While it’s certainly true that, thanks to the internet, even the smallest business can be a global contender, many small businesses have their focus on local markets. When local consumers can find you online, your business can grow a loyal customer base – and let’s face it, many of us prefer to support local businesses when we can.
One way to achieve this is via local search engine optimisation – making a small investment in digital marketing go a long way. And one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your business on the internet is through clever social media marketing.
According to market research, more than 80 per cent of consumers use the internet to source local businesses – and to compete, a local business needs online visibility. Buying locally, or using a local service provider, saves money and is highly convenient. While there are numerous ways to affect great search engine optimisation results, one of the easiest and cleverest ways to enhance your overall digital marketing strategy is to take advantage of social media marketing.
Social media is a fantastic way to spread the message about your business, brand and website. Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, have dedicated business pages which allow for promotion to your network. Free to use, they also deliver trustworthy links to your website that translates to better rankings on Google.
How can social media drive local business?
Yes, social media connects you to a global audience. But when targeted specifically, it can also drive local business your way. Some ways this can be achieved include:
- Start a group – Create a local group around a topic related to but not specifically about your business. For example, a health food store could start a group of likeminded members focused on wellness and healthy living. A bookstore could start a local book club. A store selling craft supplies could start a hobby group. A local cinema could found a group for niche film appreciation. The purpose of the group is to build a following, network, take advantage of community spirit, and share a common interest – without blatantly promoting your brand and hard-selling your business.
- Use your location – And encourage check-ins. Facebook and Foursquare are particularly adept at getting users to check in when they visit a location – so make your store or business an appealing check in base and offer incentives for users to do so – make it fun.
- Link social landing pages – for your business to your website, and add buttons on your site so visitors can instantly access your social media pages. Ensure your location is clear on your social page.
- Create a community blog – create valuable content in a local resource by inviting local businesses in your niche to contribute. Broad topics could include wellness, branding, entrepreneurship, gardening or home maintenance. Make sure you can provide quality content for a specific area and that others invited to contribute have their own quality content to deliver. Link the content to social media for all contributors.
How can I connect with local consumers via social media?
If you have a local business and seek to use social media channels to raise awareness and recognition of your brand, you are in luck – because using social media for business is one of the most effective ways to capture consumer attention and maximise your visibility.
Use Facebook primarily to build brand loyalty for your business. Monitor what your competitors are doing; pay attention to current trends; post interesting and captivating content that will be shared; share images and videos; run polls and competitions; partner with non-profit organisations to enhance reach; and interact with your followers.
Moz.com has likened Twitter to a cocktail party: Everyone can hear everyone else’s conversations (and interrupt if they so choose); guests who only talk about themselves are unpopular; it can be hard to talk to people if you’re new; and you can miss out if you’re not in the right place at the right time. (Source: https://moz.com/learn/local/twitter-for-local-businesses).
Gain traction on Twitter by creating a compelling profile that reflects your brand identity. Find followers by following others in your network, niche, and industry. Listen to what others are saying. Tweet mindfully and use hashtags intelligently. Promote your account offline via your emails and offer time sensitive Twitter-specific specials.
Not a lot of social sharing occurs on Google+; its importance lies in Google’s ability to track behaviours of users across the web. Not a primary social platform for small business, it is instead a tool to use to enhance SEO and rankings. Create Circles and host public conversations. Add your business to Google+ Local; engage in B2B reviews and check out what other successful small businesses are doing.
Instagram is about images and locations. All you need is compelling images that somehow relate to your business or can be inspiring to your followers, accompanied by locations and a couple of relevant hashtags. Link your account to Facebook for maximum traction.
A company page on LinkedIn offers a hub for colleagues, employees, contractors, and other interested parties to connect with your business. Your focus should be on small local groups – particularly for B2B communications.
Other tips for local promotion online
- Have a community focus – Social media is about connection, and it is at its core centred on the concept of community. By allowing for personal and direct communication with consumers, not only can you convert consumers into paying customers, you can also create valuable and effective lead generators for your brand. Make sure you engage with your following – this is the key to your success.
- Invest in social advertising – With pay per click advertising on social media like Facebook, a little financial investment can go a long way. Google AdWords can also greatly enhance your overall search engine results.
- If it works, keep doing it – Successful social media practices need not be tweaked – just keep delivering what you know works. If something you’ve done hasn’t gone over as well with followers, tweak your approach and try again.
- QR codes – Showcase your social presence with QR codes via your company’s physical elements including vehicles, shopfronts and so on. This allows for consumer interaction with your social profile in the physical world for access at a later time.
- Choose one – Decide which social platform is right for your small business? The ones your customers and potential customers already use. You don’t need to be on all platforms – choose a couple of networks that work for you and your business.
- Obtain listings in local directories – Most are free and will most certainly grow your web traffic to your site. Some examples of local directories include Yelp, Bing for Business, Local Yahoo and Smile Local.
- Ask for local customer reviews – This builds the credibility of your business for future prospective customers.
- Invest in local SEO – It need not cost a fortune – sometimes the best local SEO providers are not the most expensive. Make sure they report regularly to you on what you are paying for and how the results are playing out. SEO takes time and consistency and is not a simple process. There may be recommendations from your SEO provider as to what you need to implement on your site for SEO to work optimally – listen to what they say.
Social media has transformed how we communicate. It is crucial for small businesses to get onboard and make the most of the medium. With the majority of modern consumers researching products and services online, as well as seeking personal recommendations, having a dynamic and vibrant presence on social media is a boon for any brand. Build relationships, and you will build your brand. The return on investment for a business owner is potentially enormous – so embrace social media for business today.
Looking for something more?
If LinkedIn is your preferred social media platform … have you set your profile up correctly so it is optimised and is working for you?
Free 4-Week LinkedIn Optimisation Course: Not only do we share a bunch of valuable, relative and useful info on our blogs, but we’ve got a free LinkedIn eCourse to help you get the most out of this platform especially for B2B enterprises. If LinkedIn is your preferred social media channel, take a look at this course to raise your profile, generate leads and boost your business – so LinkedIn can start working for you.