Susana Mendez stands outside her jewelry counter at the Mall of America, her arm outstretched holding a phone to lip-synch record herself to Spanish pop singer Rosalia’s “Despecha.” She gives the video a shimmering filter before posting on TikTok. Goofing around at work? Barely. Mendez uses one of the most powerful marketing tools available to a small business owner, and the mall wants to help.
Mall of America has been proactive in extending the shopping experience beyond its mega walls, even launching an e-commerce platform so consumers can “shop in the mall” from home. MOA has also proven itself as a social media powerhouse, now boasting 210,000 TikTok followers and over 4 million likes to its credit. Next frontier: helping some of its new independent tenants leverage the platform for the benefit of their small businesses.
“It’s a great way to get exposure – we want to help our small businesses take advantage of it,” said Nate Sandell, MOA’s senior director of social media. “Our channel is here to help our businesses, but there’s not much we can do. It’s up to these brands to help support themselves. Those who have done the best are those who find other avenues than Mall of America social channels.
That’s what Mendez is working on for Susana Mendez Jewelry, currently a tenant of Community Commons, a marketplace where MOA provides short-term, rent-free opportunities for small local brands to gain the exposure that only Mall of America, with its 40 million annual visitors, can provide. Even so, Menedez wants to go beyond the mall. “They don’t have to come in,” Mendez said of his social media following. “They can view the merchandise through my Instagram and TikTok.”
With the average American exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads a day, competition for attention is made difficult, especially since 55% of consumers discover new brands through their feed.
Social media expert Betsey Kershaw, founder of BK&Co. based in Minneapolis, points out that social media is not only a critical channel, but often the only channel for small businesses. “For a small eyewear retailer we work with, we’ve seen sales increase by 23% just by creating a social media playbook that they use to run social media internally.”
More than 11,000 people tuned in to watch MOA’s TikTok for Small Business live stream, which garnered nearly 2,000 comments from viewers and more than 200 shares. You can find it on the TikTok Small Business feed.
Here are some TikTok takeaways from the pros:
- Post a video before going live to inform viewers, a TikTok representative said. Be sure to actively interact with viewers during a live broadcast by responding to their comments or answering their questions.
- Find out what your target audience is doing online, said Jacob Neerland, brand manager for esports studio MOA Wisdom Gaming. Create compartments for different purposes to create serialized content.
- Separate the personal from the professional. This is how Mo Stewart of handbags and accessories brand Mars Jameson maintains some sanity and privacy, by having two different social media accounts.
- But bring personality to your business account. “At the end of the day, social is supposed to be fun,” says MOA’s Sandell. “It’s supposed to be interactive. It’s individual digital media, and no one is looking to be promoted on social media, they want to go there because they like the content.
Of course, before diving in, consider your audience, advised ME Gray, associate content creator for MSPC Agency, which is also owned by TCAthe parent company of, MSP Communications.
If you’re a business-to-business business, LinkedIn will earn you the most from your efforts because that’s where your ideal client hangs out, Gray said. Facebook gives you bang for your buck in terms of paid social media advertising as users gravitate towards an older demographic. Instagram is a fun platform to be active on if you can share behind-the-scenes or in-progress (WIP) content. And if you have a young following, TikTok might be the place to find your job — but be aware that the competition will be tough, Gray said. (Gray offers additional advice for businesses trying to figure out if they should be on TikTok, here.)
“Content creators determine what interests consumers and this evolution is here to stay. To get ahead and thrive using social media, a business must either be good at creating content or find someone who can do it for them,” said BK&Co’s Kershaw. “Consumers are smart, they don’t want to be sold and can spot bad marketing from a mile away. They want to be entertained and educated in an authentic way and this approach can be applied to almost any business.”