By Matt de Simone
While many small businesses nationwide continue to struggle, it’s good to know that some of Botetourt County’s continue to prosper.
The Botetourt Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Surviving and Thriving” social media seminar on February 9, focusing on how local business stayed afloat and exceeded expectations during the onset of the 2020 pandemic.
Botetourt Chamber of Commerce board member Lois James welcomed four guest speakers to discuss the ways social media allowed the local businesses to survive the 2020 pandemic. James served as the representative for the Business Education Committee.
The speakers included Brandon Linthicum (manager at Tizzone Wood-Fired Kitchen and Wine Bar in Daleville), Mary Ann Miller (Bank of Botetourt’s Social Media Coordinator), Nick Morgan (2019 Gauntlet winner), and Matt Sams (Director of Strategy at Firefli in Roanoke).
Morgan is the president of Formable Grabber – a company that manufactures auto-unlocking tools. He took the company’s presence away from trade shows and into producing unlocking videos on Instagram and TikTok using his company’s patent-pending “grabbers.”
From there, Morgan sought out different businesses and individuals that needed his products. He contacted those interested and offered his products and an affordable solution. Morgan found ways to sell his products through social media and give consumers a first look at his offering.
He also has a business that bakes cinnamon rolls. Morgan found social media platforms that sell cinnamon rolls, but not tools, and vice versa. He noted that remaining interactive with towing companies and other businesses gives him a chance to offer an immediate solution.
Miller took to focusing on Bank of Botetourt and the people of the Botetourt community. “Obviously, we had to utilize our social media platforms to inform people of our operations because they were changing daily,” Miller explained. “Our platforms changed from the excitement of community events to trying to rally around the business, our community, and our people.”
Bank of Botetourt took to utilizing its Facebook page due to its presence and amount of followers. It also used the Instagram page for a more light-hearted and playful approach to delivering any new information. The bank’s LinkedIn page was its way to keep the members informed on more of the bank’s logistical sides throughout the early stages of the pandemic. Miller also mentioned the bank’s YouTube presence, where it posted commercials and other video content forms to keep the members engaged in the bank’s activities.
Tizzone also utilized the social media “trinity” of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay in touch with the community. “Before COVID, we used our social media to advertise upcoming events and specials,” Linthicum said. “Once COVID hit, all of a sudden, we couldn’t have those anymore. We had to change a lot of our focus. It was no longer about events. It was about our hours, operations, and what the new regulations were because restaurant regulations were changing by the week.”
Linthicum helped transition Tizzone to communicate directly through social media with guests to keep them informed on the constant changes.
All three speakers mentioned that while their target markets haven’t changed, each business had to pivot models of engagement to connect with their target audiences directly. No longer were they able to speak with their customers in-person.
Bank of Botetourt offered customers T-shirts to pick up and then display on social media. Tizzone shifted its traditional wine dinners to “seltzer dinners” geared toward younger customers with help from employees who took social media advertising the events. Formable Grabber took apart a car so it could easily demonstrate how to use the products.
Director of Strategy at Firefli Matt Sams specializes in digital marketing and market services for businesses who want to further their social media and digital presence.
Sams provided a PowerPoint presentation that focuses on content marketing—in other words, the art of storytelling to get out a business’ message. He talked about the “ecosystem” involved in social media marketing. Sams explained the importance of bringing attention to the company and the new content to launch.
He mentioned the importance of scheduling the content posted to social media pages at optimal times when the platform receives the most traffic. Sams and his company realized that there isn’t a playbook to market anything over social media during a pandemic. Every situation is unique in its way, and that it’s tough for business owners working remotely with young children to avoid a “circus.” Sams lastly explained some of the routes his marketing company traversed the ever-changing waters of the 2020 pandemic.
The seminar ended with viewers offering specific questions related to the guest speakers and their respective businesses. For more information on what information the Botetourt Chamber of Commerce can provide local business owners, visit the Chamber website at botetourtchamber.com.