This past Friday afternoon, I, along with a few roommates and friends, loaded a car with all the necessities for a fun weekend away. We were excited for some Comm-Ave bus exhaust-free air in our lungs, a clear sky full of stars over our heads, and vibrant gold, red, and orange leaves speckling our views throughout Vermont’s Green Mountains.
After a long week of midterms, we were psyched to commence the trip. We just had to get there…we kicked off the 3-hour drive around 6 pm. Read on for a timeline of our trip from Chestnut Hill, MA to Manchester, VT. During this trip, I automatically identified the moments during which social media successfully drove or failed to drive business or social interactions. Needless to say, this class has successfully ingrained itself into my sub consciousness.
6:10 pm: The two-car caravan departs for the Chestnut Hill mall to grab dinner for the road and snacks for the weekend. While en route, Meagan pulls up the Sweetgreen menu on her phone to view the seasonal fall salads. Meagan purchased the Curry Cauliflower salad. Social Media Success
6:28 pm: It has been a beautiful fall day. The sun is setting perfectly over the trees. Brooke captures it on Snapchat, utilizing the “mph” and locational filter feature to share with her Snapchat friends this picturesque moment. Social Media Success
7:25 pm: Matt complains when my Spotify playlist plays an advertisement. Against the advertisement’s message to purchase Spotify as a student, I relinquish my musical control in the name of saving $4.99/month. Social Media Failure
7:44 pm: We realize we forgot to fill the car’s tank with gas. Meagan checks Google maps for the nearest gas station.
7:53 pm: Katie fills the car tank with gas. Social Media Success
8:20 pm: Brooke mentions she is craving ice cream. Everyone agrees, but we decide to continue driving until we reach Brattleboro, VT a larger town on the way to Manchester. Brooke begins to look up ice cream places close to Brattleboro, but finds none. Social Media Failure
8:54 pm: We pause at a stoplight in Brattleboro. Matt’s window is down. A local Brattleborean says hello from the street corner. Spontaneously, Matt asks her if she knows of any great ice cream places in town. She directs us to the best and only ice cream place in town. (I promise this actually happened. VT friendliness rivals Midwest charm). Does human interaction trump social media? Inconclusive.
9:01 pm: We pull up to “Blueberry Haus” – Brattleboro’s old-fashioned ice cream and blueberry gift shop. Collectively, we read the store’s hours and are saddened that they closed 1 minute ago. Had Blueberry Haus effectively utilized the opportunity to improve its local ranking on Google maps (see formal explanation here) or created any accounts on social media, we would not have stopped to chat with the nice woman from Brattleboro. Instead, we would have enjoyed a cone of the Brownie-Brattleboro-Buttercup ice cream so kindly advertised in the window. Social Media Failure
9:16 pm: We drive past a McDonalds.
9:17 pm: Meagan exclaims that McDonalds is now serving Pumpkin Spice Lattes after swiftly checking McDonalds’ Instagram. No one wants a PSL, but we decide McFlurrys are our next best ice cream option. Social Media Success
9:38 pm: We arrive to Scott’s cabin and are excited for the weekend ahead.
This eventful car ride instigated a weekend of critiquing whether or not the small businesses of Vermont were effectively utilizing the opportunities social media provides to drive business. After much reflection, I have summed up my thoughts into three key messages.
- Big Businesses Do It Real Big Never Do It Tiny
“Big businesses” have teams dedicated solely to marketing. From investing in inbound marketing to outbound marketing from big data collecting and organizing to personalized customer interactions, large businesses have the resources necessary to market themselves successfully. While small businesses like Blue Haus may not have equal supply of resources (i.e. time, talent, and money) as McDonalds, they have one significant advantage over large corporations and chains. This brings me to my next point….
- Local is Lucrative
There is a general trend in consumer behavior to prefer local products and brands over large, established brands. The Millennial generation, in particular, is motivated by causes that will have a positive social or environmental impact. Don’t believe me? Check out this article. Though small, local businesses may not have the same level of resources as global or national big businesses, the positive consumer perception they create just from the digits in their billing address zip code validates the premium pricing on their products – regardless of whether or not the products are, in fact, superior. Case in point: We spent a few hours poking around the town. I shelled out $14 for a soft cover book mainly because I fell in love with Northshire Bookstore , not because it appeared to be a particularly enthralling read. I would never pay that much online at Amazon or even in store at a Barnes and Noble or Borders bookstore. Local is lucrative.
- It’s Fo’ Free
Though the resources from small businesses like Northshire bookstore or Blueberry Haus ice cream shop are meager in comparison to big corporations like McDonalds or Amazon, they can do a lot to increase business without spending a penny. From the few small businesses I visited, the Spiral Press Cafe not only made a phenomenal Campfire Latte, but it had the most developed online presence.
With some attention, it could develop a social media campaign through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, with the potential to attract new customers and drive business. Though one can argue that these businesses are upholding the small town feel of Manchester, VT. While it is true that its inhabitants may generally seek a more slow paced, natural, and peaceful way of life known to Manchester, majority are still digital consumers with online social presences. Furthermore, tourists visiting Manchester may crave this culture; however, the search for restaurants and things to do in a new city occurs primarily online. To address and connect with all consumer bases, small businesses cannot rely solely on word of mouth marketing. Rather, they must develop and sustain presences on the key social media platforms.