Checking in or tagging locations on location-based social networks like Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter is no doubt the hottest phenomenon today (besides possibly grabbing daily deals).
Location-based service (LBS) sites allow consumers to share extensive detail about your business from their mobile devices and give you the opportunity to engage with and attract new customers. LBS growth continues for consumers and businesses alike as mobile search grows.
Take Foursquare for example. It exploded onto the scene last year and now has 5 million registered users. Foursquare allows users to check-in to a location, share details with friends, and provide "tips" about your business.
Gowalla provides a similar service and now has more than 700,000 registered users. And, this doesn't begin to cover the specialty niche LBS sites like Foodspotting and ShopKick.
With all of these new social-local-mobile apps, businesses must create a strategy for establishing their local identity and building visibility to take full advantage of their viral nature. And, with their open-social creation of content, it's important for businesses to pay attention to the following guidelines.
1. Conduct Searches on LBS Sites to Assess Your Identity
Start by finding out if and how your business listing exists within LBS apps. If your listing isn't included, you should start by claiming and owning your listing.
Many LBS sites offer a specific page within their website for uploading business information or you can rely on a partner for providing such information.
2. Make Sure Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) and Other Basic Listings Content is Correct
In a recent JiWire Mobile Audience Insights Report, 61 percent of respondents said that merchant location data is the most important location-based feature. This demonstrates that your NAP is the most sought after detail for consumers.
Given this, it's crucial that listings are correct so that consumers can find your location, contact you, and make a purchase.
3. Monitor Sites to Ensure Your Business Has One, Consistent Identity
Most of the LBS sites allow users to create and sometimes edit merchant details -- including your NAP. This is valuable for users, but can be challenging for you if multiple identities are created for your business.
This can create a negative snowball effect because future users can then check-in to and post information on a wrong location. Monitor your local business presence on these sites regularly and be sure to report multiple identities if they exist.
4. Engage Users Through Promotions, Discounts & Dialogue
LBS present opportunities to reach your current and prospective customers through promotions and incentives. For example, Foursquare users that check-in to American Eagle Outfitters receive a 15 percent discount at any of their 950+ stores nationwide.
Deals allow users to check-in and be rewarded with discounts. This keeps customers coming back to your business, as coupons have proven to be an effective form of marketing and customer engagement. A highlighted coupon on an LBS site might also attract a "nearby" customer to your business, who is actually checking in at a merchant next door.
5. Urge Loyal Customers to Upload Meaningful Content
New LBS apps are launching daily allowing users to share photos, videos, and reviews of your business. You should encourage your "regular" customers to participate in social forums for more exposure and search engine optimization (SEO) visibility.
Based on your line of business, this might be asking for a video post to your hotel's Facebook page, a great Yelp review if you're a hair stylist, or a photo of a worthy dish uploaded to Foodspotting for restaurants.
Customers who are happy with the service you provide are often willing to connect and post about your business on social forums. You might even reward these customers with a special incentive or coupon.
As LBS begins to drive more local searches, it's critical for you to first establish your anchor NAP information, so that your business can be found and additional content can be linked to your online identity.
Also, based on increased adoption of LBS sites, take time to interact with these forums so you can leverage social engagement and increase visibility for your business online and, ultimately, make sure that consumers are checking in and out.
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