Online business helps small Williamsburg businesses thrive against bigger competition

The Virginia Gazette


November 20, 2013

Steve Vaughn

WILLIAMSBURG — Some local businesses have found that an active social media presence makes for good business. And it's not just the big boys, like Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens, that can benefit.

. . . La Tienda, which sells exotic imported food, does most of its business online. So, it's not surprising the business puts a special emphasis on social media. They have nearly 12,000 Facebook "likes" and are also active on Twitter, Pinterest and Flickr.

Laurie Hager, who handles social media for La Tienda, said the company's philosophy on social media has been to concentrate less on revenue and more on building relationships.

"Focus on community building and creating a real sense of relationship with each interaction," she wrote in an e-mail. "We always like comments made by others, and we always respond to questions and inquiries.

"If there is ever a negative comment made about La Tienda, we would never hide it," Hager continued. "It's an opportunity for us to grow a relationship. It's important for people to see that when we respond, we do so with grace, courtesy and a can-do/will-fix attitude."

Social media can be time-consuming.

"Be prepared to respond to any and all posts and in a 'real-time' way with respect, warmth and kindness. This means a commitment to manning the Facebook page at least hourly throughout the day and on weekends," Hager wrote. "Fans are regularly astonished by our personal replies, engagement, and rapid assistance. There is a perception out there that many Facebook pages are simply automatically posting and no one is actively monitoring. We are striving to set a new standard."

It's also important to focus on the topics that your social media fans are interested in, she said.

"Keep posts relevant - we see the most responses to posts that are nostalgic for the culture and cuisine Spain, with beautiful visual content or helpful advice. Additionally, we've made a policy decision to hardly ever post about sales or promos on Facebook," she said."It can come across as tone-deaf and insensitive, especially when your mission is to build a relationship with the public."

. . . "Social media is a way to connect and engage, and it's an absolute joy for us to watch it continue to blossom," Hager said.