Let’s face it; most small businesses do the bulk of their business locally. So, the thought of gaining access to Facebook’s 300 trillion users (may be more by now) isn’t that relevant or useful.
However, if those local businesses could use some of the new powerful online tools and platforms to gain access to the 200-300 social media users in their town, now that might just make some sense.
There are many ways to filter, sort, aggregate and otherwise take advantage of social media tools that can specifically benefit even the smallest neighborhood oriented business.
Below are five things any local business can do to get more business using social media tools
1) Start a Local Group Online
Most social network platforms offer some form of group creation. Any member has the ability to start a group around a niche or pretty much any topic – including a local topic. Sites such as Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn and Slideshare all allow members to create and manage groups.
For example here’s a local independent merchant group in Austin, TX using a Flickr Group to promote it’s “Keep Austin Weird” slogan.
This Boston Networking Group on LinkedIn was founded by Jeff Popin, owner of BostonEventGuide.com. With over 3,000 members, there’s a pretty good bet this group serves as a conduit for Popin’s main business locally.
2) Find and Network with Local Bloggers
Using tools such as Placeblogger, outside.in, Bloglines you can locate bloggers in your community that might have an interest in writing about your business or industry or actively linking to your blog.
Networking with relevant bloggers locally, commenting on their blog posts, and maybe even contributing a post is a great way to create additional local exposure. Don’t forget to seek out and add blogs from traditional media publications locally as well. Most radio, TV and news journalists have been asked to write a blog as part of their job, these can be great local social media contacts if you take the time to build relationships though their blogs.
3) Hold Meetups and Tweetups
Using a social media tool like MeetUp, you create and promote local events and tap the user base of MeetUp to create additional awareness about your seminars, product demonstrations, open houses, and grand openings.
Here a home remodeler in Encinitas, CA is offering a workshop on green remodeling through MeetUP.
TweetUps, a gathering of people in a community using Twitter, have become very popular ways to meet others locally that believe in the power of social media. That alone can be enough common ground to network on. Search locally for the term TweetUp and don’t be surprised to find one schedule in your community.
The online social media network Biznik allows members to join its online platform, but belong to a local community and promote in-person local events on the site.
4) Find local leads
Finding local prospects or potential strategic partners on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter is pretty simple through the use of the powerful search interfaces built into all. Simply searching by City is a great way to find other people using social media in your community. A service such as Twellowhood or LocalTweeps may aid in your search to find other businesses in your community using Twitter.
Many smart marketers are also employing some of the advanced features of Twitter Search to find people locally and filter their tweets to turn up leads. An auto body shop might set-up searches for people talking about being in an accident and reach out to them with advice for what to do to get the best quote. A computer network service provider can use advanced search to find people locally complaining about their network being down.
Naked Pizza in New Orleans uses Twitter to publish exclusive offers to followers and attributes a significant rise in business using to this tactic.
Cupcakes on Wheels, a Los Angeles mobile cupcake business, tweets its location throughout the day so followers can find its signature brown vans.
Facebook’s Ad Targeting is also another great way to reach only local prospects on the Facebook platform. One of the targeting criteria is geography, so you can create ads that promote your web site or Facebook Fan page that are only shown to people in the geographic region you choose
5) Enhance Local Search Results
No matter how you put social media to use to create engagement locally, simply creating profiles on dozens of social media sites and linking those sites with local keyword content back to your main web site will help your site do better when people search locally. Creating very brand and local optimized profiles on sites like YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare will help with overall links to your site. Creating and enhancing local profiles on Google Maps, Yahoo and Bing Local will help you show up higher in the local results.
Finally, don’t forget to get active with the social review sites like Yelp! and Insider Pages. Ask, and even teach, your local customers hot to write reviews about your business. Currently Google Maps and Bing Local add these reviews to their local profile database too.
Using the technology and ability to access large groups of social media users locally has become a proven small business marketing tactic and is a great way to further enhance the face-to-face relationship building you already do.
Image credit: gloom
John Jantsch is a marketing and digital technology coach, award winning social media publisher and author of Duct Tape Marketing.