Jay Sofer is the owner of Lockbusters, a thriving local business in New York City. With three trucks running day and night, Sofer’s locksmith company generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each year and he’s on the verge of franchising. Business is booming for Lockbusters.

A social strategy

But the picture wasn’t quite so rosy in 2008. With the country in the midst of a recession, Sofer found himself unemployed, broke and living in his mother’s garage. Having learned the locksmith trade in his youth, he decided to take matters into his own hands and become an entrepreneur.

“The new SBA stands for smart, bold and accessible. We are committed to creating smart systems that harness the power of technology to improve access to resources for all Americans, as well as training new and established small business owners in including social media and innovative tools in their business plans."

Knowing the industry carries a certain stigma, Sofer decided to position himself differently than his competitors. Armed with a marketing budget of zero, he used his free Yelp Business Page to display his dynamic personality by posting photos of himself and his puppy to attract new clients. The buzz Sofer created through Yelp and other social media platforms resulted in an explosion of new business all over New York. In a short amount of time, Jay was back on his feet and better than ever.

Ten or fifteen years ago, Jay Sofer’s story would have been improbable, if not impossible. However, through technological innovation, Lockbusters and other businesses have the power to reach millions of potential customers. With most people relying on the internet to find local businesses, a whopping 140 billion local searches are expected this year. Today’s consumer also acts quickly on local purchasing decisions. A 2014 Nielsen survey found that 78 percent of consumers turn to local review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Angie’s List and an incredible 85 percent of review site users make a purchase within a week.

Reaching customers worldwide

What should local business owners do to take advantage of these trends? First, establish an online presence where customers are most likely to discover their business. Social media platforms such as Facebook and review sites like Yelp have business owner tools that are free, quick and easy to use. Organizations like the U.S. Small Business Administration also provide valuable resources.

According to SBA Administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet, “The new SBA stands for smart, bold and accessible. We are committed to creating smart systems that harness the power of technology to improve access to resources for all Americans, as well as training new and established small business owners in including social media and innovative tools in their business plans. That same technology is helping entrepreneurs succeed, and that is why the SBA has created webinars and other resources that make sure every business is using social media and new technology to their benefit. From the dry cleaners on the corner to the new manufacturing plant up the road, these tools can be the key to succeeding and growing your small business.”

With all the online tools and resources available today, small business owners can achieve more than ever before.