3 words: location, location, location. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
You’re the CEO, Senior VP of Marketing, and Chief Janitor of your very own local small business. You typically place an ad in the yellow pages, stuff a few dayglo flyers in mailboxes, and have a brochure website with an infrequently-updated ‘news’ section (because frankly, you can’t think of a whole lot of news with which to fascinate the public). You’ve heard of this new-fangled socialized media thing, but near as you can tell it’s all retired ladies stalking their in-laws and teenagers sending untoward photos to each other. But you also hear it costs less than fluorescent photocopies.
With major marketing superpowers like Pepsi skipping the superbowl and Coke basically declaring websites obsolete in order to refocus ad dollars on social media, Local Small Businessmen can safely assume the research is in, and traditional advertising isn’t. Social media is officially a great publicity channel. But what makes 2010 the year to dive in?
The confluence, my friends, of two technologies: the growth of smartphones (that is, fancy phones that can read the internet on the go) and location awareness (your fancy phone talking back to the internet and telling it where you are).
Smartphones in Canada grew in market share by almost 50% in the second quarter of 2009, and in Japan they’re on the road to replacing desktop PCs. IDC Canada wireless analyst Kevin Restivo says “every cellphone is going to be a smartphone,” in due course, and why wouldn’t they be? One wait at the dentist spent playing Bejewelled is worth the cost of the data plan right there.
Status update-based communities like Twitter and Foursquare (you don’t need to know about that just yet, Local Small, but now you’ve heard of it) let people update locally, geotagging their observations. Twitter is rolling out Local Trends as we speak. Virtual neighbourliness is all the rage for ’10, and opens up a world of marketing possibilities. Local marketing possibilities. The social web is being cut down to a manageable, relevant size.
This levels the playing field, in a way, for small businesses who couldn’t compete with the massive budgets that drive the big boy’s viral content. Now you don’t have to go up against them, because you’ve got what they don’t – proximity to people’s actual wallets!
So everyone’s phone will be chatting back and forth with the cloud, and that’s where you come in. Small businesses can take advantage of the local tweet, because what are they if not local? If a customer has a great experience walking by your shop, they’ll update about it, and you, my friend, will be internet famous. At least locally. And that’s what counts, because the people in your town are likely your (potential) customers.
What can you do to get ready for this vicinity-based mobile explosion?
- Open an account with a location-aware update-based social service (I’d suggest starting with Twitter, although of course there’s more to social media than the mere tweet)
- Figure out what you can offer that might spread around. Discounts for anyone who comes in and tweets about it? Freebies for people who tweet the whereabouts of your company van? Depending on the size of your home town, it might only take a few mentions to trend, so be interesting.
- Tweet about local industry issues. Wait. That sounded boring. I mean, talk about what’s happening in & around your business, and try to tie it to other local people who are building a fan base too. You can share.
At long last, building a community is about your community. The one you’re already in. So make the Yellow Page add a 1-colour this year, and blow a little of your marketing cash on relating to the public. I bet you’ll make a few new friends.