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Social Media and Local Search 101

  |  September 24, 2009   |  Comments

Local businesses can tap social media to help promote their goods and services online. Here's a primer.

Local business owners should tap social media to help promote their goods and services online. With just a little effort and imagination, most businesses can use social media to effectively network and connect with nearby prospects.

What Is Social Media?

Social media, which enables online conversations, is powered by sharing and networking applications such as blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and many more Web sites. Social media is a now a more popular way to communicate online than e-mail, according to these Nielsen stats.

Many specialized networks can work well for particular types of businesses and industry niches. TripAdvisor, for example, is a powerful place for sharing information and advice about resorts, accommodations, tours, and other travel-related topics. On Yelp, people have contributed more than 7 million reviews of local businesses, including restaurants.

Other Web sites include social media features as a part of the online experience they offer their visitors. Many applications, like Twitter, have tools that allow users to interact with others using their cell phones, so the experience no longer depends on being tethered to a PC.

IPhone networking applications are springing up like crazy, too. JustBoughtIt enables users to share photos of and comments about their shopping experiences and search for deals and advice from other shoppers. Yowza, another shopping app, helps bargain hunters find and download discount coupons from retailers close to them.

What Does Social Media Have to Do With Local Search?

Social media allows you to search for and find people who are talking about you and your business online, so that you can listen in and join the conversation, when appropriate. This helps you to monitor and manage your online reputation by replying to customers who are less than satisfied and thanking those who speak well of you.

You can search for topics related to your business, such as commercial real estate in Denver, and try to connect with those discussing the topic. This can put you in touch with prospects with whom you can share your industry expertise, potentially resulting in leads and referrals for your business. It also allows you and others to search for people talking about your geographic area, the products and services you sell, and your areas of expertise.

More social media applications than ever allow you to search for and find people by location. Those near you are the best prospects for actually becoming your customers. They can't find you if you aren't there.

The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Don't assume that your enterprise, products, and services aren't being mentioned online. People continually talk about their experiences with local businesses when they chat about what they eat, where they go, who they interact with, what they do, and other daily activities. They also ask their connections for opinions and advice about everything from, "Do I look good in this dress?" to "What dentist do you go to?" to "What's your favorite pizza place?"

These are the same kinds of things people have always asked their friends. Only now, most of us have many more friends than we ever could have imagined due to the Internet, and we can quickly and easily interact with multiple connections with minimal time and effort.

Social media isn't a fad. It's here to stay. Your customers are using it and your competitors are using it. So, you need to use it, too.

To get started in social media, concentrate on one or more of the most popular and powerful social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Try them on to see what fits. Over the next few weeks, I'll talk more about social media in general and offer advice for using the big three in particular.

By the way, my Twitter name is @MaryBowling. See you online soon!

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Mary Bowling

Mary Bowling has been involved in all aspects of online marketing since 2003. She has a special interest in Web site usability and in search engine optimization, including optimizing all types of media for search engines. Mary has also developed specialized expertise in promoting brick-and-mortar businesses on the Internet through local search marketing. She is currently doing independent consulting and working with seOverflow and Maia Internet Consulting in Denver, CO, optimizing and marketing a wide variety of businesses and nonprofits online.

Her accomplishments include speaking at Search Marketing Expo and Search Engine Strategies conferences on a variety of topics, conducting trainings and webinars for Search Engine Strategies and Search Engine Workshops, authoring popular white papers on local search and SEO for WordPress Blogs and speaking at SEMpx' s Searchfest.

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