In response to lockdowns and other pandemic-related disruptions in the north country, social media has proven to be the most effective means of preserving community engagement with local businesses. It allows for customers to know when businesses are open, what services are being offered, and more. Overall, the social media platforms of Facebook and Instagram have been the favored methods of engagement, with businesses posting photos of available products and even encouraging customers and followers to vote on their favorites.
Kevin Hoover and his wife, April Walley, opened the Downtown Local Lounge just off Public Square in Watertown in March 2017, offering a variety of New York wines, craft beers and cider, cheeses, desserts and more. Four years ago, not many people knew the business existed until social media and word of mouth changed that.
When the wine bar was able to safely reopen after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it offered pickup and to-go orders, along with curbside pickup for those uncomfortable entering the business.
Utilizing both Facebook and Instagram, as well as being registered through Google, Kevin said he posts to the business’s pages most days, as his wife isn’t much of a social media person. They try to post every day if they aren’t too busy.
“I just know that we were able to survive and stay open,” he said of utilizing social media. “Facebook was our big one, Facebook and Instagram, through the whole pandemic. And we actually had a lot of people checking us out on Google. I’d get emails and messages, every once in a while, saying congratulations you’ve had three thousand something views this month.”
At the State St. Market in Watertown, owner Patricia Johnson said closing amid the pandemic was devastating at first. In its third year of business, there are over 70 vendors that rent space in the market, and it’s open seven days a week.
Since the market was able to get back up and running again, Patricia said the business has been doing really well. One of the reasons Patricia opened the market was to improve the community experience and she is always looking to give back. The market has done giveaways around Christmas, and during the pandemic. When it became apparent that some goods wouldn’t last while they were closed, like plants and food items, Patricia gathered all the products, bought them from the vendors, and gave them away to the community.
At 62 years of age, Patricia said she didn’t grow up with Facebook, but has learned to utilize it for her business.
“It’s been a huge integral part of our business here,” she said. “Every evening before I close, I take seventy to eighty photos of all the new things that are in the market, and I put them on my social media sites and my customers say they look forward to seeing what’s new all the time. It really is helpful.”
When the market first reopened it offered curbside service and Patricia purchased a van with the idea to be able to get more product out to people who still weren’t really leaving their homes at the time. Customers were able to look at the photos posted of available products and then they could either pick them up or have them delivered. This is an option at the market regardless of a pandemic.
“We kept people informed through technology; it was a tool to let people know when we were open, how long we were open, what we were offering during the time we were open, what the vendors were offering,” Patricia said. “That’s another important component that this is a co-op, a multi-vendor store. Without the vendor cooperation and everybody really being a team, this may not have turned out as well as it did. I have a great team of people that rent space in my market and that really contributed to the ultimate success of us moving on and forward.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut businesses across the nation and world, Eternity Bridal owner Jackie Green thought the closure would only last for a few weeks, and was planning to enjoy a two-week vacation she’d never had before. It soon became apparent that the closure would last much longer than two weeks, so the business utilized social media to keep customers engaged while its doors remained closed.
“We panicked a little bit, but one thing that we did was we made sure that we kept people engaged on social media and we kept our advertising going so that way people didn’t forget about us during that time period,” Jackie said of the COVID closure. “And we took the chance and we just kept ordering new dresses so that way when we did reopen, we just continued business as usual.”
During this time, some staff even did a fashion show of new dresses that Eternity Bridal posted to both Facebook and Instagram. The business also posted every day of the pandemic, posting two dresses to have followers vote on their favorites. There has even been talk of setting up a TikTok for the business, but that hasn’t happened quite yet.
With locations in both Potsdam and Plattsburgh, Eternity Bridal is owned by Jackie and her business partner, and the Potsdam shop is run by Jackie’s daughter, store manager Delaney Dow. The shop opened in July 2015.
“I just think as a small business, it’s important to use social media to let people know what you have and what you can offer,” Jackie said. “I’m very appreciative every single day for the people that have shopped local; we’ve worked really hard to have really good quality options in the north country and people have proved that they like shopping with us.”