has easy-to-use features like direct messaging, polls, and stories for small business owners to continually engage directly with their audience.Facebook is also another powerhouse platform small business owners should keep in mind when looking at how to promote their business and engage with customers. Data from the Kleiner Perkins’ Internet Trends Report of 2018 estimates that 78 percent of American consumers have discovered retail products on Facebook, while eMarketer reported that 169.5 million people, or half the U.S. population will use the platform in 2018. That is a massive audience for a small business owner to tap into. Whether it be sharing frequent pictures, videos, or status updates to share company initiatives or upcoming projects with followers. Facebook as well as Instagram provides small business owners the opportunity to map out who is engaging with their content and from where.Business owners who invest in an engaging social approach are not only able to form a deeper relationship with their customers but they set themselves apart from larger chains. That is because small business owners have the true luxury of getting facetime with their customers. When it comes to developing a digital presence, especially on social media, having those unique insights on what customers are responding to in store can be invaluable when trying to maintain those relationships in an online setting.Finding the correct platform and beginning to engage with customers is just part one. The next step within this is keeping that engagement going, moving past just the holidays. Kick off that social initiative for Small Business Saturday and then continue to keep your base engaged with timely, relevant content. Keeping a visible, proactive social presence throughout the whole year ensures that customers are staying engaged and up to date with the business itself. A holiday may last a day, but social media engagement and visibility last a lifetime.