A lot of times when I talk about social media, localized Internet marketing and geographic audiences, I’m talking about blogs, Web content and Facebook. There’s another facet of social media that’s too often overlooked: getting out into your community and doing some good.

For example, over the past few weeks my local newspapers have contained special inserts labeled "Home and Garden", "Fall Clean-Up" or related outdoor topics. They contain a mix of advertisements and how-to articles. Granted, you may have advertised your business in your local newspaper supplement, but were you ever asked to have an interview?

When I wrote for the Lancaster Newspapers (in Pennsylvania) and the Reading Eagle Home and Garden inserts, I interviewed a lot of green industry professionals. Other correspondents in other communities do the same thing. My editor at the Reading Eagle supplied me with contacts and my editor at Lancaster Newspapers let me find my resources. I was always surprised and disappointed when the owner of a landscape or lawn care business never returned my calls or answered my emails. Free, positive publicity is hard to come by.

If you’ve been invited by a correspondent to answer some lawn care or landscape maintenance questions, do you comply? Or do you ignore a writer’s phone calls and emails seeking a short interview?

Why would you turn down an opportunity to build your reputation as an expert in your community?

Think in terms of the readers’ needs when it comes to learning about the good things that you and your industry can provide them, even if it’s just good, sound advice. Here are some other ways to generate goodwill in your community:

  1. Speak at groups. I know this is time-consuming, but maybe you can schedule a talk or two during your slow season. Think about senior citizens, local elementary schools and your local library to host a garden or lawn maintenance talk.
  2. Volunteer your time. I can almost hear a collective groan with this one. Volunteering is hard work and can be time-consuming. When you volunteer you benefit your local community as well as put a positive spin on your business. Diane Salks, president of Riverview Tree and Landscapes in Reading, Pennsylvania, gives back to her community full fold. Here’s one way that Salks has helped a family in her local community: http://hbaberks.org/hope/.
  3. Be open to talking to reporters. And I don’t mean in crisis communications. If you get a call from someone in the media who wants your take on something, don’t be afraid to share your story. You don’t have to give away any secrets, just share your story of how you got started, how you got to where you are and the good things that you do.
  4. Offer open houses at your office or participate in local business shows. The Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Chamber of Commerce and Industry has a yearly Business Expo show. How about your community’s Chamber of Commerce? Do they host a local business show? Do you participate? Do you attend to get to know other business leaders in your local community?
  5. Team up with a garden center. Have you ever thought about hosting a workshop on basic landscape design? What about planting bulbs in the fall for springtime beauty? You can put on a very simple workshop for an hour at your local garden or community center. Provide attendees with business cards and other promotional materials for them to contact you. You can even ask if you can put their names on your email list.

Take full advantage of social media to reach out to your community. Don’t be afraid to reach out – especially if it’ll benefit your community, a special charity or a family in need. You can make great things happen when you give generously of your knowledge and your talents.

Wendy Komancheck blogs and writes Web content for the lawn care and landscape industries. You can learn more about her at www.landscapewriter.com or email her at wendy@landscapewriter.com.