Social media is crucial to the success of small businesses. Sites like Facebook are essential for small businesses to increase exposure, create brand awareness and drive traffic to business websites.
Most small businesses spend significant amounts of time and labor doing social media marketing, according to the seventh annual Social Media Marketing Industry Report released by Social Media Examiner. The results of these campaigns, however, are mixed. The problem is that small businesses rely too much on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. According to the report mentioned above, 93 percent of small businesses focus their marketing efforts on Facebook. About 79 percent also pay similar attention to Twitter. B2B small businesses market largely on LinkedIn.
The problem with the Facebook-first approach is that it could lead to businesses ignoring their local customer base. Local customers are the ones most likely to engage with small local businesses. Going local is the best strategy to attract returning customers who can be loyal for years to come. So, small businesses are strongly advised to focus on marketing locally, unless the business is specifically geared towards an international audience. Facebook can be used to market locally within certain parameters. However, there are other social media sites that local customers are most likely to use that small businesses should be aware of. Here is a list of such sites.
Yelp is quite famous (and infamous) for its reviews. The site has more than 140 million active users, and is a leader in publishing customer reviews for businesses like restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions. Small businesses engaged in the food and service sector should definitely be on Yelp. Google often lists Yelp review results on top of search results for queries on restaurants and eateries. Your business reputation will certainly be improved by having positive reviews on Yelp. These reviews are widely considered to be genuine and authentic. So, it’s better to have a positive review on Yelp than a positive customer testimonial on your own website.
2. Twitter and Instagram
These two sites get lumped together largely thanks to the power of hashtags. You can use hashtags to reach a global customer audience. Likewise, the right hashtags can get you close to a local customer base. Twitter is perfect for arranging special promotional events like free giveaways and meetups that only local customers can attend. Any company can use Twitter and Instagram to attract unique local customers. For example, a business consultancy firm, Global Resources, uses Twitter to announce things like charity events and special Global Resources Reviews of small town companies, which locals are most likely to be interested in. On the other hand, Instagram is perfect for businesses to post graphics-heavy content. Don’t underestimate the power of these two social networks when it comes to reaching a local audience.
Meetup is made just for people to sign up and arrange, well, meetups within their local community. The opportunity here for local businesses to market is almost endless. If your small business has an event to arrange, like a new product launch or a sale, meetup is the best place to advertise the event. Meetup has millions of users so your posts will be visible even to potential customers in nearby areas. Meetup should be one of the regular social networks your marketing team uses to announce events. Do not limit your engagement to Facebook for these activities. Use sites like Meetup to increase your business’s exposure.
Moment is a social media micro network created exclusively for location-based marketing. This site features businesses like retail outlets and cafes categorizing them based on their location. Moment is ideal even for the tiniest mom-and-pop shop to get featured alongside better known establishments. The network has a feature called “Places” where a business can enter the address or name, and all mentions of the business on public social media posts would show up. You can browse what customers are already saying about your business. You can also use the platform to offer customers special discounts and such that generate leads. Essentially, Moment is a good site to use to find the customers who are most likely to purchase from your business.
SocialCentiv is a support web app for businesses to find customers on Twitter. This app allows businesses to go over thousands of Twitter posts in search of potential customers. The app provides highly sophisticated metrics to target potential customers based on criteria such as services and products. For example, a Thai restaurant can search Twitter posts for keywords such as “dinner” or “Thai food” to find customers who might be interested in visiting. Businesses can flag posts published by users and then directly reply to the users. If you find a Twitter user interested in sampling Thai food, your restaurant can directly send a coupon or a discount, for example. This platform can be highly useful for driving real world traffic.
Most small businesses, and some customers, are confused about this social media site. Tumblr can be simply explained as a mixture of Facebook and MySpace. It’s a microblogging site where users can post small posts, articles, videos, audio messages and giant quotes. Tumblr can be a highly effective tool if used correctly. The key to reaching local audiences on Tumblr is never to overly promote your business. Rather, it’s best to be artistic when it comes to posts. For example, if you run a café, you can post a meme-quote on Monday morning about the need for caffeine fixes. Better yet, get other customers to write mini-blogs about your local business. Tumblr appeals to a particular type of audience, largely younger. It also uses tags and hashtags, so reaching the right customers are not hard once you learn how things work.
Foursquare is a must-use social media site for service sector businesses such as restaurants, hotels, bars and hangout spots. This network lets users announce to the world that they have “checked in” at your place of business. While the tool works very simply, it is astoundingly effective in raising awareness of small businesses via word-of-mouth. You should encourage users to “check in” on Foursquare if they are at your store. For example, you can offer bonus points for Foursquare check-ins in loyalty programs. Foursquare can be immensely useful for small businesses located at tourist towns or little known towns outside major cities. There aren’t many Google results for these obscure establishments, so sometimes Google lists foursquare results.
Quora is a Q&A platform where customers can engage with each other similar to a social media network. Quora is the successor to once immensely popular Yahoo Answers. It’s a good place for small businesses to directly engage with customers and provide meaningful answers to inquiries. However, if your business is too small, no one will directly answer your question. But your company can browse through questions related to your industry and provide answers to establish your brand as an authority. For example, a small business that sells personal care products locally can answer frequently asked questions about skincare or hair care on Quora. Some customers request information about certain products. If your company stocks the product, you should pitch in and provide answers. Sometimes Google lists Quora posts in search results.
Most small businesses do not see the direct influence advertising this instant messaging platform can have. But if your company has an SMS marketing strategy (and yours really should), then WhatsApp should be part of that plan. Sending well-timed and well phrased short messages on WhatsApp can generate interest, traffic and possibly leads for your business. WhatsApp is an excellent tool to reach customers using mobile devices, who are highly likely to be customers of small local businesses.
Periscope is exclusively a live video streaming service. It’s not suitable for all businesses, but some businesses will definitely find this social network quite useful and effective. Periscope can be used in addition to or alongside Facebook live streaming video. Use Periscope to live stream events, launches and new product introductions. You can reach potential customers who are not there or customers who are simply interested but do not want to visit. Periscope can be a useful platform to generate interest and buzz around a product or a brand.
Affluence is a social media network for business experts and inside players. It’s more exclusive than other social media sites, and are best suited for B2B small businesses. You can connect with other business owners, experts in certain industries and power brokers on the site. Businesses on Affluence share information and converse meaningfully with each other. It’s a good tool to keep in touch with the business community in private. Also, B2B small businesses can gently raise awareness of the services available among potential customers on Affluence.
Other social media sites small businesses can market locally include SnapChat and StumbleUpon. There are plenty more. However, don’t try to advertise on everything. Experiment with each and find out which platforms generate the best returns for your investment. Once you isolate these lucrative social media sites, focus on those to reach your target audience.