By now, everybody knows that social media should be an integral part to a business’s marketing plan. This isn’t just one humble Twitter addict’s opinion. Most consumers today prefer companies that are socially connected. More importantly—at least as far as your marketing is concerned—the search engines prefer socially connected businesses. Social media attention and use are now heavily weighed parts of the Google algorithm. If you don’t want to be banished to the nether reaches of a Google search, you need to be social.
Macro vs. Micro
Most businesses do this in a macro way. They get caught up in the global appeal of social engines like Twitter and Facebook and Google+. They spend hours every day crafting the perfect 140 character spin for a product or service and finding just the right graphic to ensure global appeal for each Facebook post.
It’s true that a “big picture” approach can be helpful in social media, particularly if your business is web based. Still, there is merit in the “micro” approach too.
In this case, “micro” refers to local social media marketing. Local social media marketing is exactly what you think it is: joining local social media networks, running locally-based social media promotions, focusing your efforts on social media portals that are built specifically for local businesses or your local area, etc.
Who Benefits Most from Local Social Marketing?
Local social media marketing can, technically, be used by any business. It works best, however, for “brick and mortar” businesses. It is especially helpful for businesses that welcome and appreciate “walk in” patronage—restaurants, retail shops, personal services, etc.
How Does It Work?
The two “major players” in local social media marketing are Yelp and Foursquare. If your company doesn’t already have profiles and pages with these engines, set something up now. Even a basic “we’re working on it! Check back soon!” message is better than nothing.
Yelp has exploded in popularity over the last five years or so. It started out as a local rating and review site for restaurants and has since expanded to include companies ranging from restaurants to lawyers and plumbers. You, the business owner, list your company and answer a few questions about your business. Make sure you include a photo of your company. Users then find you by doing local searches for what you offer.
For as popular as it is, Yelp has also seen its share of controversy. There were reports that the portal was artificially inflating the weight of negative reviews over positive reviews in an attempt to squeeze money out of the businesses listed on the service. Luckily most Yelp users know what’s what.
Foursquare is an interactive local social media engine. You list your company with the service. When someone who uses Foursquare visits your business, they can choose to “check in” with your profile. The person who checks in the most often each week is named that business’s “Mayor.” Some people, believe it or not, can get very competitive about this ranking!
More importantly, Foursquare gives companies the ability to offer special deals to people who “check in” or who find the businesses via Foursquare’s local search. A coffee shop, for example, might offer someone who checks in X times a free drink. A restaurant might offer all check-ins that week X dollars off of their bills. The service encourages customer loyalty.
Google also offers companies a “local search” option. When you list your company with the search engine’s “Google Places,” the company is given a simple page on which they can talk about their services, list links to official websites and encourage people to write reviews. It is important that you have a Google Place page for your business. Why? So you will show up on the map when people do searches for your type of business.
Using the “Big Kids” in a Micro Way
It’s no wonder that Google has decided to get in on the local search game. With Google+ gaining on Facebook every day and with the company’s purchase of YouTube a few years ago, it’s no secret that Google wants to lead the social as well as the search field. Signing up with Google Places gives your company a Google+ profile. That Google+ profile gives you another way to connect with your local audience.
Remember, like Google+, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest and all of the “large scale” social media portals can still be used in a “small scale” way. Larger companies accomplish this by setting up separate accounts for different regions or localities.
There are even lots of ways to use these services to build up your small business with a local audience:
- Look up people and other companies in your neighborhood and connect with them.
- Set up coupons and deals for people who live within a certain distance of your business.
- Use sites like MeetUp to facilitate meetings with other professionals in your arena.
- Alternatively, if you have the space, offer your company as a location at which a MeetUp group can gather.
Most of this article has talked about the things that you can do to attract outside attention in to your local social media efforts. It is important to understand that, in order for local social media to work, you also reach out.
What do I mean?
The best social media profiles are those that offer something to the audience and expect nothing in return (most of the time). They are the profiles that interact with consumers individually, respond to questions and even start conversations. This especially important for small businesses trying to attract local traffic. It is imperative that people bond with your profiles—it will encourage them to visit your business to bond in person.
Remember, there is a fine line between marketing and seeming like a creepy stalker. You don’t want to spam or pop up unexpectedly in someone’s feed with a “too familiar feeling” message.
- Use the advanced search options on the social media portals to find local users and follow them/friend them.
- Do a couple of searches a day for keywords or hash tags that are relevant to your business. For example, if you run a coffee shop, look for locals talking about where to meet for coffee. Send them quick and friendly “next time, try my shop!”-type message. Sweeten the deal by offering them a promotional coupon for their next visit.
- Jump into local conversations even when they don’t directly have anything to do with you. The trick here is to just be conversational. Jumping into someone else’s conversation with a marketing message is gross. Jumping in to agree with an opinion or to pay a compliment—the same thing you’d do with a friend from your personal accounts—is okay, especially if you’ve followed the person you’ve decided to message.
One of the great things about social media—local and global—is that, as long as you abide by the services’ TOS (Terms of Service), you can be as broad or as focused as you like with your marketing efforts. Yes, when you first get started, it will be a time consuming effort. You’ll need to get to know each new service and figure out how to use it. Eventually, though, it’ll smooth out and each minute you spend should result in more sales! That’s the goal, right?