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5 Ways Social Media Can Drive Local Business

“This article originally appeared on the OPEN App Center.  Visit ww.theopenappcenter.com for more information and resources for streamlining and growing your business.”

La Citta Vita via Flickr

If you run a local business that’s focused on generating customers locally, then you may think you don’t really need to pay much attention to social media tools.

While it’s true many social media tools offer the opportunity to connect with global audiences, they’re also great for driving local business when used in a targeted fashion.

Look, if your customers and prospects are using social media tools, and a little research will likely prove they are, then it just stands to reason that if you can find ways to meet them where and when they choose to interact, you’ll get more chances to be their go-to provider.

Social CRM

If you have a list of local customers that contains email addresses, then your first local, social play is to update those records with public social media data. Using a browser add-in like Rapportive, you can see the social media profiles and participation of your customers right in your inbox.

True CRM tools, like ACT! and BatchBook also make it very easy to append your existing customer or prospect data with social media activity. This is a great way to measure how active your customers are, discover some of the most active and influential for referral purposes and learn much more about what makes them tick – all great ways to learn how to become even more important to them.

Start a Group

Most social networks allow you to start groups. Smart local businesses should look for way to create a local group around a topic that is not about their business, but related somehow. A camera shop could start a local photography hobby group. An insurance salesperson could start a local small business networking group. A chiropractor could run a local group focused on people who want to learn more about wellness and alternative health practices.

The key is to create a group that can build, network and share based on a common interest and not to set up something that is blatantly about promoting your business.

Community Blog

Another great tactic is to start a blog run by a number of local businesses. The idea here is to have a blog with the sole intention of creating useful content around a broad topic such as home maintenance, wellness and business building.

Of course, whatever the topic, you want to make sure your business can provide content in one specific area, such as plumbing in the case of the home maintenance blog. Then simply fill out the authors based on all of the other expertise needed to make this a great local resource.

If all of the participants also link to the content and point to it in their marketing and social media efforts, the community blog will become a local search engine magnet for all of the participants.

Location Matters

Location-based services such as Foursquare have created a check-in behavior driving mobile consumers to use their phones to check in to locations in a game-like manner. Local businesses can explore ways to take advantage of this social behavior by claiming and enhancing business pages in Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp.

Then you can explore ways to make offers through these tools using one or more of the various built-in features. You can also tap this behavior by creating your own games using Foursquare or Scvngr, a tool that helps you take advantage of mobile technology to create scavenger hunts.

Social Landing

On final way to enhance the local aspect of social media is to landing pages that are specific to a social network. In other words, create a Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Google+ page and Twitter page on your own website and link to them from your profile on the respective network.

The key is to make this your “local” Facebook page, for example, and make sure that there is a connection to both Facebook and your local presence. The power behind this tactic is two-fold. First, you enhance the connection to the social network – if someone visits your LinkedIn profile and clicks on your website link, they are taken to your LinkedIn landing page first. This personalization can help create engagement.

In addition, you create content on your website that’s both local and social that has a great chance of getting picked up in search engines and further helping you build a stronger presence in all of your social networks.

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