The Power of Social Web for Local Businesses
With the whirlwind of social media conquering every nook and cranny of the internet it is no surprise that savvy businesses are developing strategies aimed at harnessing the power of the social web. Within the last few years every online venue seems to be featuring a more prominent local flavor in their search results. So how can your local business cash in on the social web buzz?
The most obvious use of the social web for local businesses is for providing valuable feedback. By setting up accounts for your business on sites like Yelp and Citysearch, you will have an efficient, quick, and free platform for conducting market research. Simply by reading customers comments you can find out what costumers are really saying about you. And, while a bum review by an unhappy costumer can hurt sometimes, it can also be of great value, because it provides an opportunity to diagnose and tweak the quirks in your business without needing to conduct extensive market research.
Of course, the positive feedback that you receive from the social web is a great boost for company morale too.
In addition to developing an improved understanding of your customer through the social web, you can also use it to network amongst other local businesses. Although MerchantCircle provides social features for customers, similar to Yelp and Citysearch, according to their vice president, Darren Waddell, “MerchantCircle’s social network is a platform for the merchant, first and foremost.” MerchantCircle enables local businesses to network with one-another in order to pass along advice, share ideas, and network amongst themselves. Obviously, a forum like this one is a valuable resource for business networking.
Both internet mega giants, Facebook and Google, have rolled out the red carpet for local businesses with their respective capacities for them to market themselves according to their physical addresses.
Google Local allows businesses to put themselves, in the shape of an upside-down teardrop, on the Google map. This is no small feature, being as Google now helps local businesses rank for keywords of local interest, such as “dentist in Minneapolis,” and provides a phone-book-like listing of local businesses. Businesses that would otherwise command zero presence in search engine results now have a respectable chance of being found by targeted prospects.
Besides, the Facebook “like” button, which requires no introduction, for social web marketing, Facebook has added a geo-targeted aspect to their online presence. By claiming your business and associating it with your address, you can allow mobile users to “check in” and tell their friends that they are at your establishment. This is a great way of gaining a word of mouth, or even viral, type of exposure.
Another geo-targeted social media mobile platform, Foursquare, makes checking in to local establishments a sort of game. Foursquare provides incentives for people to check into their favorite local establishments often. For example, the customer that checks into any establishment the most earns the title of “mayor” of that place. Many businesses show their appreciation to their Foursquare best customers by providing them with prizes such as free drinks. Considering the valuable social media publicity that loyal customers provide, free drinks is a small price to pay.
How do these social web platforms fit into your marketing strategies?