Thomas Mangan
August 11, 2019

How To Start Growing A Local Business On Social Media

Find out how to start growing a local business using social media. We cover the basic strategies to get your bricks and mortar location seen online.

In a digital age, your online presence is as important as your physical shopfront. 
Think about the last time you were on holiday and wanted to find a good coffee. You likely whipped out your phone and did a quick search. The seemingly innocent google search is a battleground of optimisation, keywords, well written descriptions and mouth-watering pictures. 
Keep in mind, this is a highly localised battleground.
You can quickly become a big fish in a small pond with a few of these easy actionable tips to improve your local social media presence.

Get your Google game on point

Today most searches start in one place so it makes sense to have yourself set up and ready to go. 
Google search results and even the search results on google maps all go through Google my business. It's vital that you have an account there. It's very simple to add your business, or claim ownership of if your already listed online. There are a number of ways to verify your account and once you have access make sure to complete your profile as fully as possible. 
Higher Ground in Melbourne has a well set up account with pictures that set the tone for your visit.
This is probably the easiest way to improve your search engine ranking, and convert that into people coming to your business. If people don’t know your opening times, they might not want to take the risk of coming all the way over. Especially if they know a competitor is open and has exactly what they need. 
Google also uses this information to verify you are a real brick and mortar shop. Things like having a local phone number, pictures and an accurate description all help. 
This leads us on to our next point, you can talk about yourself all you want, but what do the customers think?

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!

It can be daunting putting your brand out there on the internet. 
Trolls, freeloaders and people just having a bad day can ruin a perfect 5 star score, but having customer reviews enabled is required to stay competitive online. 
Google reviews are important as they directly influence search engine results and Google Maps ranking. However, they can be fickle as anyone can write them. 
There are other sites that are more trustworthy such as tripadvisor or yelp. They have more community based reviews systems and closely moderated posts. As they are normally checked by travellers or people with an intent to spend money, a few good mentions on these sites can get people through the door. Are there any local influencers in your area you could reach out to for a good mention or review? It's a numbers game and every review helps.
Reviews will often factor into a customers choice...
Source: Tripadvisor
Taking public criticism can be hard, but at the end of the day, unless you are really rubbing people up the wrong way the good reviews will out weigh the bad. 
The most important thing is to have a strategy in place to get them to leave one in the first place. This could be asking your staff to remind people at the end of their experience, putting a small incentive on your till receipts or even a poster showing your current score. Respond to the feedback good or bad with professionalism. Even if you can't change a bad review at least future customers will see you have acknowledged and tried to fix any issues. 
This kind of honesty with your customers reminds them they are supporting a local business and can foster a community feeling. This is what we want to work on next. 

Your customers are your best content creators

Just like reviews, real testimonials can often be the deciding factor when people are choosing where to go. User Generated Content is an amazing way to fill your own timeline with happy customers.
Having people post on their own social media channels is free publicity. Their own timeline is full of potential new customers and people trust their friends. 
How can you tap into this goldmine of referrals? Well, first make sure people have a good time! Then, use a bit of creativity.
Have you ever been to a Mexican restaurant that has tons of sombreros, fake moustaches and huge cocktails? What happens when you mix these ingredients together? Selfies by the truckload! 
Try and find a way to get your customers to post your product online, it's the new word of mouth. If you can get your own customers to follow you online, it will inspire others to do the same.
People post online for recognition, and if your brand has some social media street cred then it will encourage people to mention your name. One really effective way of fostering this kind of online conversation is replying to all the @tags you get. It will make your customers feel appreciated and know they aren't just shouting into the void.
The guys behind the awesome Sydney based tea company, T Totaler, are on the ball with their posts, getting users posting their products and engaging with them.
You should be trying to Create a conversation wherever possible online as more interaction means more views.

Be available online

Customers are more likely to reach out to their favourite brands on social media than any other method. It's much faster than email and way easier than sitting through annoying telephone menus. Just make sure someone is there to answer on the other side.
Facebook displays the average response time to give it's user's a rough idea, and the button is directly on your page begging to be clicked so give it some priority. Sure, some of the questions could be simple, but this can give you valuable insight into what your customers biggest obstacles are! 
If your answering for the fifth time that, 'Yes, you will be open on the public holiday.' Whip up a quick banner and make a big deal of it. If you continually get questions about shipping, perhaps it's time to take a look at your checkout process.
In short, if your customers are asking you about something; make it easier to find the answer to that question. 
Of course they might just want to chat.

Find your local online watering hole

It might sound obvious, but one of the most valuable aspects of social media for promoting a local business is the fact you can target a very specific audience. 
It used to be the case that an ad in the local paper was the best way to target one location, but then you are relying on distribution, readership and a whole bunch of other factors which could leave you paying for something nobody sees. 
You have lots of control using ads on Facebook or Instagram. Depending on what your marketing objective is you can tailor your ad's reach. For example, if you are a woman's clothing store you might want to target only females in a certain age range across a whole city. If you are a cafe you might want to target your advert to everyone in a small radius around your store to make sure your advert is relevant and you don't waste bucks on people who will never come to your location. 
In the adverts manager you can select a location, radius and define other demographics for your audience.  See the above video by Thrive Entrepreneur for some more detailed tips on that.
The more visible you are in your local area the more relevant your business will be to the people who live there.
This means that not all of your activity online should be blatant self promotion. Another useful tactic can be to try an add value to existing groups or discussions. Luckily, your potential customers will also be engaging in them as well.
Facebook recently announced they will continue to prioritise and improve the Groups feature on their site. This is a space where like minded people can find each other and discuss topics or share content relevant to whatever their interest is. 
As a small business you can use these groups (or even create your own) to find and engage your customer base. Just be careful of falling into the trap of spamming people with advertisements. This will do nothing but push people away or worse, actively try and avoid you. 
Instead, find a way to add value to the group through your skills, with some gentle soft cross selling of course. This could take shape in many different ways depending on your industry.
Say you are a pet grooming shop, maybe there is a local dog walking group you could post some cute pictures of freshly groomed pooches. Or, if you are a Cafe maybe inviting the local reading group over to your place for discussions about books over coffee could be the perfect relationship. It’s up to you to find out where your customer base is hanging out online and work out the best way into the conversation, without being a buzzkill. 

Meet your new customers IRL

So now hopefully you are brimming with ideas of how to attract new customers online and then bring them into your physical store. 
If you just take one thing away it should be the importance of setting yourself up online so you can be found. This could be tedious at first but creating a Google My Business and Facebook accounts is mandatory these days, and a few pictures on instagram never hurt either. 
Use these as springboards to meet and engage with new customers. If they reach out to you, make sure to respond and add value to these sites whenever possible. Many good business are guilty of taking more of people’s time while not providing any useful information beyond ‘buy this.’ 
One of the best ways to do this is: Have Fun! It sounds silly but don’t forget that we are all still humans, posting to other humans. Follow current events, share funny memes and try and engage with whatever fads are taking the internet’s fancy at that moment. If people see you having fun, the mood will be infectious and your brand will benefit in the long term. 
If you need some help planning a boss social media strategy that will leave your customers hashtagging for more, then get in touch with us at hellosocial using the contact form below and we’ll make magic together. 
I’ll leave you with the lads at Newstead Brewing Co. having a blast!

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