They types of businesses that traditionally are viewed as “successful” in internet and social media marketing usually fall into the B2C business model. You’ve got retailers that ship products directly to customer’s doorsteps, marketplaces for digital books, music, and games, and independent entrepreneurs selling their own products and services the same way big brands do.
For businesses that are rooted in the real world – like restaurants, amusement parks, spas, travel agencies, and niche retail, the goals with their social media efforts should be to first make the customer aware of their existence, continuous follow up to encourage repeat visits, and also to spread the word to their friends!
A small business has numerous opportunities for local marketing. They can advertise on local radio or television, place a flyer in the local paper or phone book, attend local networking conferences, or sponsor a local event. The barrier to entry on each of these models is quite high, and there is no opportunity for “evolving” engagement. Facebook and Twitter are obvious solutions to providing updates to existing and potential customers, but other tools and services can provide opportunities that go beyond the “like.”
The first strategy that real-world businesses should plan for is a system to reward customers who “check-in” to the business on their mobile phone. Check in services (such as Foursquare, Yelp, and Facebook) post a notice to the users social network about their visit to the store, along with a map and room for a comment. The reward can be anything, such as a small discount or a free sticker. To up the ante, offer a consistent reward for someone who becomes the “Mayor” or “Duke” of your location. You are getting free advertising to their connections every time they open that app – make it worth their while.
Another emerging trend that is expanding out of Japan is the emergence of QR Code marketing. A QR Code is a small barcode that can be scanned by a user’s phone and cause an action, such as opening a web page with a coupon, playing a YouTube video, or sending a text message. The opportunities are quite astounding, and smart marketers are using QR codes in creative ways to encourage real-world interaction with digital content.
Perhaps the most efficient and consistent marketing strategy for real-world businesses is to get your location listed on Google Maps. It’s a very easy submission process that consists of a short form and verification to have your location and business details available for anyone to discover. Google recently announced deeper integration of local listings with Google Plus, so beginning soon, search results and place recommendations will include connection details. In a nutshell, Google will push people to places their friends have been to, not ones that are the most optimized for a keyword, or closest to a location.
It’s not just brick-and-mortar businesses that are benefiting from social media marketing efforts – other real-world businesses that travel from location to location are finding creative ways to reach out to customers through social media as well. Food trucks are the best example of this strategy – NYC’sand LA’s are well known examples of mobile businesses that rely on Twitter and Facebook to promote their daily locations, and Check-in’s from customers to help spread the word.