IMPORTANT UPDATE: Google has made significant changes to Google Local Listings and Google Places since this article was written. Go here for our update on Google’s new local strategy “Google Plus”
John Jantsch has been the go-to-guy for small businesses. After all how can you go wrong with a book called Duct Tape Marketing? I thought he would do a follow up called WD40 for Carpet Cleaning but he fooled me and wrote The Referral Engine. Once I get through the other books sitting on my desk I will review it here.
John was one of the early gurus of social media and its many uses. Here is an excellent report on how to get established on Google Places and Jantsch is expanding from there onto the latest social media moves.
The following is from his blog post: 5 Ways For Small Businesses To Get In The Location Game
Location based check-in type services are this year’s overhyped topic – with good reason. While you may not understand why someone wants to be the “mayor” of their barber shop, you do need to recognize the behavior that social location services such as Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp! and Facebook Places represents for the local business.
Shoppers these days are using the Internet to find everything locally and are increasingly using mobile devices, services and apps to effectively bypass even the web to find a merchant. What that means is that local small businesses need to find ways to tap into this behavior and not necessarily try to ride the hype wave to Foursquare fame.
Here are five ways local small businesses can capture their own personalized version of social location behavior and tap into what may be the ultimate “online to offline combo” to produce sales.
1. Create virtual rewards programs – Rewards programs such as those offered by most coffee shop via punch cards or large retailers like Eddy Bauer have been around for years, but smart offerings by folks like PlacePop are making the punch card concept an easy virtual or online play. Merchants can offer their own version of a check in and capture rich data on their most loyal customers.
2. Ride the group buying craze – If you’re not familiar with group coupon buying services like Groupon, then you’re probably not reading this blog. Facebook app maker WildFire offers small businesses the ability to create their own group buying offers and take advantage of the viral and social nature of this play to create local Facebook engagement.
3. Google Places coupons – When local shoppers do turn to a search engine for local shopping they often uncover your Google Places Page (or at least you should be working to make sure they do) Google has a handy coupon tool that automatically creates mobile versions of your coupons and offer. Here’s more information on Google Places Mobile Coupons
4. Advertise on mobile coupon networks – You can also place your ads on Mobile coupon networks and get distribution of your coupons across many local sites.
5. Make your own game – The game playing aspect of many of social location biggies is an aspect that should not be overlooked when trying to develop your own strategy. The web app SCVNGR is a tool that allows you to create your own game and have it related to verified checkins for a specific QR code. This would be pretty cool for a merchant association to use to create their scavenger hunt check in game.
And, of course, make sure your business is listed with the major players – Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places