Pat Kitano is one of the smartest people I know. I met Pat years ago during my Blogging Systems days when my business partner Richard Nacht and I were trying to convince the real estate industry that blogging was THE thing to do. Pat was/is a seasoned entrepreneur with keen insights as to how social media can be used for marketing.
Pat recently wrote a post that opened my eyes to how local, retail-oriented small businesses could use social media. It's simple, effective and won't take a great deal of anyone's time. It's involves the use of four social network platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp.
Here's how it works (and I'm borrowing some great quotes from Pat's post for context):
"Facebook is primed to evolve into a massive Sunday advertising circular for local businesses."
Every local small business should set up a Facebook Fan Page. Why? Because, with over 400 million users, over 50% of whom log on every day, there is a great likelihood that your customer is there. What better way to connect with them than by creating a presence there as well.
For many small businesses who have either no Web site or an online brochure, for all intents and purposes the fan page could become their new Web site.
What do you do once you've set it up? Let me answer that question by asking one. What are you promoting via other forms of advertising (TV, radio, print)? Do the same thing via your fan page. Not only that, use it to create coupons and special offers just for fans.
Of course, use it as an interactive medium through which you engage with fans, upload interesting content such as videos, blog posts, photos, etc. Make it your digital outpost inside Facebook.
Click here to learn how to use Facebook for business.
"[T]he new local advertising vehicle is the Twitter coupon…Twitter will develop hyperlocal couponing systems that will be online equivalents of PennySaver coupons and Valpak."
If anyone has proven the effectiveness of marketing products via Twitter, it's Dell. Through their Dell Outlet Twitter account, the company has sold millions of dollars worth of inventory with only a minimal investment of resources. Even though they are a Fortune 100 company, the principle holds just as true for small business.
There are a number of good examples, not the least of which is Naked Pizza in New Orleans, which gained national attention due to their use of Twitter. (Another great example is what Ramon de Leon, owner of a Dominos franchise in Chicago, is doing with Twitter and other forms of social media.)
It hurts me to think of small business not seeing the value of using Twitter for couponing, customer service, customer relationship building, search marketing, and so on.
Click here to learn more about how to use Twitter for business.
"Geolocation is changing the social media by providing nothing more than the tagging mechanism to define social networks by localities."
Applications like Foursquare, Gowalla and others are hot right now. If you're not familiar, they are location-based social networks that allow users to "check-in" to wherever they may be at a given moment. In addition, there is a game playing element to each. Foursquare, for example, allows users to accrue points each time they check-in to a given location. The person with the most points is deemed the "mayor."
"Geolocation is changing the social media by providing nothing more than the tagging mechanism to define social networks by localities. Geolocation facilitates the development of a new, more practical, more intimate Twitter/Foursquare network of friends who just happen to be living down the street," says Pat.
More and more businesses are rewarding the mayor with special offers, discounts, or freebies (free drink, free appetizer). Think of the benefit to doing this. It's a great way to build repeat traffic to your location.
Not only that, when a user checks-in, Foursquare shares that information with their social network. And, it can automatically publish the information to the users Twitter and Facebook accounts! Talk about viral, word-of-mouth marketing…using social media, it's on steroids! (Oh, and small business owner, you had to do nothing for this to happen except extend a special offer to the mayor.)
Click here to learn more about how to use Foursquare for business.
"[T]he new reviews column is Yelp."
The fourth social network local, retail small businesses should be using is Yelp, a "rating and review" site that allows consumers to "share the experiences they've had with local businesses and lets business owners share information about their business with their customers."
Claiming your business profile allows you to:
- Communicate with your customers– privately and publicly
- Track how many people view your business page
- Add photos, a detailed business description, up-to-date information, history, and specialties
- Announce special offers and upcoming events
- Recommend other businesses
It's a way to leverage grass-roots opinion and encourage those who are favorable toward your business to express their pleasure. For those who may post unfavorable comments, by claiming your profile you get the opportunity to turn an enemy into a friend and do so in a public way, which can serve to engender trust by consumers.
Click here to learn how to use Yelp for business.
What role does the company Web site play?
With all these new outlets, you may think the role of the company Web site is marginalized. To the contrary, I see a unique role as a "hub," or base of operations from which your visitors can connect with you on all of the above. Those that find your first on Facebook, Twitter or Yelp can be directed back to your site.
I've said it numerous times, the Web today is all about shared connections, not information silos. Connect your company Web site to all the places you have a presence online and connect from those places back to your site. It will create a unique synergy that will attract the attention of human visitors and search engine spiders alike.
What about the time investment?
Facebook/Twitter – You will more than likely spend the majority of your time updating your Facebook fan page. It can serve as your social media digital center. From there, you can autopost content to Twitter. Conversely, you can have your Twitter posts publish to your fan page as well.
There are some things that cannot be automated, such as personal interaction with fans/followers, but that investment of time is well worth it in the long run.
Foursquare – Your responsibility to Foursquare is simply to a) offer a coupon, special offer or discount to the mayor (or offer something to anyone who checks-in via Foursquare; it doesn't have to only be the mayor) and b) monitor check-in activity and comments.
Yelp – Claim and populate your business profile, then encourage your best customers to post reviews/ratings there. Each time someone writes a review you will receive an email notification, so you're not having to constantly monitor the site. (Note: Yelp has also launched a geolocation/check-in app for the iPhone.)
What if I need help?
The Handyman is here to help! I can provide anything from social media strategy consulting to assistance in setting up a Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, or Yelp profile. DM me using Twitter, email me at pchaney at gmail dot com or call me at 337-804-2081 with questions or to learn more.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Pat's secret sauce in all of this is the use of what he refers to as the Breaking News Network, a series of hyper-local portals that get lots of traffic and attention via the use of aggregated/filtered localized Twitter feeds. In effect, it is a digital "watering hole" where people gather daily to learn about what's going on in their community.
It's a brilliant concept which Pat is taking to city after city (his target is 300 cities). He sees it as just as essential a component as any of the four I've just mentioned. (And, frankly, so do I.) If you'd like to learn more about BNN, contact Pat at pkitano (at) gmail (dot) com. Tell him I sent you!