As I traveled down south to visit my family in Southwest Florida, I decided it was a great opportunity to do some action research for the Digital Pixie, my question.  How are current businesses that service “PEOPLE” promoting their use of social media? My goal was to search for examples of “follow us on Twitter @xxxxx” or “Become a fan on Facebook and receive XXX ” or, “want to know what’s going on locally?  Search #place on Twitter”

As I traveled through airports, outlet malls, restaurants, beaches, nature museums, and excursion rentals I looked and looked and looked.  Nothing, zilch, zero, I couldn’t believe after six days in a place that thrives on tourism as an industry there wasn’t one morsel of advertising to engage with business owners online.

I decided that maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right places, so I turned to virtual searches, using my mobile phones app Tweetdeck, searching my location #Sanibel.  I actually found a few posts, one from a person who writes a blog about Shelling, and few others from tourists highlighting what they were doing in the area.

Reflecting on this, I was honestly a little discouraged, I mean here is one of the most beautiful places to visit, and there was a clear disconnect from the Small Business owner to the inclusion and promotion of their product using Social Media.  In the meantime young, educated, wealthy families were visiting looking for things to do, and place to visit and spend their money.

Finally on my second to last day we went to one of my favorite restaurants on the island,The Lighthouse Café and there it was … 20 relaxing on the deck waiting for a table.  Next to the door a large Menu was perched with a sign listing their specials for the day. At the bottom of the sign, a torn sheet of paper with a sign that said “Join us on facebook”

Lighthouse Cafe

Eureka !! What I had looked for all week!  It wasn’t much, but it was certainly a start.  At the end of my meal, I went up to the owner and let him know he won my award for the first business highlighting and promoting social networking.  Excited the owner Michael Billheimer handed me his card.  I explained to him my purpose was to highlight local businesses using social media and he shared with me, “I don’t know much about it, my Daughter it set it up!”  There is no doubt, while it was an understated presence; he was on the right track, acceptance, action, and implementation.

I planned to write about him when I got home, but my first step would be a quick visit to Facebook, to post my pictures from the restaurant and to “LIKE” Michael Billheimer’s Facebook page.  The bad news, I had difficulty finding him, the good news, he gave me his card and I was able to email him.  He emailed back quickly letting me know they amended his sign to state:

“Join Us On Facebook at Lighthouse Cafe Sanibel”

Finally Success !!

So what is it that I took away from this experience?  Here it is

  1. We talk a lot about social networking in the media, but there is a huge digital divide for smaller business owners. It could be perception, accessibility, time, understanding or all the above, but there is certainly a need for support.
  2. People who use social networking like to post their experiences, many use mobile tools, so remind and encourage them with a visual sign.
  3. You don’t have to be a restaurant or bar to have a FB page; there are so many other things that people love to share with their friends, a new addition to the house, a place they’ve visited, a person that has helped them move their dream forward.
  4. It’s more important for SMALL BUSINESS to understand social networking and have a presence than the LARGE GIANT CHAINS, especially in social networking circles, encourage consumers to “Celebrate Local Business Owners by becoming a FAN on Facebook”
  5. Make the interaction worth the while of a user, or ask your fans questions to share cool company or even personal insights.  Give them a reason to communicate as part of your community.
  6. Post information regularly, I schedule 2 – 3 posts per week and if something comes up that I want to fill in the blank, I put it out there.  Find your balance of interaction.
  7. Believe that people are interested and highlight behind the scenes, the process, it’s a great way to build a sense of community and ownership.
  8. Interact and support other local businesses and encourage other business owners to take advantage to do the same, become and grow your own network.  Collaborate and publicize an event ENCOURAGE ENGAGEMENT
  9. Advertise your social presence; be specific about what or how people can be a part of your community.
  10. Call someone to help you gain a better understanding of Social Networking and how to use it, most people start out by “what they know” “researching” or “my kid put it together for me” Call a professional and ask “I have put together my social networking presence, but I am thinking of hiring someone to help me understand how to use and manage it better what would be your recommendations?”  I am happy to give up a ½ hour of my time for free to brainstorm with anyone who is looking to grow.  585.317.6465, or schedule a skype session with kaaren.thompson
Just a note about the Lighthouse Cafe of Sanibel, if you are ever in the Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva Island area don’t miss out on one of the best breakfasts you will ever have!!
The sign below is NOT FALSE AVERTISING,it really is the WORLD’s BEST BREAKFAST !
Thanks Michael for letting me feature you on my blog at THE Digital Pixie !
Lighthouse Cafe of Sanibel
The Lighthouse Cafe inside