December 20, 2017

The shopper’s social media

Every twelve minutes, or about 80 times a day, the average person is on their smartphone. At any given moment, on any given social media platform, millions (billions in many cases) of people get on their phones to debate politics, share seasonal fashion picks, find before-and-after fitness pics, and that doesn’t tackle the abundance of sales messages, ads, or marketing with which they interact.

For people looking to give their living room a makeover, there is PinterestInstagram gives photographers a platform to engage with visual communications. Twitter brings together those who want to share their thoughts on sports, entertainment, or politics. There is LinkedIn to network with business professionals. And Facebook for about everything else.

But when it comes to people looking to buy locally, it’s hard to beat Yelp, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, and other review sites.

Social media for shoppers

People don’t usually think of review sites as social media. The average social media platform has an abundance of peer-to-peer conversations and interactions, which you do not see on most review site. But from the perspective of a business, review sites may actually be better than traditional social platforms for driving engagement with customers.

Local businesses don’t have to fight the noise of entertainment, politics, current events, digital advertising, and meme sharing. In fact, the relationship they have with the users on Yelp or TripAdvisor doesn’t vary much from the relationship they have with their audience across other social platforms. But there’s a focus and lack of distractions that make review sites exceptionally valuable from a customer engagement perspective.

People visiting your Instagram profile, Twitter feed, or Facebook business page are getting a feel for your business, the services and products you provide, and how well your customers like you. This is what they already do on review listings.

Review sites may seem like that place where disgruntled shoppers go to complain about businesses, but the reality is most of the people who use review sites are not angry. They’re supportive of local businesses, and most of all, they want to find other local places to support and shop.

These review sites aren’t just bringing people together to grade and rate local business, however. They each represent a community of people on a mission to spend money. They’re not aimlessly surfing the web or scrolling blindly through random social posts. People on review sites the most eager-to-buy consumers looking for a place to shop, and they gather in just a handful of locations.

Content is king

Just because review sites attract some of the most intent-to-buy shoppers, doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get those customers. You still have to compete with other local businesses, and there will always be the competition between local shops, big-box stores, and e-commerce brands. Platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable give you access to some of the best traffic out there while removing much of the noise. There is still one crucial element that any social media specialist would tell you: you must have engaging content. It’s King.

The content you post on your Facebook business page, Google My Business, and Yelp pages need to catch your shopper’s eye. It should both inform and engage them. Shoppers start with review sites before they visit websites and social media.

The thing is, shoppers won’t make it to your social feeds and other virtual locations if they’re not hooked by the content you have on your review profiles, which includes Instagram, Twitter, and even your Facebook page, which is why you should start with your review sites.

Content varies from platform to platform. Instagram is an obvious example: the most effective content is visual in nature. On Twitter, the content of choice is extremely concise, pithy comments about trending topics.

The most valuable content local businesses can provide

The most valuable content local businesses can provide doesn’t require a writer, photographer, or social media specialist. When consumers are evaluating business profiles, they’re primarily looking to see if you:

  • Maintain a 4+ star rating: Sure, that’s not exactly “content” in the traditional sense, but when it comes to consumers evaluating the “content” of a business, it is the content that matters most. 94% of shoppers will visit a business based on a four-plus rating average.
  • Have plenty of recent reviews: If it’s been more than three months since you last received a review, you’ll lose shoppers. 73% of shoppers think reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. On that note, seven out of ten people will leave a review for your business if you just ask them.
  • Post quality photos: Give your future customers something that both highlights your services and product as well as the type of establishment it is. For example, “Haircuts” doesn’t do the trick. Think about the nuances between a salon geared toward women and one focused on men. We talked about the role of images in a previous post. (It’s worth the read.) One of the fastest ways to show off your business is with recent pictures, deals, new products, or even selfies with satisfied customers. Like traditional social media platforms, frequently posting photos is a positive thing.

Take Action

Most social media is about getting likes, follows, and comments. On review listings, the stakes are higher, as you’re competing for foot-traffic, sales, and reviews. You’re not working for likes or comments. You’re having a conversation with someone who has a 75% chance of visiting your store. It’s okay to be sales-y. People want to know who has the best deal and best service. If you don’t speak up for your business, someone else might.

Small and local business owners don’t need thousands of dollars in ad spend to attract new customers. They don’t need dedicated marketers; business owners need content that speaks to their business’s strengths. Your content should help turn web-surfers into store shoppers. And then need to leverage the platforms that bring those customers into their stores.

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