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February 2, 2012

Local Advertising: Devising an Online Strategy That Suits You

Experts squawk about Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, YouTube, designing websites, and a whole litany of online and social media possibilities, but not all of them make sense for every single business. When it comes to local advertising, small business owners must seriously consider how to concentrate their efforts. While we all must utilize the internet and social media to some extent, what will be most effective for one owner, may be a waste of time for another. By reflecting on some key issues, devising a successful local advertising strategy becomes less about what everyone else says and more about what you truly want and need.

Before you embark upon any online advertising initiatives, you must decide whether you are going to do it yourself, delegate someone in house, or out source it. All of these are perfectly valid options, but you need to consider whether you have the technical expertise, time, and money to support your decision, whatever it happens to be. Initially, it may be difficult for you to gauge your resources and exactly what this undertaking will require. Defining what you hope to achieve with your online presence may clarify things.

We are conditioned to believe expansion and growth is always the desired outcome, but local businesses can also remain a certain size and be quite successful. Are you focused on growing your business, maintaining your current client base, or both? Do want to provide basic information, foster interaction, launch a new but related enterprise, or all of the above? Take a moment to quantify the current state of your business and articulate your true feelings about it. Next, envision where you would like your business to be this time next year. If the tomorrow you dream about looks a lot like today, that is perfectly alright, but then you will fashion an online presence that supports that goal and not one that strives for something you do not want and cannot manage.

Before you establish your accounts, build your sites, and fill out profiles, explore your options by tooling around, and imagining how you would use it to bolster your business. What would you actually enjoy doing, and would your clients respond to it? Twitter is an excellent example of a social media tool that can be an amazing way to cultivate a relationship with new and existing clients. It requires a certain level of commitment, however, if you expect it to help your business. Are you willing to put the time in or would it simply be another chore? Would your tweets be purely professional and, if so, what would they say? Do you see your clients following you, responding, and retweeting your updates? If you can imagine a Twitter presence that adds to your professional life, by all means, tweet away. If, however, it seems extraneous or just does not seem like a good fit, then right now, Twitter is not for you and there are plenty of other online outlets for local advertising.

Some aspects of your business’s online presence are non-negotiable. At this point, every local business should have a website. How complex or sophisticated that website is, however, can vary. At the very least, it should provide critical details such as a description of your business and contact information. On the other end of the spectrum, your website could also host a blog, a library of information, links to other resources and articles, staff bios, and more. If it is exciting to you and makes sense for you business, then make it happen. A well-crafted online presence will pay off, but only if you care enough to invest in it properly.

Facebook is quickly becoming a non-negotiable component for small businesses, as well, in part because it is projected to have 1 billion users by August 2012. A large segment of those users are turning to Facebook instead of Google when searching for services and products. It also has taken the concept of word of mouth to another level. Everyone has a vast network of friends, family, and colleagues to either recommend or enquire about businesses. Just like with your website, however, your Facebook page can be as simple as you want, but keep in mind that local companies who make the most of what it has to offer are seeing results. By interacting with their current customer base, they are fostering a sense of community and loyalty. An active presence also means they are more likely to be noticed by familiar friends and new acquaintances alike.

Review sites are another part of the internet that you cannot opt out of, and you ignore at your own peril. Sites such as Yelp and Citysearch provide an independent space for your clients to submit feedback, both positive and negative. Since it is all user generated content, you cannot remove yourself from these sites, but they usually provide a forum for you to respond to reviews and report ones that violate the site’s guidelines. By being an active participant, you can monitor and manage your reputation. You can also gain valuable insight into your business that helps identify sources of professional pride and areas for improvement. Like Facebook, review sites are often a deciding factor when it comes to patronizing a business, and being highly rated and recommended can be a significant boon.

As you can see, you cannot escape local advertising through social media and the internet, and, if you are willing to invest the time and energy, you can make a tremendous difference in shaping your online presence. At the end of the day, however, small business owners should be focused on their business and not preoccupied with following every social media trend, especially those that are not right for them. Before you dedicate resources to a facet of online advertising, take a moment to carefully consider what makes sense for your business. After all, you know it best, and advertising should be a reflection of your business’s true nature and an investment in its future, whatever that might be.

Article by John V. A successful local advertising strategy requires you to craft an online presence that reflects your business’s true nature regardless of social media trends. Learn more at