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Bringing Local Relevance to Social

  |  February 19, 2013   |  Comments

There are hundreds of reasons why you might want to focus your social marketing efforts in particular locales, and the major social channels offer tools to help you plan, execute, and measure the impact of those efforts.

The key to almost any successful social initiative is relevance, and one of the primary ways to knit together an audience with appropriate content and experiences is through their location. Sometimes a marketing or business objective is confined to a geographic area, large or small, by the practical reach of a business, by regulation, or by the limits of a particular, defined initiative.

Marketers struggle with how to incorporate social support limited by geography, but it need not be complicated. Below are some quick tips to help you while distributing samples in a prime new region, testing messaging or campaigns in several different markets, concentrating a limited budget in particular cities, supporting a new store launch, or opening up a new region of distribution. There are hundreds of reasons why you might want to focus your marketing efforts and social marketing efforts in particular locales, and the major social channels offer efficient tools to help you plan, execute, and measure the impact of those local efforts.

Facebook: Timeline Status Post

Marketers are able to reach certain sub-groups within a Facebook brand page by using targeting mechanisms including location, which can be segmented by country, region, or state and even city. Multiple countries, states, and cities can be selected for any given post, but only one of the top-level categories at a time. This allows flexibility in sharing messaging with key areas of the U.S., or even an international audience. This comes in handy when a campaign or initiative is exclusive to a certain region, for example, a local happening like a sampling event in Austin, or to simply wish our proud fans from Texas a happy state Independence Day.

The benefit to brands and marketers are several. By geo-targeting (and demo-targeting) posts you're less likely to get page unlikes since messages are more relevant to those you're reaching. Your overall page engagement rate is going to increase with this added relevancy as well. Your brand will create further affinity among fans as the page delivers on the promise of social media: creating a personal, engaging dialogue between brand and consumer.

Be aware that if you set a wall post to geo-target a certain city, your message will only be shown to people who have their Facebook profiles set to that location. For example, if you set it to target Boston, people who live in nearby suburbs won't see the message. If the wall post is not promoted and depending on the amount of fans you have in that specific region, there's a risk of not reaching a lot of people with your message. If page likes are your primary goal, then a promoted post would not be the best route to take since these typically are not geared to gain likes but rather engagement with the particular post.

Facebook: Advertising

When advertising on Facebook, marketers can geo-target down to a unique Zip code. This level of customization is valuable when promoting events, planning new market penetration, alerting consumers to the opening of a new store, measuring response to a new product launch in a certain geography, and more. Geo-targeting is also one way to develop A/B tests where we're able to compare ad performance and response rates at the region vs. region, state vs. state, or city vs. city level.

Like timeline status posts, advertisers are only able to select one of the top-level (country, state/province, city, Zip code) geo-targeting types at a time when creating ads.

Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories can also be geo-targeted in a similar way. If the initial story is geo-targeted to a segment of your Facebook page, and targeted for "People who like your page and their friends," the resulting ad will reach only friends of fans who live within the geo-targeted area of the initial post.

Facebook: Events

Facebook events offer another way to connect users to local happenings. Marketers can use customized apps or the native Facebook functionality to use the consumer's location for alerts of local events. When hitting RSVP, users can be taken to the specified Facebook event page with the goal of increasing store or event traffic. Showing the nearest or most relevant location is predictably more efficient than showing a generic call-to-action with all events. Everything has a cost however, so be alert to any load or performance issues that may result from all the data calls and weigh the complete consumer experience against any increased conversion you can expect from the additional layer of targeting.

Facebook: Graph Search

Not many details are available yet regarding advertising benefits when it comes to Facebook's new Graph Search, however, they're right around the corner. Early clues indicate the opportunity for sponsored geo-targeted search result placement (e.g., a restaurant advertising to be featured at the top of search results for "restaurant in San Francisco" or an open-ended search for things to do nearby). An interesting twist on these social search results may be giving businesses with a higher amount of "likes" or "check-ins" better visibility and performance with a placement closer to the top. We may also see that search results will be tracked and recorded by Facebook, creating even more available data about Facebook users that will be mined for ad micro-targeting, thus allowing us to target more closely (relevantly) than even today's capabilities.

Facebook: Misc.

When launching an ad campaign, Facebook identifies consumers' locations by both using their IP address and current address listed in their Facebook profiles. Setting up a mock ad campaign helps advertisers with planning and budgeting. If a brand is interested in reaching mothers ages 25 to 45 in Philadelphia, we can plug in those values and identify an estimated audience reach of up to 128,700 unique consumers who fit that criteria and will respond to an ad at an estimated average CPC of $0.96. The ad creative and destination landing page where consumers are driven to shouldn't be overlooked if your campaign features geo-targeting. Advertisers have an opportunity to customize copy and design elements that speak to a region, making the ads and landing page more relevant; a proven way to improve campaign performance. Advertisers can also add a mobile user targeting layer, strengthening a geo-targeting campaign that intends to reach consumers on the go.


Much like Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts can be geo-targeted to segmented audiences within LinkedIn pages. LinkedIn ads are also able to be targeted by continent/region, country, state, and large metro area/city.


While geo-targeting standard tweets is not currently available, Twitter ads can be geo-targeted by country, state/region, and metro area/city. This type of targeting can be implemented for both campaigns that showcase a brand's tweets to more users (Promoted Tweets) and campaigns that are directly responsible for generating additional followers (Promoted Account ads). When creating content on Twitter, hashtags that call out specific locations can also be used to reach geo-targeted audiences via an established consumer behavior - e.g., searching for #Atlanta for interesting content that's regional.

Foursquare, et al.

If location is absolutely critical to your effort and your audience indexes high for mobile device and app use, then you should definitely look at all the offerings and options available in the most popular geo-location apps.

In general, the evolution of the consumer online experience in devices, tools, and channels first expanded consumer horizons to the whole wide world and now increasingly deepens it with relevant content to enhance their day-to-day life as they naturally experience it. Location is a critical, defining part of the consumer experience and with a bit of forethought can be tapped by marketers to enrich the connections we make online and in social media.

Green Map Pin image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Robin Neifield

Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.

Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.

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