Here's a doozy: according to a survey by Merchant Warehouse, 72% of internt users just as likely to trust a review they found on Yelp as they would a review from someone they know personally. The age of digital word of mouth isn't upon us, it's been here - and if your business doesn't get on the local train, you'll be left at the empty station.
While Yelp stands out as a key player in the local social media site world, there are several other networks which require your attention in order to maintain a healthy and controlled online presence.
I use the phrase "controlled" because regardless of whether or not you're paying attention to local business sites, your audience is. Yelp alone has over 100 million users, and the plethora of other local social networks adds up to an incredible number of people researching, reviewing, and assessing your business.
If you're not actively participating on these networks, you can't steer conversations in a favorable direction. You may also see a negative impact on your SEO. More on that in this article by Moz.
With these facts in mind, I've created checklists for establishing a presence on four of the essential local business networks, including resources to help you get the most out of your local listings.
- Set up your account with an appropriate category, and claim your vanity URL (requires 30 likes)
- Set logo and cover photo
- Follow photo guidelines
- Update all relevant information fields including links to your other social network accounts and a link to your website (this is critical)
- Have some fun
- Acquire page likes by using the Build Audience button in the Admin panel of your account. This allows you to invite email contacts or personal Facebook friends to like your page.
- Use Facebook's free downloadable images as stickers, flyers, or colatteral within your location to drive likes from your business visitors.
- Take advantage of the recently relaxed contest guidelines, and host a contest to build an engaged audience for your page.
- Don't be silent - engage and converse with users who check in at and comment on your page.
- Claim your listing
- Visit FourSquare's site to determine whether or not a listing has already been created for your business. If it has (which is likely), create and account and claim it using these guidelines. If not, create an account and create that listing!
- Select the categories and subcategories that highlight your offerings.
- Upload logo and photos
- Fill in ALL informational fields (Menu, social profiles, about section)
- Have some fun
- Share updates and photos about your business specials, offers, promotions and news to be displayed on newsfeeds of users who have previously checked in at or are currently near your business.
- Create lists about locations and attractions relevant to your audience and customers. See how they work here.
- Give a insider insight with tips about your establishment. Find out how to use them in this article.
- Create specials to incentivize check ins. FourSquare has a complete list of diverse special types here.
- Use a Foursquare window cling to call out your listing.
- Claim Your Listing
- Like FourSquare, if your business is established it probably already has a listing created on Yelp. Claim it by following these guidelines.
- Select categories
- Fill in all profile information (in the screenshot above, AJ Bombers has done a great job creating a comprehensive snapshot of their environment, menu, contact information, etc.)
- Upload photos of location and products.
- Have some fun
- Consider leveraging advertising if your budget permits. Yelp has several different opportunities for increasing your reach, and small businesses utilizing Yelp advertising demonstrate an average increase of $23,000 in annual revenue (Source: Merchant Warehouse)
- Use window stickers, flyers, etc to promote your listing and invite reviews.
- Respond to both positive and negative reviews. If all you answer is the negative, that's all people will be incentivized to share. By acknowledging the postive as well, you'll set the stage for more positive reviews in the future.
- Claim Your Listing
- You guessed it - if your business exists in the real world, it probably already exists on Google local. Goolgle has detailed instructions on how to claim it or add a new business here.
- Completely fill in all company information including address, phone number, hours, website, and about section.
- Upload photos of logo, services, products, and location.
- Have some fun
- Respond to posts by both satisfied and unhappy customers to build relationships
- Create a Google+ page if you want to have more creative control over your page and share updates. The two types of profiles are distinct - your local page will show up in Google map searches for users seeking a business nearby, your plus page will show up in general searches for users searching for keywords your profile ranks for. Learn how to set up a Google+ page here.
That's a long list of things to do! You'll notice some recurring themes throughout. Despite each network's intricacies, local listings all serve the same purpose of educating and engaging prospects and customers. Here are a few key best practices for all local networks:
- Provide signage around your location promoting your local listing profiles, so visitors are reminded they can provide reviews and get incentives for engaging online.
- Include social buttons on website and in email signature, to ensure reviewing and engaging with your brand is only a click away.
- Whether it's online or in the real world, demonstrate value in liking, checking in at, or reviewing your business. It's not enough to simply say "Like Us on Facebook!", you need to give a reason to justify the action. We live in an era of customercentricity, so engagement often has to be earned through incentives (free content, promos, offers, etc).
- Cross link your social accounts, so users can seamlessly interact with your brand from one network to another.
- Fill in all informational fields and upload as many high quality photos/videos as possible. In the content marketing age, more is more (as long as it's valuable).
- Respond actively, but privatize sensitive discussions. When someone shares a negative review with a legitimate concern, answer in the public arena so all users are aware of your addressing the situation. If you need some pointers on how to handle the dreaded negative review, I've written an article on the matter here.
If the user refuses your efforts to make it right or does not respond, follow up in a private message to handle the conflict in a less visible space.
When someone shares a positive review, go the extra mile to thank them for their recommendation and invite them back. You'll be amazed how far a little acknowledgement can go in building advocacy.
Still have questions about getting started? Let me know in the comments, and best of luck on your digital journey!