Since its inception, social media has been a game-changer for many businesses across the globe. It's facilitated relationships, sales, and awareness which may have never been possible before. Yet, one group that has been historically left out of the social media picture is local businesses.
Sure, there's Yelp, Google Search and Facebook Advertising, but that pales in comparison to the resources available to non-local businesses where location has very little impact on their sales.
Why? If you're a coffee shop owner in Oregon, why would you care if your Facebook post was seen by 3,000 people in Scotland? If you're a bar owner in Atlanta, why spend your time building up a Twitter audience when there's very little chance your followers are located in your area?
The only people local businesses are concerned with are those who are able to buy their product or service, so there's a reason why many haven't seen social media marketing as the most valuable use of their time and money.
But that's all about to change. Lucky for local businesses, the social media world is shrinking in their favor. The next great shift in social media is to local, and Facebook and Snapchat are leading the charge.
Leave it to Snap to come up with features that are just as creepy as they are useful. While these features below are in their beginning stages, Snap is on a mission to build out their ad product and drive revenue. This means making features available to advertisers of all budgets is in their best interest, so stay tuned.
1. Snap to Store. This feature allows advertisers to see whether or not viewers of an ad visited the store's physical location within one week of seeing it. One of the biggest qualms local businesses have with social media advertising is the inability to know whether or not it drove foot traffic, and thus sales. With Snap to Store, that mystery is closer to being solved than ever before.
2. Snap's partnership with Foursquare. By partnering with Foursquare, Snapchat now has access to an immense database of local businesses. Now, thanks to that data, users can use auto-generated Geofilters when they're around a store's location. This allows local businesses to have access to Geofilters without creating it themselves.
3. Snap Map. This new feature allows you to see where your friends are, and which events are trending around the world. It also exemplifies the direction Snap is going. More than likely, local businesses will eventually be able to pay for their location to be highlighted to users in and around the area.
Facebook is competing directly with Google, Yelp, and other players by focusing on improving their local search. Features like Facebook Professional Services (a local business directory), City Guides (an early-stage, travel planning feature), more info on business search results (price range, popularity, Call Now, etc.), and which friends have visited a specific local business are all foreshadowing for what's to come at Facebook.
Facebook's agenda is clear: they want to build community in the coming years. One major way to accomplish that is by empowering local business owners and enhancing their visibility to potential customers through search.
What You Can Do Today
As mentioned, the future of social media is a shift to local. However, that doesn't mean you can't prepare for it today. There's a lot you can do now to ensure your business is in the best position to capitalize on tomorrow's trends.
1. Test out Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat Ads. The best way to prepare for something is actually do it. Test out Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat Ads. You're able to make sure only folks in your region see the ad, and you'll be able to get a better idea how to leverage them. Best of all, Facebook and Instagram Ads start as low as $5 per day.
2. Get your customers to create content (a.k.a. "user-generated content"). When Facebook and Instagram double-down on local, user-generated content will certainly boost your business up in the rankings. To encourage user-generated content, use your receipts, bulletin boards, posters and other methods to ask your customers to post pictures to Instagram and Facebook. Be sure they tag your business and location in the post.
3. Start a Facebook Group in your niche. This will enable you to build up community and nurture Group members into loyal customers. As mentioned above, Facebook is focusing on community, so Groups will be a main focal point of this shift. If you own a yoga studio in Austin, consider making a Facebook Group called "Yoginis and Yogis of Austin".
4. Completely fill out your Facebook Business profile. Don't leave anything blank. As Facebook builds out local search, active profiles which are fully filled out will definitely get priority over those who aren't.