I’ve heard plenty of local businesses from all over the world say that they don’t need social media marketing. They rely on word-of-mouth and it’s working for them.

Here’s what these local business owners are missing out on:
There are 2.2 billion active social media users all over the world.
97 percent of consumers between 18 and 34 years old rely on online reviews to form an impression about a local business.
84 percent of people say they trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.
Can you see the connection between these facts?

If you are not on social media, you may be losing a huge chunk of your customers.

Add these stats to the undeniable fact that more and more people are using the Internet for everything today and you’ll see why the good, old word-of-mouth no longer cuts it for local businesses.

Let’s see how you can leverage the power of social media to boost your local business’ revenue:

1. Be where your customers are

Don’t jump to Facebook just because you heard it’s the biggest social network. While this is true, it doesn’t mean that your potential customers are there or that they respond to advertising messages posted there.
Even more, you shouldn’t be everywhere. Would you post an ad on a billboard three states away? Of course not! You should treat your social media presence the same way: never invest time or money where your customers don’t hang out.

Instead, start by finding out where your customers like to hang out. They could be on:

  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • WhatsApp
  • Snapchat
  • Viber
  • Tumblr

The list could go on, but you get the point – different customers have different preferences for everything, even social media.

But how can you tell where your customers are?

One thing you shouldn’t do is look at what your neighbors do. The barber shop across the street clearly has a different audience than your restaurant.

Instead, you can look at the competition. See what works for them, which social network they get the most engagement on.

A great resource we always use for our local business clients along with our own research is this study from Sprout Social. It will show you what demographics are on each social network.

2. Stop selling aggressively

Did you know that most Americans are exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 ads per day? That’s huge.
And it leads to ad blindness. This means that people have grown so accustomed to ads that they don’t even see them anymore.

So, if you keep screaming: “Buy this,” “Try this,” “Come to our restaurant,” people will ignore you. Or, worse, they’ll stop following you because you spam them.

How could you get customers for your local business from social media then? Show them what you do:
Show how the meals are cooked in your restaurant.

  • Show happy clients at your restaurant’s tables.
  • Post a live video from one of the concerts you hosted.
  • Show a before and after transformation of someone who comes to your gym.
  • Show how your hairstylists managed to completely transform someone’s look.

Bottom line: show people what you’re good at without compelling them to try your service. People love seeing feel-good stories, so they’ll queue outside your place of business without you rushing them.

A good rule of thumb here is the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. Applied to social media, it would say that 80 percent of your posts should be informational or entertaining and only 20 percent of them should be promotional.

3. Find out what people are interested in

Search for trending hashtags in Twitter or use tools like Buzz Sumo to see what gets people talking on social media. Then join in the conversation.

Remember the ‘social’ in ‘social media.’ There’s no point in posting incessantly if you don’t join other conversations, too – conversations that others started.

Being a part of meaningful social media conversations can start with something as simple as searching for the name of your town (or neighborhood if you live in a big city) on a social network. You’ll find plenty of news and discussions that you can contribute to.

Once again, don’t make this about you. When you join a local social media conversation, try to bring something useful to the debate, not brag about your awesome business.

4. Always fill in ALL the sections of your social media profile

Pay extra attention to filling in your address and phone number correctly. Add the ZIP code, too.
This is especially important on Google+ because it will boost your page ranks a lot. When people search for “Chinese restaurant Melbourne” Google will use the information you provided and show the results closer to the user’s location first. If the user is near your place, you’re in luck. But only if everything is filled in correctly.

In fact, I advise you to create Google+ account even if you don’t update it. It’s that important for the SEO of local businesses.

As far as other networks are concerned, having your full contact information listed will help people reach you more easily. For instance, they can call you directly from your Facebook page (if you listed your contact number) instead of leaving the Facebook app, searching for your number and so on.

5. Run contests and special promotions

I could write a (small) book about how my agency helped local (and international) businesses get a huge amount of followers and revenue solely through well-targeted contests and promotions. That’s right – without any paid ads!
One client had 10 Facebook likes when my agency took over the social media marketing. Three months later, the client had 15,000 fans — all without investing a dime.

How did we do it?

Quite easily: we simply gave out some free products with no strings attached. As you may know, most Facebook contests are scams. This one wasn’t! People were so shocked to actually receive their prizes that they became fans in real life, not just on social media.

They told their friends and family about the brand and they began buying its products. Even after a year since they won the prizes, they would still write messages telling my client they purchased something new and that they love the new line of products.

But you don’t even have to give something away completely free.

For local businesses, such promotions are meant to make people feel special just because they follow you on social media. You should always specify that an offer is only valid for Facebook fans. Here are some examples:

  • Get 20 percent off your next purchase with the #Facebook20 coupon.
  • Get a free donut with your coffee this morning using the “Twitter” password.
  • Book your dinner reservation through Facebook Messenger/Twitter DM and get a free glass of wine.
  • Selfie contest or promotions: post a selfie in our location (or tag us in it) and you’ll get a free manicure.

You can be sure that your fans will tell their friends about the freebie or discount they got so easily. This will result in more social media fans for you and, consequently, more revenue.

Social media can be a gold mine for local businesses

You don’t need a huge budget to rock your social media strategy. You just need to listen to what your (potential) customers want and deliver just that. And, first and foremost, your customers want you to be on social media.

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