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Local Business Marketing: 3 Strategies to Leverage Engagement

Submitted by on November 15, 2011 – 12:07 pm4 Comments

If your business caters predominately to local customers then you know how important it is to gain the attention of people in your immediate vicinity. Today’s customers will likely turn to the Internet to research businesses via organic searches. And, in the past couple of years, consumers have become increasingly more predisposed to engage with businesses on social media platforms. In this post, we’ll explore ways to be leverage engagement on Facebook, Twitter and Google Places.

Local Business and Social Media

According to a 2011 study by technology company, Roost, local businesses rank social media more than four times more effective as a marketing channel than paid search. 87.3 percent believe social marketing is either “Somewhat important” or “Very important.” Of the social networks local business tend to use most, 84.1 percent reported Facebook was the most effective for their business.”

Facebook

: How can Local Businesses Leverage the Network for their Business?

Blitzlocal’s CEO, Dennis Yu spoke with Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner in a recent interview. Dennis suggests that brands should first use Facebook to build minimum scale, to have enough fans to have a conversation and then build for engagement.  He says that his firm thinks of 3000 fans per location, and that if you’re a big chain like Macy’s then maybe you need 10,000 fans, and if you’re a Subway where each location is a small footprint then maybe you need 400 or 500 [fans].

Dennis suggests that brands need to leverage their existing friends e.g. take your email list and bring those people over to Facebook–offer incentives for them to like you on Facebook, download this e-book, get 10% off, put a like box on your website. Dennis advocates for thinking about what your brand is really about and remembering that Facebook is not a new discipline–that what it boils down to, is that Facebook is a marketing strategy.

What should local businesses post on Facebook?

Roost’s second quarterly report found that the best way to achieve Likes is through photo posts, quotes and status updates, with photos providing 50 percent more impressions on average than any other post type and quotes providing 22 percent more interactions when compared to all post types.

Their findings also indicate that “questions generate two times as many comments as any other post type.  The second most popular way to get fans commenting is through a compelling business status update. Facebook Shares are a great way to disseminate business and product messages across fans’ networks and links are 87 percent more likely to be shared than any other post type.”

Facebook Content Strategy

For local businesses the type of content you share should represent the kind of conversations you’d have with your customer if they were shopping in your brick and mortar store, seated at your lunch counter, sitting in your waiting room.

Roost offers several ideas about content based on types of businesses. For restaurants they suggest: daily specials, special events in the restaurant, local even news that drives foot traffic, pictures of menu items, insights from your Chef and staff

For real estate professionals: market condition insights, neighborhood updates, pictures of properties, interior design ides, local and community news, financing news and information.

For dentists: sales and discounts on special services like teeth whitening, dental tips and health reminders, pictures of great smiles from clients.

Twitter

What should local businesses post on Twitter?
Roost’s report found that the most effective engagements for local businesses communicating on Twitter are Retweets. Quotes drive, on average, 54 percent more Retweets than any other type of Tweet, with status updates being the second highest driver of engagement.

e.g.
Study of online marketers reported  SEO is #1 source of leads compared to PPC & social media marketing http://bit.ly/ssSVBM

2011 Zoomerang study set out to understand how small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) & consumers are using social media. Learn more http://bit.ly/sw1TS2

Google Places for Local Businesses

Google Places may very well be one of the best kept secrets and something that local businesses who aren’t already using will greatly benefit from. Google Places are free pages that are listed within Google search results right after AdWords listings, but before organic search results. They’re linked to maps and directions, details about the business (transit, prices, hours, reviews) and space for photos and videos, and opportunities to create coupons for customers.

There are some exciting new developments in Google Places too that we’ll discuss below that make it an even more desirable strategy to employ.

Google Places are free pages that are listed within google search results right after AdWords listings, but before organic search results.

Creating an Effective Google Places Page


SitePoint offers these 8 tips for creating an effective Places Page:

  1. Add photos and video: Make sure you have great photo or video content to load on your Place. A photo of your office, products, or team are worthy examples. What would prospective customers want to see.
  2. Embrace service areas: If you’re willing to visit a client location, add the service area you cover. This could be by distance (kilometres/miles), or by town/suburb.
  3. Write interesting copy: You want your listing to shine, so make your description upbeat, friendly, and detailed. Avoid keyword-stuffing, as it will fail to make sense for readers, but cover the facts.
  4. Complete all contact information and hours of operation: As well as providing handy information to your Place Page visitors, you look more professional by presenting a complete page.
  5. Utilize all five categories: Google offers five categories (such as “web design”) to list your Place in. Make sure you use all five to improve your chances of people seeing your Places page.
  6. Encourage customers to review you: Reviews in Google Places can be added easily once the reviewer has a Google Account. Encourage clients to review your business, to improve your business credibility.
  7. Add coupons: Google Places allows you to create coupons for customers to print out and redeem. If you offer coupons or specials in the real world, ensure you add them to your Places page for greater exposure.
  8. Keep your listing up to date: Ensure that your Places Page is always current, and set a reminder for yourself to keep an eye on it.

New Ways to Get Place Information

Jim Müller, Tech Lead for Google Places posted information on November 1, 2011 about ways to get enhanced information about real-world places. In addition to the photos that you’ve been able to post on your Google Places page up to now, Google has rolled out 360-degree interior views using street view technology that you can sign up for via a photo shoot by Google trusted photographers. So far these photographs have been rolled out for businesses in “select cities in the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France and the UK.” see full list.

Users can also learn about places in search results with the newly enhanced instant preview feature that shows detailed information when you hover over the “>>” symbol to the right of each result.

hover over the “>>” symbol to the right of each result.

Directing Customers to Your Google Places Page


You can direct customers to your Google Places page by grabbing the url and linking to the page in email marketing, on your Facebook page and through other communication.

Grab the url and promote your Google Places Page.


A Forum for Learning More About Google Places

Google places has an active help forum and a way for businesses to connect and learn from one another e.g. how to optimize your place page, add new features, discuss google places issues. To stay up-to-date on Google’s tools for small to medium-sized businesses, check out the Google Small Business Blog.

More about Google Places


Earlier this month, Google rolled out Google+ pages for businesses and wrote in a recent post encouraging businesses to maintain their Google Places account to “help ensure that potential customers can find accurate information about your business on Google Maps and local search. They suggested that businesses may want to supplement Google Places account with a Google+ Page for your business, “which provides you with additional ways to engage and directly interact with customers using Google+. Currently, however, Google Places accounts and Google+Pages must be managed separately.”

Many businesses have already been flocking to Google+ and there’s been a lot of buzz about it online. Hubspot has a helpful post and a free ebook.  Blogger Kristi Hines offers great instructions for setting up a Google+ page for your business and showcases 7 examples for social media enthusiasts: Social Media Examiner, Social Media Explorer, Mashable, Search Engine Land, Hootsuite, Google+ themselves, and Twitter.

The jury is still out about the potential benefits of Google+for businesses and time will only tell. But my best guess is that it’s going to be a real contender for social media space.

 And, if you consider the whole package that Google is offering local businesses via organic search: maps, ability to have place pages with business descriptions, reviews, photos of the establishment and now coupled with a way to further interact with customers via Google+, Google may have created the perfect way for businesses to be thinking marketing and acting locally.
Coming soon on GigCoin, more on Google+!

How do you market your local business? What tips can you share? Let us know in the comments.

photo by Andre Eleazer

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