HENSON: How a small business promotes itself

Last Saturday, I lunched at Ocmulgee Traders in downtown Macon, bringing with me several visiting friends from Atlanta. We locals are a proud bunch and like to show off the city. Ocmulgee Traders did not disappoint. The place was abuzz with happy, pre-holiday activity, and the entire experience was enjoyed by about 400 people before the end of the day.

Store owners Laura and Steve Bell have done an amazing job of promoting the boutique grocery/lunch café, mostly through Ocmulgee Traders’ excellent Facebook group page set up several months before the store actually opened. The couple’s first Face­book group page was in the form of a rallying hope named: We Want a Trader Joe’s in Macon! They garnered 400 members on that page who felt the same way before discovering feasibility studies showed Macon’s average income was “too small” to support a Trader Joe’s or Harris Teeter downtown. That news resulted in a life-changing move for the Bells.

Laura and Steve acquired space in the former Dannenberg building on Poplar Street and converted it into a downtown boutique grocery and gathering spot. Laura set out to keep her early-acquired Facebook followers apprised of the project’s progress, and by the store opening six months ago, it had 3,000 enthusiastic members or “fans.” Today, it is nearly 4,000 and adding more every day.

What does Laura Bell post on the business’s Facebook page to keep it vibrant? Here are only a few ideas she uses to make the store one of the most appealing “go-to” places in our city:

The staff (mostly Laura) post irresistible food shots of prepared menu items (soup de jour; hot, grilled sandwiches) in the hours before lunch.

They often post photos of people visiting the store and having a great, jolly time.

They go far to promote locally produced or hard-to-find products available at the store.

They support and publicize local charitable organizations (animal adoption) and events (holiday parades), presenting a feeling of genuine solidarity between the store and the community.

They engage with their customers who post.

They post photos of affordable gifts for specific demographic segments (i.e., handmade soaps for gifting teachers).

When they feature an unusual product (aloe water; infused cooking oils, gourmet cheeses, exotic wines, Christmas trees ) they explain the product and, if it’s food-related, often communicate how to use it in a simple recipe they post.

They post several times a day, but never too many times to fill up members’ newsfeeds.

In short, this savvy, young millennial couple is doing a professional job of creating an authentic culture of enthusiasm around its store, mostly through its well-managed Facebook page. Ocmulgee Trader’s Twitter and Instagram pages are slated to launch in early 2015, Laura Bell said.

Paige Henson is a new media consultant for small businesses. She specializes in inbound marketing and content management. Her email address is