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SMB Must-Haves in 2011

stewart-gregg
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You may have made your resolution for 2011, but do you have ready your marketing-strategy checklist? This is the year to step it up, but it's important to remember that what works for others may not work for you.

For example, if you're a small-to-medium-sized business (SMB), your marketing-strategy checklist will look different than that of a national brand. Also, take into consideration that technology seems to be moving faster than the speed of light. A marketing solution that may have been just a consideration last year may now be considered a mandatory solution in 2011.

Google Places: Claim It, or Suffer the Consequences

Broken record or not, every change that Google has made in the last couple months continues to prompt me to give this public service announcement: claim your local-business listings!

Nearly three years ago, I started preaching this sermon and I haven't stopped since. Now that local search is ingrained in us, Google has changed the way it shows results on the SERP by putting increased relevance on local listings. Today, you'll see this in the form of Google Places listings that now outrank other listings in SERP.

Overall benefits:

  • Claiming your Google Places page is free.

  • Local-business listing verification helps you rank higher in Google Maps and on Google SERPs.

  • Google Places pages can include photos, videos, ratings, reviews, product/service information, and more. Or if you're a franchise, it can also include any other collateral from corporate to keep consistent brand messaging.

  • Content-rich Google Places pages increase relevance for consumers, and, in turn, may increase leads to advertisers' businesses (in the form of calls, in-store visits, or clicks to their website).

Facebook and Twitter: Be There, or Be Irrelevant

Even up until last year, advertisers could get away with just testing social media opportunities. In 2011, though, a presence on Facebook and Twitter will be a must-have. Consider the facts:

  • According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook was the top-visited website for the first time, accounting for 8.93 percent of all U.S. visits between January and November 2010.

Top 10 most-visited websites
Data: Experian Hitwise

  • Although Twitter has amassed nowhere near the popularity of Facebook, the company announced in December that 100 million new accounts had been opened in 2010. Furthermore, usage among those users is growing.

Twitter Users Worldwide
Data: eMarketer

What does this mean to SMBs? With Facebook being dubbed "The Second Internet" and with Twitter users amassing, it's more important than ever to ensure that local consumers know you have a social presence. This is the space where advertisers can engage consumers, build loyalty, and actually get closer to word-of-mouth marketing than ever before.

Other benefits to SMBs:

  • Having a basic social presence is free; the only thing it costs is time.

  • To engage consumers, SMBs can use this space for promotions, customer service, daily specials, contests, and more.

  • Contrary to belief, you can track activity on most social properties, which means social media can be used as a lead-generation tool.

Monitor and Track Like Your Business Depends on It...Because It Does

You don't know what you don't know. But what you don't know is definitely hurting your business.

This can be broken down into two main areas: monitoring consumers and other entities say about your business, and tracking how consumers are interacting with you.

Monitoring

When it comes to monitoring, most people think that it revolves around ratings and reviews. Although that's a huge part, it's also important to find out how your business is perceived by those on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social property.

Search engines are also taking into account what others say about your business. Google recently dismissed the "any news is good news" theory, taking some steps to give more importance and visibility to local businesses that have positive ratings and reviews. No longer will businesses be able to rank higher just for having any type of ratings and reviews.

The solution? At the least, set up Google Alerts to find out what others are saying about your business. Then, keep an eye on your various online platforms and attempt to rectify negative comments or reviews with positive solutions.

If you want to take this a step further, you can use various free tools, or you can pay for tools that provide more in-depth information and a broader range of applications.

Tracking

Tracking is more for an advertiser's benefit, but it is a necessary means for discovering which programs are working and which ones need improvement. The type of tracking available for various online programs will vary, but, at minimum, track what you can.

Most local listings and social properties have at least basic visibility, so start there to see how your programs are performing. For more ideas on where to go from here, check out "If It Can Be Measured, It Can Be Optimized."

Must-Haves and Then Some

Should your checklist for 2011 stop with the above? No.

The local landscape is continually evolving. Right now, the latest and greatest includes testing local-mobile opportunities like Foursquare and deal-a-day sites like Groupon. Months from now, the focus will change to something that helps SMBs get even closer to their local consumers. So stay tuned, it's gonna be a fun ride.

This column originally ran on ClickZ.


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