It’s the age of social, local, mobile (known affectionately as SoLoMo): Do you know where your new customers are coming from? The numbers paint the picture loud and clear. Local customers are using social media to discover small businesses like yours on their mobile devices, and if you aren’t starting conversations with them, you’re missing out. It’s time to tap into the network of new customers who could be walking through your door today, courtesy of your mobile social media profiles.
Research from Eventility recently revealed that 97% of consumers now search for local businesses online, 72% consider online reviews trustworthy, and 61% of millennials reference social media when deciding where to go out. These are the people whose attention you most need to grab — they’re already out there searching for the services you offer, and they’re well-connected advocates who will tell their friends about you. After all, 78% of small businesses now get at least a quarter of their new customers through social media.
So what’s the key to making the puzzle pieces fit with SoLoMo?
Make it personal. Your customers most likely love your business’s personal touches, and social media is the perfect way to convey online what makes your small business unique. You’ve built your fanbase by maintaining high standards and providing trustworthy products or services. All you have to do is bring that same outstanding personality and customer service to your social media profiles. Highlight the qualities that set you apart from your competitors, and engage in genuine discussion with your customers. Make them feel appreciated, and you’ll also gain a valuable channel to your most influential advocates.
Make sure your social media profiles stand out on mobilephones. More and more people are accessing social media on their mobile devices precisely because they’re always on the go. With a smartphone in your pocket, who needs to make plans in advance? Recommendations for pizza places or auto repair shops are just a few taps away using Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp or Google+ Local. Facebook’s recent mobile redesign makes it easier than ever for on-the-go potential customers to find the necessary information on your business. Always be sure that your info is up to date and informative, encourage recommendations, and remember to thank your reviewers for their feedback.
Make sure your website is compatible with mobile. With over 1 billion smartphone users and 40% of mobile searches for local businesses, your website needs to be mobile-friendly. What does that mean? In short it needs to:
So, if you’ve been avoiding improving your social media and making your business’s website mobile-friendly, take a look at the numbers. It’s not just hype. Social, local, and mobile are working together to bring new business to local establishments, and we hope yours will be next to benefit. We understand that the whole thing can seem overwhelming, but the puzzle isn’t complete without all of its parts. Remember, if managing your social media ever starts to seem less like a three piece puzzle and more like this puzzle, Main Street Hub is here to help.
Written by Main Street Hub Marketing Intern, Eloy Leibas
Americans love to eat out. From romantic dinners to celebratory occasions, restaurant sales are forecasted to reach a record high of $660.5 billion in 2013 – a 3.8% increase over 2012 according to the National Restaurant association (NRA). Although any opportunity of success also comes with the risk of failure, the odds favor the latter in the case for restaurant entrepreneurs. According to a recent study conducted by Ohio State University, one out of four restaurants doesn’t survive to see a second year of business. And if they do, it remains an uphill battle through the third year with a 61% failure rate. Why is this?
In one word, competition, which is both fierce and abundant. Today’s restaurant customers expect great food AND a great experience. Winning restaurants have fine-tuned their prices, marketing and promotions, customer service, and product quality in order to enhance their appeal to customers. And, in order for these restaurants to continuously satisfy and retain these customers, they must be able to anticipate needs, over deliver, and showcase their business’s unique brand. None of this is possible without knowing your customer. So where can you go to understand what’s on the customer’s mind?
Social media, which is both easily accessible and powerful, is a great place to start. The evolution of social media has provided people with many ways to voice their thoughts and share their experiences. From the product quality to the service level, the invaluable information for business owners is recorded, organized, and quantified — making the input far more useful than that of a comment card. And whereas customer engagement previously required an owner’s presence in the building, this information can be accessed from any computer with simply the click of a mouse. In addition, social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Foursquare allow patrons to share their experiences with fellow users — all 1.43 billion of them. What this means is that word of mouth, the single most powerful tool for growing your restaurant, has moved online, and the owners who take advantage of it will have a leg up on the competition. However, taking advantage of social media is easier said than done. With multiple websites to manage, content to create, profiles to optimize, reviews to respond in addition to actually running the business, many restaurant owners simply bury their heads in the sand when it comes to social media, but there is help out there.
At next week’s National Restaurant Association’s Tradeshow, Main Street Hub we’ll be offering free social media assessments so attendees can learn about the best ways to leverage social media for restaurants. Come by booth #7591 to visit us! Not only will you have an opportunity to win a free iPad, but we will be offering free assessments, expert advice, and social media goodies.
Unable to make it? No problem. Click the banner below to get your free assessment!
Today’s Smartphone users want answers, and they want them on the go. When it comes to finding the vital stats about your local business—like phone number, location, hours, and star rating—Facebook’s new mobile layout for business Pages offers instant gratification. More than half of Facebook Page visitors now access local business Pages from their Smartphones, and Facebook’s utilitarian redesign puts the facts first in an effort to quickly grab the attention of those mobile viewers. And the best part of this news? By reorganizing the information you already have on your page, Facebook has created an extremely user-friendly layout that will get new customers through your door (with very little effort on your part if your Page is well maintained).
Like on the old mobile Pages, the large cover photo and profile picture provide an easy opportunity to display your brand with bold visuals. But now, users will see large buttons just below your images to ‘like’ the page, check in, call the business, or click for more—where they can then share, send a message, copy the page link, or report the page. Underneath is a large, close-up map of your precise address, along with the distance from the user’s mobile location, your hours, price range, and star rating. Facebook’s hope is that this brief run-down of your business gives those almost-customers just the push they need to head across the street and into your business. Make it simple, and they will come.
(image via TechCrunch)
A quick scroll down the page reveals some of the social features we’re all more used to associating with Facebook. First and foremost, users will see their friends’ reviews of the business, plus the option to add their own recommendation. Next comes a large section for photos of the business, and then finally the traditional Facebook Timeline posts. The redesign (which for now just applies to the mobile site and the iOS app) puts Facebook in the conversation with Yelp and Google+ Local as a ‘must-have’ resource for finding local businesses. These changes also nicely compliment Facebook’s recent additions of Nearby and Graph Search, as all three updates are aimed directly at helping local businesses get new customers through their doors.
So what can you do to ensure that your local business looks great on the new design? Honestly, Facebook has done a lot of the work for you! If you already have a robust, well-maintained Facebook page, you can sit back and relax while new customers find your information more easily. It always helps to keep these key points in mind, though:
With a network of Facebook’s size, the power of friends’ recommendations goes a long way. This is all the more reason to make sure your Facebook Page is front and center when your potential customers pull out their Smartphones. It’s clear from Graph Search, Nearby, and the mobile business Page redesign that Facebook has shifted its focus to local business. Are you taking full advantage?
Social media done correctly is a powerful marketing tool to find new customers, but you probably hear less about social media as a customer service tool for local businesses. Far from the one-way advertising of a billboard or the hard selling of a commercial, social media is a two-way conversation, and it’s important that your online customer service is an extension of the courtesy you show in your store. Many of the same rules apply when it comes to online customer service, but certain things—like responding in a timely manner and managing negative posts—can be a little trickier online. Remember that your responses are being projected not only to the person who posted the original question but also to your entire fan base. If you respond slowly, ignore a customer’s question, or delete a negative post, you could be seriously harming your business’s online reputation.
A recent study conducted by LiveOps found that about 70 percent of complaints on Twitter and Facebook are ignored. Ignoring a complaint can turn a dissatisfied customer into an angry customer, and comments and negative reviews can quickly spin out of control. Simply acknowledging the original complaint and talking through the situation can usually prevent this downward spiral. Remember never to lash out on social media, but stand your ground. If you know the customer is describing something that happened on an uncharacteristically off night, give the details necessary to convey your typically great service. Even if you’ve lost one customer, you may impress the others who take notice of your fantastic customer service.
Research from the same study shows that more than one-third of retailers have erased a customer’s question from their Facebook page. Barring extreme circumstances (ie. material that is profane, racist, or completely irrelevant to your business) we never recommend erasing comments, even if they seem to cast a negative light on your brand. This can worsen the situation by making it seem like you have something to hide, and the commenter will often repost the question anyway. Instead, look at the situation as an opportunity to publicly set the record straight. If it is a legitimate complaint, own up to it and promise to do better next time. If the customer is actually wrong, graciously present the correct information and defend your brand. Don’t be afraid to suggest taking the conversation off social media. Offer a phone number or email address so you can discuss the details further. This way, you can address the situation without sweeping anything under the rug, but the customer with the original concern can get some one-on-one attention.
Last but not least, it’s important to respond in a timely manner. The study shows that most customers wait more than two days for a response on Facebook. We’ve made some of our small hotel clients very happy when we were able to use Facebook to fill a room after a last minute cancellation. The same goes for salons and spas whose appointments fall through. Situations like these can translate into a great return on your investment in social media, and it’s all about being quick to the draw! Time is of the essence when it comes to filling those last minute appointments or bookings, and you just might convince a potential customer to finally come in and take you up on the offer.
According to Natalie Petouhoff, a researcher for the LiveOps study and a lecturer at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, customers are likely to spend about 30 percent more with businesses who have strong social media interactions. If you’re a Main Street Hub customer, you know that we have you covered, but if you’re not, be sure to make social media a part of your daily routine. Ignoring or deleting your customers’ comments on social media is similar to hanging up on them or personally throwing them out of your business. Local businesses that take the opportunity to shine with great online customer service will quickly become the clear choice over their competitors.
We know firsthand that small business owners are overachievers. They work long hours to make their businesses successful, and they often lack the support staff they need. They’re passionate about what they do, and they have way too many on-the-job responsibilities to fit a standard resume. With so much on their plates, it’s understandable that digital marketing sometimes gets overlooked.
New data from vSplash tells us just how behind small business owners are falling when it comes to digital marketing—from basic errors in addresses and phone numbers to low (or no) rankings in search results. With 26.4% of small businesses undiscoverable in online searches, a major social media opportunity is being overlooked. Social media results—especially review sites like Yelp and Google+ Local—usually rank very high in search results, so proactively managing these sites is an easy way to get your brand out there. We recently discussed how important it is to optimize your site for mobile, yet vSplash reports that 94.5% of small business pages are not optimized. With 93.7% of small business sites missing a contact email address and 49.4% lacking a phone number on the home page, major opportunities for new business are being missed. But who has the time to keep up with it all when you’re functioning as five employees instead of one?
The problem is not a lack of ‘diy’ technology tools to help manage your online presence; it’s that small business owners really need a ‘do-it-for-you’ option. The reality is that when you’re the owner of a local business, you wear so many hats that it’s just not realistic to also be an excellent online marketer. All the technology and tools in the world won’t help if you simply don’t have the time. You shouldn’t have to worry that you’ve forgotten to update a phone number or that your fans’ questions are going unanswered. But this stuff is important, and social media management is a large piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting it right.
If you are able to juggle it all, we’re impressed! Unfortunately, the statistics reveal that you’re the exception to the rule. If you’re struggling to keep up with your online presence, you’re not alone! At Main Street Hub, we work with thousands of clients who were in the exact same position you are. After all, you CEO/President/CFO/Manager/HR Department/Customer Service Department/Marketing Directors deserve to have a little bit taken off your plate! We have tremendous respect for the small business owners who keep our local communities thriving. We’d even be curious to see a resume that accurately reflects all the different roles you fill… but we know you don’t have the time for something like that. We’ll let you get back to work.
You probably already know that social media marketing is all about connecting—not only through ‘likes’ or follows, but most importantly, through genuine communication with your fans. But what exactly is your small business’s voice? If you want to engage your current customers and find new ones, having a fun, approachable tone is just as important as being professional. The goal is to turn those savvy, well-connected fans into advocates for your business, and the best way to impress them is to use a well-crafted, consistent social media voice that takes into consideration their preferences and interests while highlighting your brand’s strengths.
We’ll lay out 5 ways to find the right social media voice for your small business:
1. Pay attention to your fans’ tone
Main Street Hub manages social media for restaurants, automotive shops, salons, and many other industries. Each small business has its own unique brand, and fans expect to see this reflected through social media. This is why we spend time up front learning our clients’ voices. For example, a chef posting about a dessert menu wouldn’t use the same tone as a salon owner showing off a manicure, just as the fans of a restaurant page wouldn’t interact like those of an auto shop. One of the easiest ways to craft your voice is to simply take notice of these differences and mimic the tone of your most active fans and followers.
If you’re not sure of your fans’ tone, take a look at the way people are interacting with your competitors. Which posts are they ‘liking’, sharing, and commenting on the most? What type of language do they use when posting positive reviews on Yelp or Google+ Local? An auto shop’s fans may quickly share the facts when writing about a mechanic’s expertise and honesty, while a foodie describing his or her favorite new restaurant may provide in-depth descriptions of everything from ingredients to presentation to atmosphere. Once you have a feel for your potential customers, it will be much easier to mimic their tone and market your brand in a conversational, non-aggressive way.
2. Know when to be casual
Social media is NOT about being “salesy”. The key to social media marketing is to generate excitement. If your fans enjoy your interactions and appreciate your online customer service, they’ll want to see more. Keep yourself top of mind by always responding with a tone that feels natural. Some websites are more casual than others; for example, social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are usually more informal than review websites like Yelp and Google+ Local. Don’t be afraid to change up your messaging depending on the website. Using hashtags on Twitter is one of the greatest informal ways to add personality to your content. We encourage using them when appropriate, and the cleverer, the better!
3. Know when to keep it professional
Like we mentioned before, the customer’s tone should be the best indicator for when to speak professionally. It’s especially important to stay professional when dealing with negative reviews on websites like Yelp or Google+ Local. Great customer service can go a long way toward increasing your ratings, and you would never want to jeopardize that by addressing a complaint too casually. If reviewers feel like you’re ignoring or trivializing their opinions, they may actually downgrade their star ratings to reflect dissatisfaction. On the flip side, if you respond promptly and professionally to your negative reviews, there’s a good chance the reviewer will rethink his or her rating and maybe even give you another star! We’ve seen it proven on many occasions that great online customer service is just as important as in-person service.
4. Keep up with the latest trends
Posting the latest trend can be a great tactic for your social media, but remember to only do so if it’s relevant to your brand and you have something to add. A post featuring Ron Swanson may work wonders for Austin’s mustache-themed Handlebar, but they could seem pretty out of place on another business’s page. Even if it’s trendy, it can’t stand alone. Always add commentary to introduce the post using your voice. Nothing will confuse and alienate your fans as quickly as irrelevant, spammy content. You may have also seen posts that include an eye-catching image and a call to action like “Share this post if you’d rather be rock climbing right now.” These are often home runs when it comes to engagement, but we recommend using this very sparingly. Remember, you’re posting in order to promote genuine conversation, not just ‘likes’ and shares.
5. Vary your posts, but be consistent
The way you use your voice may depend on the piece of content you’re posting. Ideally, you should vary your content and let it guide your tone. Keep a thread of continuity by establishing some different kinds of posts and being mindful of switching them up. If you’re well-known for a particular dish and confident that your fans will respond favorably, go ahead and brag a little! If there’s something that sets your employees apart, show us. Your fans will love getting an inside look at your fun atmosphere. And don’t be afraid to post something that may not relate directly to your products or services but does to your industry in general. If you only posted about the menu or the specific auto services you offer, fans would get bored pretty quickly. Branch out to share facts about ingredients or interesting general auto tips, but give context by using your familiar brand voice to tie it all together.
There’s no definite formula for crafting the perfect voice, but if you follow these simple tips, you’ll be on your way to a happy, healthy social media fan base. Just use the great customer service instincts that have kept your in-person customers happy throughout the years, and transition them online. Keep it conversational and fun but professional when necessary. Show your personality, and your fans will turn into loyal brand advocates.
If you’re a small business owner, Facebook is about to give you some major local love, and we at Main Street Hub are very excited about it. Two new features, Graph Search and Nearby, make it easier than ever to broaden your audience and find new customers, and there’s never been a more important time to make sure your business page is accurate, polished, and engaging. Facebook has always been a great place to engage with existing customers and spread word of mouth about your business, but with the introduction of these new tools, the social networking giant is placing itself alongside customer review websites like Yelp and Google+ Local when it comes to customer recommendations and local search.
A Graph Search result will bring up a preview of your business page, including basic information like the page’s profile picture, star rating, address, hours and average price, plus social information like the names of friends who ‘like’ the page or have checked in at your location:
Now, just by ‘liking’ your page, checking in, or interacting with your page through comments or shares, your customers become strong advocates for your brand. If a Facebook user wants to find out which local florist his or her friends prefer, there will be no need to browse through friends’ ‘likes’ or post questions on their Timelines. With Graph Search, users can enter key phrases like “Mexican Restaurants in Austin my friends have been to” or “Dentists my friends like in San Francisco”, and results will vary for each person depending on his or her networks of friends.
If you’ve already been connecting and engaging with your customers, you’re doing everything right, and Graph Search is your reward. The more ‘likes’, check-ins, shares, and conversations your page has, the more likely you are to show up in Graph Search results for potential customers. And the tool isn’t just a great way for Facebook users to find you. Business owners will soon be able to learn more about their existing fans and even glean information about their competitors’ fans. And better information on your fan base means better conversations and higher overall customer satisfaction!
Like Graph Search, Facebook’s new Nearby app is all about local, but it’s also about mobile. (If you’re wondering why mobile matters, check out these stats: According to Facebook Studio, 150 million people visit Facebook pages every day globally, and in the U.S., over half of them visit from a mobile device.) When users open Nearby on their phones, they have the option to enter a search phrase or browse nearby businesses by category. They can then ‘like’ the businesses right from their phones, or even check in, call, get directions, give a star rating, or share their recommendation with friends.
The mobile platform again puts Facebook in a very similar position to established customer review sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, or Foursquare, but what always sets Facebook apart is the enormous amount of information users have shared while building connections on the site. Most Facebook users are deeply invested in the platform by this point, and Nearby helps them tap into the preferences of their actual friends. A business your friend ‘likes’ will show up higher in the search results than one that none of your friends ‘like’, and since mobile users are usually on the go, they’re likely to rely on their friends’ taste when seeking out a new local establishment. Once again, it’s all about the network you’ve built, and if you’ve already been engaging with your customers, you’re perfectly poised to take advantage of everything Nearby has to offer.
Is Your Page Ready?
Both tools’ heavy reliance on geographic location makes it extremely important that your business information is accurate. This also means that if you have a Facebook business page that represents multiple locations—no matter how popular and robust—it’s definitely time to split it up. We’ve long advised our clients with multiple locations to create separate, locally focused business pages for each branch, but now it’s absolutely essential. Having one page for a group of locations would keep your business from showing up at the top of the list when potential customers browse or search in Nearby, and it could also keep your business from appearing in Graph Search, if your locations are in different cities. Trust us, you don’t want to miss out on the highly connective local power of these new features.
So, when getting your business page ready for Graph Search and Nearby, be sure to check off these important items:
Only time will tell how Graph Search and Nearby change users’ search preferences, but the fact that they provide tailored, unique results for each user means great potential for success. It’s key to always remember the basics about reputation management, now that Facebook is making it easier than ever to search for and discover customer star ratings and recommendations. Remember that fans are not only taking notice of how you interact with customers in your establishment but also how you respond to them online. So reach out and make sure every fan feels some local love. After all, they may have found your business using one of social media’s best new local discovery tools.
Interested in learning how Facebook can work for your business? Sign up for a free social media assessment!
Let’s be honest, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s a sound business decision or a techy fad. Just like the difference between “crucial” and “nice-to-have”, you can’t always know how much new technology will impact your business. But, there are some tools out there that you can’t afford to ignore. We’d like to introduce you to mobile websites, your new revenue generator.
Now you’re interested. Before we impress you with conversion rate statistics, we’ll start from the beginning. First we’ll cover what mobile websites actually are, then dive into mobile usage for search. Next we’ll cover some consumer sentiments about mobile websites, and segue into the conversions mobile websites can bring. Let’s go.
First things first, what’s a mobile website? It’s basically a compressed version of your current website, designed specifically for mobile devices. When your website is accessed by someone on their smartphone, they are redirected to a page that is easy for them to interact with. In other words, thumb friendly. Check out the mobile website below compared to its desktop version:
The site is stripped down to its bare essentials, focusing on the types of buttons that on-the-go users are looking for. For local businesses, you’d include: phone number, location, hours, and our favorite: social media. Right at their fingertips, they have a way to tweet, Like or otherwise engage socially with your business. If you’re wondering how much this can really impact your business, keep reading. The stats on mobile search usage are pretty exciting.
So, let’s hear these numbers. The popularity of smartphones is undeniable – and growing. The number of searches on mobile phones has quadrupled since 2010. Local search on mobile devices is growing so fast, research firm BIA/Kelsey predicts that it will surpass desktops in 2015:
Considering these stats, it’s safe to assume that a sizable portion of your customers are using their smartphones to check you out. If your website is frequently visited by folks on mobile devices, you’d better accommodate them.
Surprisingly, most small businesses don’t. A survey by Web.com shows that only 14 percent of small businesses have a site specifically designed for mobile devices. Compare this to the 75 percent of users that favor a mobile-friendly site. Most small businesses don’t have a mobile site, but most mobile users prefer them. This presents a huge opportunity for savvy business owners looking to one-up their competition.
Other than the obvious benefit of offering something the other guys don’t, mobile sites also allow small businesses another way to do what they like best: entice customers. Check out these stats from Google:
The majority of mobile searchers appreciate mobile sites enough to make a purchase, and even more are likely to come back. If these numbers alone haven’t convinced you, let’s see what Google found on the flip side. Turns out, consumers have opposite sentiments when it comes to sites that aren’t designed for mobile devices:
The major takeaway is this: businesses with websites that aren’t mobile-friendly are irritating their visitors. What’s worse is that they may be irked enough to not patronize that business. If your business claims to be customer-oriented, it’s time to get with the program. If you do, customers aren’t the only one who will benefit. Here are a few stats that should really catch your eye:
Yowza. Not only will your customers be pleased, they’ll be more enticed to support or contact your business. It makes sense the users respond positively to a well-designed tool. You take pride in the products and services you offer in your shop, so why not do the same online?
If we could choose one sentence of this whole post for you to read, it would be this: Mobile sites are not a techy fad, and they are crucial to your business. Search statistics and mobile user surveys make it hard to ignore how much consumers utilize and appreciate the mobile web. So be wise, invest!
Interested in learning more about mobile websites and social media for your business? Sign up for a free social media assessment!</>
Thank you to the folks over at Yelp for posting this hilarious video.
This video shows that Yelp is officially part of the mainstream (as if the 85+ million monthly unique visitors didn’t already say that), which means that if you’re a local business owner, you simply have to manage your presence on Yelp.
Whether you’re in need of a refresher course or you’re brand new to Yelp, here is a quick 5-step guide to managing your business page.
1. Search for your business, and claim your page by clicking on the “Work Here? Unlock Your Business Page” or “Claim This Business” at the bottom of the page.
2. Enter in your business information and select “Continue”.
3. To verify your business account, you will be given a PIN. Select “Call Me Now” and enter the code when prompted.
4. Once your page is set up, start responding to your reviews.
5. Post special offers or announcements!
Managing your Yelp presence is an ongoing activity, so make sure to:
It can be a lot of work, but remember, doing nothing is only slightly better than what you saw in the video above!
Need help? Sign up for a free social media assessment and we’ll be happy to give you customized advice on how to improve your social media presence.
We’ve written a few posts about the 3 types of customers you see on social media websites and how to target them. Here is a handy infographic that sums it all up! Whether you’re doing social media for restaurants, bars, spas, salons, auto businesses, or other local business, the same basic principles apply.
Interested in learning more? Sign up for a free social media assessment to get customized advice for your business.