How many people do you think use Facebook actively every month?
Your estimate might actually be low.
Let’s talk about the numbers:
Statista reports that the number of Facebook users in the U.S. (as of October 2018) had reached a whopping 204 million users.
Combine this with the fact that the overall U.S. population is around 327 million, and you can derive that 2 in 3 U.S. citizens are actively using Facebook.
At this point of this guide, now that you know the value of the organic search, you may be looking for other ways to promote your local business.
Facebook (and other relevant social media platforms) can substantially help your local business grow.
If you do it right.
This begs a natural question:
How exactly can your business benefit from being present on social media channels?
We did some homework, so you can get an idea of how exactly local businesses are taking advantage of social media marketing.
Before you decide whether you’re ready to dive into the world of social media marketing, let’s dive a bit deeper into why you should.
Why Local Businesses Should Invest Time & Money in Social Media Marketing
You’re probably already crazy busy promoting your business.
Adding even more marketing tasks might seem a bit like overkill.
Nowadays though, neglecting to incorporate social media into your marketing plan can cost you – not just in terms of new potential customers who don’t know you (and who your competitor is happy to collect!) but also in terms of retaining your existing customers.
By building a relationship with your clients, your chances of retaining them increase, and so does their potential lifetime value.
Now let these other compelling arguments convince you even more:
‘Hey, Guys… Does Anyone Know a Good…’
Folks on social are constantly asking their friends for recommendations for almost everything, ranging from local restaurants to car repairing services.
Social media platforms (as the marketing machines that they are) hone in on these conversations.
For example, Facebook offers users a dedicated feature that allows them to ask for recommendations in an area where they live.
Once a user seems to be asking for local tips in a status update, a special algorithm is fired that recognizes recommendation requests.
Based on the answers of Facebook friends in the comments, the feature then pulls up the exact locations of businesses mentioned.
This means the local business will be tagged automatically, visible for the user who asked the question, and anyone else who sees the post.
Similar features have been rolled out on other social media platforms.
So what happens if you aren’t there? Crickets…
‘Worst Service Ever!’
Even if you aren’t active on social media, people will talk about your business.
Customers share their feedback, good and bad, and you need to be aware of it.
- If it’s good, GREAT! You can capitalize on that satisfied customer, by leveraging their praise to get more customers or have your happy ones come back for more.
- If it’s bad, GREAT! You can control the conversation by showing your excellent customer service skills. Turn the grumpy complainer into a blazing fan by really listening to their issue and solving it.
It usually isn’t about making a mistake – mistakes are inevitable for any business.
Really, it’s about how you correct it.
And a bonus? You get to learn more about what your customers really think, and improve your business accordingly.
Know what happens when you aren’t there?
Complaints go viral, and your competitor offers to help out your customer. Because they were listening.
Cut Your Ad Costs by Local Advertising
Social media platforms were not built for their users, but for advertisers.
Location is one of the many specific demographic aspects you can target your ads on.
If you laser target your ads on the people who are based in your area, their interests, and some other demographic details, you will achieve the highest customer potential with the lowest costs.
Furthermore, by tweaking the targeting and the content of your ads, you learn more about ideal leads than any survey can tell you, for a fraction of the cost!
And what if you don’t use these ads features? You keep firing aimlessly, while your competition targets the golden nuggets.
Let the Fans Speak for You
Social media marketing lends itself perfectly for building a passionate community around your brand.
There’s no better way to encourage people to promote you than helping them to connect with like-minded people.
This is more than just owning the conversations around your products or services.
You’re also creating long-term relationships with, and between, customers.
Happy customers will take care of word-of-mouth marketing for you – and even part of your customer service.
Also, they will come back to you for more business. Again and again.
Some Ideas to Illustrate Community Building
Suppose you own a shop in craft supplies and want to become more visible to potential buyers.
You could showcase finished projects from your customers on Pinterest and Facebook, and invite people to ask questions and tips from the makers.
This will get the ball rolling in people sharing their crafty accomplishments, struggles, and dreams, all around your products!
Another great example is building a community around detoxing and weight loss, for a local juice bar.
People can inspire and support each other in their health goals, while you can share the latest juice recipes and congratulate everyone on their progress.
You might organize meetups in your bar, before or after workouts. All done quite easily with the functionality social media provides you.
If you don’t have a community, you are definitely missing out on establishing yourself as a strong brand, with fairly low-cost effort. A community is an asset that will pay itself back multiple times.
Easy Promotion of New Products & Services
While spreading the news about new products and services through traditional local channels still has its merits, getting the word out through social media can give your campaign a huge boost.
Through social advertising, your community and your own page, you have several options to “show what you’ve got”. And you can do this with images, text, and video.
It’s amazing when you can actually show your product in action from all angles!
Moreover, you can let your fans spread the news for you. If you have shareable content, they will pass it on.
If you have followers that are raving about your new thing, let their positive reviews shine!
The more their love for you gets the spotlight, the more attractive you will be for others.
Not using social media marketing for your new products? Then you’re giving your customers a very limited experience in getting a taste of what’s to come.
Free Mass Publicity
Throughout this chapter, you might have been rolling your eyes, thinking: “Does this mean I have to spend all my time reacting to everyone on social?”
I hear you. And no, you don’t.
Though you should pay attention to what your customers tell you about their experience, you don’t have to bend over backwards for every voice out there.
Some social influencers have become so accustomed to companies quivering in their boots for any negative tweet or post, they assume they are all powerful.
However, if you remain authentic, open in your communication, and use a bit of clever banter, you will often find yourself on the winning side of things.
People are getting quite fed up with spoiled insta celebs and will gather behind you. And if you get lucky (or is it luck if you play it smart?) – you can end up being featured in the mass media.
The White Moose vs. Elle Darby
A great example of this is the online feud between Irish restaurant The White Moose Cafe, and YouTube blogger Elle Darby.
Darby asked (through cold email) for a free room in exchange for a review. To which The White Moose reacted by sharing her email (with personal details hidden) in a post criticizing the current favor demanding an attitude of bloggers.
Reactions from both sides went back and forth for a while, while many others chimed in, sharing and commenting on their posts.
Meanwhile, The White Moose were selling feud-related merch and producing one popular social media post after another.
Oh, and they got featured in 114 articles, in 20 countries, reaching about 450 million people. For free.
Though getting this kind of publicity depends on a lot of factors, I believe that being alert and ready for these events creates opportunities.
Or, as Louis Pasteur says: “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
If you aren’t ready, someone else might be!
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you into accepting the necessity of SMM for your local business, here’s how to start.
Which Social Media Platforms Are Best for Your Business?
Face it, you can’t do everything at once.
Well, some companies can (thanks to amazing tools and teams).
To start, however, you should focus on one or two channels first.
Need help selecting the right social media platforms for you?
Here are some tips to decide which networks to focus on.
Type of Content
This can vary, from images and videos to written content.
Let’s imagine you’re providing plumber or dental services, in which case it’s hard to post a few photos per day (compared to restaurants and shops that prefer to focus on visual content).
This means that Instagram won’t work for each and every local business, as opposed to Facebook.
I believe that a local business should have a company page on Facebook (see image below) where a potential customer can find all necessary info (i.e., working hours, location, site, and services you provide).
Where & When Is Your Audience Most Active?
Having a page on a channel doesn’t mean that you need to produce posts on a daily basis.
For instance, if your audience isn’t really actively engaging on Facebook, then posting a few times per month should be enough.
However, if you’ve found out that your current and potential customers are actively engaging with your competitors and industry niche pages, then it’s a green light for you, too.
Another thing that’s worth checking is Facebook groups. With the help of Facebook closed groups, you can find:
- The most urgent and viral topics.
- What sort of content resonates best with your audience.
- What influences their buying decisions.
The same goes for other social media channels. So research other local businesses on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest.
Here you can find an overview of the most popular social media channels by the number of users.
What Is Your Budget?
Take into consideration the number of hours you can invest in this and/or the budget you have.
Nowadays, successful social media managers spend a good amount of time on creating social media posts – but even more hours engaging with their audience.
Conversations and engagement are the main keys to social media success.
Likes and shares won’t help your community grow as much as comments and interactions.
This is why you need to understand whether you have enough resources to be present (e.g., cover just the social media basics, post something from time to time) or active (all the basics, posting daily, plus interacting with and quickly responding to people) on social media.
Connecting Your Offline Customers with Your Social Media Platforms
Once you’ve selected the right social media platforms, you’re going to face another painful issue: your audience is still split between the online and offline world.
This is where all brands are struggling more or less, with clients who are constantly consuming their products but are not a part of their social media community.
You need to connect users who are consuming your products/services offline with your online activity. They can help you grow your presence, leave positive reviews, and connect your business to a location because they are connected to the area around it.
So how does that work?
Here are a few ideas on how you can do it:
- Ask them to check out your business on social media by giving them a printed card with all your details.
- Make a photo corner where they can make a photo/selfie and showcase of other clients that have already participated in. Remember, social media marketing is 1,000x more effective when it’s about your happy customers (not YOU). So put them in the spotlight!
- Create a giveaway.
- Give people a discount on their current purchase/bill if they join your online community.
- Invite them to a special sale that will be running exclusively for your community.
Being online for businesses has become very, very local.
Everyone on social media is being located, by the things that they like and the things that they do.
Social media marketing can be an effective, fairly low-cost way to create greater visibility for your local business.
So be one of the things that a lot of locals like on their news feed, and more of them will follow.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
Screenshot: Taken by author