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Small Scituate businesses embrace social media to spur growth

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 14, 2012 10:00 AM

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In this small coastal community, business have traditionally grown by word of mouth, neighbors passing along the scoop about local stores, good restaurants shared among friends.

Yet with social media springing up everywhere, small companies in Scituate are slowly catching on to the trend, building websites and even businesses with the help of free marketing tools.

Depending on the business, social media are used in different ways, but all agree it’s important.

“We use Facebook a lot. People use it to communicate with us, for special orders, ask about our hours, as we have adjusted ones for the holidays, and I try to post pictures as much as I can,” said Ann-Marie Robicheau, manager of Baked, located in North Scituate.

In fact, Robicheau posts photos weekly, showing new specials, delectable treats, and enticing customers to come in.

Most recently, the photo of some sparkly snowman cupcakes caused some clients to visit the store and place holiday orders for cupcakes in the same design.

Monthly giveaways, online newsletters, and announcement of weekly specials have also helped business, said Robicheau, who has been with the bakery since August, and in that time doubled the number of Facebook “likes.”

“We use Facebook and we use ConstantContact to do our email blast, and we have a webmaster who controls our website, and she links our newsletter and Facebook page to our website,” Robicheau said.

Robicheau points to social media's ability to start a conversation outside the confines of the town.

“I think it helps,” she said. “I don’t think anything is ever going to replace having a walking in the door and having a conversation … but for new exposure, where people can see others’ activity, it’s a unique way to spread the word without really doing anything.”

Joanie Wilson, with JW’s Burger Bar on the New Driftway, agreed the exposure from their Facebook page has helped since she started her business a year ago.

“I get tons of people that come into the restaurant because they read a blurb someone posted on Facebook,” Wilson said.

A “beer dinner” special, though posted last minute, ended up sold out, and the tool has been great to reach a younger audience.

“Another good thing is it's free, so in this economy, it's great when people don’t have money to advertise,” she said.

Even for the businesses just blossoming, blogging and the online market are helping generate new customers.

Amanda Bartlett, with Amanda Catherine Design, a dress-design company in Scituate, has used an online blog, started only in recent weeks, to describe her business. All this is occurring alongside a new website.

"A lot of my business has been word of mouth. My images of what I’ve done and reviews from other customers are really important. Having that up on the web for them to access without committing to anything is helpful in my business. And I think the images say everything for themselves," Bartlett said.

As for the blog, it's another peek into her business, helping her connect with her customers.

"The blog is more just to keep them updated and have them understand what I'm up to. It [shows] the alterations and thing I do each day in my business. It's important for a small business to have a [that] access," she said.

According to Stephanie Neil, owner of SouthShoreWoman.com and SolScista Media - website soon coming, the use of the Internet and social media cannot be underscored enough.

“If you think about advertising and marketing, a small company, whether it’s a brick-and- mortar retail store, or restaurant, or services, they have typically gone to a newspaper or magazine for a print ad,” Neil said. “But at some point, [the owner] knows that she’s reached all the eyeballs she can reach because of the circulation.

“To get out of the boundary of the town and distribution of the paper, they are looking for new ways to do that and understand the value of social media,” she said

Neil has even developed a company she is just now starting full time with a focus on helping small businesses figure out social media.

Though utilizing social media is important, it has to be strategic, she said.

“Social media is not about pumping out your message, it’s about a conversation and building relationships. You’re building brand recognition around a personality, and [the business] can have control,” she said.

Although many are hopping on the branding bandwagon, for some stores, like Pawsitively Natural in Humarock, the old-fashioned way of doing business is still best.

“I just have a Facebook page, and I just recently signed up with super media to do something online, but other than that I haven’t used it, really,” said owner Carol Brown.
“We’re in an out-of-the-way place and we’re so local, I find I do better with more direct [contact.”

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