Local businesses can learn a lot from the social media marketing strategies of large, national, or international businesses. But one of the reasons consumers love social media is for the personal experience it provides. Large companies have found ways to try work around the problem this presents for community managers who are clearly located elsewhere, while local businesses have a unique opportunity that doesn't often present itself in the face of giant corporations. If your local business isn't all over local social media opportunities like bees on honey, now's your chance to get started. And here are 8 creative ways to begin that cost you nothing but your time!
Creative Ways Local Businesses Can Use Social Media
1.) Complete all of your profile/page information. This is the least creative idea I'll give you, but the easiest to knock out of the park. As search gets more social, it's more and more likely your social profile could show up in search results. Make sure you've filled it out with adequate information about who you are, what you do, where people can find you, and how to get in touch with you. Of all the social media networks to consider when leveraging an organic search presence, Google+ is currently at the top of the pile. With its consistent incorporation of Google+ profile and page information into search results, brand presence on Google+ is quickly becoming a social media must.
2.) Monitor social media mentions. Of your brand; of related products and services; of your competitors. When people are talking about these things, you should be the first to respond with a coupon, information about your product or service, or just a helpful answer to their question. People use social media for real-time information, and if you're the one who provides the answer, you elevate yourself as a local thought leader. This tactic will help you generate new leads, close more deals, or just keep prospects, customers, and your community happy.
3.) Keep track of where your prospects and customers check in. Many local businesses leverage mobile check-ins via networks like Foursquare to encourage foot traffic. But you can also use it to identify potential affiliate opportunities. Where else are your customers checking in? If you know where they spend their time, you also know where you should be making your brand visible with things like guest blogging, paid advertising, referrals, and co-marketing opportunities.
4.) Do a little stalking. Check out your fans' and followers' profile information to see what they like, and edit adjust marketing activities and communications accordingly. This helps you create buyer personas, refine the style, tone, and content of your messaging, and ensure you're talking about the things your audience likes to prompt more social engagement.
5.) Become a resource for local events in your industry. Keeping your ear to the ground on events -- whether live or web-based -- that your audience would like to attend makes you an indispensable resource. Aggregate everything that's happening in your industry, and maintain groups on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, or Circles on Google+ that keep interested parties up to date on can't-miss activities. And be sure to show up to these events, too; your future customers will be there!
6.) Maintain your presence on local review sites. Sites like Yelp! often appear among the top results in search engines. How does your reputation look? Consumers hold peer reviews in high esteem, and it's crucial that their first impression of you is positive. Plus, these sites help answer common questions for customers like addresses, hours of operation, and contact information that people are frequently checking on their mobile devices when on the go. You should be actively involved in maintaining your reputation on these sites by keeping your business information up to date, soliciting positive reviews from happy customers, and working to resolve issues with those who have posted negative reviews of your business.
7.) Ask your employees to use their social networks on your behalf. National companies may ask their employees to do this, but they won't reap as much benefit unless their employees connect with people that are overwhelmingly interested in their industry. Fat chance, right? But you know what people tend to have in common with lots of their connections? Location! If their networks know their friend or family member works for a local company, you can be sure they'll contact them the next time they need a local dentist, doctor, health food store, pet groomer, t-shirt maker, customized widget designer...well, you get the point.
8.) Connect with other local businesses and consumers. Get active in online conversations. Connect with people that live in your city and businesses who are doing cool things in your area (especially if they could act as a referrer of business!). It's important to stay locally connected and network with people even if they're not directly related to your industry; you never know when someone has a secret passion for something you offer or a need arises further down the line for your products and services. Local businesses can use social media to remain a fixture in their local online community and at their brick-and-mortal establishment.
How do you leverage social media to grow your local business? Share your creative tactics in the comments!