How to support small businesses without spending a dime

Imagine Old Town Bluffton without the Corner Perk, The Cottage, The Society of Bluffton Artists gallery or the Barbers of the Lowcountry? What would Hilton Head Island be without the Coastal Discovery Museum, the hodge podge of shops that dot Coligny Beach or the boutiques like The Back Door in The Shops at Sea Pines Center? How would Savannah look without The Pirate House restaurant (the oldest business in Georgia since 1753) or the delicious free samples from River Sweet Treats?

Amazon and Wal-Mart provide convenience for today’s consumers. However, mom-and-pop shops define a community’s identity and culture. They play an important part in city, county and state economies. They are often family-owned businesses run by our neighbors and friends who are truly invested in the community because they live there.

Here are a few ways to support small businesses without spending a dime.

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Follow local businesses on social media

The more followers or fans a local business has on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or any number of other social media outlets, the stronger their exposure becomes. Truthfully, engagement often proves more impactful than follower count. For the small business owner, however, every time they receive a new fan or follower, they are given some peace of mind that the community still supports them.

Like, comment share social media posts

Social media algorithms change with the wind, often making it more challenging for local brands to stay at the top of news feeds for more organic exposure. The more likes (❤️ and 😮 are even better), comments and shares a social media post has, the more the post will show up in other people’s news feeds. It doesn’t take much to make a true impact. Show some love with a quick emoji. Tag your friend in a Facebook comment if the local business is featuring a product or service you think they would like.

Subscribe to their newsletter

If a local business has an e-newsletter subscription form on their website, subscribe to it! If you’re tired of commercial e-mails flooding your inbox, open a separate e-mail to subscribe to e-newsletters. Then, sift through these e-newsletters at your leisure. It’s common practice for small business owners to offer discounts solely for their e-mail subscribers. Pass on the e-mail to your friends and family. You never know who might need the small business’ services or products.

Blog about the business!

Love to blog? Consider featuring a small business as your next post. Dress it up with photos and don’t forget to link back to the business’ website. Links from other websites are great for the local brands’ Search Engine Optimization — by increasing their Search Engine Rankings. Go a step further and share your blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter and tag the small business. The local business can help promote your blog by sharing it on their social media and including it in their e-newsletter. User-generated content is marketing gold for business owners, because there is no greater exposure for a business than word-of-mouth.

Don’t ask for free stuff

If your master bathroom suddenly springs a leak and you know that your next door neighbor owns a plumbing company, don’t ask them to fix it for free (and don’t expect it for free). If you know someone who is running a consultative-type of business, don’t ask them, “Can I pick your brain?” These small business owners aren’t running a charity. Their businesses are how they feed their families and pay their mortgages.

It’s not difficult to support local businesses without spending any money. They need your online and offline recommendations to others. This word of mouth marketing is something that no amount of advertising can buy.

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