It’s no secret that customers trust word-of-mouth above corporate advertising. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations while only 53 percent trust content that you create and post on your website.
If you are a locally-based business, connecting with nearby customers and community influencers is vital for your business.
Even for national companies, the benefits of thinking local can be impressive. Drug store chain Duane Reade recently initiated a campaign to boost their New York City customer base through localization strategies that focused on user-generated content to reach new audiences. Duane Reade partnered with brand advocate bloggers. They treated them like employees, offering incentives and introducing them to initiatives before making them public. This has enabled them to amplify the company message at a local level. The result was a 28 percent growth in year-over-year sales and 20 million impressions over the entire period of the campaign. “[We had] almost 2,000 pieces of original content being generated over this campaign, so it was huge for us,” said a Duane Reade spokesperson.
For any company, large or small, partnerships with local bloggers can be a powerful way of tapping into local networks and reaching potential new customers. You need to be confident in your bloggers to allow them to generate the content for you, so some sort of vetting or oversight might be necessary during recruiting and engagement phases.
Here are seven tips to generate local buzz and get bloggers involved and interested in your brand:
1. Know who the influencers are. Research local bloggers and talk to them about potential partnership opportunities. Be sure to read their work thoroughly to find bloggers who are a good fit for your business. Build long-term relationships with them.
2. Use hashtags strategically. On Twitter look for local hashtags that would fit your business, such as #SeattleWeddingBusinesses or #MaineLandscaping and include this hashtag in your tweets. This helps build a community of similar local businesses, affiliates and customers who can re-tweet your messages and mention you.
3. Find ways to connect offline. Local ‘Tweetups’ are becoming very popular. This is when people who are linked on Twitter meet locally. Be sure to include your Twitter handle prominently on your website to encourage customers to mention you and don’t forget to re-tweet positive messages. Be sure to respond to criticism too by getting in touch and trying to resolve any problems.
4. Tap into location-based services. Google+ Local is the new Google Places, and it is essential helps locally-based businesses appear prominently in local searches. List your own business details, upload photos and videos, and ask for customer reviews.
5. Always ask for reviews. Whether you're using Google+, Trip Advisor, Amazon, or any other online forum for customer feedback, always ask for reviews. Customers are far more likely to give reviews if you ask for them. Remember to thank them for their time once the review is posted.
6. Reward customers for their help. Create a referral program that rewards customers for referring others and you'll give them more incentive to spread the word. You can also recognize your most vocal advocates by featuring them online and celebrating them offline through "Fan of the Week" or similar programs.
7. Build social communities. Use social media to reach out to loyal customers and offer promotions, first-looks and discounts to your audience for sharing your message. Make sure to feature the links to your social communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ on in-store receipts, storefronts and walls inside your business location, menus and napkins, your website, vehicles, and other advertising.
Let your valued customers do the talking for you. They are your greatest marketing asset.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Ekaterina Walter is a CMO of BRANDERATI, a digital media company and platform that specializes in advocate influencer marketing, based in New York. She is the author of Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook's Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg (McGraw-Hill Professional, 2013) and she blogs at EkaterinaWalter.com.