In today’s virtual world, if your business isn’t online, it practically doesn’t exist.
Whether or not you have a website or presence on Facebook and other social networks, you can still take advantage of the proliferation of community sites that are devoted to local business information and reviews. Think of it as a dynamic, constantly updated Yellow Pages listing—but one with ongoing feedback from customers.
Ross Kimbarovsky is co-founder of crowdSPRING, a website that connects small businesses with designers, website builders and copy writers. Kimbarovsky says sometimes using social media for small business marketing is as simple as creating or updating your company’s listing on online review platforms. New to the social media universe? First, he suggests, update your business profile on Yelp (www.yelp.com), Google Local (www.local.google.com) and Foursquare (foursquare.com). Here’s how.
Yelp is an online directory that lets users rate and review businesses in their area. Each business listed has a category, address, phone number and a map of where the business is located. Additional information can be added when you create a free business owner account. Creating an account also allows you to communicate with customers through Yelp, track the traffic to your Yelp page and announce special offers.
Update your business’ listing by adding business hours and creating a link to your website. This adds credibility to your company and makes it more convenient for a consumer to use your products or services. For a video tutorial and instructions on creating a business owners account, visit www.yelp.com/business/unlocking. Give your customers incentives—like a free appetizer or a discount on services—to review your company on Yelp. The more reviews your company has, the more likely you are to show up in search results.
Google Local is associated with Google Maps, which allows consumers to find businesses in their area. After searching for a location on Google Maps (here's how to get listed), users working from a computer can choose to “Search nearby” for local businesses. Those working from a mobile phone use the ‘Near Me Now’ feature to find out what businesses are nearby and to read reviews. Each business profile includes an address, phone number and webssite.
Update or create your listing for free by going to www.google.com/local/add. There you’ll find a tutorial explaining how to sign up, edit the content of your listing, engage customers and track customer activity.
Foursquare is online game and social media platform that helps people explore their city. Players can leave tips and reviews of businesses for other users. The user who most frequently visits a business becomes “mayor” at that business.
“Foursquare has a very clear plan for how they will get businesses focused on leveraging what has so far been a game,” says Kimbarovsky. Foursquare is soon expected to release a feature allowing small businesses to track how many people visit their establishment at a given time, how often those customers return and the customers’ gender. Foursquare can also be used as a promotional tool; some small businesses offer discounts and specials to the ‘mayor’ of their establishment.
“Customers will talk about you, whether you participate in the conversation or not,” says Kimbarovsky. “Ultimately, you should take the opportunity to at least make sure people have access to accurate information.”