If you’re living a location independent lifestyle and you want to have a more positive impact on the places you visit, there are many things we can do to support locals.
I’ll share my process and learnings of how I tried to help local small (offline) business owners in getting more customers. Though there are many ways to do that, in this post we talk about how I helped them set up their Facebook Page, without any costs involved.
When I started writing this post, I started to look a lot like a rant on how I believe that we need to be more aware of our surroundings when we visit a place. That I believe it’s our duty to show more interest in the locals, their culture, food, language, history. That besides “consuming” a location we can do more to give back.
Well, chances are that if you’re still reading, I’d be preaching to the choir anyway.
If you’re in a hurry, jump straight to the section “The Facebook Page workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam” to read about the steps I took.
How this started
Two years ago I came to Hoi An in Vietnam, which is known for many wonderful things, but one of the things it’s especially known for is the many Tailors.
My friend Olivia had some clothes made and was very happy about the quality. I asked her how I could find it, she told me the name and explained that it was next to a coffee and tea shop.
I went and had a great experience as well. Tien Le is a very talented tailor and one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Her Shop is called To, make sure you pay her a visit if you’re in Hoi An.
Since there are 100s of Tailors in town, I wanted to recommend her services to my friends who didn’t know how to choose a good tailor. I asked her where I could leave a good review or if there was an easy way to share her location with friends or people in facebook groups who were asking about tailors in Hoi An.
She said she didn’t have Google Maps, or a Facebook page or anything else. She mentioned that she was sad that she couldn’t afford a website. Someone had offered to do it for her for $400. I told her that there were other free ways that she could try to get more customers.
I wanted to:
- Make sure Tien’s shop was on Facebook with its own page.
- Make sure Tien’s shop would show up on Google Maps
So I took some quick photos of Tien’s shop and got to work on her desktop computer in the shop. Her Facebook was live the same day, I explained what Tien had to do with it to make it successful. She was a very fast learner.
Since the street numbers of Hoi An are often different than what google maps thinks they should be, the postcard Google sent Tien to verify her address wouldn’t arrive.
It took a few emails to solve this a few months later, but quite some time was lost with this. I know that this is a problem in a few other places. I’ve also encountered it in Managua in Nicaragua, but noticed that Google Maps lets you give a more specific location by moving a pin on the map.
After I did this and left Hoi an, I’d check in with Tien once in a while. A few months later, Tien mentioned she had to hire another staff member, that she had more customers come to the shop and that her income was increasing.
If something like that doesn’t make your day, I don’t know what does.
Two years later I came back to Hoi An. Tien and I are still friends, she made me more custom clothes and she is still doing great.
Helping 1 on 1
I tried to repeat this same process a few times during my travels. Not all stories are as successful as Tien’s. Some people have everything you’d expect that will help them be successful:
- A need for more business
- A smartphone/ computer and access to wifi
- Computer savviness
- A desire to have a facebook page or google maps location
And still don’t actually do anything with their newly acquired Facebook page or google maps registration. In the end, it’s up to them. Maybe they weren’t ready. Maybe it wasn’t clear enough how to maintain a successful online presence through these channels. Maybe they just don’t have time or maybe they just don’t see how it is beneficial to their business. Learn on how to listen better, understand if this is something they really even want and learn how to get the message across better. Language is often a barrier, but funny enough — it’s never been the biggest barrier for me. The biggest barriers for small business owners have always been:
- “I don’t know if I can do this”
- “I don’t know if this is going to give me any new customers”
It’s all about showing that they CAN do it and how it’s working for others.
This is also how I learned that in most cases, going through the entire process of setting up the page is something they should do themselves, even when you help them through every step. It makes them feel empowered and helps them understand better how to maintain it afterwards.
This is why I decided to create a workshop where I could help multiple business owners at the same time, while letting them do it themselves.
In the last year’s I’ve also given talks about affiliate marketing and “digital marketing without a budget”. You can help people with any topic you have anything to say about. But there is something satisfying in helping a mom and pop business suddenly get more customers other than neighbours, people passing by or a bit of word of mouth. Creating a Facebook page or a location on Google maps is sometimes their first and only online presence! It has a great impact on the family and any people that perhaps end up being employed because of an increase in customers.
“Digital Marketing without a budget” workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The Facebook Page workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam
My goal with this section is to help you replicate this event anywhere else in the world. I’ll describe how I did it myself in Hoi An, what worked and what didn’t. Needless to say, this event was free.
The Space to hold the workshop
When I came back to Hoi an this year, I knew that coworkingspace Hub Hoi An would be an ideal place to host my workshop because of multiple reasons.
- They’re committed to help local businesses when they can
- They have an area in the coworkingspace that could host about 15 people
- The amazing Manager of the space is Chau, she is Vietnamese so could help with the language barrier as well as spreading the word about the workshop
- It had a projector I could use
- The other members could be included and could help with the event
Things to keep in mind before you set up the event
Sarah, the owner of Hub Hoi An, and manager Chau, gave me some advice about the local culture before we set up the event.
Vietnam is a collectivistic society. This means that for the event, it was important that the local businesses owners who read about it, knew other Vietnamese people would be there too. This is not just important to overcome the language barrier, it would potentially help some people feel more comfortable.
Another way we tried to overcome any barriers, was to make it possible for participants to bring a family member or friend to help them. In case the participant didn’t have a laptop or didn’t know how to use it, this friend or family member could bring theirs.
We also had to make sure that it was clear beforehand that there would be a translator in the room in case this was needed.
It’s important to note that in a huge number countries, people use facebook or other social media, even in countries classified as developing countries, such as Vietnam. Even the use of Smartphones is becoming more common, in Vietnam this number is 30.1%. This number is higher in cities, and thus makes it more common that small business owners or their family members have a smartphone to at least maintain their facebook page.
How to get the right participants for your Facebook page workshop
The first step was to create the event on facebook.
You can read the text in the facebook event above, but essentially, the text covered a few things:
- A simple description on what the event is, for whom it is, and which problem it solves.
- What you will learn during the workshop and what you’ll have by the end of it.
- What participants need to bring (logo, photos of the business/ products, laptop etc)
- If participants don’t have a computer, we offered a solution
- About me (I.e. why does the speaker know what she/ he is talking about)
- Mention what the maximum number of spaces is. Not only do you need this to manage attendance, it adds a scarcity element to the event and makes people want to be a part of it.
Chau translated the text into Vietnamese and shared it in various local Vietnamese facebook groups.
I asked my fellow Hub Hoi An members to think of their favourite restaurants, homestays, Bahn Mi ladies, Tailors or other businesses that could use a facebook page. I also asked them if they would want to volunteer to buddy up with a participant of the event with their computer and digital savviness if needed.
As people started RSVPing and messaging the Hub to ask if they (or someone they knew) could attend, Sarah and Chau added them to a facebook messenger group where they could communicate with us and each other if needed. This also helped to keep people committed to showing up, despite any insecurities (if they had any) or other doubts.
This also turned out particularly handy when, on the first date of the event, there was an unannounced power outage in the area of the Hub, and the event needed to be postponed.
The actual workshop
On the day of the event, Sarah had set up the area in classroom style so everyone could follow my slides and steps on the screen it was projected on. There were some beverages available, the wifi was blasting fast as usual. We were ready to rock!
We had 12 amazing business owners join us for the workshop.
Here are my slides, feel free to copy and use them. In the slides I cover the following:
- How a Facebook can help you get new customers
- How to create the facebook page step by step
- How to maintain a successful facebook page
To get every participant in the right mindset, we did a round of introductions where every business owner explained what their business was about and what kind of customer they wanted to attract more of.
We had a bunch of different businesses in the room. Homestays and Villa owners, Café’s, Artists, a Bikini designer, a Massage and facial salon, a Tai Chi/ Qigong teacher. Some targeted local customers, others aimed for visitors/ tourists.
Luckily, I was accompanied by Sarah, my friend Amanda (who is an editor at MSN news — so could help us non-native english speakers to edit our texts when needed) and Quy, a friend of Chau, who was there to translate when needed.
As per usual, everything that you think will be a challenge is usually not, and your biggest challenges are things you didn’t expect.
My main worries before the event were attendance (were people committed to showing up) and the language barrier.
Turns out our biggest challenge was TECHNOLOGY.
Some people didn’t bring a laptop (even though the event mentioned that we could provide one) and figured a smartphone or tablet would work just as well. While it does do the job, and can be used to maintain a facebook page, the buttons and options to set up a page are a bit different on android/ ios/ type of device/ version of facebook installed. Some of the devices weren’t working well either. So we would spend quite some time to figure out HOW to implement the next step of the facebook page process for everyone not on a laptop. It was all hands on deck for Sarah, Amanda, Quy and myself to help everyone with technical issues, more so than the actual implementation of the steps.
This was not a big issue, it just meant it took a bit more time than expected. It’s something we can avoid for next time by making a laptop a requirement and if someone doesn’t have one — we can actively recruit a laptop buddy in the coworkingspace to come along on the day of the workshop.
It was amazing to see how well some of the participants understood the importance of each step, and the good ideas and copy they came up with for their page. It’s really rewarding to see how it can rekindle the enthusiasm for their business and the future of it.
What I would do differently next time
- As you read in the previous section, there are ways to avoid that Technology becomes your enemy. Make sure that it is clear that we need the participant to use a computer. Had we known that some participants would only have a smartphone or tablet, we could have asked more members of the coworkingspace to be their computer buddies
- Another thing I’d do differently might be perceived as a bit controversial. It’s about WHO you want to help and attract to the workshop. Personally, I wanted to help local, Vietnamese small business owners. Especially since we had limited seats, I didn’t expect so many western Expats to sign up. Of course, it’s totally up to you to open the event up to whoever you want. But personally, I would only have the event text available in the local language and express more clearly that locals have priority to take one of the limited spots over expats. We did have a few western expats participate but the majority were still Vietnamese Locals.
- To make sure the participants stay motivated and dedicated to maintaining the facebook page, I should have made them share their new page URL with me or with the chatgroup. This way we can like each other’s pages and keep each other accountable.
- We had some hub members offer help but since it didn’t seem that more people were needed, I told them they didn’t have to come (the event was on a Saturday). In hindsight it could have been good to have some people on “stand-by”.
In a few months I’ll follow up with the participants, to make sure they have all their questions answered and are motivated to continue to get new customers through their new page. If there are any success-stories that came out of the workshop, I’ll ask them to write a short testimonial or make a short video, which will help future workshop participants see the value of it.
If you decide to replicate this workshop somewhere else in the world, I recommend making a dummy facebook page just to make sure that all the buttons and steps are still the same as in the slides. Facebook changes things up sometimes and this helps you to avoid any surprises.
If Hoi An didn’t have the issue of wrong addresses and if we hadn’t spent so much time on technical issues, I would have also made this event in a way that we would also add all the businesses to Google Maps. Adding a business to Google Maps requires less time than making a Facebook page look good, and some of the steps are actually the same.
How you do it: Google Maps
To register a business on Google Maps, you have to go to Google My business to make your business profile. It’s super important that you fill all the details (address, contact details, opening times, and very important: Business category)
When you register your business via Google My Business, Google will send you a traditional snail mail post card to verify your address. A code on the postcard will let you finish the process of getting the business on Google Maps. This postcard typically takes a few days to arrive.
Google Maps is such a great tool to get new customers. In this case, if you go to Hoi An and type in “Tailors” on the app, it will show you every business that was registered correctly under that business category, with info, reviews and everything.
For as long as Google offers this for free (hopefully forever), it’s one of the top ways to get attention as a small business without a budget for marketing. It doesn’t require much work and maintenance as long as details such as opening hours don’t change.
This is especially ideal for small business owners who don’t have a computer, smartphone or aren’t very digitally savvy.
There’s no feeling then knowing you’ve impacted someone’s life in a small but positive way. You don’t need to work in Marketing to help someone make a facebook page. Facebook made it so easy that all it takes is actually STARTING. If you have other ideas on how to help locals — go for it! I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments.
One Small Step for Nomad — One Giant leap for a Small Business owner.