Editor’s note: This story was first published in the May-June edition of BIZ Magazine, a publication of the Yuma Sun.

After getting the go-ahead from Gov. Doug Ducey, some businesses are reopening their doors to the public. Some industries are still waiting for the official word to open, and some have chosen to wait a little longer just to be on the safe side.

Either way, there’s no denying it; some Yuma businesses had to get creative  during the pandemic after being ordered to close their storefronts or dining areas.

To keep afloat, some restaurants and companies used social media, such as Instagram, Facebook and Facebook Live, to reach customers.

For example, Julieanna’s Patio Café relied heavily on Facebook to remind customers that the restaurant, even if its dining areas were closed, still offered takeout and delivery.

“When we were told we had to close, we created a new to-go menu, which includes family dinner packages. We named it Ziggy’s on the Fly. Ziggy is the name of one of our beautiful macaws,” owner Julie Fritz-Feinberg said.

It doesn’t hurt to lure customers by reminding them of the restaurant’s iconic macaw birds, which have always been a draw.

“We are 23 years in Yuma, Arizona, and we are very special with our beautiful flowers, our beautiful landscaping, our beautiful restaurant, our beautiful patio and, of course, our nine beautiful macaw birds,” Fritz-Feinberg noted.

She invited customers to visit with the birds while they wait for their to-go orders. The birds have been out everyday in the restaurant’s “spacious open-air patio”  from noon until sundown except Sunday.

Using social media during these unusual times is a smart move, according to Vanessa Castillo, a digital marketing strategist and social media coach with the Arizona Western College Small Business Center.

“Social media has been a lifesaver for many small businesses who are unable to communicate with their clients in person,” Castillo said. “The main thing is social media has allowed businesses to still engage with their current and future customers.”

She listed examples of how Yuma businesses are using social media. “Some local gyms have now offered their services over the internet providing their clients with home workouts. Restaurants have also been affected by the pandemic, and they are able to also continue to offer their food and offer specials,” Castillo noted.

“Social media allows small businesses to still have a voice and speak up to rally their community,” she added.

Rebel and Rove is a local shop that has been using Facetime and Instagram to sell items. “This will all be over soon and what a celebration it will be to see and love on our favorite people,” owner Serena Koogle posted. “Until then we are only offering Facetime tours and Instagram shopping. We will do more when we get it figured out. Thank you for sticking with us!”

For First Friday, the shop streamed live on Facebook, with Koogle showing inventory items. She asked customers interested in an item to post a comment with the item number, size they wanted and their email address. The shop took care of the shipping and taxes, which were included in the price of the items.

Rebel and Rove also promoted their gift cards for gift-giving or to be used for when the shop’s downtown storefront reopens. The shop also offered weekly goodie bags for $20. On Facebook, the shop asked customers to leave their email in the comments section and she would email an invoice. Once paid, the bags are shipped to customers’ mailboxes.

“We appreciate your support while we navigate this new way of life. I sooo look forward to seeing your faces again,” Koogle posted.

Another local retailer, Dream Gift Shop, partnered with wholesalers and directed customers on social media to their supplier websites to make purchases. Customers could order items and use the shop’s code at checkout, and the shop got the retail profit, and the merchandise was shipped directly to the customer’s home.

Dream Gift Shop also posted that parents could order Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty kits “because they will keep your children busy for hours!” Customers could order the kits on the shop’s website (dreamalittledreamwithme.com) and they were shipped directly to their homes.

Tania Pavlak, events and outreach coordinator with the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce, offered tips for using social media during this challenging time.

“I would suggest for businesses to post often, but post real content. Sharing the same image over and over again gets people to unfollow or drown you out. Post at least once a day and use your stories multiple times during the day,” Pavlak noted.

“Stories are a great way to post small clips and fun content without blowing up people’s news feed,” she said, stressing that videos should be kept short.

Aside from highlighting different products and/or services everyday, Pavlak also suggested that businesses “get personal,” for example, by giving a shout out to staff, taking pictures of the business owner working, etc.

“Sharing ‘real’ content gives people an inside look and creates a sense of relationship building. People are getting to know you and they are staying in touch with what you do,” Pavlak said.

For more information and/or free counseling, call the Small Business Development Center at 928-317-6151.

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