When it comes to helping out small businesses, cash is king. The best way to make sure your local mom-and-pop bookstore or coffee shop stays in business is by shopping there as possible.
But for those of us on a budget, extravagant spending sprees aren’t always an option. So let’s take a look at some budget-friendly strategies to support your favorite small businesses.
Write Positive Reviews
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of my favorite local restaurants requested that customers leave positive reviews on Google and Yelp. Several people had recently left negative reviews, complaining about the restaurant’s mask policy. These negative reviews were dragging down their rating average.
I went online, left a five-star review and noticed that several other people had also left positive reviews. Pretty soon, their average rating was higher than it had ever been. Posting positive reviews can have huge implications for a small business to attract more visitors, especially if they’ve just opened.
If you want to support your favorite businesses without dropping massive amounts of cash, leave a review on Google, Yelp, Facebook and TripAdvisor. If you’re reviewing a restaurant, you can also go to delivery apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and PostMates to leave a review there as well.
Search for the business on Google and see where they’re listed, then post a review on as many of those platforms as possible. For example, if you bought a pair of earrings from a local maker at a craft fair, find their Etsy site and leave a review.
Make sure to be descriptive and post pictures if possible. Encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to also leave reviews. In a time when many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, a few positive reviews can make a huge difference.
Share on Social Media
When you buy something from a small business, one of the best things you can do is to post a photo of the item and tag them on social media. This strategy may encourage your followers to check out the small business, follow them and even buy something.
You can try this out even if it’s been weeks or months since you purchased something. For example, if you bought a novel at your local bookstore, post a picture of you with a caption like, “Just finished this amazing book. Thanks to My Local Bookstore for always having my favorite authors in stock!”
Sometimes a business will even offer you a special coupon if you tag them, so it can help you save money on your next purchase. Not every business will offer a discount so don’t expect a special reward, but every once and awhile you may get a nice surprise or thank you from the business.
Interact with Their Social Media
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram don’t show posts in a linear order. They only show them based on relevancy. If Instagram thinks you won’t like a post, they may not show it to you.
Unfortunately, social media algorithms can make it hard for small businesses, especially new ones, to gain new followers. It’s much harder for them to successfully advertise if potential customers don’t see their posts.
One of the best ways to help a small business for free is to interact with them on social media. Regularly engaging with a business will show the social media algorithms that their posts deserve to be shown to more people.
You can engage by following the account, liking their posts, leaving a comment, tagging friends, watching their videos and more. Find out which social channels your favorite business uses and follow them on all of those sites.
Mention this strategy to others, because the more people that engage, the more traffic will be driven to their posts.
Answer Google Review Questions
If you ever look at Google Reviews, you may see questions from users about local businesses. If you know the answer, you can respond to the question and help drive more customers to that business. For example, if someone asks if a restaurant offers vegan entrees, you can respond if you know the answer.
Replying to these questions may seem trivial, but it spreads more information about the business and makes hesitant customers more likely to give them a try. At the very least, it can prevent the kind of unnecessary confusion that ultimately leads to a negative review.
Buy Gift Certificates
If you want to support small businesses but don’t need anything from them right now, you can buy a gift card to use later on. Before doing this, make sure their gift certificates don’t have a strict expiration date.
If you’re shopping for a friend’s bridal shower, birthday or baby shower, consider getting them a gift certificate to a small business. With the holidays coming up, you can even implement this strategy with your loved ones. They may actually appreciate the chance to pick out their own gift.
One of the best ways to help a small business is to volunteer your time. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could ask if they have design needs. Make it clear you don’t expect to be paid for your work, though they may offer you a gift card or store credit in exchange.
Sometimes you don’t even need to have special skills. Recently, a local record store needed help moving boxes from its basement to a storage unit. Anyone could come and help, and it was a free way to support the business.
What are your favorite ways to support small businesses? Let us know below in the comments!
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A former reporter, she has covered murder trials, the Final Four and everything in between. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. Read about how she paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years at Conscious Coins.