Ok, small business owners. You’ve taken care of the who, what, and when. Now it’s time to address the where in your social media strategy. Location-based applications/sites are becoming more and more popular, and it’s important to make sure that your company is on the map. Here’s the run-down on a few of the most popular, and the best part is–they’re all free!
Facebook Places allows users to post where they are at any given moment from their mobile devices and PCs. It’s word-of-mouth marketing at the touch of a button and a great way for small businesses to extend their brand.
Your business may already have a Place listing, but it’s up to you to claim your place. This ensures that you control the pertinent information regarding your business, like directions, phone numbers, and hours (there’s nothing worse than going out of your way to find a cool spot, only to find it’s closed!). You can also use this opportunity to link users to your website, Facebook Page, Yelp reviews, etc. It’s all about staying connected and making sure that you’re visible wherever the consumer is.
Facebook has put together a very easy-to-follow guide for businesses on how to go about finding and claiming your Place; it also gives you step-by-step instructions on how to merge your Facebook Page with your Facebook Place. It’s a great tool for small business owners, and we love that Facebook uses a secure system to verify ownership—you’ll get a pin that allows you to continuously log in and update/modify information.
Keep in mind that Facebook uses Bing Maps to pinpoint location when users check in, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re listed (accurately, of course) on Bing Maps. You can add your listing here and provide basic information for your business.
Similarly, utilizing Google Places ensures that you’re more than just a dot on the map: you’re a dot filled with useful information that lets you “be found, stand out, and get insight.” Google uses a cluster of information sourced from Yellow Pages and similar sites to put together your business profile, but by making the effort to claim it you (again) take control over the information. Log into Places using your Google account (or create one, if you haven’t already—just be sure to use an account name you don’t mind sharing), and Google will walk you through the steps to build your profile through a verification process. You can then use the dashboard to add video, photos, coupons, reviews, and even real-time information like weekly specials and events.
Yahoo! Local is also a great way to make sure that your small business is on the map. Yahoo! Local uses a Yellow Book-like approach to its listings, and users can rate and review local businesses, upload their own photos, and get directions via Yahoo! Maps. At the very least, you should make sure that your business has a Basic listing, which you can get for free. A basic account lets you list your phone number, address, hours, products/services, and URL. You can also choose to upgrade to an Enhanced account, which lets you add your logo and tagline, upload up to ten photos, and provide a more detailed business description. It’s only $9.95 a month (and if you sign up by September 30th you can get 30% off your first three months). All you need to start is a Yahoo! account.
While you’re at it, don’t forget about Yelp. Yelp is a rapidly expanding community and a powerful tool to help you build exposure and monitor public opinion of your business. (And they recently added a check-in feature as well.) If you haven’t already claimed your business on Yelp, go to Yelp.com and start building your profile. Once you’ve ensured that your Yelp listing has the most up-to-date information possible, don’t forget to check back—and often. Social networking sites give you the opportunity to listen and participate in an ongoing conversation.
So what are you waiting for? And if you’re already using these platforms, let us know how it’s going!