Foursquare and Yelp: The New SEO

Foursquare and Yelp: The New SEOSEO used to mean “keywords” and, well, that was about it. Eventually Google started to use more sophisticated formulas and algorithms to turn out results, and SEO started to depend more on a science of striking the right balance of keywords and phrases. Now, SEO is a much more intensive and all encompassing part of your marketing strategy. It’s simply not enough to have the right keywords anymore, now you need to have the right keywords in the right place, you need to improve your rank on sites like Yelp and Foursquare and get good reviews on Google Places. Keywords simply aren’t enough anymore.

If you have a small business, here are a few marketing tips to getting what you need out of sites like Foursquare and Yelp:

  • Engage With Your Reviewers

    The more you engage with your reviewers, the better you’re going to do on these sites because people like to know for certain that their voices are being heard by the people who need to hear them. Thank the positive reviewers and ask for an opportunity to make it up to the people who had a bad experience. Customer engagement does not occur in a void.

  • Link But Don’t Pressure

    Letting your customers know that you have a listing on Yelp and on Foursquare is a great idea. Begging them for a review at every opportunity is not only obnoxious, it’s discouraged. Take the time to link to these sites in your signature, mention your Yelp presence in your newsletter, but don’t beg your customers for reviews or they’ll think of it as an unwanted obligation.

  • Develop a Multimedia Presence

    Including multimedia in your corporate profile on these sites is a good way to kick start engagement by simply adding a little more color and life. In fact, you may simply consider this to be a part of completing your profile, making it feel more robust and substantial. People don’t always want to contribute a review if it’s going to be the sole piece of real content on the site, so building a real presence on these sites means that your customers don’t have to do that for you.

The more you use Foursquare and Yelp, the higher your SEO ranking is going to climb when it comes to Google results for your niche. SEOis about more than just using the right search terms in your content now. Today, search engine optimization means creating the kind of results that people actually want to find, not just the results that Google will give them. This means making use of sites like Foursquare and Yelp to get the word out about your business.

This is the trick to marketing in the new decade: your customer base is your new marketing team. It’s your job to give them a message that they can run with and a product or service that they can get behind.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Twitter Marketing Campaigns

The Do's and Don'ts of Twitter Marketing CampaignsIf your small business is looking to test the social media marketing waters, Twitter can be a great place to start.

The platform offers potential access to innumerable users whose interests span every conceivable niche and industry. Establishing a Twitter presence is a phenomenal opportunity to make new contacts, win new customers, and maybe even learn a thing or two.

To kickoff your Twitter marketing campaign successfully, remember the following “do’s”:

Do Tweet Regularly

Twitter moves fast. If you want to your business or brand to be visible, you will have to commit to tweeting regularly. Before you start, ask yourself if you will be able to send out 3-4 quality tweets spread throughout the day on a consistent basis. If the answer is yes, consider yourself ready.

Do Add Value

Remember, your followers have allowed you to be a part of their Twitter stream because they believe you can make their lives better. Fulfill that expectation. Use your tweets to offer tips, give great advice, or to link to amazing content relevant to your niche. There’s simply no better way to build authority and goodwill.

Do Offer Great Customer Service

Use a Twitter client to monitor the Twitterverse for mentions of your brand or company. If you see a customer expressing frustration or asking for help with your products and services, reply to him right away and offer to solve the problem. Not only will you impress him, but you may gain a great testimonial in the bargain.

Do Make Judicious Use of Hashtags

Savvy users will often add a “#” in front a keyword within their tweets. This is called a hashtag, and it’s a handy way to help other users find and follow relevant conversations. It’s a great strategy for connecting with potential customers, and one your business should consider adopting. For example, a graphic designer might tweet “The secret to great #design is…” and finish with some sage advice.

Do Make Offers and Promote Your Brand

If you’ve built goodwill by providing followers with plenty of information they can use, feel free to make the occasional direct offer or say something self-promotional. The gurus all suggest different ratios, but generally speaking, offering one pitch for every nine informational tweets you post is considered good form.

Unfortunately, Twitter marketing also comes with its own set of pitfalls you’ll want to avoid. To help you steer clear of these traps, here are a few of the most common Twitter “don’ts.”

Don’t Be Spammy

Remember that rule about one pitch per nine informational tweets mentioned above? Don’t break it. If your tweets are a constant stream of self-promotion that offers no real value to your followers, they will unfollow you without a second thought.

Don’t Stray Off-Topic

You are on Twitter to establish yourself as the “go to” resource in your niche, so stay on task. Tweets about random topics unrelated to your brand will dilute your authority and cause you to lose followers.

Don’t Clutter Your Followers’ Timelines

While you want to offer enough tweets to make yourself visible, you do not want to tweet so often that followers start to view you as obnoxious. Treat Twitter like a cocktail party—have something to say, but don’t dominate the conversation.

Don’t Send Automatic Direct Messages

Some brands and businesses send an automated thank you message to anyone who follows them. While this may seem polite and be done with the best of intentions, most Twitter users dislike the practice and see it as insincere. Don’t try to fight the prevailing culture on this one; you’ll lose.

Building Facebook Buzz for Your Small Business

Social media, especially Facebook, is a great way to potentially reach millions of customers. It’s important to make sure your page is setup with all of the necessary information. Here are some key components your small business’s Facebook page should include:
Create buzz around your small business Facebook page

  • contact information
  • info about your business and its story
  • links to products and checkout
  • photos
  • testimonials
  • daily updates

Below are some marketing tips to keep your page relevant and at the top of the News Feed.

Stretch Your Budget

Get more Likes to your Faebook page
One of the best things about Facebook is that you can build a page for free. In order to get people to your page, meet the customers where they are. Many businesses offers deals where if a customer whips out a smart phone and “Likes” your business at checkout, they can receive an immediate discount. Once you’ve connected with your customers, you can reach out daily with deals, specials, and information.

Important messages can be “promoted” for a small fee, but if you realize you need a bigger boost, there are firms designed to help small businesses improve their marketing. Some offer sales for critical shopping periods (think Black Friday on) so you can get new customers when it counts without paying a premium year round.

Advertise with Brand Consistency

Whether or not you choose to buy advertising on the site (last year businesses spent over a thousand dollars on social media ads on average), you should think of your page as a research and advertising opportunity. Every message and image should reflect your brand. Oreo nailed it with creative, topical cookie art that earned them a lot of attention and shares.

Create a Dialogue

Facebook is not your opportunity to play used car salesman and try to out-shout the rest of the internet. Instead, it offers a unique gift for local businesses: to build personal customer relationships before anyone even sets foot in your store. Make your daily updates relevant for people interested in your field — news and humor both provide value instead of simply promotion. Pictures are the most shared updates, so even if you don’t have an easily photographed product, include pictures from events or just local scenery (An Instagram’d tree or pet never disappoints.) Users have over 100 friends on average, and for many college students that number is closer to 1000. If you respond individually to both praise and complaints, you’ll gain respect and be seen by an extended network.

Facebook users can be fickle. In order to remain “friended”, it’s important to follow the rules (less spamming, better grammar) and incorporate smoothly with the experience. Look to comparable business’s pages for inspiration. Use a cover photo to point to a button or promote a sale. Make information obvious. By learning more about the medium and working daily on your branding, you’ll continue to grow your brand and engagement with your existing and new customers.

5 Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Be on Facebook

It’s hard to believe, but Facebook is not just for posting kitten videos and pictures of last night’s dinner. In fact, Facebook can be a powerful tool to get your small business in front of a multitude of potential customers, as well as keeping the customers you already have.

But other than giving you a place to collect “Fans” and post pictures, why bother getting your small business on Facebook?

For starters, there’s the obvious:

Free Advertising

One of Facebook’s greatest advantages is that it’s free. And all it takes is a few minutes to set up your business’s profile before it’s being eyeballed by customers. But if you want to invest a bit more into your Facebook advertising, you can do that, too, because Facebook also offers…

Cheap Advertising

Those little ads on the right-hand side of the screen are not terribly pricey. Granted, the jury is still out on just how effective those ads are on drumming up business, but it’s worth a shot, considering how much you’re spending. And how much are you spending? Anywhere from around $20 to $5000 a day, depending on your budget and how frequently you want your ad to pop up. There are also other options for advertising on Facebook, such as paying to “Promote” a post. Check out the Facebook advertising information pages for more dirt on how to sell your small business.

The other advantage to putting an ad on Facebook? According to Tyler Barnett, president of Tyler Barnett PR, Facebook offers “less competition for keywords than there is on Google or other pay-per-click sites.” Furthermore, says Barnett, “when a person is logged into their Facebook page, they are comfortable. When they see your ad on their Facebook page there is a certain amount of trust that is inherent and that you don’t get when seeing a random link on a Google search.” Speaking of comfort and trust, Facebook also provides…

Instant Feedback

People feel more at ease saying things in an online forum that they would probably never say in person. And while this attribute is generally regarded as negative, you can use your customers’ comfort with communication to your advantage. Customers can see your product or offers and provide immediate feedback on what they think of it by posting on your page. And you should listen to them.

Constant Interaction with Customers

Facebook affords your small business the opportunity to build rapport with your customers. The casual “back and forth” conversation via postings can be an invaluable tool in creating discourse and trust, as well as a quick means of relaying information. You can be engaged with many customers at one time, without having to tie up the phone lines, or talk to just one person, while another person is waiting for your help.

Opportunities to Soft Sell

You want to make money. That’s why you have a business, right? With Facebook, you can curb your urge to make the hard sell, and instead, opt for a softer touch. You can offer deals only available to your followers, engage in conversation with customers, acknowledge feedback, and make yourself available. Practice the art of gentle persuasion on your Facebook profile. A more casual and friendly approach will be more effective than pushy, aggressive tactics. You can attract them and keep them enticed with exclusive discounts and coupons for Facebook fans only. Offer them freebies or host “Facebook Contests”.

Marketing tips abound when it comes to using Facebook for your business, but it’s easier than you may think. Be visible, friendly, available, conversational, and attentive to feedback, and you may discover Facebook users scrolling right past those kitten videos in favor of your business’s profile…and reaching into their wallets, while they’re at it.

Small Business and Google+: Opportunity for Better Local Search Results

In May of 2012,  Google replaced its Google Places with Google+ Local. At first glance it seems to be nothing more than a rebranding of Google Places where local businesses show up on a Google local search on a map with a pin in it locating a business. Small business owners could write a few words to promote their business and link to their web page. Google users could also give ratings about the business without having to sign in to Google Places.

The interface that users encounter on Google+ Local provides a more complete helping of business data. In addition to the more granular Zagat ratings there are new features such as suggestions for nearby businesses. Google believes that these enhancements make for a far better consumer experience.

By replacing Google Places with Google+ Local the functionality is pretty much the same. However, Google has partnered with Zagat to provide ratings. This may seem like a small change, but it is actually a major difference. On the one hand, it is a positive change as users have to sign in to their Zagat account to review a business on Google+ Local. This additional step may reduce frivolous bad reviews. But, at the same time it worries business owners who had a difficult time getting positive reviews from satisfied customers who now have an added impediment to writing a review.According to Google one of every 4 searches on Google is estimated to be a local search, and customer reviews are extremely important. Besides the Zagat ratings, Google+ users can “+” a business. This is similar to ‘Liking” a business page on Facebook.

Businesses that already claimed their Google Places spot have been automatically rolled into Google+ Local. The new service remains free and allows businesses to add photographs and links.

Many may think this is a “soft” attempt to get businesses to buy Google Ad Words. While it very well may be part of Google’s strategy, it is more likely that it is an attempt to parlay Google+, which is Google’s social media into a more robust Internet destination for users. While Google+ Local has much fewer subscribers than Facebook they claimed in an unusual announcement in September 2012 that they had 400 million individuals signed up for Google+, and 100 million users actively checking in to business pages.

What is a bit strange is that businesses that want to manage their Google+ Local page have to go to the Google Places for Business page. There does not seem to be a home page for Google+ Local for businesses.

Google+ Local is easy for consumers to use and is accessible from standard computers, netbooks, tablets and Smartphones running Android OS. It seems as if Google has finally found a social media platform that will work for them, especially since they are the mega-giant search provider. Small business owners need to pay attention to how Google+ Local evolves. It would be wise to setup a Google+ page, if you don’t already have one, learn how to monitor it and make sure that the Google+ Local experience is maximized for both your business and consumers.

Build A Large, Valuable Network with Social Media

You have heard the buzz and been told to do it for sometime now; Get involved with social media. Where do you start though? Social media is everywhere from LinkedIn to Facebook and beyond. Customers and potential customers do not interact with the world around them anymore.

People post everything that goes on in their lives be it minor or major on twitter feeds and in status updates. They hardly communicate with their friends, so what makes you think they will thumb through the phone book or even do a Google search for your services?

Word of mouth is still the power behind most business and that likely is not to change. What has changed however is the “mouth” that the word comes from. Companies can be crippled by bad online reviews and Facebook troubles. For an example of this, have a look at this recent news story. Potential clients and current ones need to know that you understand their needs and are there when their need arises.

There are many examples of companies staying relevant and becoming integrated with their public. To further the point of the importance of the reliance on social media by consumers, have a look at a few surveys at SurveyGizmo or Google consumer surveys. There is a reliance on using social media for finding goods and services. It is no longer an option whether or not you need to be involved with social media; it is now the bare minimum you can do to get by. Choose not to be involved at your own peril.

So, getting to the point, here are small business tips you can use to become involved in social media.

What Not To Do

  • As you may have read before, customers are prone to become angry and nearly hostile if they feel they are being taken advantage of online. If another customer has been victimized or been taken advantage of, mob rule can quickly take over on the internet.
  • Stay ahead of problems and monitor the internet about your company. This includes internet searches and Facebook and LinkedIn searches. If you find a problem or someone has a complaint about your services, address it and do what you can to solve it before it snowballs. Here are several small business marketing tips and actions to NEVER do.
  • Never censor online posts on your company Facebook or other media site. There are exceptions, such as vulgar content and if there is a violation of terms or conditions. Customers hate to be censored or otherwise feel that a business is trying to cover up an incident.
  • Never attack a client no matter how belligerent they become. This seems to be understood, but sometimes internet users say things that are mean spirited and or slanderous. Do not get drawn into the fray. Address problems; offer to solve them if any arise and stay as diplomatic and customer service friendly as possible. Do not become the next Meme (it is possible to have a good Meme however) or internet company scandal.

What To Do

  • In a word, research. Knowing your audience or your clientele is essential to build a network. It will take time to find out some of their habits and tendencies, so stick with it. Start a Facebook and get involved. First, find out what companies are doing it right. It does not have to be a company that is in the same field as you, just a company that customers.
  • Start conversations online. Communicate with friends that add you, and do not just post things about specials or discounts. It is ok to post about a new product or service; just do not let that be the only thing you post. Post relevant (and vetted) articles that may be pertinent to your field.
  • Here is a list of social media tips and “definitely do’s” to get you started.
  • Interact. Do it frequently and make yourself seem like a caring, human company.
  • If there is a questions to you written or posted on a Facebook page, make sure it is answered quickly. If there is a problem, it is urgent that you get a head of it and if it is a query or question, you have to address it fast. Customers want businesses that not only understand them, but that go out of their way to help. If you do not answer their question and answer it fast, they will take their business somewhere else.
  • Stay focused. If you are going to have more than one social media account, that is fine. Just make sure not to bombard fans or followers with redundant content. Use one source to post the bulk of your communication. It is good to diversify, but it you are focused on posting your weekly or monthly discounts, or your newsletter, that makes one destination a “go-to” place. If customers have to search multiple platforms and sources for what they need or want, you can guarantee that will go somewhere that has what they need in one location.