Social Media & Digital Marketing: Bringing business into the modern age

Jessica Piatt, director of marketing at the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, takes a photo of materials on her desk for the Chamber of Commerce’s Instagram story.

BY: Doug Buchanan
While tried and true methods of advertising and marketing, such as print media and television, continue to play an important role in most businesses’ marketing plans, there’s a new avenue available that is not only free, but promises to be the way of the future: harnessing social media.

                You don’t have to be a super savvy business owner to understand that if you’re not taking advantage of social media to promote your business, you’re missing out. A quick internet search for area restaurants, retail establishments or any other type of business reveals that just about every business has a Facebook page nowadays. But what about other social media applications, like Twitter and Instagram?

                Jessica Piatt, director of marketing for the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, says Instagram is an extremely effective medium for businesses to connect with current – and future – customers.

                “Instagram is the place to be for businesses due to the visual presence,” said Jessica. “Tourists use social media for a visual … to discover new things around them.”

                She said she particularly likes Instagram, even more than Facebook or Twitter, due to its ease of use, her own personal familiarity with the app, and recent changes to the app that have made it more business-friendly.

                “It’s important for businesses, no matter how small, to use it,” she said. “It’s free to use. And you’re making your mark and (making) personal connections.”

                Jessica readily admits that the idea of creating a social media presence can be a bit scary for some business owners.

                “It can be very daunting for somebody who’s not very familiar with it,” she said. “We’re here to help; the more businesses and (chamber) members we get onto social media, the better.”

                And if one social media account is good – two is even better. Some businesses, including the chamber of commerce itself, manage more than one Instagram account.

                “We have two Instagram accounts: the Greater Watertown Chamber of Commerce and the Watertown Farm and Craft Market,” Jessica explained. “Even though the farmers market is a program of ours, the target audiences are separate in many ways.”

                The same could be true of many businesses. Jessica cited the Watertown Urban Mission, which also manages two Instagram accounts: one for the mission itself and another for the thrift store it operates.

                Based on the customer a business wants to reach, a separate Instagram account can easily be created to directly target that group of potential customers. And Instagram pages are easy to peruse and full of great pictures and brief snippets of information – exactly what appeals to someone casually scanning the internet in search of something to do … or buy!

                Of course, for businesses willing to dedicate some of their marketing and advertising budgets to their internet presence, there are companies ready and willing to help. Julia Purcell, who runs Le Jit Productions, works to promote the best regional food and beverages through the website Like Jessica Piatt at the chamber of commerce, Julia and her company understand that internet users are keying on what they see, possibly even more than what they read. In fact, Julia’s production company’s catch phrase says it all: “Navigate the visual.” The design of her site is simple, yet elegant – and not too wordy.

                The concept of cultivating a social media presence isn’t just for avant-garde or up-and-coming businesses, either. The Eagle Shoppe on Riverside Drive in Clayton embraces the old and the new, online as well as IRL (internet-speak for in real life). The shop has been open for more than half a century and is still a family-owned enterprise specializing in “classics for a new generation,” as its Facebook page says.

                Tony and Stephanie Costantino took over the store when Tony’s mother, who had operated the shop for decades, could no longer manage the day-to-day operations.

                “My wife and I, who are both engaged full time at our respective careers, said, ‘OK, let’s see what we can do.’”

                Tony and Steph refurbished the store, adjusting its focus and outlook along the way. And they’ve taken full advantage of social media, in particular Facebook and Instagram, to do that.

                “There are certain themes that we thought made sense,” Tony explained. “We’ve been interested in a lot of the stuff that has made the area what it is: fishing, conservation issues.”

                The Costantino family’s love of the St. Lawrence River shows not just on their store shelves, but in other ways as well. The store is a sponsor of Save the River’s annual Run for the River 5K/10K event. And Save the River thanked the Eagle Shoppe on its own Facebook page, which could then be reposted by the store, getting word out about a great cause – and the support it’s receiving from the Costantinos.

                Whether it’s a new business or one that’s been a mainstay in a community for decades, social media sites help businesses strengthen and grow – through something even better than word of mouth: the World Wide Web.