Small businesses stand to increase their local audience and further their market reach through geolocation platforms, which attach real-world locations to mobile phones. Here are a few ways companies can become part of the location tagging world of social media.
On February 9th , Google announced its new social media platform Buzz that is tied to a user’s Gmail account and has location-tagging options. For example, the Buzz nearby mobile feature serves up a list about places, and users can read Buzz info about those places from others who are both in and outside their networks.
Foursquare allows for check-ins and has a gaming element in which users earn badges and can work their way to become the “mayor” of their favorite locations. MyTown also allows for check-ins and rewards as a gaming element.
Dina Meek, owner of a social media consulting firm for small businesses called Big Buzzness said these types of platforms are essentially cheap or free for small businesses – for the moment, at least.
“It’s absolutely something they can tap into and be ready (for),” she said.
Become familiar and aware of location tagging networks.
Meek said small businesses should sign up and start using these location-tagged services. She recommended finding a comparable business in a nearby town that is on Foursquare and seeing how it is using the platform.
“For small businesses, if you can put the time in to get the buzz in and get the word out, it doesn’t cost anything,” she said.
What if your town is small, or isn’t as savvy on geolocation services as Silicon Valley? Then be one of the first to start building that location-tagging presence in that area. Meek suggested talking to the local chamber of commerce to see what kinds of incentives they might offer to attract consumers who are on geolocation networks. Figure out how to draw people in from nearby cities and think about banding together with other local businesses to do cross-promotion that might benefit your area.
Make sure your business is already discoverable on geolocation apps.
First, check to see if your business is there and if it isn’t, add it or contact that site to find out how to get your business added, said Rob Reed, who authors the blog MaxGladwell.com and is the vice president of marketing at the paperless postal system Zumbox.com.
He pointed out that businesses are going to have to be search engine optimized, social media optimized, and geographically optimized.
There’s a big distinction between the kinds of interaction going on and content being generated in these location-based app spaces. Reed said businesses can say they’re already on GPS services such as Garmin or TomTom, but all that content is static. He said the difference is that social geolocation content is in real-time. “It’s more about the conversation,” he said.
Get your customers to use geolocation tagging on Twitter and geotagging apps.
Meek suggested businesses post a link to their Foursquare page on their website and Facebook page, and post signage in the establishment itself telling patrons to find them on the location-tagged sites.
“You have the means to create the incentive to bring customers in,” Meek said. “It’s a very low-cost way to do it.”
She recommended small businesses host a meetup just for Foursquare customers on a day that business tends to be slower. That could work to build awareness about the location-tagged network, and hopefully, get people using it.
“One of the biggest hurdles is getting people to opt-in to geolocation,” Reed said.
Reed said business owners need to tell their customers to geotag tweets from their place of business so it will leave a trail of content from that business.
Get in now to hook the early adopters.
Reed said that Foursquare is dominated right now by social media influencers – people who tend to be highly networked with the ability to spread a business’s message. He said there is significant advantage and value for being at the right place at the right time.
So if small businesses have a presence on these applications while the space is largely being used by social media influencers, those businesses have a better chance of quickly gaining word-of-mouth traction.
Build loyalty programs into your presence.
Once small businesses get well versed in the apps, they can reach out to customers there. Businesses have started customer loyalty programs around the gaming and social networking aspects of location tagging apps. For instance, with a certain amount of Foursquare user check-ins or even a mayorship at that business, customers could be eligible for deals.
Foursquare has a directory of businesses that lists mayorship deals for Foursquare users. Businesses can also add their own mayorship specials to the directory.
Foursquare has “paid services” in the works for three types of businesses – small, privately owned businesses, brands with retail chains and multinational companies, Advertising Age reported.
Foursquare is also working on an analytics dashboard so businesses can track foot traffic into their establishments, according to Advertising Age.
Low-fat frozen dessert retailer Tasti D-Lite announced in January a frequent customer program that rewards social media users.
TastiRewards members register their TreatCards online and earn points for purchases made at Tasti D-Lite, according to a company news release. Members get extra points if they opt-in to have messages automatically sent from their Twitter and Foursquare accounts whenever they earn or redeem points, the release said.
Customers earn one loyalty point per pre-tax dollar spent and they are eligible for a free medium-sized Tasti treat when they earn 50 points, the release said. It’s the first type of customer loyalty program by a restaurant that rewards people for spreading the word via their social media networks, according to the company’s statement.
Reed points out that when a customer gets a punch on an actual frequent buyer card for a free smoothie as a walk-in, there’s no ripple effect. But with geolocation and the ability to share your check-ins and actions with friends, consumers are magnifying the punch card effect.“(It) almost replaces the frequency punch card, in a way,” Reed said.