Local businesses have lots of great opportunities to use digital channels to their advantage. Here are a few actionable ways to promote your local business online apart from the most important (and the most obvious) one: Getting verified on Google Maps.
Most of the time I try to avoid making very general statements when it comes to small companies. That is because the ways that businesses market to their audiences are not held back by expectation; they have every opportunity to apply innovation and creativity to their efforts.
However, I do feel able to make at least one sweeping statement: online visibility is crucial for local businesses. While you can also focus on IRL advertisements, your efforts will be far less impressive than the online equivalent.
Evidence for the effectiveness of online visibility comes from Google’s findings that 50% of all Google smartphone users who searched for a local business went there within 24 hours. In spite of this, as many as 60% of small businesses don’t have a website, with half of those feeling they are too small to need one… what?!
This is a huge mistake. Businesses should be spending more time than ever marketing online, not just on Yelp or Google Maps, either. Here are six areas to focus on if you want to see real results.
1. Show off your knowledge of the local landscape
Writing local guides is perfect for showing your knowledge, getting social media shares and promoting your local business to an audience that cares about the city you live in.
A local second hand clothing shop near me is well known for creating local guides that tie into their brand. For instance they create top lists for things like “Best Places in [City] to Find Second Hand Clothes That Are Like New” and “Top 10 Most Incredible Thrift Shop Finds”, using photos of items found by their customers.
Another shop that sells outdoors gear regularly writes blog posts about the best hiking, camping, fishing, nature walk trails and more. It is a never ending list of relevant ideas that catch people’s attention and make them want to share.
Useful resource: Starting a blog may still be quite an overwhelming undertaking for local businesses. There are too many steps involved. This downloadable cheatsheet is a nice way to get you through the process safely.
2. Get listed in popular local directories
Many people use local directories to discover local businesses and read their ratings. And Yellow Pages is not the only option here! Here are a few examples of traffic-heavy local directories that will give your business some visibility:
3. Find local bloggers and journalists
Connections are everything and today’s technology allows you to find bloggers nearby or journalists covering your area.
Twitter is the perfect medium for finding and connecting to local voices:
- Use Twitter lists to closely monitor and engage with those local Twitter profiles
- Help them by sharing their articles regularly
- Develop those relationships by inviting them to your Twitter chats or local meetups
There are a few powerful Twitter bio search tools that allow you to find those Twitter profiles to connect to.
Featured tool: Twiangulate is best free tool to search Twitter for bios. You can set the location name to be mentioned in the bio along with the keyword that represents your prospecting purposes.
For example, you can search for journalists located in Albany, New York:
Search results include Twitter users who have indicated the city both in the bio and the “Location” section of the profile.
4. Monitor and market local hashtags
Hashtags have long become part of our life. People use them freely on both Twitter and Instagram and online tools make it easy to monitor the sentiment.
Local hashtags are a goldmine for customer research and outreach:
- Learn what people in your area are doing on the weekends, what they think about local entertainment, where they donate money and volunteer;
- Discover hyper-local events that other marketers haven’t tapped into;
- Find local holidays and special occasions
- Identify more local influencers to connect to
Use Keyhole to identify related hashtags and influencers tweeting your local hashtag:
Cyfe is a great way to monitor hashtags that won’t overwhelm you. It allows you to create multiple widgets, each for one hashtag you want to track. It will also archive results for you to dig deeper if you miss a few days of monitoring:
Sprout Social is a multi-feature social media marketing platform that allows you to monitor non-local hashtags which were published in your area:
5. Monitor local competitors & peers
Keeping an eye on other businesses nearby is a great way to discover more marketing opportunities. And it’s not just about competitors: Keep an eye on those nearby brands that can become your partners or simply can inspire some marketing tactics that can be applied to your industry too.
Featured tool: SE Ranking is a powerful platform allowing to monitor hyper-local Google search results. This will allow you to spot rising competitors to analyze their tactics. For each city/zip code you will get separate list of your competitors (you can ad them to a separate list and start monitoring them) and get total visibility score for each and every one of them. This helps with building marketing strategy based on the deep competitor research intelligence:
6. Invest in local social media ads
Here’s the most obvious – yet surprisingly still the most ignored – bit of advice: be active. Social media is not a passive pursuit and social advertising is only a small part of the equation.
Facebook pages now give an average time for communication responses as well as a measurement of how active a page is. Twitter is an open community where going a single day without posting can mean death for a profile. Instagram is ever growing and should only be ignored at great risk.
Both platforms offer an opportunity to reach (hyper-)local customers through their social media advertising offering. You can set your local targeting as specific as you want and create relationships with local Facebook users through regular interactions.
The same targeting feature is available for Twitter:
Regular social media interaction – both for customer service and brand promotion – will greatly improve your visibility and engagement. Constant monitoring is necessary, but it may be worth hiring someone part-time to manage social profiles and engage with customers. Otherwise you risk a dead space where your social marketing should be!
Do you have any tips to add for local businesses struggling to improve their online marketing? Let us know in the comments!