As a local business in the current age, it’s easy to feel like you’re at a disadvantage in online marketing. National or even international businesses with decades of history and million-dollar budgets can easily funnel money into a digital marketing campaign, dominating the search engine results pages (SERPs) of Google and other platforms, and sharply increasing visibility on social media.
However, local businesses actually have a few advantages against their national-scale counterparts. Local businesses can focus their efforts on key geographic areas, both in search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing, to boost relevance and remain competitive. As Dial My Calls explains, “by narrowing the target you are actually broadening your chances of becoming visible to consumers who will actually use your services or buy your products.”
So how can local businesses use social media marketing to get an edge on the competition?
- Tag customers in branded images. Altimeter Group analyst Brian Solis once noted, “social media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” People love to see themselves on social media, and will likely share the experience of being featured on a local company’s page. In the course of your local business, ask your customers for photos, and feature those photos on social media; if you can, tag the people you’ve featured. Doing so will make the photo appear on all their friends’ feeds, and will draw their attention to it. It’s a good way to add more images to your content stream and instantly connect with a wider audience.
- Host events. Social media is an easy way to improve the visibility of local events, so consider hosting more events as a way to build social engagement. Even if the people viewing your event don’t attend, they’ll think of you as better engaged with the community, and will be more receptive to the locally relevant content you post in the future. These events could be anything from networking events to seminars, but should be interesting and valuable for your target audience.
- Sponsor local events. In the words of Pam Moore, “You can never go wrong by investing in communities and the human beings within them.” Rather than hosting your own event, you can sponsor one that’s already in progress; this is especially valuable if the event proceeds are going to a good cause. Promoting your involvement shows your investment in the community and can greatly expand your local visibility.
- Attend and cover local events. As a third event-related option, you can simply attend a local event that’s unfolding, and cover it on your social media feed. Live streaming video is becoming more popular on platforms like Facebook, and it can be a valuable shortcut to building an audience. This is especially helpful if the event is associated with a popular hashtag.
- Create a hashtag. Speaking of hashtags, you could create one from scratch to build visibility related to your company. For example, you could use the hashtag to encourage people to post images or videos of themselves at your establishment, or use the hashtag as part of a competition. Just remember, people aren’t going to use your hashtag unless you give them a good reason, so motivate them with a chance to win something or an opportunity to entertain their friends.
- Encourage more reviews. Reviews on social media are a major opportunity to build your reputation and better engage with your audience. Advertise your presence on social media to attract more reviews, and be sure to read the incoming reviews regularly to gauge your followers’ impressions of your business. They’re a valuable source of feedback you can use to improve your offerings and performance over time.
- Write and promote locally relevant content. Finally, write locally relevant content on your website (such as covering local events), and publicize it on social media. If you optimize for local keywords (such as those related to your city, state, and region), you’ll increase your relevance for local rankings in search results at the same time. Either way, you’ll generate more traffic to your website by syndicating and promoting local traffic through social media.
The Importance of Engagement
All these strategies can help you achieve more visibility and attract more customers to your local business. However, to retain those customers and maintain the momentum of your social presence’s growth, you’ll need to keep those customers as engaged as possible. Ask questions, gather feedback, respond to comments, and engage your followers in conversation. The more responsive you are, and the more your followers feel they’re heard, the more likely they’ll be to stick around. With a large, locally relevant, and engaged audience, you can outcompete even the strongest national brands.