By Jordan Calderon
From fires to debris flows, small businesses in Santa Barbara have had to endure some very tough times, however, none of these times have compared to the current struggles they are facing right now due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Santa Barbara is a city full of sunny beaches, beautiful hikes, and a lively downtown area, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in California. According to Kathy Janega-Dykes, the President and CEO of Visit Santa Barbara, tourism typically makes up about $2 billion of Santa Barbara’s economy and accounts for the creation of around 13,500 jobs. Much of this revenue comes during the summer months.
With the coronavirus putting tourism at an all-time low, Santa Barbara has already seen a vast amount of layoffs and company closures. During this time it is the small businesses in Santa Barbara that are most vulnerable, and there is no telling how long it will take for these businesses to recover. Fortunately, there are a few digital marketing strategies that can be performed with limited to no budget that will significantly help small businesses in Santa Barbara yield impressive results in both the short and long run.
The first digital marketing strategy is to update or create a user-friendly website.
This is often overlooked by small businesses because they rely on their strong local presence to bring in customers. While in the past this may have worked, it will no longer be enough. Nearly all businesses in Santa Barbara have had to change certain operating procedures, and it is necessary for that information to reach customers. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to support a local business, but it is closed because the hours are different from what is stated online. There has been a strong push by the residents in Santa Barbara to support local businesses, but in order for that to be done, a business must reflect accurate information online. This is especially true for restaurants, wineries, and breweries, as restrictions for these industries are actively changing.
The next digital marketing strategy is to optimize social media.
People are constantly on social media, whether they are in line for coffee or just rolling out of bed. In fact, there are nearly 1.79 billion daily active users on Facebook, and 500 million daily active users on Instagram. This makes these social media platforms perfect to target both local and non-local customers.
The first step in optimizing social media is posting engaging content.
When you post content that is engaging, educational, and valuable, consumers will associate that content with your brand. This, in turn, helps your company build both brand awareness and brand loyalty. The Paddle Sports Center in Santa Barbara is a great example of how to best optimize your Instagram account. If you take a look at their page, you do not only see them advertise their rentals, camps, and tours, but you also see them advocate for social justice, the environment, and active lifestyles.
The second step in optimizing social media is interacting with customers.
This involves responding to comments, direct messages, and offering deals/discounts to good reviews. Doing this shows customers that you are a real place run by real people that generally want to provide their customers with the best service possible. Kyle’s Kitchen is a company that does especially well with responding to Instagram’s comments from their customers, and you can see the results of it in their follower count.
The last step in optimizing social media is executing target ad campaigns.
Despite popular belief, targeted ad campaigns do not have to be expensive. In fact, according to the New York Times, Facebook ads are at an all-time low. This makes right now a perfect time to test out social media ads. In order to be successful with social media advertising, use platforms like Facebook Business Manager. Facebook Business Manager is a free platform that provides many targeting options, especially on a localized level. For example, M.Special Brewing Company is located in the heart of Goleta, however, will soon be opening a location in downtown Santa Barbara. In this situation, it would be beneficial for M.Special to only target Santa Barbara residents about their grand opening because this new location is more likely to bring Santa Barbara residents compared to Goleta residents.
The third digital marketing strategy to perform during this time is digital public relations.
Santa Barbara is special in the fact that it is a small city that emphasizes the support of local businesses. Many local businesses appreciate this support and return the favor by giving back to the community. This is especially true right now. Participating in selfless acts of kindness that your company has done, or is planning to do, is great content to release in local media. Most local journalists, bloggers, and writers will be willing to post this content for free which will help your company gain exposure through high-quality backlinks, social media mentions, and improved Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Small businesses in Santa Barbara can not wait around for tourism to spike up again and for the local economy to go back to the way it was. Small businesses need to put their best foot forward during this time to ensure they stay up and running. Digital marketing can be a cost-effective solution that many of these companies need.