How Important is Social Media for Your Local Business?

When social media first appeared, nobody,  not even the creators themselves, envisioned that it would become such a huge phenomenon, with millions of people across the globe interacting via social media platforms on a daily basis, And when industry gurus predicted that social media would become a hugely powerful marketing tool, people were skeptical. Today, it’s very hard to find a business, local or otherwise that does not have at least three links to it social media platforms on their website or other online content.  With 5.4 billion likes on Facebook and 500 million tweets daily, more and more local businesses are leveraging social media to generate immense benefits.

On the other hand, there are still many local businesses that uses social media just because it’s what everyone else is doing. You may have visited business pages that have been stagnant for months, where customer comments go unanswered or random, spammy content is posted that has nothing to do with that business. These businesses could be doing themselves a lot of harm because sites like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn among others are a goldmine of information about customer habits and preferences. They are also a powerful tool to build an online presence, generate leads and actually grow your business.

If you own a local business, what exactly does this mean for you?

Activity on social media increases online visibility and boosts rankings. Activity on social media has become one of the key components that search engines take into account when deciding how high a local business ranks in search results. Based on that alone, it makes sense to be on several platforms where you are regularly engaging and interacting with customers and posting relevant content.

Provides valuable insight. The threads and discussions that take place on your Facebook page can give you valuable insights into what customers really think about your business, or perhaps products/services what they would like to see in future. This helps you make informed decisions about where you need to improve or expand.

Keeps you informed about your competition. Stay on top of the competition by checking their social media pages, finding out what they are up to and what customers are saying about them. Again, this can give you good insight into new offerings you should be including or other “tweaks” to help you stay ahead.

Geo-targeting. Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn offer this invaluable tool for any local business. When you run an ad campaign on Facebook, for example, you can actually target customers by location, preferences, interests and even age. Running an ad campaign on LinkedIn is great for targeting certain professions. For example, if you deal in medical supplies, you have the option to target doctors and clinics in your area.

Get information and feedback in real time.

Customer reviews are essential for your business but they can be weeks or even months old. Social media generates information in real time, where you and others can see what’s happening around your business almost instantly. An added bonus is that you can join the conversation. You also have the ability to share content faster, by posting calls to action about special offers, discounts or other events. As a member of this process becomes automatic and seamless.

Generate customer loyalty.  Joining the conversations taking place on your social media pages builds a personal relationship, shows customers that you are interested in what they have to say, which increase customer loyalty.  Again, because these conversations take place in real time, they can be much more valuable and effective.

Which social media sites should you be on?

It depends. For example, if you are a small local business, Twitter may not be the best use of your time and effort. However,   Facebook and LinkedIn should beat the top of your list, simply because of the sheer number of users on these two platforms and, when it comes to online reviews, you at least need to be on Google, Yelp and Facebook.

Depending on your type of business, it’s up to you to decide which and how many social media platforms you want to be on.  Of course, the more the merrier, because it increases your online visibility. However, monitoring your social media and staying engaged is time-consuming work, so you may want to focus on two or three platforms that best serve your business.

As you can see, there is so much for your business to gain by being active on social media – and nothing to lose. If your social media pages have been in hibernation, go ahead and start posting some good content. Post links to informative articles or videos related to your business, or even make a shot video yourself where you announce a new product or service. Start an ad campaign targeting specific prospects. Get creative and generate a buzz around your business; and more importantly, keep the momentum going. It’s never too late to start!