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Build your community, build your brand

July 19, 2019

Five Michigan small businesses share social media starter insights

By Steve Trecha and Christina Davis

Reluctant to move your social media strategy ahead or even begin? You are not alone. With adults spending between two to four hours per day on social media, small business owners sense that it is time to further their social media presence. Social media is simply defined as websites and applications that enable users to create, share and participate in online content networking. As a beginner, the trick is to think about building a community versus selling. Take advantage of social media’s simplicities versus vexing on its complexities.

Below, we’ve complied tips and insights from five Michigan small businesses all focused on building their community to build their brand:

Launched by Christina Davis seventeen years ago, Autumn Moon LLC, in Haslett, designs, creates and sells custom fantasy jewelry. Davis’ collection of rings, bracelets, necklaces and headpieces are Renaissance festival favorites. “I started to use Facebook to promote and interact with my customers over ten years ago,” notes Davis.

Davis is a single person business. Social media, specifically Facebook, helped Davis grow her business and she now has over 45,000 worldwide followers. “Facebook is a necessity these days,” adds Davis. In addition to her public facing Facebook page, Davis has set up a private fans and collectors group page that has over 900 members. These are often repeat customers. The private group gets first dibs on new creations.

“I highly rely on social media. I can see the relationship between sales and my post engagement,” says Davis. She is continually trying new ways to increase her customer engagement, including post frequency, changing post times, cross promoting with other companies, placing a low-cost paid ad and using other social media channels. “I’m always trying to get a domino effect going,” says Davis. She also says, “Don’t give up. With an hour a day, a lot of sales can happen.”

“Your job as a business is to constantly stay in front of your customers,” says Lesha Mitchell, co-owner of Detroit Riot. Founded in 2016 with business partner Myka Watts, Detroit Riot is “an up and coming, vintage to modern thrift and retail store that pays homage to the Renaissance city” of Detroit. The business concept is based on visits to multiple international cities and thrift stores.

Targeting Detroit city Millennials and Gen Z’s, they have their eye on national expansion. “Time is our biggest struggle,” says Mitchell, as they both hold down other full-time jobs in addition to Detroit Riot.

To keep things moving forward, Mitchell takes photos and writes content on Sundays. These Sunday sessions feed a calendar post schedule. “Know your audience, use the right lingo and add hashtags to your key words. It will help draw in the right customers,” offers Mitchell.

As far as the preferred social media channel, “It’s your customers that determine which your company should use,” says Mitchell. “In our case it’s Instagram.”

“And don’t forget that you can learn a lot from younger people,” Mitchell adds. She always looks for social media insights and assistance from younger twenty-somethings. “They’re often more in tune, know more about the applications, the follower trends and how things work.”

It was the need for money while attending Western Michigan University that drove Fredrick Paul to launch The Heat Factory, a Detroit-based sneaker exchange. Putting his advertising and marketing education and passion for sneakers to work, Paul built a trusted intermediary for swapping, selling and buying slightly used athletic footwear. His business model is currently 100 percent online.

Paul believes that maintaining repeat customers is the key to success, with the greatest challenge being converting the first-time customer. “There’s a large trust factor when you’re buying and selling online,” says Paul. “We’re an appraisal or cash-out transaction business. We work to ensure customer confidence through continued, value-added social media presence. We’re building a trading community,”

Paul offers the following four tips to aid your social media journey:

Be persistent and consistent—post daily!

Mix it up—add pictures, videos and quotes.

Test what works best for you.

Ask “What am I here for?”—ensure your content supports your business.

Be ready to scale your business growth to match your community.

Paul suggests trying to understand the basics of social media and networking with others who use social media. “Detroit Riot was a big help to me,” says Paul. “We work to build a customer community and social media is a big part of it. Get out there and give it a shot.”

Margie and Bob Peterson bought Lovewell’s Corner Store six years ago. A total store renovation, renewed customer service and community focus (complimented by an impactful Facebook presence) has made this a Lupton treasure. Margie’s daughter, Jean, who was in high school at the time, thought they needed a Facebook page and got it up and running. And, they have been crushing it ever since. “I took the page over when Jean went off to college and I post every day,” says Peterson. “We’ve really seen the value in daily posts.”

With a mix of store news, local happenings and friendly messaging, Lovewell’s Facebook page has over 1,530 followers around the state. “Posting must be part of how you run your business,” says Peterson. “I literally spend less than 10 minutes a day on it. It’s automatic.” The largest challenges are the lack of reliable Internet service and the seasonality of Peterson’s business, with the area mainly being a summertime destination. The active Facebook page allows seasonal visitors to keep in touch in the off-season. “They are a big part of our community,” says Peterson.

In business for over 15 years, Warblers Cove is a 640-acre forested, campground located in Lupton. It began a focused social media journey 18 months ago, which has had a measurable effect on helping campers, new and old, to the campground, build a community and increase sales. Bailey Keeler and Erik Trecha serve as the social media strategists. They post updates to Facebook every five days.

“The posts are what people are seeing out their RV window,” notes Trecha. “We try to make the post as close to their camping experience here,” adds Keeler. “We know this is important to our campers as the shares and engagements dramatically increase during our camping season.”

Warblers’ also deploys a “tag-you’re-it” strategy. The team finds Warblers camper posts on other Facebook pages, seeks permission, then re-posts the pictures on the Warblers Cove Facebook page. “It dramatically increases sharing. Plus, people like to be recognized for contributing to the campground message. It’s practical and simple,” says Keeler. “Look at Lovewell’s Facebook page—they do a great job of being the first to share a bit of local news. It’s a “what we are” and “what we do” approach. It’s what a community seeks,” adds Trecha.

Your potential customers are bombarded everyday with sales ads and promotions. Social media can help convert customers to community. Creating a community will build your brand. Do this for your business’ social media success because success is the only option!

Christina Davis is a jewelry designer and artist who works out of her home studio in Haslett. Davis’ creations are reflections of nature and the fantasy realm of fairies, mermaids and dragons. Her creations are sold online, in local stores and at festivals. Learn more at or contact Christina on Facebook, Instagram or

Steve Trecha is the founder of Warblers Cove Family Campground and RV Resort. Check it out at and on Facebook. Steve is also the Chief Results Officer at Integrated Strategies Inc., a business transformation and value chain consultancy. Learn more at or visit him on LinkedIn or call 517.381-4800 x2190.

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