Small business owners often ask how transparent they should be in their social media marketing, and I always tell them that rather than hiding behind a mask (like my fun welder’s mask?), giving folks a glimpse of what it takes to run a small business can often convey the dedication, determination and sheer courage a true entrepreneur must possess. Yes, discernment is absolutely in order, but offering some insights into the daily challenges and setbacks and successes that come with running a business can be an excellent and effective source of social media content.

A recent study backs that up, with consumers indicating that a small business owner’s resourcefulness, combined with a genuine willingness to provide great customer service and be flexible in meeting their customer’s needs are the main reasons why they frequent small businesses. Knowing the real people behind the business and that they care about their customers is a small business advantage.

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There’s no doubt in my mind that offering insights into the challenges of running of a business and celebrating when your business reaches another milestone  can be effective ways to build a better business story, especially on social media. Sharing tidbits about your business successes (and difficulties) adds an authentic and meaningful personal touch to your social media marketing. People really DO buy from people they know, like and trust, and most want to see you succeed. Social media is one way for them to get to know you, and to stay current with your efforts.

Over time I’ve tried to share the markers of being a start-up outsourced marketing company in a crowded marketing services landscape. My mantra has always been “YOU are what makes your business unique,” so letting my personality shine through has been a key element of my business message. In the early months, I talked about the fun and fear of launching out on my own in Facebook posts called The Self-Employment Experiment. As time went on, I wrote about “The Gauntlet Year,” a place where I hit a difficult period of growth when exhaustion and hurdles seemed insurmountable, yet the promise of a successful business was still very real. And then as I began to reap ENORMOUS satisfaction from working with some very cool people, I wrote “The Mad Scientist Approach to Small Business Marketing,” a piece which celebrated crossing the 50 client milestone.

This past year has been spent developing a new website and a series of case study promotional materials that reflect my love for everything local and independent—from the arts to food to manufacturing to economic development professionals that build strong local economies. Each of these stories are a representation of me, my business philosophy and the many clients that have enriched my life this past four years.

In August 2016, I am very gratefully completing year four and stepping out into my fifth year as a full-time consultant. It’s been quite a ride, and promises to continue to be a remarkable mix of challenges and rewards. Four years have taught me a lot, and yes, I’m still here because I am resolute, gritty and gutsy when necessary. But I also care a great deal about the people I serve. I believe in them. I support them when they just need to be reminded of how far they’ve come. I tell them the truth when they need a reality check. I work beside them, listen carefully and stay flexible to their changing needs. But above all, I never forget THEY are the reason I am still standing when so many other businesses are not. Knowing each of them has been a unique and  gratifying milestone along my own path as an entrepreneur!

Therefore, I am dedicating YEAR FIVE to independent businesses in the locations I am fortunate to serve in Virginia, and now Florida. Watch for more case studies and stories of real people running real businesses in a series called Uniquely Local. I hope that just as I’ve discovered a wealth of wonderful people on my entrepreneurial journey, you too will be reminded of all the dedicated, determined and courageous independent business owners there are in your community!

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