Small business owners learn about social media, marketing at Dowagiac event

Published 8:56 am Thursday, January 23, 2020

DOWAGIAC — Small business owners shared a meal, laughs and group discussion during a lesson on social media trends for small businesses in 2020.

At the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch and Learn event hosted Wednesday, guest speaker Laura Odenwald, who owns Odenwald Strategies, LLC, spoke to a crowd of business owners. Odenwald’s business provides public relations consulting for nonprofits and small businesses in southwest Michigan.

Odenwald started her business in April 2018 after experience in public relations and communications in various industry sectors. She earned a bachelor’s in mass communication from Louisiana State University in 2010 and a certificate of web design from LSU Continuing Education in 2016. She also earned her accreditation in public relations in 2018.

Business owners from all over Dowagiac took an hour out of their schedules to learn about current social media trends and ask marketing questions.

Odenwald began the discussion by detailing a list of the top 10 trends including placing less emphasis on vanity metrics and the removal of “like” buttons.

“I don’t see metrics going away, but some of the social media platforms, like Instagram, are trying to move away from likes,” she said. “They are trying to encourage more conversation and getting people to comment.”

Last year, Instagram’s CEO Adam Mosseri announced the photo sharing app would test removing the likes from posts.

Secondly, Odenwald predicted video content will continue to dominate social media in 2020, despite its somewhat intimidating atmosphere. She encouraged business owners to find ways to give their followers behind the scenes looks or to share video content from sales. These interactions can make customers feel like they are a part of a team, she said.

Social media trends have also predicted an expansion of shopping through social media platforms or online. With this trend, Odenwald said as younger generations become consumers, they will begin to reach out to businesses with customer service questions and issues through private and personal interactions on messaging apps or groups. Odenwald said creating online groups for customers can also make people feel special.

“I think people are just starting to recognize more that our privacy is important, and they have to manage that,” she said. “I think people feel more comfortable sending a private message not just to their friends, but also to their favorite brands and companies.”

Another trend discussed was an increase of user-generated content, which Odenwald described as customers taking their own photos of products and then them being shared by the respective businesses.

While at LSU, Odenwald worked with user-generated content created through students and student organizations. She also worked on a hashtag campaign through the engineering college, which attracted students and alumni to share their stories.

Odenwald also touched on the importance of trust and authenticity in small business social media. Younger generations focus in on when something is fake, so when using influencers to promote brands or products in a business, transparency is important, she said.

“Having an authentic voice, not trying to be someone that you are not, and knowing your customers and what they like is good to keep in mind,” she said.

A question from the audience about attracting new clients allowed Odenwald to share her own personal experience with building her client base. 

“What worked best for me was word of mouth and just going out to events and networking,” Odenwald said.