Local businesses gain social media savvy
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Aug 20, 2013 | 4091 views |  0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Larry May, owner of CD Cellar in Anniston, thumbs through records in his shop Tuesday. Photo by Bill Wilson.
Larry May, owner of CD Cellar in Anniston, thumbs through records in his shop Tuesday. Photo by Bill Wilson.
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Updating social media sites like Facebook each morning isn't a fun diversion for Rodney Snider.

It's business.

Snider, owner of the Cheaha Brewing Company in Anniston, since opening his business a few months ago has expanded not just his menu and beer offerings, but also his social media presence. Given the increased foot traffic his business has seen since Snider stepped up his social media efforts, he has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

"I think it's had a huge impact," Snider said. "It's about a full-time job to keep a presence out there, but it's definitely worth the effort."

Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have seen consistent growth in recent years as more people gain access to the Internet. Snider is just one of a growing number of business owners taking advantage of that growing access to promote their services and lure in potential customers, media industry experts say.

The Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce and The Anniston Star sponsored a free seminar today for area businesses to teach them how to expand their customer base through social media. The seminar was presented by Mike Blinder, a national media consultant and digital marketing specialist.

Blinder said social media is a powerful, inexpensive way for businesses to promote their services to potential customers. Blinder said Facebook is one businesses should definitely use since it is one of the most-used websites in the world. But it’s not enough for a business to just have a Facebook page.

"Don't waste media, target and know your customer," Blinder said. "And frequency of posts is important."

Blinder said businesses should update their Facebook pages regularly, otherwise, visitors might think the company in question is out of business. Also, give a reason for people to like those Facebook pages, such as offering special deals and giveaways, Blinder said.

Snider, who did not attend the seminar, said his Facebook updates have been so successful that it’s been his only method of advertising for the last couple of weeks. Many of Snider's recent Facebook posts include updates on his latest dinner specials and when live musicians will perform at the restaurant.

"We use images as much as possible ... any kind of image you post gets a larger response than just text by itself," Snider said of his Facebook posts. "Then we use those posts to generate traffic to our website."

Patsy Hamlin, owner of Muscadine Mountain Memories Gift Shop in Anniston, attended the seminar and said she learned a lot.

"I thought it was very informative, especially about making sure to keep everything updated," Hamlin said.

Hamlin said she planned to create a Facebook page for her business as soon as possible.

Blinder said businesses can also use the Internet search engine Google to their advantage. Blinder said business owners can edit the information that shows up about their businesses in Google searches. Updating profile information and adding pictures can improve a business' ranking in Google searches, Blinder said. Businesses that reach near the top of the first page of any given Google search tend to get the most hits, he said.

Larry May, owner of the CD Cellar in Anniston, said he already had a decent Facebook presence but learned quite a bit from the seminar about how he could use Google to help his business.

"When I got back to the store, I instantly I got in and updated it," May said of his business information on Google. "I expanded our description and added a picture."

May said he doesn't always regularly update his business' Facebook page, but even so, it has still helped him increase sales.

"It's a very good outlet for getting out information about items we have on sale," May said. "And it's really good about getting out information on music events in the city."

Kristy Farmer, owner of the Peerless Saloon and Grille in Anniston, said she has used Facebook and Twitter for several years to promote her restaurant. Farmer said she has her daughter regularly post information about specials at the business.

"It has absolutely helped increase traffic here," Farmer said of social media. "I suggest other businesses take advantage of it and do it."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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