Social Media is the New Local Search -- 3 Essentials for Your Small Business or Franchise

February 1, 2013 Deb Griffith

If you haven't had a chance to take on traditional local SEO for your website, you may be able to improve your Local Search results just by implementing a few new Social Media tactics.

Social Media has been evolving for businesses rapidly over the last year. And no one stands to gain more than local merchants, especially small business owners and franchisees. Local marketing has always been critical for small businesses, and the new tools being built in social media have raised its status from a “goofy, timewaster for teenagers” to a powerful business referral engine.

And it all boils down to capitalizing on two emerging consumer trends, the importance of word-of-mouth marketing and local search.

Facebook -- Nearby and Graph Search

Facebook has been hinting for months about their desire to enter the search arena – but it was hard to imagine how they were going to do that, considering the current search function is less than awesome.

What It Does:

In November they launched the mobile device mapping function of Nearby, which allows users to see which friends and what local businesses are well, nearby. Definitely a nifty geo-location tool --I found 2 new sushi restaurants near my office that I didn’t even know about!

The data is pulled straight from Facebook Place Pages, so its critical to have a local Facebook Place Page. And make sure its updated with all the correct business information like address, hours and tagged for the right categories.

Why You Should Care:

To display on the search results map, you must have a local Facebook Place Page. I'll repeat it: You must have a local Facebook Place Page. Otherwise, only your competition will be found.

And in January, Graph Search was announced, taking the local search capability even further. Now you can query your Facebook community to give you personalized answers, ostensibly many of them will be recommendations for food or services. Graph Search doesn't exist for mobile -- yet.

So once again, the message for small businesses is clear: if you rely on foot traffic and word of mouth marketing, you need a Facebook page, with lots of fans talking about and liking your business.

Geo Location Services, AKA Yelp and Foursquare

Yelp and Foursquare have emerged as the frontrunners in geo location game -- providing recommendations and tips to users who query the services for ideas on things to do and places to go.

Why You Should Care About Yelp:

An impressive 45% of Yelp's traffic comes from mobile devices, usually indicating high intent for the users to take a "buying" action as a result of the search. Yelp's data consists primarily of business information, like location, hours, and links to additional information like websites and menus. But the key to Yelp's content is the public reviews. Although there have been some challenges to the veracity of the review information (false and malicious reviews do happen to slip through) that data drives the actual results positions and ultimately influences readers on choosing where to go.

It's important to make sure your business listing is claimed, correct business information is populated and you start asking for your customers to submit reviews. There are more than 84 million users each month using the site. That's a lot of eyeballs that might find you.

Why You Should Care About Foursquare:

Foursquare is similar to Yelp, in that it is basically a mobile-based online listing for businesses. The primary action on Foursquare is for users to "check in" and broadcast their whereabouts through their social networks. The implication is that a check-in is an endorsement, but not a fully baked review. They report more than 3 billion check-ins, so there's a lot of good word-of-mouth advertising there.

Foursquare also allows you to create offers and deals for promotion and reward loyalty with frequent check-ins. Foursquare has more than 10 million monthly users, significantly less than Yelp, but users are fiercely loyal and vocal advocates.

Google+ Local

Google+Local has been around now for about a year, formed from the merger of Google Places business listings and Google+. While nothing new has happened in quite a while, Google+ Local is critically important as the data it contains on small businesses is used to power its search and Map Search functions. This is imperative for any and all businesses that want to be indexed in Google for user searches. If you haven't implemented a comprehensive social media plan yet, don't worry, it's never too late. But every day that you aren't "being found" on social media, means that's another day that you wont have new customers walking through your door. So what are you waiting for? Get Social!  



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