Too often local businesses set up social media accounts and then leave them empty. I'd almost rather a business owner not even have a Facebook page than create one and walk away from it. Social media marketing is a fantastic way to promote your local business, connect with current and potential customers, and drive foot traffic through your doors but you only get out what you put in! Social media is not a set it and forget it platform, so be sure you are actively inviting and encouraging your customers to get involved. Ask questions, post pictures, promote specials--give them a reason to connect with you! The more times you can interact with someone online the better chance you have of ultimately drawing them into your store.
Here are 3 ways local businesses can use social media marketing to drive physical foot traffic and grow their online presence:
1. Connect with local bloggers and online personalities in your industry.
Most cities have their fair share of local bloggers and online personalities and these are the kind of online authorities you can connect with via social media to help promote your local business. For instance, a vegetarian restaurant could reach out to vegetarian food bloggers in their area, local food growers and suppliers, the organizers of farmer's markets and so forth. While these online personalities might not have a huge national presence chances are they have a strong foothold in the local community, which is exactly where your foot traffic is coming from! Invite them to check out your local business, ask them to review your products, form business partnerships and cross-promotions and so forth. They can promote your business using their own social media accounts to a wider audience and help draw new customers in.
2. Stay involved with other community events.
It's dangerous to be overly self-promotional. Yes, you have every right to promote your events and sales on social media but you have to remember that social networking sites are not just another soapbox for you to stand out and talk about how awesome you are. You are a local business so get involved in the community and stay involved with related local events! For example, a book store could sponsor and help promote the library's summer reading program. Or a pet store could volunteer at the local shelter's adoption day and promote a "pet of the week" on their social profiles to help animals find new families. When you help promote other local businesses you also get the chance to introduce your brand to their customers/social followers, which could drive more foot traffic your way in the end.
3. Reward your social media followers with a special offer.
In addition to special discounts and sales for your best customers, local SEO expert Chris Silver Smith had an excellent idea for your social media followers. He suggested that local businesses "have a night where your store is empty and social media can be a great option for filling the place up with more customers and more sales!" For instance, a local clothing store could host a fashion night in for their best customers and give them the first chance to buy new pieces. A restaurant could hold a wine tasting or create a special pre-fixe meal that is just for their social media followers. Turn a slow night into a huge success for your local business and foster some good will with your best customers! At the event be sure to encourage your social followers to take and post pictures, check-in on Facebook, use an event hashtag on Twitter and so forth.
In my opinion, just about every local business can leverage social media in some way to not only augment their SEO and online presence, but also help drive foot traffic. The key is to keep finding new ways to give your social followers a reason to interact with your brand. Sales and promotions are great, but what else can you do to attract attention, both online and in-store?
Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing, one of the premier full service SEO firms in the United States. With over 12 years of experience Nick Stamoulis has worked with hundreds of companies small, large and every size in between. Through his vast and diverse SEO, search engine marketing and internet marketing experience Nick Stamoulis has successfully increased the online visibility and sales of clients in all industries.
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