Social media opens doors for “mama y papa” businesses

We have read the news and are aware of the hype – Latinos continue to rock in the social media world. Likewise, recent statistics indicate Hispanic small business owners continue to grow in influence as well. Case in point, a quick drive down the Latino dominant Grandville Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan, one will pass several locally owned “mom and pop” businesses; party stores, restaurants, bodegas, taquerías, and salons. Although we have seen plenty of professional and acculturated Latino businesses embrace social media, what kind of value can it deliver for local “mama y papa” businesses?

According to some experts, small business owners within Hispanic communities will be the future backbone of our nation’s recovery from the current economic recession. Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and associate Mel Martinez have stated in a recent Fox News Latino article that Latino small businesses are answering the call to create new opportunities for American workers. As Hispanic growth in social media continues, it may also be assumed these small businesses will utilize online and social media tools.

One such small business in West Michigan has taken advantage of social media and has used it to build its customer base online. The Grand Rapids based eatery El Granjero became an early adopter of social media. Through both traditional advertising and word-of-mouth, the restaurant has earned brand value about its authentic offerings of Mexican cuisine. According to Paola Gonzalez, El Granjero has been in business since 2007 when her family assumed ownership. In that time, El Granjero has become a mainstay within both the local general market and Hispanic communities.

“We did not start the business out of a necessity to cover for unemployment,” relates Paola. “We took over this business when former owner decided to go out of business. We had the knowledge and passion for the job.”

The Gonzalez family made the initial investment to maintain a Facebook page for El Granjero. The page quickly grew to over 1,000 fans of made up of loyal patrons that posted about their dinning experiences. Many fans were and continue to be returning customers.

“Social media has helped us stay more in contact with our customers,” says Paola. “Everyday we receive thank you notes or congratulations for our business.”

Although there have been many positive reflections posted on El Granjero’s Facebook page, the Gonzalez family never discouraged fans from posting criticisms.

“This is extremely important for us. We always address any problems and never ignore our fans,” says Paola. “Having people telling you what you are doing wrong in your business is gold because we can make the right changes.”

Embracing transparency, the Gonzalez family knows that El Granjero is both a business and a family affair. Photos of holiday and family celebrations often become a post to the El Granjero Facebook page. As the family continues to make changes to the way they do businesses, they also have their eyes set on the future and social media is part of the plan. Future plans for El Granjero’s social media includes posting daily deals, discounts, and new menu items.

“We are planning to stay on top of our competitors by increasing our loyalty with people who like our Facebook page,” states Paola.

As those of us in marketing continue to pay close attention to how Latinos interact online, let us not ignore the “mamas y papas” in our local communities that are seeking innovative directions for business growth. Small businesses have provided the economic backbone for our nation in the past and will continue do so in the future. We can now look to a new generation of Latino business owners to contribute to that legacy both on the street corner and online

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