There’s an interesting discussion with the same title going on in the Linkedin Small Biz Nation group. The discussion begins with, “The lifeblood of any business is a continuing stream of customers. Local businesses have a special challenge because the available marketing has defined geographic limits. Today the marketing opportunities for local businesses are changing. The once powerful yellow pages is no longer a viable approach – what did you do with the last yellow pages book delivered to your front door? Like you, I promptly placed in the recycle bind.”
Last I checked there were over 75 comments with no apparent end in sight. Definitely proof that social media is on the forefront of the minds of small business owners everywhere. The responses to this discussion shed some great insight on how small business owners should be using social media at the local level. I’ve listed several below…
An Integrated Approach
“One of the tactics business are using related to social media is to develop an integrated approach, but this take a commitment. For example, businesses that take the time to create a blog, use Twitter to micro-blog along a specific theme and then build a list supported by a newsletter have a great platform for building business opportunities. There is no substitute for a well thought out plan and a strong implementation. The approach to local search is a broad topic, but one important task is the registration process – creating a strong profile [as is true with sites like LinkedIn] is essential.”
Improving SEO Results
“Get yourself in directories like Google Maps / Places, HotFrog, Yahoo Local, etc… These do help your SEO results. Also gear your website towards local keywords. This way when someone is searching for your business in their area, you will appear. If you own a business in California that is a local service, it doesn’t help you much to try and get ranked for totally generic keywords about your business. Start with local keywords and move from there. I also like to put a different phone number on all of these directories to see what’s driving call volume, if you are looking for phone calls that is. This way you know where to spend your time and where not to.”
Outsourcing Social Media Efforts
“To embrace social media sometimes you have to outsource this function. Here are a few thoughts on Outsourcing Social Media Marketing. Firms that you outsource to should be able to create well integrated campaigns in your brand’s voice. Here are a few steps they should take to help you:
Develop a strategy – not just a bunch of unrelated accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn.
Use a process based on implicitly asking the questions “So what?” and “Now what?” repeatedly.
Show you how social media marketing requires more than simply showing up
Demonstrate the value of having a plan
Provide evidence they can execute the plan and change it as conditions change
Explain how a successful social media strategy elevates your company’s presence
Show the path for bringing visitors to your website (Blog, eBook, event, store, etc.),
Measure your ultimate success by tracking the number of leads generated and converted from visitors to paying customers
A social media strategist can devise a strategy to help you achieve these and other objectives.”
Making Social Media a Priority
“It is so important to use social media tools that I now schedule at least an hour daily. I have to be flexible on the time because I have a family, need painting time in the studio and am involved in community activities. I am going to try to schedule activities the way you suggest by priority but I think the number one task is to keep my website/blog updated on a regular basis. When that is done I can quickly send the update to Twitter, FB and LinkedIn. The other important task is to keep following and reading articles on using SM and through my RSS feed I can keep up with the most relevant sources. These tasks have moved to the top of my to-do list.”
Where Does Google Fit In?
“Everyone that has a small business within a town or city should be using Google Places, as Google maintains that 1 in 5 searches are “local” i.e., keyword + city, and for said local searches, most of the page is taken up by Google Places listings. And the only way to break into that first page of searches is with an optimized Google Places listing. Some local searches are searched ALOT, I’m talking 1,500 times a month. And the first position gets around 40% of the total traffic. I mean, what are leads worth to your business? Someone searches plumber in San Diego, what do you think they’re looking for?”
Adding Customer Reviews to the Mix
“Local search is a powerful way to connect with potential customers and it works very well regardless of the type of business you own – at least I know of no exceptions. While Google Places is the most popular site for local search, I would recommend including Bing and Yahoo. There are additional sites that you can use to gain visibility and support your local search ranking. The list is long and there are services to help you. One important element of any local search campaign [in addition to those Garrett mentioned] is reviews. Obtaining reviews and back links are probably the two most powerful things you can do to improve your ranking. While it can take time to optimize your profile and distribute it on different sites, there is little doubt that doing so will make a measurable difference in your sales pipeline.”
Yes, it has been an interesting discussion with a wealth of information and insight provided, proving once again the power of Linkedin and social networking.
Please feel free to add your comments below.