Online Marketing in A Small Town Part 5: Social and Local

Josh Curcio

First, let me apologize for missing my post on Thursday, but I have not forgotten about the online marketing in a small town series. This post will discuss social and local...these 2 can go hand in hand. Let me preface this post by saying that although I'll cover several social networks, you do not have to participate in every single one. Think back to your planning process and do what is right for you and your audience...but at the same time don't just discount them without consideration. Check out the chart below to find out where your audience is.

Pew-Demos-SocNet-Platforms-Jan2014

Social Media

Social media is not going anywhere. Sure it will change over time and you'll have to adapt, but don't let that scare you. You need to be where the people are. Take Facebook for example: there are more than 1.26 Billion users on Facebook, while all of these users are not your target audience...people in your small town are on Facebook. Yes, even some of the older ones. As of January, 16% of the Facebook population was 55 years or older. So how can you incorporate Facebook and other social media into your local business strategy? Start off with something easy like getting the information right!

Pay Attention to Details

First thing's first, regardless of which social media outlet you are considering, make sure it is set up appropriately. Facebook is one that businesses are still having trouble with. On Facebook, make sure you are set up appropriately as a business vs. a personal page. While this problem isn't as prevalent as it was several years ago, we still see it. Often times it happens because a business owner doesn't have a Facebook personal page and they just use their business page as "their Facebook" profile. Don't do this. Not only is it against the terms of use set forward by Facebook, it can also be a disservice to your followers. A person following a business doesn't want to be invited to play Bejeweled Blitz 3 times a day by that business...they get this enough from their friends. Business pages are set up so they are useful by a business and how they can/should interact with followers.

Make sure that your Facebook profile is complete and has accurate information. If you are lacking in the website department, many local consumers may end up finding your Facebook page before your actual website. If your phone number is missing/wrong or your hours do not match your actual hours, you are not providing any value to your customers. Be sure to include phone, address, website link, hours, categories, and at least general information. There are some additional fields that should be filled out as well, but these are necessary.

On Twitter, make sure your profile is complete and you aren't using the default egg as your profile picture. If someone does stumble upon your profile they have to be sure it is actually you and you've accidentally set up multiple accounts over the years, they should be certain that they are interacting and following your active one without having to guess.

Respond

Answer reviews or comments whether they are good or bad! When I see unanswered feedback I am annoyed as both a marketer and a consumer. If you aren't going to be available or have no interest in replying, you may need to face the fact that Facebook might not be your thing. And please don't delete bad comments unless they are unfair, dishonest or completely off the wall. Instead respond to these comments and how you are rectifying the situation. If done right, you can turn these things into a positive. And please don't avoid social media because someone might say something bad about your business. They are going to say it whether you are there or not. If you are there listening, you'll hear about the negative press sooner and be able to address it before it blows up. Small town businesses tend to have an advantage here because most people know one another and if you are acquainted with someone you are less apt to post negative comments.

Share

Share useful information regularly if you are on the appropriate social networks. By regularly I don't mean once an hour (Twitter is more forgiving). You don't want to be that annoying business that posts everything that comes to mind. Think about your business and your customers. What types of things would they find interesting and useful that are not necessarily sales oriented. For example if you are local sporting good store, you might want to share fishing conditions on your local fishing spots. Get some conversation going and give people a reason to pay attention. Sure, you can share your sales and updates about your store, but don't make it all about that or it will get old for you and the followers quickly.

Share photos that the locals recognize. These might be photos of other people in the community, your facility, or photos of the general area. You'll find that these types of things will get more interaction and views. Additionally take into consideration general human emotion, humor, happiness, sadness, etc. These are fair game in social media, but just be sure to be genuine. Don't post a sad photo just to make people notice it.

After you get involved with social you'll see what works best for your area, business and community. Do what works and modify your strategy around that. And remember, don't just ignore a social network that you don't think people use. Give them all fair consideration, but be sure that they work to meet your business goals.

Local

When I say local I am referring to local business listings on Google, Bing, Yelp, etc. As a local business serving a local customer base, do your customers a favor and complete the necessary ones. At bare minimum claim your Google+ Local page. This was formerly Google places and powers the information that shows up on local searches and Google maps when someone searches your business or business type. Individuals can get directions and call you directly from the listing that they find. If that doesn't convince you, consider the fact that Google is probably going to create one of these for you automatically. If you don't claim it you cannot control the messaging. Take the initiative, claim and use it to your advantage.

Keep in mind, a Google + Brand page will be different from your Google + Local page. If you are primarily a local business, my recommendation is to not put effort into a brand page and focus on a local page. Again, be sure everything is up to date and accurate. Have some nice images, a logo and anything else that might be relevant for you.

The others. These ones you have to take on a case by case scenario. While it doesn't hurt to claim any local listing you can, you have to keep all of those accurate. If you are a restaurant or any other brick and mortar location that tends to be reviewed, get yourself on Yelp. More and more locations are joining and out of towners might use it as their primary choosing tool when looking for a location in an unfamiliar area.

Your local listings don't require as much as engagement as standard ones, but pay attention to reviews and respond when necessary. Again, don't try and delete bad reviews unless they are completely out of line. Use them as constructive criticism and respond to them showing they have been noticed and attended to. Be a good local business and get involved. It isn't that hard and it will make your customers happy! Take the other things into consideration that we have discussed. Usually being involved with social and claiming local listings is not enough. Many times your website still has to be the workhorse and it has the power to set you apart from your competition. Even in a small, friendly town you should still want to outdo your competition!

Check out the rest of the series.

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