The most frequently asked question posed these days at events, webinars and new client meetings is “What is the best social media platform for my local business?”
Research shows social channels are becoming more important signals in major search engine algorithms that affect the entire SEO and local search landscape. However, effective local and social media marketing is a time-consuming and daunting, yet important, effort for local businesses.
Before engaging in a hands-on, local-social marketing effort, it is a good idea to take a step back and look at your overall objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? And, equally as important, ask yourself how the various platforms can boost business through leads, branding and driving traffic. Consider what is most important to you, given the type of business you run.
The debate about the best social media channels for local businesses to reach customers/prospects will likely rage on as channels evolve and the industry as a whole evolves, but let’s take a deeper look at the current state of various platforms and their pluses and minuses.
While some SEO experts advocate tackling social through sophisticated linking strategies like the G1 social media link wheel, most local businesses need a much simpler strategy that is sustainable. Ideally, it includes a multi-layered approach that prioritizes social channels that best fit the business’ target customers and objectives combined with quality social media content creation.
• Facebook Today, Facebook’s not-so-secret sauce is not only its sheer number of active users but its ability to engage. Facebook is the most powerful social marketing platform on the planet for local businesses right now and should not be ignored. It has some of the highest engagement numbers of any social media platform today, so it yields inordinate opportunities for local businesses.
With Facebook’s recent news feed algorithm changes, local marketing experts need to keep followers more engaged with original content, photos, and videos, which tend to generate more likes and comments than text with links posts.
Google+ also facilitates businesses’ ability to drive high quality, earned links versus old school SEO (managed links). Businesses can also claim their local businesses on Google, which then distributes their name, address and phone number (NAP) throughout the local search ecosystem.
• Twitter With the introduction of Vine and other apps that have made Twitter a more contextual social platform, Twitter is becoming more relevant and effective for local marketing efforts. Embedded tweets and capitalizing on trending hashtags can increase engagement and connections with a potential targeted audience.
• LinkedIn For local businesses, LinkedIn is an easy-to-use social media channel that serves as a credibility checkpoint. While engagement is often lower on this channel, prospects visit LinkedIn to determine the validity of one business over another; thus, failing to have a profile here may raise some negative perceptions.
Establishing an overall company presence and encouraging personal employee profiles, as users often locate an employee’s LinkedIn profile before a corporate profile, is critical. Local social media marketing is all about getting the name of your company exposed to more people, and LinkedIn is a great vehicle to make that happen.
For Facebook, particularly, but really any social platform, local businesses have a great opportunity to create and share content that is engaging to their target. The silver bullet is developing the content that is relevant to your local community about your business or services.
As an example, you could sponsors or support local charities or organizations that benefit the greater good of the community. The resulting social media associated with the support can help amplify your involvement, extend reach through targeted, contextual posts and ultimately lead to incredible engagement.
In general, the local business market is broken into two broad categories – restaurant/retail and lead generation, e.g., contractors, real estate professionals, medical practices and legal. Each category requires very different overall marketing strategies, and every business should approach locally-focused social media marketing efforts in ways tailored and customized for their business model.
For example, for the restaurant/retail set, Twitter can be very effective at driving in store traffic and sales with special offers, discounts, product/menu updates, etc. For the second category of lead generation, Twitter becomes more of a secondary vehicle that supports other activities such as the launch of a new product featured on YouTube or further broadcasting a promoted post on Facebook via trending hashtags.
Once your business has mastered one or all of the four horsemen, figure out which social sites your customers are frequenting to extend your social identity. For example, home remodelers should consider establishing a presence on HOUZZ — a home design, decorating and remodeling channel — and participate in discussion forums, sharing before and after photos, etc. These then can be cross-promoted via other social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
Ultimately, the key to local social SEO is building your social proof and doing it right. It’s about quality, not quantity. both in the number of social media platforms managed but also the content that is being promoted and shared.
What is working for your clients or your business?