Marketers currently spend an average of 10.7% of their budget on social media, which is projected to grow to 23% of total marketing budgets in the next five years. In 2016, more than half (51.5%) of the US population used Facebook and by 2020, it is predicted that more than 7 out of 10 US internet users will be active on social media.
Despite marketers increasing their spend and more and more consumers becoming active on social media, there is still an uphill battle around proving the return on investment for this channel. Only 15% of CMO’s said they have been able to quantitatively prove the impact of social media.
With so many potential and current customers using social media daily, how can brick and mortar businesses better utilize this resource to increase engagement, boost local SEO, and drive online-to-offline conversions?
Best Practices on Social Media for Business
Navigating the Major Social Platforms
Today’s businesses are no stranger to social media; it is one of the first channels many turn to for promoting their brands and creating a presence online. However, when brick-and-mortar businesses learn to navigate the top social channels – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – with a Local SEO mindset, social media then becomes a powerful platform for building engagement, increasing your local search rankings, and driving customers into your stores.
¼ of mobile searches for a local business are done on Facebook. Operating as a sort of hybrid between a social media channel and a local search site, Facebook has over 2 billion users and is one of the only growing local search platforms that could conceivably compete with industry leading search sites like Google and Yelp.
For physical location and service area businesses, creating and managing your presence on Facebook is a must. For those that haven’t yet created a business page (and even if you have), it’s quite possible that Facebook took the liberty of creating one for you. In which case, be sure to start by claiming, merging or deleting that business page. Failing to remove duplicate pages can cause confusion with the customer, this will break up your reviews and lower your overall rankings. According to the Chatmeter dashboard, Facebook has the most duplicate listings out of any other search directory, so be sure to find and merge any duplicates.
Managing Store Pages and the “Parent/Child” relationship: It’s likely that you have set up a corporate page, maybe you even have some individual pages for each of your locations. Regardless of what you have now, you’ll want to set up a Parent/Child relationship across all of your pages.
What this means is that every brand with multiple locations will need to first set up a corporate/brand page, also known as the Parent page. From there, bands then set up or claim their unique store, or Child pages and link them with the Parent page.
Facebook User Generated Content: After you’ve created both corporate and individual pages, Facebook users will then be able to write posts, leave comments and reviews, and add photos or videos to any and all of your pages. As customers search Facebook for local businesses, this is the exact type of content they are looking for to help them make their decision.
Whether it’s done on a corporate level for all locations or its delegated to the individual store managers and employee’s, all of this user-generated content needs to be monitored and managed on a daily basis.
With 800 million users and 500 million daily active users, Instagram is one of the largest and fastest growing social media platforms of
the 2000’s. While there are some searching capabilities built into this platform, Instagram will be mostly used by current customers looking to engage or potential customers who have found your location through a Google search and are looking to do a little more research.
Being primarily focused on photos and short videos, Instagram is a great tool for creating a visual appeal around your brand and locations. When customers search through your Instagram account, they are looking for images that give them a better idea of the vibe and what the experience will be like if they actually visit your location.
Managing Local Content without local pages: Where Facebook allows businesses to create and manage pages for each of its locations, Instagram only offers one corporate page for the entire brand.
The biggest issue that this presents for businesses is that while there may not be unique store pages on Instagram, users still have the ability to tag content to unique store locations. This means that your customers can add a geographic pin, or tag of your store without having to @mention the actual corporate location.
When customers add this location tag to an image, other users can see and identify which exact store location they were at, but the business will never receive an alert or update notifying them that a user has posted a photo at one of their stores.
Additionally, the location tags tie these pictures to that physical location, so when customers do search Instagram for that specific location, all the photos that have been tied to that location will show up.
Where businesses would previously have to search each location one by one to find these images, geographic photo tracking, and aggregation tools allow businesses to easily locate all of these previously unseen images. These tools automatically collect these images as they are posted and then aggregate them into one centralized location.
With 500 million tweets being sent every day and the average lifetime of a tweet only lasting about 18 minutes, brands face a huge hurdle when trying to sift through all of the junk to uncover relevant content, as well as trying to stay relevant themselves.
While most customers aren’t actively using Twitter to search for new businesses in their local area, it’s still a powerful platform that brands can use to engage with customers. 47% of marketers agree that Twitter is the best social media channel for customer engagement.
Customers are constantly looking to engage with brands on Twitter and frequently use it as a medium to resolve customer service issues. 71% of Twitter users even expect a brand to respond to their query within an hour of tweeting and will only wait as long as 4 hours, meaning that businesses need to be active and ready to engage at any moment.
Brands can also leverage Twitter to improve their local search rankings. Posting tweets and retweeting, using relevant hashtags, building your follower count and getting other users to post your links all send positive signals to search engines that boost your local search rankings.
Geofencing – Filtering Through the Junk: When you have multiple locations scattered across the nation or even multiple locations spread throughout a single state, it’s important to locate the most relevant tweets and social content. Using a Geofencing social media monitoring tool allows brands to filter posts by specific geographic areas, such as a certain state, city or even down to a few blocks radius from each of your locations.
This highly targeted social listening ensures that you’re only reading the posts that are actually talking about your specific locations and gives you the opportunity to engage with the customers that are nearest to your locations. These are the customers that are literally in a position to buy from you and those most likely to visit your store.
Engaging with these customers and targeting these customers with relevant promotions, deals and coupons is an effective strategy for improving online-to-offline conversions.
Optimizing Your Social Pages:
Social media platforms offer plenty of opportunities for businesses to humanize their brand and engage with customers, promote their products and locations, boost local search rankings, and drive offline sales.
As customers search on Google, oftentimes social accounts are some of the first results to show up. Optimizing a few key sections of your social pages will improve their visibility and search rankings and ensure that customers can find the exact information they are looking for – facilitating their decision-making process.
Optimize your Biography: The key to properly optimizing your company’s bio is in the keywords. These will help you to tremendously because it tells customers and search engines exactly what your business does. For this reason, you want to be sure you have thought out keywords that are central to what your business does. Try to stick to around 4-5 keywords that are integral to your business as too many keywords will confuse search engines and customers
It is best practice to write a punchy and exciting biography that naturally incorporates your keywords and doesn’t get too long-winded.
Complete your Profile: It is essential that you fill in all of the blank fields available on your profile. Including information such as business category, address, website, store hours, and phone number ensures that there is nothing that can leave customers guessing. Even missing one piece of information can diminish your chances that customers will choose your store.
Not only does a complete and verified/claimed social page to help build trust with customers, it also has a positive influence on your local search rankings. Remember that search engines look for consistency as a way to verify your store’s legitimacy and will try to match their information to the NAP, website, keywords, and categories that are on your social store page.
Local Social Media:
In the past, businesses needed to reach a customer 3-5 times, today, it can take anywhere from 6-8 impressions to get a customer to visit your location. This makes it more important than ever to target the right customers. However, one of the most difficult challenges that brick-and-mortar businesses face with many of the solutions to social media management is the inability to target, communicate and understand their customers on a local level.
Creating a consistent and authoritative social media presence through posts, photos, tweets, reviews and engaging conversations should be the focal point for brands looking to bust through the noise and stand out to their customers. Powerful social media management tools and localized social media advertising help brands to do just that.
Social Media Management Tools
There are a number of solutions and service providers out there to help you effectively and efficiently manage and optimize your local social media presence. However, in order to make the most out of your social strategy, there are a few key features you should be looking for when evaluating social media management platforms.
Bulk Posting for Chains
For enterprise companies, it can be quite difficult and time-consuming to attempt to schedule and post content for every single location. Bulk posting gives you the ability to schedule and send posts for as many locations as you want, all with one click. You’ll have the flexibility to post a social update to a single location, all of your location pages, or a customized selection. Bulk posting is a great feature to help keep social pages fresh and active
Back and forth conversations with rapid responses have become the norm on social media. Gone are the days where customers are more than happy to receive a response within a few business days. In fact, 38% of social media users said they felt more negatively about a company if they didn’t receive a timely response.
Along with real-time social monitoring, the ability to easily and quickly respond to social mentions, comments, and posts has a profound influence on the way customers and social users view your brand. You should find a social media management tool that allows you to respond and track entire conversations from start to finish, all within the same dashboard.
Hashtag Metrics and Campaign Tracking:
The right social media management tools can show you which posts and promotions are gaining the most traction and have been the most successful over time. Additionally, they will help you predict and track hot topics and what your customers are talking about. This helps you learn more about what your audience enjoys and lets you post more of what they actually want to see.
Reporting and Benchmarking:
Track and analyze critical data and social engagement stats for each of your locations to make real improvements to your business. It is also important to track and benchmark social success against your top local competitors, as well as your own locations. This helps you to better understand how you are doing over time and how each of your locations stacks up in the social space.
The foundation of a good local marketing strategy, specifically the social media aspect, should be rooted in locally optimized store pages, moderation of comments and reviews, and active engagement through responses to both reviews and comments. This ensures that when customers visit your social page, an abundance of enthusiastic reviews, lively conversations and authentic photos encourage customers to visit your store. Once you have laid this foundation, localized social media advertising can be a great next step.
Localized Social Media Advertising
Many physical location and service area businesses have seen a positive outcome when incorporating Local Awareness ads on Facebook/Instagram or Geo-targeted ads on Twitter into their local search marketing strategy. Take, for example, the popular fast food restaurant chain KFC, who was looking for a way to increase restaurant traffic across each of their locations. KFC used Facebook’s “Store Visits” ad objective to increase the number of people coming into its restaurant locations, resulting in 2.4 million store visits!
The key here is that the ads need to be locally relevant and the brands’ local store pages and social profiles need to be flawless. As the advertisements create local awareness, many customers will turn to your social profiles for more information and when they do, it’s essential that what they find is accurate and enticing.
For brands that have built a strong social media foundation, localized social advertising can be a welcomed addition to help expand your local marketing effectiveness.
If a local social media strategy is not part of your brands’ marketing plan, you could be missing out on a large part of your audience. Unlike your website, social media is a great place to engage with customers and build brand loyalty, especially on the local level. Be sure to track your local social media efforts and improve upon your findings. By sticking to the best practices mentioned above, you’ll start to see your social media efforts pay off.