Seven out of 10 consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has information available on a social media site, says a new study.
The annual study, called Local Search Usage Study: Bridging The Caps, From Search to Sales, is a joint effort of comScore and TMP Directional Marketing, a local search marketing firm. It includes an online survey of some 4,000 consumers, plus data gleaned from observing one million consumers who agreed to have their online searches monitored anonymously.
Having a page on Facebook is a start, but it's not a one-time effort: 81 percent of consumers using social media say it's important for businesses to respond to questions and complaints. And for the record, you do need to worry about reviews and ratings – 78 percent said they're important when deciding what to buy.
What else do you need to be doing with social media? Nearly four out of five (78 percent) of users want special offers, promotions, and information about events, 74 percent want regular posts about products, and 72 percent want posts about the company itself. (Wondering about posting those photos of the company office—or picnic? Two-thirds of those surveyed want to see them.)
If this all seems too daunting, the survey also suggests a simple starting place: make sure there is correct information about your business in as many places online as you can (Google, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Social networkers are 67 percent more likely to buy something than general searchers, but one in six searchers is frustrated by the lack of reliable information about small businesses on the Web – either it's not there at all, it's incorrect, or it's confusing or disorderly. One third of searchers give up on a business when they can't quickly find the information they're looking for.
Where are consumers looking first for local business information? Seventy percent of consumers go online first for local business information, up seven percentage points from last year. One third of the survey's respondents hit traditional search engines (up 2 percent from last year), 23 percent look to the old-fashioned yellow pages (yes, really – down 5 percent from last year, though), and 22 percent turn to Internet yellow pages (the survey includes sites such as Yelp in this category).
Then there's the 13 percent who search local sites, and 9 percent who search social networks (both up 1 percent from last year.) Keep in mind that most consumers reference multiple sources – these figures simply represent where a person looks first. It's also worth noting that, in the past, consumers were more likely to use the old-fashioned Yellow Pages to find a specific business; today, online searches are used when trying to find new businesses or products (or the best deals on those products).
Of the searches on local sites, far and away the winner was Google (Google Places) with 41 percent. Bing Maps placed second at 11 percent (up from 4 percent last year), and Yahoo! Local took 10 percent. Tied for fourth place, with 9 percent apiece: SuperPages, YP.com, and Yellowbook.com. Six percent of consumers used Mapquest, while Dexknows and Yelp each controlled roughly 1 percent of the market.