A Look at the Digital Future of Small Business 

With MSME Day just before us, we're celebrating small businesses, the people who run them, and looking at strategies to help them recover from the effects of COVID-19.

"They come from the side streets, from the wagon tracks and the corrugated roads at 66. 66 is the mother road, the flight road," wrote John Steinbeck about the migration of American farmers and small business owners at the height of the global economic crisis when they saw America's now historic Route 66 down from the dust bowl and headed towards California in search of opportunity.

The street became a myth. A monument. Not only for the plight of small business owners in the 1930s, but also for their resilience in the years that followed. When America emerged from the Depression, family-owned restaurants, bowling alleys, corner shops and heavy industry along the highway emerged, reviving the country's once-fighting heartland. Route 66 embodied the thriving state of small businesses in Central America.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step guide to social media strategies with professional tips on how to increase your social media presence.

Dorthea Lange, Free way. 1937 / in the public domain

Even after it lost its name in 1985, tourists continued to make Route 66 a place of pilgrimage. Ten miles outside of Rolla, Missouri, many drove by and had a drink in the taproom of St. James Winery, where Josh Stacy, owner of Public House Brewing, spoiled them with one of the best craft beers east of the Rocky Mountains. "Come in, try it, fill up with wine and set off." That was the ritual.

But in mid-March, when the world stalled, the crowds stopped coming and the highway was cleared of traffic. After the corona virus pandemic, the global economy experienced its deepest leap since the depression, which defined the path the public house is taking today.

Stacy and his staff had to deal with the story. And they do this by trading bricks and mortar for a digital future.

“We got involved and set up a curb and delivery service within three days. We had to implement the technology and infrastructure in the backend in order to track and collect all of this and to be able to place the order online. . . it was pretty aggressive. "

Like many small businesses around the world, Public House has switched to digital not only to survive but to embark on a path to long-term growth.

“It kind of drove everything forward, maybe five years. . . We knew that the digital world and our e-commerce business and all those things we were spinning around with (would be important). . . but it really forced our hand to move into this world. "

We spoke to Public House Brewing to find out how they are recovering, to discuss the lessons learned and to exchange advice on strategies that you can apply to your own business.

How to plan a rebound: Lessons from the heartland

Double your online reputation

Small businesses like Public House Brewing are the lifeblood of their communities. Maintaining these relationships is a top priority.

"Everyone comes out to play here," said Stacy. "Here they come for hiking, camping and fishing and all that. . We have a very strong connection to our region and our community. "

In a recent Harris survey, over 60% of business owners said they believed the community was taking care of their business. The same survey found that 26% of U.S. consumers bought something from a small business as a sign of support during the ban.

With most community purchases now made online, companies are under additional pressure to respond to their most loyal customers.

Stacy and his team felt the rise. “It has overloaded our small customer service department by one. You are simply overwhelmed. "

The solution? Centralize and simplify the way you manage your customer service online.

"We're looking for a more robust customer service platform that combines our phone, email, and all of these things in one place so we can bring them in and that one person doesn't feel overwhelmed every day."

Hootsuite apps that help

  • Manage your Google My Business presence along with your social media activities in Hootsuite. Regardless of whether a customer asks a question or posts a review, you have a place where you can monitor, engage, and strengthen relationships. In addition, you can stay connected to your customers and attract new customers by publishing company updates directly from your dashboard.
  • Connect Zendesk Pro to your Hootsuite dashboard to monitor and manage your social media channels and support tickets easily and efficiently. Manage, create, edit and share tickets from one place and run them until resolution.

Meet your customers where they are

Your website is your engine. Your social channels are your bikes. Make sure they work together to reach your customers.

Like most companies, Stacy and the Public House crew saw an increase in online engagement and online shopping as social distance measures kept customers at home.

"You are like that, well, I don't have to get out," he said. "I don't have to drive all the way from Texas to Missouri and I can still get my wine … It has changed a lot and I think there will be a lot more activities than ever before. It was pretty crazy but it is now in full effect. "

Your experience is not new. Even before the pandemic, digital technology was on the rise. Our Digital 2020 report shows that monthly active users of all major social platforms increased by over 8.7% last year. People who spend more time at home have only accelerated the trend.

In addition, one in three US companies does not have a website. And with new social commerce integrations like Facebook shops, many don't need one.

From discovery to purchase to support, customers can go through the entire buying cycle via Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram while doing their daily dozerscrolling.

It's time for small business owners to build their social muscles and reach their customers where they are.

Hootsuite apps that help
  • With Hootsuite Syndicator, you can view RSS feeds and Google Alerts on your Hootsuite dashboard and share them with your social channels. Send posts to other services like Pocket, Evernote, Email, and more. Get useful tools to filter, monitor and track – and keep track of which stories you've shared.
  • Panoramiq Insights extends your Hootsuite dashboard with powerful Instagram analytics. Analyze account activity and follower demographics as well as the effectiveness of your posts and stories – all in Hootsuite.

Build reach and depth

UK-based analyst and author Simon Kemp, who advised global companies like Unilever and Google, spoke to us about how small businesses can strategically diversify social channels to reach more people on social networks.

"I always recommend small businesses to focus on two platforms," ​​says Kemp. One for the range, one for the depth. The depths include building relationships, inspiring customers and creating more of this experience for customers. "

Take away: Concentrate your resources and work well on some social platforms before sparing your resources. Stacy of Public House Brewing repeated this feeling.

"Twitter or Instagram. . . I think one of those things we are going to put together is understanding. Cadence and timing and tone and all that. . You don't have to use all of them. In fact, it is better for us now to focus on just one pair. "

Hootsuite apps that help
  • With Brandwatch, you can monitor 95 million online sources to see what people are saying about your business – and take action. This integration provides you with a single social interface through which you can track and analyze mentions and market activity to make quick, informed, and strategic decisions.
  • Use Canva for Hootsuite to create engaging visual content straight from your Hootsuite dashboard. View recently created designs as a Hootsuite content source, add previously created designs from your Canva folders to Hootsuite, and simply attach designs to Hootsuite Composer to share on your social networks and delight your customers.

Relax on Route 66

Almost a century after the worst economic collapse in American history, small businesses on Route 66 are once again faced with unprecedented circumstances. A strong economic downturn has prompted them to rethink their future and adjust their strategies almost overnight.

"I wasn't going to plan the pandemic in 2010, it just happened," Stacy said with sarcasm. "You have to roll with the punches. But honestly, I think we did a really good job. The team was very quick to adapt to the new world and the new roles. And that just shows me that we will be fine . "

By adding new tools to its digital tool belt and focusing on strategy, Public House has picked up on the history of the freeway it lies on.

"It's part of the entrepreneurial spirit. We always challenge ourselves and try to find the next one. How can we improve and how can we improve? That brought us here."

It is clear that the spirit of Route 66 is alive and well. And its future is digital.

With the integrations of Hootsuite you will find social media apps that are suitable for your small business.

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