#ShopLocal?

#ShopLocal?

Hashtags – Do They Work?

The simple answer here is ‘yes’ and ‘no’!  How many times have you seen posts on social media with the hashtag #ShopLocal on it?  As crazy as it may sound, the hashtag really isn’t much use if you’re using it to help people find you.  It’s fine as a statement of fact on your post but when you search for it you’ll find that the posts are anything but local.  In fact, the posts you’ll find there are for all around the world so if you’re expecting people to find your cheese that you produced in Sleaford I strongly suggest you think again!  When I set up Lincs Connect in 2012 I experimented with several hashtags and names before settling on #LincsConnect.  Other examples of my trial hashtags included #ShopLocal (ironically I created this hashtag in January 2011 for use on my @MANDARINLEISURE account but scrapped it because it went global) #SupportLincolnshire #SupportLincolnshireBusiness #SupportLocal #SupportLocalBusiness with the latter being shortened to #SLBiz. However, my early research made me realise that the ‘Support…’ hashtags were just too long and people refused to use them because of the amount of space they took up on the posts.  Another reason for scrapping them was because they start with the word ‘Support’.  When searching social media for relevant hashtags to do with Lincolnshire you’ll find that typing the letters ‘Linc’ into the search bar will give you LincsConnect on twitter and Lincs Connect on Facebook in the top three names to visit. Compare that to typing in ‘Support’ which will give you all sorts of connotations from TwitterSupport to a whole host of other national and international business support sites. It makes sense then that the hashtag to use on your tweets needs to be #LincsConnect as it is at the top of your searches and is truly local to Lincolnshire.

How To Use A Hashtag

If you’re happily adding hashtags to your post but never searching them you’ve truly missed s trick!  Here’s what to do:  Type in #LincsConnect in your search bar then press enter. Don’t click on the account @LincsConnect as that’ll take you to the account only which means you’ll miss all the good information.  Once your device takes you to the messages on the #LincsConnect timeline you need to look for the ‘Latest’ tab at the top of the Twitter page.  If you type #LincsConnect into the search bar on Facebook you’ll need to look for the ‘Posts’ tab at the top of the page (this’ll also show you related Instagram posts). Once you’ve discovered these pages you’ll realise that there is a huge amount of information, business posts, personal posts, charity posts and requests for help etc etc that are all related to our local area.  Try it now to see what you can find.  It’s a fantastic way to network and find out what’s going on locally.

Supporting Local

How do you support local?  Is it as easy as going to the local shops and picking something from the shelves?  In case you hadn’t considered it before, let me share some of my ideas about shopping and supporting locals:

  1.  Shop locally – supporting local traders by buying their produce in local shops, garden centres, farm shops and markets
  2.  Online – Many local traders have online shops.  A more cost effective way of selling may be via platforms like Etsy shops or even selling directly via social media
  3.  Don’t forget the local charity shops.  Dropping off your unwanted items is absolutely crucial but don’t forget they are there to help raise funds for the many worthy causes that otherwise would’t survive without our support.  Buying from the shops is absolutely essential if the charities are to survive.
  4. Social media – In the 10 years that I’ve been running #LincsConnect I’ve noticed some big changes in how people use the various platforms.  I’ve noticed a big rise in the professionally run accounts (some companies run several accounts for different clients) and I’ve also noticed the reluctance of many accounts to share anyone else messages or support others.  I’ll talk more about these two subjects later.

Obviously there are many other ways to support local businesses, charities and organisation but I’ll focus on my main observations first if that’s OK?

Shop Local

This concept certainly isn’t new.  However, during the Covid19 pandemic it has become much more important and (thankfully) much more prolific.  We know how important our local CoOp, Post office, newsagent and Spar shops are.  Many of them are in walking distance (for those who are able) and stock locally produced products.  Perhaps, with the use of ‘people power’ they might be able to stock more local local produce to help the local economy even further.  A polite request from customers or local traders may be all it takes.  It’s worth a try! In addition to helping to support local traders (including the shop owners and staff) it must have also come to your attention that during the lockdown there have been less emissions, less fossil fuel burned and less litter.  All of these positives are good for the planet so let’s see if we can maintain our recent good practices.

Online

This isn’t something that I have ever considered for my own businesses before Covid19 but it is something that I have been doing during the lockdown.  FaceTime and WhatsApp video calling has been a fantastic way to maintain contact with my clients while reducing my fuel usage in my truck.  It’s definitely a practice that I intend to maintain. During the lockdown I’ve been busy writing blogs and searching for companies who sell online.  Some are using Etsy, some use Facebook and others use Twitter.  I’m sure there are other platforms that are equally as good or even better but I haven’t come across them yet.  The obvious choice and probably the most popular is direct selling from websites.  Many people have their own eCommerce shop on their website which is easily maintained by the trader and convenient for the customer.  If, like me, you are a bit of a technophobe you’ll be able to find website designers who will be able to build a site for you or help you with your existing site.  If you would like to get in touch with any designers please feel free to ask me for some suggestions.  After all, that is what Lincs ‘Connect’ is for!

Charities

I often include charities in my blogs because I feel they need all the help they can get.  I’ve focused on very small charities through to the very big charities and the one thing that they all have in common is their use of social media.  The posts may not raise funds directly but their constant presence certainly helps to raise your awareness of them

Share The Love

Looking at the various accounts on social media I often make up my mind whether I should support them or not simply by looking at their posts.  The ones who never share anyone else posts, have conversations or try in any way to support anyone else is a big red flag for me.  I find myself asking the question ‘why should I support them when they don’t support others and are very unlikely to support me?’ I’m a big believer in helping others so when I find someone who shows no interest other than to post their own tweets I tend to move on to find someone who is more sociable and supportive.

Buying And Selling

I’ve noticed Fiona @OrigArtPrints on Twitter while searching the #LincsConnect hashtag and really like what she has been painting on old maps.  Her main sales come from Craft Shows but obviously they haven’t been open over the last few months so, being creative she turned her attention to Facebook and Twitter for her sales.  Facebook has been successful but Twitter less so.  However, her Twitter account is a good platform for showcasing what she does and for directing people to her Facebook account.  It is important to use more than one platform on social media if you want to increase your client base.  It’ll be interesting to see if future sales turn more towards social media and less towards the craft fairs.  Only time will tell. I think these paintings on old maps are fabulous.  You have to admit, they do bring the map to life. Here is another example:

If you would like more information about Fionas art just click on the picture for a link to her Facebook page. I’m sure she will be happy to see you there and you’ll be Able to see selections of her cards and key rings too.

Websites, Social Media And YouTube

I’m no expert of course but it does appear to me that one of the best ways to find a website (given that you probably didn’t know the sites name or even that you wanted to make a purchase) is through social media.  I’ll say that bit again just to clarify, “through ‘social’ media”.  Why the emphasis on ‘social’?  Well, I’ve noticed far too often that many people are using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to show off their products and gain new customers but quite often don’t realise that they need to talk to their followers to get continued engagement and (hopefully) new sales.  Put it this way, if you don’t talk to me on social media I’m not likely to notice you.  On the other hand, if you do talk to me but I don’t talk back you’ll soon stop talking to me.  Either way, I would be the loser so that’s why it’s always best to be ‘social’ on social media! While being pre-occupied with social media I almost forgot about YouTube.  Surely I can’t be the only person who searches YouTube on a very regular basis for music and information?  I do think it’s a great platform for showing your products (you’ll have seen some of my YouTube videos if you’ve been reading my other blogs), courses and skills.  While the social media could drive potential customers to your website the same driving force could apply to YouTube.  I feature a local band of the week each day on twitter and invariably I find the bands on Twitter or Facebook first then either follow a link to their YouTube channel or take a few seconds to search for them in the YouTube search bar.  This band (Saboteurs) from Sleaford have really got my attention this week.  You can follow them on Twitter @sabsbanduk for regular music posts and updates about upcoming gigs when Covid19 restrictions allow.  Alternatively you can go straight to their website www.saboteursband.co.uk for lots more info and a chance to purchase their new album.

The Saboteurs YouTube channel – just click on the picture to go straight there. It’s as easy as that and if you like good Indie music I think you’ll like this too

See You Soon…

I hope you like my brief blog about using social media for selling and finding new customers.  Please feel free to leave a comment below and share the post with your friends and contacts.  Hopefully I’ll see you when I search the #LincsConnect hashtag again soon.

Stay Safe 

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