The events of 2020 have been far from kind to small businesses, with some reports estimating 25-36% could close permanently as a result of COVID-19. In hopes of salvaging small businesses, nearly 83% of consumers would now rather shop at small, local businesses than a big corporation. As small businesses ramp up their holiday marketing strategies, they can take advantage of this trend and capitalize on events like Small Business Saturday, which fell on November 28 this year.
To identify more small business holiday tips and uncover ways marketers can leverage people’s desire to support local and small businesses this holiday season, we used our Sprout superpower: social listening. In the last three months, between September 1 and November 29, we captured more than 1.9 million Tweets related to small businesses from over 852,200 unique authors.
Even though it’s evident that the struggle is still very real for small business owners, the listening data we gathered from Twitter showed that there is hope yet. People are eager to shop small, show support and spread awareness and joy to SMBs.
Shopping close-to-home for the holidays
Throughout the pandemic, people have been staying close-to-home and now they’re looking to shop close-to-home as well. In the final stretch leading up to the holidays, small businesses can leverage popular hashtags to further boost their small business holiday marketing strategy. The top five most frequently used hashtags in conversations about small businesses were:
- #ShopLocal – used in 162,591 Tweets
- #ShopSmall – used in 158,502 Tweets
- #SmallBusiness – used in 62,324 Tweets
- #SmallBusinessSaturday – used in 58,108 Tweets
- #Etsy – used in 35,765 Tweets
On Small Business Saturday (November 28) alone, there were nearly 125,600 Tweets sent about small businesses by more than 91,000 unique authors, garnering more than 1.4 billion potential impressions and nearly 1.7 million total engagements.
There is a sense of urgency that comes with the calls-to-action to #ShopSmall and #ShopLocal because there are real fears that some of our favorite small businesses may not survive. Over 415,100 Tweets about small businesses in the last 3 months included the word “help” or “support,” suggesting that consumers are aware of the challenges small businesses are facing and want to show their support.
I know it’s a bit early, but if you are jumping into Christmas shopping early to escape the election, PLEASE try to order from your local bookstores, comic shops and game stores directly. This holiday period will probably determine if they can survive or not. #shoplocal
— Felicia Day🇺🇸 (@feliciaday) October 23, 2020
There are several benefits to shopping locally, especially in an economically challenged area. Data shows that local businesses return 52% of their revenue back into the local economy, whereas national chain retailers return just 14%. Many consumers might not know this. Small business owners and marketers should use Twitter to amplify the benefits of shopping small and provide updates on business information, their differentiators and initiatives to drive additional support.
Engage, expand and be merry
Engagement is essential for small business holiday marketing. Don’t hesitate to strike up or join conversations on Twitter to increase your business’s visibility. The platform is an effective medium for creating real connections and reaching new customers.
Marketers for SMBs should consider responding to Tweet threads with high visibility for increased awareness. For instance, American journalist Dan Rather, who has over 1.7 million Twitter followers, continually Tweets about supporting independent, local bookstores. Threaded on those Tweets are messages from consumers and brands directing people to those small businesses. The 18 messages from Rather that popped up in the small business listening topic aggregated over 30.2 million impressions and 105,200 engagements.
There’s an amazing bookstore in Harrisburg Pennsylvania, the @MidtownScholar. The number of community events and speaking events they’ve done is staggering. Central Pennsylvania would be far worse off without its existence.
— MetalMagic 🎸 Ian (@notmetalmagic) October 28, 2020
Similarly, Lili Reinhart, famous for her role in “Riverdale,” asked her 3.2 million followers for suggestions for small businesses from which she could purchase her Christmas decor. Fans responded with their favorites, but this type of request is also an opportunity for small business owners or marketers to raise their hands and expand their reach.
I’m Kitana! Owner of knaturalbeauty and I sell homemade vegan skincare products made with all natural ingredients! I have so many products to chose from I even sell men’s products! Checkout my site❤️ https://t.co/0uZWfB8h3G pic.twitter.com/HvPm1HeTcb
— ☁️𝒌𝒏𝒂𝒕𝒖𝒓𝒂𝒍𝒃𝒆𝒂𝒖𝒕𝒚☁️ (@imkitanakaye) November 14, 2020
Another effective awareness play for independent business owners and artisans is quite simple and gives people a way to support SMBs for free. In the listening topic, we found that 1,320 people Tweeted a version of the message, “It costs $0.00 to RT and support a small business. My next customer could be on your timeline.” The Tweets came from a relatively small group, but together, the messages garnered more than 3.7 million potential impressions and 1.1 million engagements. Never underestimate the power of a Retweet.
Small businesses as a whole had a tough year, but an estimated 41% of Black-owned small businesses became inactive during the pandemic, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses. This is devastating, to say the least, but people are rallying around Black and minority business owners.
Tweets with hashtags and keywords related to Black and minority-owned businesses garnered over 354,500 engagements, 389 million impressions and a 58% positive sentiment rating. Driving a lot of that are big brands and prominent figures who have teamed up to create initiatives that support black businesses and raise awareness among consumers.
Instead of hyping the typical Black Friday sales and promotions, Google and Wyclef Jean came together to boost #BlackOwnedFriday. Every Friday leading up to Black Friday, Google used its social platforms to highlight unique Black-owned businesses in the hopes of helping customers find new favorites to support. Shoppers won’t limit themselves to Black Friday to support these businesses, and Google has additional resources and optimizations for Google Business Profiles so people will know that a business is proudly Black-owned.
Woodward Throwbacks started as a passion project: two Detroit residents crafting furniture with wood they salvage locally. Now, they’re a growing Black-owned small business, adapting to COVID-19 by selling their upcycled pieces online. https://t.co/kkWNc2EMeI #BlackOwnedFriday
— Google Small Business (@GoogleSmallBiz) November 13, 2020
There’s more in store for small and local businesses
The holidays and New Year may be right around the corner, but it’s never too late for businesses to tap into Twitter conversations to build brand awareness and connect with new customers. The holiday season may come and go quickly, but the belief in doing the right thing for your community will last well after the Christmas lights come down.
Continue sharpening your social strategy through the holiday season and beyond with our complete guide to small business marketing.