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Get the Most out of Small Business Saturdays (SBS)

By Paul Fitzgerald for America's Backbone Weekly

Small Business Saturday (SBS) is coming soon (November 26), and if you are a small business owner, you will want to be ready for it. If you haven't heard of it yet, Small Business Saturday is the small business owners' answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year, it is a day when Americans are encouraged to take advantage of local shopping opportunities at small, brick-and-mortar stores. SBS is designed to help small businesses flourish. It gives customers an opportunity to find unique deals and shopping opportunities while keeping money in their local economies.

According to the 2014 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent at small businesses in America on SBS that year. In 2015, the survey revealed that 95 million people went shopping at small businesses on SBS. If you're the owner of a small retail business, you don't want to miss out on a great opportunity to draw in business and connect with customers during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year. Here are the best online resources you can harness to make the most out SBS in 2016.

SBS Origins/Foundations

American Express founded SBS in 2010, so it's no surprise that the financial service giant is a major force in promoting the annual shopping trend. They have a website dedicated to the holiday which is filled with information on SBS, including historical background and a plethora of tips and marketing resources. The resources include a free, downloadable package of marketing materials, such as social media profile photos, website badges, email templates, posters, flyers and more. There are also articles that offer advice on marketing, using social media, event planning and more. Finally, you can register your business so that it will appear on the American Express Small Business Map. The site is a must for anyone who is new to the SBS trend.

Your Website

Your website is a key component of your business at any time of year, and SBS is no exception. Make sure to update your site with specific SBS offers, promotions or in-store events. This is also a great opportunity to reevaluate your website if you haven't done so in a while. Make sure the site is fully functional and fast. Mobile friendliness can't be emphasized enough. According to Google research, 72% of consumers expect mobile friendly sites. If your site isn't mobile friendly you may alienate customers.

Social Media

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram provide great platforms for engaging with customers and your community. They provide a platform for your customers to talk about your business and an opportunity for you to interact with them directly. Not only can you answer questions about your business and its products, you can pose questions or polls for your customers which can give you a good idea of what types of products and deals they're hoping to see on SBS. In addition, social media sites are great places to promote specific SBS offers and events. They're also ideal for posting content. American's care about the economic success and well-being of their communities and by posting content on topics like the Shop Local and Shop Small movements, your followers will feel more strongly about supporting you. Personal stories about yourself and your business can also help your followers get to know you on a more personal level.

It is important to take advantage of differing media formats. For instance, if you're telling a story you can do so in a blog (for people who like text), a video and in pictures (using captions). It's also important that you know what the strengths of each social media platform are. Where Facebook might be great for longer posts (such as blogs) and videos, Instagram is best used by posting pictures with brief captions, so it's a great place for posting ads. It's advisable to take advantage of all the major social media platforms in order to reach the widest user-base.

Making the Most of it

The weekend following Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year. Thanks to SBS, small businesses can now take advantage of the same kind of enthusiasm that's been driving Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To do so, small businesses are advised to create in-store offers and events that will create memorable shopping experiences for their customers. Online resources, such as social media and a strong web presence, can help make sure your business gets the attention it deserves on November 26.

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