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I really do run a liquor store in a small town, and it really is a useful model for how all businesses could behave online.

Because my store is in a small town, I've always dealt with instant communication among my customers: If we burn one customer, he can go down to the coffee shop and spread the word all over town in short order.

Now that every business faces that same pressure online, consider how my small-town liquor store experience so clearly applies to social media.

Your customers want the "small" treatment

An American Express 2011 survey found that 75% of customers think they get better service at small businesses, and an overwhelming majority say small local businesses are key to their local economy. The conclusion: at least three-quarters of your customers want that "small business" feeling.

You can give that feeling to them, no matter your size. Social networks are the perfect place for doing so, but you have to start thinking like a small business.

Taking on a new way of thinking can seem daunting. Sitting in front of your computer, or holding your smartphone, staring at a mention from a customer, you can be at a loss for words, or unsure of your direction. What to do...?

Pretend you are the owner of a small-town store. Build a little storefront in your mind. Stock it with all the things your business sells. Put your products and services in boxes, and put the boxes on shelves. Put yourself in a storekeeper's apron, and walk right in there. Look around. Make sure it feels like a great place to shop. Keep that image firmly in your mind.

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image of Becky McCray

Becky McCray shares useful lessons for urban and rural businesses in her new book, Small Town Rules, written with Chicago entrepreneur Barry Moltz. Becky publishes the popular website Small Biz Survival. She also owns a liquor store and a cattle ranch in Oklahoma.

Twitter: @beckymccray