April 16, 2012

Harnessing the Power of Facebook for Local

A few days ago, my family and I were discussing the need to open our pool soon and the subsequent need, due to my general lack of mechanical skills, to find a company to perform this task for us.  My wife was on Facebook at the time, so she decided to utilize the platform to search for a local pool company.  This surprised me because everyone uses Google to perform a search, right?

Apparently not.  In fact, according to the latest stats, Facebook has passed Ask.com and AOL.com in search market share, currently garnering 1.44% of the market.  According to comScore, in the recent “Local Search Usage Study,” the use of social networking sites for local business searches has increased 67% since 2010.

Facebook has been a driving force in news over the past several weeks. From various discussions regarding the impending IPO to the latest news of the purchase of Instagram, Facebook is everywhere. And in the realm of local search, Facebook continues to be a very large factor.

How much does Facebook influence local online and local search?  The short answer – a lot.  Depending on the study and source, statistics say that 70-90% of local small businesses use Facebook for local marketing.  eMarketer estimates that the largest category of Facebook fan pages are for local businesses, which is almost triple the amount of large “brand” pages for national companies.  Additionally, other research has shown that local business Facebook pages garner five times more reach percentage and eight times more engagement than brand or corporate pages.

Once again we see that local, even with Facebook, is the great leveler between national brands and local businesses.  In fact, with Facebook, local businesses have a distinct advantage as it is much easier to create and maintain a Facebook page for one location vs. several thousand.  Those local businesses that are utilizing Facebook as a part of their local strategies are wielding that powerful advantage over their national brand counterparts.

There are, however, some national brands that are uncovering ways to leverage the power of Facebook on a local level.  Starbucks, for instance, has utilized the Facebook parent-child option to tie together all of the pages of their local stores under the main Starbucks brand page.  When a person visits that main page, they are able to click on the “Locations” icon which takes them to a page listing all of the Starbucks close to the location specified on their profile page.

While this is an advantage in one aspect, if those local pages lack content, fans and interaction, these pages may do more harm than good.

Like politics, all marketing is truly local and national brands have to think and act locally in order to catch up with the local businesses. So what are major national brands to do to utilize the huge consumer power that Facebook has over the local arena?

 

  1. Tie together all of the existing locations on Facebook to the main Facebook brand page using the parent-child feature.
  2. If they do not exist, create Facebook pages for all retail locations.  This enables the brand to speak to consumers at their level and achieve a much higher reach and level of engagement.
  3. Engage a system to actively manage all locations from a corporate level, allowing for brand image maintenance and consistency.
  4. Engage with local consumers in the way that they want, with active replies to posts, offers and communication.

These tactics may seem daunting at first as they sometimes require more resources than a brand wants to commit.  However, there are several systems available to all brands that can create concise and seamless streams of information and automation which make this mountain not only manageable, but achievable at economies of scale.  Brands that choose this route and engage local customers on their social doorstep will benefit by increasing their local brand advocates, fans and sales.

 
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