Google AdWords offers specialized services to target customers within a 20-mile radius from your business. AdWords permits you to add or exclude areas, and can integrate your targeted AdWords campaign with text messaging.
Facebook can serve as a showcase for your community activity. When you host an event that benefits a local charity or sponsor a local sporting team, promote before, during and after the event with updates, photos, Web video and testimonials. Encourage attendees to become part of an ongoing conversation. Many companies successfully use their Facebook page as an instantly updateable second Web site to let their community know what’s going on and to share information and updates.
Twitter has been used by local charities to mobilize volunteers for projects or to alert donors to immediate needs. Animal rescue groups and humane societies have used Twitter to match shelter animals with new homes. Schools have demonstrated Twitter’s ability to alert parents to unplanned closings or to request badly needed supplies or last-minute parent volunteers. Businesses tweet about their upcoming live entertainment, dinner specials, or daily discounts.
Twitter can also help you promote upcoming local events, share photos and video via links, and give your online press releases a broader readership as you tweet news and provide links to coverage you’ve received in local online publications. Your blog can also be an effective part of your online marketing program by sharing the story behind your achievements or by providing deeper insight into what’s happening with your business, which deals and events are coming up, or the news of your industry as it impacts local customers.
Foursquare is an intensely local social media application that makes going about your business or going out for the evening a shared experience treasure hunt. Foursquare users use the site and text messaging to share their current location as they patronize businesses, retailers, entertainment venues. They can become the “mayor” of frequently-visited sites, and can gather their friends to join them on a spur-of-the-moment basis. Foursquare rewards users who are out and about in their local area—and the local companies they frequent benefit as well.
Groupon subscribers can sign up to get special online deals from local businesses. Subscribers indicate their local area and their willingness to receive emails and social media alerts to short-lived discounts from local merchants. Companies sign up to provide limited-time special deals that are only available via Groupon. In some cases, deals are only available if a specified number of people show up to claim it. Groupon makes bargain hunting fun and social while retaining an intensely local flair.
LivingSocial is another site that offers a daily deal from local businesses with up to 90% off the regular price. Once a subscriber buys the daily deal, he/she has the opportunity to forward the deal to friends, and if one of those friends also buys, the original customer gets the deal item for free. It’s a fun way to publicize specials while encouraging customers to tell their friends about your company.
Yelp, Local.com and Citysearch are other sites that capitalize on the concept of “local.” Not only can they help others to find your company more easily (both online and in person), many of these new locally-oriented sites also encourage customers to rate their recent experience. Don’t let that scare you off. If you provide good service and a good product, you have reason to expect most of your ratings to be positive. Those that aren’t positive provide valuable feedback for you to make improvements, and a highly visible arena in which to demonstrate your great customer service to woo back a less-than-thrilled former customer.
Your neighbors, customers and prospects are online, and they respond to businesses that reach them where they spend their time. Customers also like getting relevant messages and discounts when they’re on the move. Create your own highly local online PR and marketing strategy and reap the benefits!