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'Marketing Happy Hour' Podcast Hosts Share the Best Way to Connect With Consumers: 'Think of Social Media Like a First Date' Brand marketing experts and hosts of the Marketing Happy Hour podcast share tips on how to launch, grow, and make the most out of your small business's online presence.

By Emily Washcovick

Key Takeaways

  • Customers often use social media as a search engine to get to know businesses. Alongside advertising your products, take time to share who you are as a brand.
  • Reviews are a great way to get feedback on your products or business model. Stay open to implementing feedback, especially if you hear the same comments from multiple customers.
  • Before saying yes to new opportunities, make sure they align with your business goals. Taking on too much can lead to burnout.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Marketing Happy Hour

Navigating marketing for your small business while staying on top of day-to-day operations can be overwhelming. Luckily, Erica Spitzley and Cassie Tucker, hosts of the Marketing Happy Hour podcast, are here to help. Every week, the pair speaks to a new figure in the marketing world about strategies and techniques businesses can use to optimize their brands.

In an increasingly digital world, one of the biggest obstacles business owners face is knowing how and when to post on social media. Feeling like they don't know enough to manage an account—and worrying about doing something wrong—can lead some small business owners to neglect their profiles altogether. Listen to the Behind the Review episode below to hear directly from Cassie and Erica.

All it takes to find social media success is a solid strategy, Cassie said. Research your competitors to figure out what makes you unique so you can effectively communicate why someone should visit your business over the business down the road. Figure out what kinds of consumers you want to target and what their interests and preferred platforms are. The goal of social media is to share who you are and build community with customers, especially in an age when people are using apps as search engines to research products and brands.

Related: 7 Marketing Strategies You Need to Succeed

"I like to think of [a social media profile] as your first date with a consumer," Erica said. "Would you go on a first date and assume that person already knows everything about you and they are ready for marriage? No, you're going to take your time to really share the things about yourself that will help the other person get to know who you are and who you're serving."

One way to build an authentic online presence is to use influencers and user-generated content (UGC) to showcase your products or services. Erica recommends sending your products or offering your services to consumers to encourage this kind of content, whether that person is a specific content creator who fits within your niche or a social media user who is already talking about your business online.

"[Influencer marketing] is just another way to inspire a community that's not necessarily [about] spending thousands of dollars on these huge influencers that you see everywhere promoting huge brands. Partnerships that are individualized, creative, and community-focused are a really great place to start," Erica said.

Related: How to Create a Successful Marketing Plan in 5 Steps

A concern many business owners have when it comes to investing time and money into their online presence is that followers and likes won't translate into real visits and purchases. Not every post is going to lead to a purchase when you use social media to tell your brand's story. But when advertising a specific promotion, Cassie suggested posting exclusive coupon codes customers can access via a specific link or by mentioning the promotion when they visit your store in person. This tactic can help business owners measure the concrete success of their social media efforts.

Another key part of using social media is reviewing and engaging with customer feedback. While it can be hard to change your habits, Cassie urged small business owners to use reviews and online comments to think about how they can optimize their businesses, especially if it's a suggestion that's been brought up several times.

One way to prepare for feedback, Erica said, is to anticipate questions and comments customers might have and build out templates of responses to pull from. By curating parts of your responses ahead of time, you can get back to a customer quickly while staying true to your brand's voice. Erica also urged business owners to ask for more details when they receive feedback.

"Any time someone reaches out to us to talk about Marketing Happy Hour or say that they loved a certain episode, I am always asking them: 'I'd love to learn more about what specifically you loved. Are there any topics you want to hear from us in the future?' There's nothing better than feedback from people who are actually using your product or coming into your shop."

Brick-and-mortar businesses have a unique opportunity to intercept critical reviews or comments by addressing concerns in the moment. Businesses that connect face-to-face with their customers should establish processes to make sure a manager gets the chance to speak with any unhappy customers before they leave the building.

Despite the range of tactics and strategies available to make marketing easier on small businesses, juggling several projects at once can take a toll. Erica and Cassie urge business owners to prioritize initiatives and take time for themselves to avoid the burnout that so often comes with entrepreneurship. Set boundaries for your work day and make sure new projects align with your goals and schedule before pursuing them.

"As corporate professionals and business owners, we get into this hustle mode. We never take a day off, and it ends up really ruining us in the end," Cassie said.

In addition to the power of strategy and communication plans, Cassie and Erica believe in:

  • Using social media to tell a strategic story about your business. Before developing content, figure out your target audience, your competitive advantage, and what kinds of posts will help you achieve your marketing goals.
  • Engaging with customer comments. Use feedback to improve your business operations and develop responses to frequently asked questions ahead of time to make sure your answers are both thoughtful and timely.
  • Using tools like social media-exclusive coupon codes. Developing unique links and codes can help you measure how many of your purchases are a direct result of your digital marketing efforts.

Subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday. Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora and Soundcloud.

Editorial contributions by Callie Morgan and Kristi Lindahl

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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