Social media presence, challenges for local businesses

By Victoria Krizek

Blacksburg, Va., Jan. 27 – Seasonal sign in front of Coffeeholics. Photo: Victoria Krizek 

Local businesses around Virginia Tech understand the importance of using social media to promote their brand. Due to their location, a large majority of their consumers are going to be students and, according to a consumer report from Experian, over 98% of College-aged individuals use social media. Maintaining a social media presence comes with new challenges for businesses to face and overcome.

“I think now more than ever we, as a culture, rely heavily on social media to influence our purchases,” said Kaitlyn Hawkersmith, assistant manager at New River Art and Fiber

According to Neal Schafer, a digital marketing consultant, on his blog, just over half of a brand’s online discovery will come from social media.

“There is no room for someone on staff to focus solely on social media like you might see in larger companies,” Hawkersmith said. “Instead, positions like mine are divided into several responsibilities that include social media. And, the responsibility of social media is shared throughout the team.” 

Maintaining a social media presence can be difficult for a small business that doesn’t always have the resources to hire an outside advertising agency or new team members, as Hawkersmith pointed out. However, this allows the business to get creative in the way they post on their socials and build rapport with the community.

“We try to get involved in the community as much as possible.” Said Al Murad, co-owner of Coffeeholics, a local coffee shop. “We think this is good for us as a business because it’s exposure but, at the same time, it builds that connection between us and the people in the area.”

Another struggle for small businesses is to ensure their social media fosters creative ideas. Lilly Murad, the other co-owner of Coffeeholics and wife of Al, says they strive to keep their Instagram postings original and spend a great deal of time thinking about creative ways to promote their brand. Coffeeholics doesn’t only use its Instagram account to advertise its seasonal drinks but also to promote pop-up shops and other events designed to gain engagement.

When aiming to share distinct posts that differ from other businesses, New River Art and Fiber takes a more personal approach to their social media accounts. The team shares upcoming events on their Instagram, but Hawkersmith believes that their ‘regulars’ are more likely to turn to their weekly newsletters for that information. As a result, the New River Art and Fiber Instagram page shares current art projects that the staff is working on and art hacks for followers to try. 

“Our people are here in the New River Valley and we genuinely enjoy getting to know our customers,” Hawkersmith said about having a more intimate Instagram feed. “This is what builds a loyal customer base.” 

Coffeeholics collaborates with Prices Fork Elementary to hang the children’s artwork in the shop, as a way to add one-of-a-kind decorum both to their walls and to their Instagram page.

Blacksburg, Va., Jan. 27 – Artwork made by children at Prices Fork Elementary School to be shown at Coffeeholics. Photo: Victoria Krizek

Mr. Murad says they change this artwork frequently to keep regular guests engaged. 

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