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Social Media Marketing Is Essential For Local Businesses. Here’s Why.

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Social Media Marketing Is Essential For Local Businesses. Here's Why.

Statista reports that the number of Facebook users in the U.S. (as of July 2021) has reached a whopping 302 million, and this number will keep growing exponentially in the foreseeable future.

Combine this with the fact that the overall U.S. population is around 334 million, and you can derive that virtually two in three U.S. citizens are actively using Facebook.

This social media platform and others like it can help you substantially grow your local business… if you do it right.

So how exactly can your business and specifically its local search presence benefit from being present on social media channels?

Before you decide whether you’re ready to dive into the world of social media marketing, let’s dive a bit deeper into why you should.

Why Local Businesses Should Invest Time & Money In Social Media Marketing

We know that social media is not a search ranking factor. However, there are plenty of indirect ways that social media supports SEO.

You’re probably already crazy-busy promoting your business.

Adding even more marketing tasks might seem a bit like overkill.

However, neglecting to incorporate social media into your marketing plan can cost you – not just in terms of new potential customers who don’t know you but also in terms of retaining your existing customers.

And make no mistake, your competitors are out there sniffing around and happy to have them.

By building a relationship with your clients, your chances of retaining them increase, and so does their potential lifetime value.

Now let these other compelling arguments convince you even more.

“Hey, Does Anyone Know A Good…?”

Folks on social are constantly asking their friends for recommendations for almost everything, ranging from local restaurants to car repairing services.

Social media platforms (as the marketing machines that they are) can help you be a part of these conversations.

Facebook Recommendations

For example, Facebook allows users to tag their favorite brands when they want to promote them.

Besides, when uploading a photo of yourself in a shop, hotel, amusement park, car dealership, etc., you can tag the exact location where the photo has been taken.

Here’s a quick example of Facebook recommendations in action:

Screenshot taken by author, January 2022

See the name of the brand in the photo caption?

This is exactly the reason why it is so important to have a Facebook Business page and update it with fresh company information regularly.

It also won’t hurt to switch on the customer testimonials feature and consistently keep in touch with followers.

Is there a single right way to fill in the company info on Facebook?

Not really, but following these recommendations could help you get started.

  • Contact information (phone number, address, email address).
  • Open hours.
  • Website.
  • Price range (important if you own a brick-and-mortar store, a restaurant, a cafe, etc.).

Facebook also recommends adding a little story of your brand – it helps form a deeper connection with customers.

How much information should you add?

Not too much; it shouldn’t be an essay. In fact, take a look at Sugar Hill Creamery, an ice cream parlor in Harlem:

Sugar Hill Creamery Facebook Page.Screenshot taken by author, January 2022

As you can see, there’s just enough information to introduce the brand and not overwhelm page visitors.

“Worst Service Ever!”

Even if you aren’t active on social media, people will talk about your business.

Customers share their feedback, good and bad, and you need to be aware of it.

  • If it’s good, great! You can capitalize on that satisfied customer by leveraging their praise to get more clients or have your happy ones come back for more.
  • If it’s bad, great! You can control the conversation by showing your excellent customer service skills. Turn the grumpy complainer into a blazing fan by really listening to their issue and solving it.

It usually isn’t about making a mistake – mistakes are inevitable for any business.

Really, it’s about how you correct it.

And a bonus? You learn more about what your customers really think and improve your business accordingly.

Know what happens when you aren’t there?

Complaints go viral, and your competitor offers to help out your customer – because they were listening.

Cut Your Ad Costs By Switching To Local Advertising

Social media platforms were not built for their users but for advertisers.

Location is one of the many specific demographic aspects you can target your ads on.

If you laser target your ads on the people who are based in your area, their interests, and some other demographic details, you will achieve the highest customer potential with the lowest costs.

Furthermore, by tweaking the targeting and the content of your ads, you learn more about ideal leads than any survey can tell you for a fraction of the cost!

And what if you don’t use these ads features? You keep firing aimlessly while your competition targets the golden nuggets.

Remarketing is another option to consider.

Let’s say a person visited your website but didn’t purchase anything.

Don’t fret just yet – by adding a Facebook Pixel (a feature in Facebook Ads) you can retarget such visitors with branded ads based on the product/service pages they’ve checked on your website.

Let The Fans Speak For You

Social media marketing lends itself perfectly to building a passionate community around your brand.

There’s no better way to encourage people to promote you than to help them to connect with like-minded people.

This is more than just owning the conversations around your products or services.

You’re also creating long-term relationships with and between customers.

Happy customers will take care of word-of-mouth marketing for you – and even part of your customer service.

Also, they will come back to you for more business. Again and again.

Some Ideas To Illustrate Community Building

Suppose you own a shop in craft supplies and want to become more visible to potential buyers.

You could showcase finished projects from your customers on Pinterest and Facebook and invite people to ask questions and tips from the makers.

This will get the ball rolling in people sharing their crafty accomplishments, struggles, and dreams all around your products!

Another great example is building a community around detoxing and weight loss for a local juice bar.

People can inspire and support each other in their health goals, while you can share the latest juice recipes and congratulate everyone on their progress.

You might organize meetups in your bar, before or after workouts. All done quite easily with the functionality social media provides you.

It’s also an awesome idea to unite people around an important cause.

Take a look at Coffee Project New York. It organized an exhibition encouraging donations which will then be sent to help build direct water pipelines in Ethiopia:

Coffee Project New York posted an event update on its Facebook Page.Screenshot taken by author, January 2022

So, if you don’t have a community, you are definitely missing out on establishing yourself as a strong brand with fairly low-cost effort.

A community is an asset that will pay for your investment in it many times over.

Easy Promotion Of New Products & Services

While spreading the news about new products and services through traditional local channels still has its merits, getting the word out through social media can give your campaign a huge boost.

Through social advertising, your community, and your own page, you have several options to “show what you’ve got.” And you can do this with images, text, and video.

It’s amazing when you can actually show your product in action from all angles!

Moreover, you can let your fans spread the news for you. If you have shareable content, they will pass it on.

If you have followers that are raving about your new thing, let their positive reviews shine!

The more their love for you gets the spotlight, the more attractive you will be for others.

Not using social media marketing for your new products? Then you’re giving your customers a very limited experience in getting a taste of what’s to come.

Free Mass Publicity

Throughout this article, you might have been rolling your eyes, thinking: “Does this mean I have to spend all my time reacting to everyone on social?”

I hear you. And no, you don’t.

Though you should pay attention to what your customers tell you about their experience, you don’t have to bend over backward for every voice out there.

Some social influencers have become so accustomed to companies quivering in their boots for any negative tweet or post. They assume they are all-powerful.

However, if you remain authentic, open in your communication, and use a bit of clever banter, you will often find yourself on the winning side of things.

People are getting quite fed up with spoiled insta celebs and will gather behind you.

And if you get lucky (or is it luck if you play it smart?) – you can end up being featured in the mass media.

CVT Soft Serve vs. Influencers

A great example of this is a “beef” between CVT Soft Serve ice cream cafe and influencers trying to encourage the brand to give them free stuff in exchange for promotions.

Basically, Joe Nicchi, the owner of this business, got so tired of self-proclaimed celebs asking him for free ice cream that he had to introduce a so-called ‘special offer’:

Joe Nicchi of CVT Soft Serve versus influencers.Screenshot taken by author, January 2022

Joe decided to charge influencers twice to punish them for their blatant behavior.

And you can’t say his followers did not support him:

Joe's followers supporting him.Screenshot taken by author, January 2022

It’s an awesome example of how people can rally to a brand’s defense, especially considering that CVT’s owner has the right to be mad in this situation.

That said, making such statements is not for the faint of heart; there is still a big chance some people will bash you for using negative situations to your benefit.

But it’s also proof that you can use bad publicity to your benefit.

Check out this guide on how to use influencers as part of your social strategy.

Which Social Media Platforms Are Best For Your Business?

Face it, you can’t do everything at once.

Well, some companies can (thanks to amazing tools and teams).

To start, however, you should focus on one or two channels first.

Need help selecting the right social media platforms for you?

Here are some tips to decide which networks to focus on.

Type Of Content

This can vary, from images and videos to written content.

Let’s imagine you’re providing plumber or dental services, in which case it’s hard to post a few photos per day (compared to restaurants and shops that prefer to focus on visual content).

This means that Instagram won’t work for each and every local business, as opposed to Facebook.

I believe that a local business should have a company page on Facebook (see image below) where a potential customer can find all necessary info (i.e., working hours, location, site, and services you provide).

Maid Sailors Cleaning Service Facebook Page.Screenshot taken by author, January 2022

Where & When Is Your Audience Most Active?

Having a page on a channel doesn’t mean that you need to produce posts on a daily basis.

For instance, if your audience isn’t really actively engaging on Facebook, then posting a few times per month should be enough.

However, if you’ve found out that your current and potential customers are actively engaging with your competitors and industry niche pages, then it’s a green light for you, too.

Another thing that’s worth checking is Facebook groups. With the help of Facebook closed groups, you can find:

  • The most urgent and viral topics.
  • What sort of content resonates best with your audience.
  • What influences their buying decisions.

The same goes for other social media channels. So, research other local businesses on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest.

Here you can find an overview of the most popular social media channels by the number of users.

What Is Your Budget?

Take into consideration the number of hours you can invest in this and/or the budget you have.

Nowadays, successful social media managers spend a good amount of time creating social media posts – and even more hours engaging with their audience.

Conversations and engagement are the main keys to social media success.

Likes and shares won’t help your community grow as much as comments and interactions.

This is why you need to understand whether you have enough resources to be present (e.g., cover just the social media basics, post something from time to time) or active (all the basics, posting daily, plus interacting with and quickly responding to people) on social media.

Connecting Your Offline Customers With Your Social Media Platforms

Once you’ve selected the right social media platforms, you’re going to face another painful issue: Your audience is still split between the online and offline world.

This is where all brands are struggling, more or less, with clients who are constantly consuming their products but are not a part of their social media community.

You need to connect users who are consuming your products/services offline with your online activity.

They can help you grow your presence, leave positive reviews, and connect your business to a location because they are connected to the area around it.

So, how does that work?

Here are a few ideas on how you can do it:

  • Ask them to check out your business on social media by giving them a printed card with all your details.
  • Make a photo corner where they can take a photo/selfie and show pictures of other clients. Remember, social media marketing is 1,000x more effective when it’s about your happy customers (not YOU), so put them in the spotlight!
  • Create a giveaway.
  • Give people a discount on their current purchase/bill if they join your online community.
  • Invite them to a special sale that will be running exclusively for your community.

Takeaway

Being online for businesses has become very, very local.

Everyone on social media is being located, by the things that they like and the things that they do.

Social media marketing can be an effective, fairly low-cost way to create greater visibility for your local business.

So, be one of the things that a lot of locals like on their news feed, and more of them will follow.

More Resources:


Featured Image: mavo/Shutterstock




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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

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Google Quietly Ends Covid-Era Rich Results

Google removed the Covid-era structured data associated with the Home Activities rich results that allowed online events to be surfaced in search since August 2020, publishing a mention of the removal in the search documentation changelog.

Home Activities Rich Results

The structured data for the Home Activities rich results allowed providers of online livestreams, pre-recorded events and online events to be findable in Google Search.

The original documentation has been completely removed from the Google Search Central webpages and now redirects to a changelog notation that explains that the Home Activity rich results is no longer available for display.

The original purpose was to allow people to discover things to do from home while in quarantine, particularly online classes and events. Google’s rich results surfaced details of how to watch, description of the activities and registration information.

Providers of online events were required to use Event or Video structured data. Publishers and businesses who have this kind of structured data should be aware that this kind of rich result is no longer surfaced but it’s not necessary to remove the structured data if it’s a burden, it’s not going to hurt anything to publish structured data that isn’t used for rich results.

The changelog for Google’s official documentation explains:

“Removing home activity documentation
What: Removed documentation on home activity structured data.

Why: The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

Read more about Google’s Home Activities rich results:

Google Announces Home Activities Rich Results

Read the Wayback Machine’s archive of Google’s original announcement from 2020:

Home activities

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Olga Strel

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Google’s Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

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Google's Gary Illyes: Lastmod Signal Is Binary

In a recent LinkedIn discussion, Gary Illyes, Analyst at Google, revealed that the search engine takes a binary approach when assessing a website’s lastmod signal from sitemaps.

The revelation came as Illyes encouraged website owners to upgrade to WordPress 6.5, which now natively supports the lastmod element in sitemaps.

When Mark Williams-Cook asked if Google has a “reputation system” to gauge how much to trust a site’s reported lastmod dates, Illyes stated, “It’s binary: we either trust it or we don’t.”

No Shades Of Gray For Lastmod

The lastmod tag indicates the date of the most recent significant update to a webpage, helping search engines prioritize crawling and indexing.

Illyes’ response suggests Google doesn’t factor in a website’s history or gradually build trust in the lastmod values being reported.

Google either accepts the lastmod dates provided in a site’s sitemap as accurate, or it disregards them.

This binary approach reinforces the need to implement the lastmod tag correctly and only specify dates when making meaningful changes.

Illyes commends the WordPress developer community for their work on version 6.5, which automatically populates the lastmod field without extra configuration.

Accurate Lastmod Essential For Crawl Prioritization

While convenient for WordPress users, the native lastmod support is only beneficial if Google trusts you’re using it correctly.

Inaccurate lastmod tags could lead to Google ignoring the signal when scheduling crawls.

With Illyes confirming Google’s stance, it shows there’s no room for error when using this tag.

Why SEJ Cares

Understanding how Google acts on lastmod can help ensure Google displays new publish dates in search results when you update your content.

It’s an all-or-nothing situation – if the dates are deemed untrustworthy, the signal could be disregarded sitewide.

With the information revealed by Illyes, you can ensure your implementation follows best practices to the letter.


Featured Image: Danishch/Shutterstock

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

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How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs Evolve

There’s one thing standing between you and several days of SEO, socializing, and Singaporean sunshine: your boss (and their Q4 budget 😅).

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back. Here are 5 arguments (and an example message) you can use to persuade your boss to send you to Ahrefs Evolve.

About Ahrefs Evolve

  • 2 days in sunny Singapore (Oct 24–25)
  • 500 digital marketing enthusiasts
  • 18 top speakers from around the world

Learn more and buy tickets.

SEO is changing at a breakneck pace. Between AI Overviews, Google’s rolling update schedule, their huge API leak, and all the documents released during their antitrust trial, it’s hard to keep up. What works in SEO today?

You could watch a YouTube video or two, maybe even attend an hour-long webinar. Or, much more effective: you could spend two full days learning from a panel of 18 international SEO experts, discussing your takeaways live with other attendees.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve speakers from around the world.

Our world-class speakers are tackling the hardest problems and best opportunities in SEO today. The talk agenda covers topics like:

  • Responding to AI Overviews: Amanda King will teach you how to respond to AI Overviews, Google Gemini, and other AI search functions.
  • Surviving (and thriving) Google’s algo updates: Lily Ray will talk through Google’s recent updates, and share data-driven recommendations for what’s working in search today.
  • Planning for the future of SEO: Bernard Huang will talk through the failures of AI content and the path to better results.

(And attendees will get video recordings of each session, so you can share the knowledge with your teammates too.)

View the full talk agenda here.

There’s no substitute for meeting with influencers, peers, and partners in real life. 

Conferences create serendipity: chance encounters and conversations that can have a huge positive impact on you and your business. By way of example, these are some of the real benefits that have come my way from attending conferences:

  • Conversations that lead to new customers for our business,
  • Invitations to speak at events,
  • New business partnerships and co-marketing opportunities, and
  • Meeting people that we went on to hire.

There’s a “halo” effect that lingers long after the event is over: the people you meet will remember you for longer, think more highly of you, and be more likely to help you out, should you ask.

(And let’s not forget: there’s a lot of information, particularly in SEO, that only gets shared in person.)

The “international” part of Evolve matters too. Evolve is a different crowd to your local run-of-the-mill conference. It’s a chance to meet with people from markets you wouldn’t normally meet—from Australia to Indonesia and beyond.

How to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to AhrefsHow to Persuade Your Boss to Send You to Ahrefs
Evolve attendees by home country.

If you’re an Ahrefs customer (thank you!), you’ll learn tons of tips, tricks and workflow improvements from attending Evolve. You’ll have opportunities to:

  • Attend talks from the Ahrefs team, showcasing advanced features and strategies that you can use in your own business.
  • Pick our brains at the Ahrefs booth, where we’ll offer informal 1:1 coaching sessions and previews of up-coming releases (like our new content optimization tool 🤫).
  • Join dedicated Ahrefs training workshops, hosted by the Ahrefs team and Ahrefs power users (tickets for these workshops will sold separately).

As a manager myself, there are two questions I need answered when approving expenses:

  • Is this a reasonable cost?
  • Will we see a return on this investment?

To answer those questions: early bird tickets for Evolve start at $570. For context, “super early bird” tickets for MozCon (another popular SEO conference) this year were almost twice as much: $999.

There’s a lot included in the ticket price too:

  • World-class international speakers,
  • 5-star hotel venue,
  • 5-star hotel food (two tea breaks with snacks & lunch),
  • Networking afterparty, and
  • Full talk recordings to later share with your team.

SEO is a crucial growth channel for most businesses. If you can improve your company’s SEO performance after attending Evolve (and we think you will), you’ll very easily see a positive return on the investment.

Traveling to tropical Singapore (and eating tons of satay) is great for you, but it’s also great for your team. Attending Evolve is a chance to break with routine, reignite your passion for marketing, and come back to your job reinvigorated.

This would be true for any international conference, but it goes double for Singapore. It’s a truly unique place: an ultra-safe, high-tech city that brings together dozens of different cultures.

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Little India in Singapore

You’ll discover different beliefs, working practices, and ways of business—and if you’re anything like me, come back a richer, wiser person for the experience.

If you’re nervous about pitching your boss on attending Evolve, remember: the worst that can happen is a polite “not this time”, and you’ll find yourself in the same position you are now.

So here goes: take this message template, tweak it to your liking, and send it to your boss over email or Slack… and I’ll see you in Singapore 😉

Email template

Hi [your boss’ name],

Our SEO tool provider, Ahrefs, is holding an SEO and digital marketing conference in Singapore in October. I’d like to attend, and I think it’s in the company’s interest:

  • The talks will help us respond to all the changes happening in SEO today. I’m particularly interested in the talks about AI and recent Google updates. 
  • I can network with my peers. I can discover what’s working at other companies, and explore opportunities for partnerships and co-marketing.
  • I can learn how we can use Ahrefs better across the organization.
  • I’ll come back reinvigorated with new ideas and motivation, and I can share my top takeaways and talk recordings with my team after the event.

Early bird tickets are $570. Given how important SEO is to the growth of our business, I think we’ll easily see a return from the spend.

Can we set up time to chat in more detail? Thanks!

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