Valley First

Opportunity for small businesses to grow with social media

Local expert sees potential for businesses to boost brand recognition through social networks

October 18, 2015

Penticton, B.C. — Local businesses throughout B.C.’s southern Interior can compete more effectively with larger companies in their neighbourhoods by harnessing the largely-underused field of social media, says one local expert.

Brian Bevilacqua, a senior communications manager specializing in social media with the Valley First division of First West Credit Union says he sees enormous potential for the many local businesses he comes in contact with to boost their brand recognition through online social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, Yelp and others.

“Social media plays an increasingly important role in the way we as humans do business and make purchasing decisions. Large national and international companies know this and have invested significant resources in slick social media programs,” he says, “but smaller local businesses often struggle to take advantage of social media.”

Bevilacqua says that a lack of time and resources is one obstacle to small businesses getting active in social media. A more common challenge is a lack of social media know-how.

“If a small business owner didn’t grow up with social media or isn’t naturally inclined towards technology in general, getting their business active in social media can seem a daunting prospect,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be, though. The technologies themselves are actually quite simple, and if you establish clear goals, you’ll be able to strategically invest your precious time and energy in the right social media activities, so you can grow your online brand presence with minimal time commitment.”

Bevilacqua offers small business owners four key social media suggestions to help them grow their business:

  1. Be focused. Start by creating a plan that answers the fundamental questions like, what is your business trying to achieve with social media? Who is your target audience? Which social networks will best enable you to connect with the people that matter to you? What sort of content should you produce and share? How will you measure success? A clear, focused plan will help you decide how best to invest your limited energy, and will ensure that what you’re doing in social media is tightly aligned to your business’ goals.
  2. Be human. One of the most common mistakes businesses make with social media is approaching it like just another advertising channel. Your target audience isn’t using social media because they want to be sold to by a company—they’re using it to have conversations and make genuine human connections. If you want to engage them, ditch the in-your-face sales pitches and look for opportunities to create or engage in authentic conversations. Interact with specific individuals. Share content that’s meaningful to the audience you want to engage. When you’re genuinely social on social media, the people who matter will ultimately see the value your business offers and they’ll stay engaged.
  3. Be visually engaging. When it comes to creating and sharing content, digital media is your best friend. Don’t just talk at people with sterile text—wherever possible, use attention-grabbing images and videos to start conversations, tell your story, demonstrate who you are and show what you care about. You’ll capture people’s interest and you might even inspire others to share your content with their own social networks.
  4. Be immediate. Social media is instantaneous. It’s “right now”. For businesses, that means responding right away to the questions, feedback and comments (including negative comments) that come your way. It means sharing content in the moment, when it’s fresh and still happening.
Bevilacqua also advises small business owners apprehensive of taking first steps in social media to consult with millennial generation colleagues, friends or family members, and to tap into the wealth of online knowledge on using social media for business.

“You may find yourself pleasantly surprised at just how easy social media can be and how much you enjoy participating,” he says. “The joy of seeing your local business make authentic connections with other people through social media is addictive.”

About Valley First

Valley First is a premier provider of banking, investment and insurance services for residents and businesses in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys. As a division of First West Credit Union, B.C.'s third-largest credit union with 54 branches and 38 insurance offices throughout the province, Valley First brings innovative products, an extensive branch network and local decision making to the banking experience. For more information on Valley First, visit www.valleyfirst.com.

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