Google estimates more than 20% of all searches have a local component to them.
Adding the Social Layer to Your Business Model
When I was young, my mother would make sure my brothers and I had enough layers to stand at the bus stop in below freezing temperatures. She would dote on us in the morning, filling our small bellies with warm oatmeal before scooting us out the door. I'm not a doting mother, but I do want to prepare each local business in the community for the future of commerce. And that future involves the social layer.
Before I begin, it is not necessary to be found on every social network out there. Most local businesses neither have the time or resources to make use of the social web in that way. Instead, it's important to be on the social networks that interest and appeal to you and your customers. Aside from having social profiles, it's also important to monitor the social web.
In Weber Shand's recent whitepaper entitled "The Company behind the Brand: In Reputation We Trust" they studied the behavior of consumers as related to online reputation. Their findings should startle most business owners, even those who believe online reputation to be something of a faraway shadow rather than a dark cloud hovering over their business. Consider that 40% of consumers who originally liked a product would not buy from the same company if they learned about that same company's poor reputation, even if their own experience was stellar. That's astounding and should be a reminder for the hallmarks of excellence in customer service.
So monitoring reputation and taking part in the discussion online should be of great concern for any local business, even in the Champaign-Urbana community. With the large influx of students using mobile devices, reaching out through social networks, and otherwise being social online, businesses should be aware of the social impact of their services. What are they saying about my business?
Getting started in the social web is simple. You create an account, build an audience, and share with a community of people. Followers on Twitter become friends. Each Facebook like adds to the relevance of your page's conversation. Each share on Pinterest becomes a new avenue for an audience to form.
But more than your connection to your customers, the social web provides those same people with the information they need about your online reputation. If you're no where to be found online, then potential customers may be lost.
How are your customers using the social web?
If a customer needs a product or service, they're more likely to ask friends on Facebook or Twitter about where they should get something in the community. Your online reputation matters. You want to be fresh in their minds when a request comes through.
In addition to that reason, they also go online if they heard about the business in the offline world. They'll seek out reviews, do Google searches, and otherwise find out about your online. Having a social presence should improve the chances that they find you online in those places and not the voice of a competitor.
Social media should play to your strengths. If you're a lovable photographer, then you should be on Pinterest and Flickr. Are you more into Video, then you could create a channel on Youtube or Vimeo. What about those who shy away from the lens, but have a knack for writing? Your best bet would be a blog and Twitter. For those who love to mingle, Facebook and Google +. Did we leave any out? There are dozens of social media sites out there. Some may hold more sway than others. Find a few (try two) that appeal to your sensibilities. See how they work. Learn about them. Use them. And get social.
Once you have your social profile setup, send me a link. I'll follow your adventures online.
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