Word of mouth is often the best form of referrals for businesses, especially local ones. With more and more people turning to social media and reviews sites to evaluate a business, the internet has become the new place for word of mouth recommendations.
Take, for example, my mom, who recently posted to Facebook asking for recommendations for a cleaning service. Within hours, she had dozens of recommendations. She even had friends and family calling her with suggestions. From there, my mom made a decision to hire a business based off of these suggestions without any further research.
As a business owner, you don’t have the time to recommend yourself to every single person in your service area. You can hope that you give 5-star service and that your customers will be recommending you to others, but you really have no control over what people are saying (unless maybe you’re an expert in hypnosis).
However, you can take some simple steps towards being more in touch with your potential customer and offering your services as needed. You just need to keep your ear to the ground (not literally), but you should be in the loop. We’ve got a few ideas so you can stay in touch with locals and get your name out there.
1. Utilize Facebook Groups.
There’s a group on Facebook for absolutely everything, from bacon lovers uniting to people who like to sleep on the cool side of the pillow. More importantly, Facebook groups have been created for many cities and counties. Joining a few of these local Facebook groups is a great way to find out more about your target market. For example, we follow the Media PA group. On a daily basis, I see people searching for plumbers, contractors, and of course, the best pizza in Media.
Take a look at this example I recently found on the right. Within a few hours, the poster had over 20 suggestions for DJs, florists, and even wedding planners. If you were a florist, this would be the perfect time to send a link to your website or offer your contact information.
On Facebook, you are acting as yourself, not your business. It’s important if you are going to comment on posts that you remember not to be salesy. You might even be able to elevate your presence in these groups by recommending other local businesses that you have used yourself.
To find local groups, simply login to your Facebook and use the search box to search for your local town. If Facebook comes back with a lot of results, you can filter by “Groups” in the top menu. Here’s a handful of some local groups we found:
2. Join NextDoor.com.
Nextdoor is a private social network “for you, your neighbors and your community.” It’s free and it’s a way to connect with your neighbors and share information about a local event, a recent break-in, or even a reliable painter. This is a verified network, so you must verify your address to join.
Similar to Facebook Groups, you should be acting as yourself and not your business. In fact, some towns may restrict business owners from joining. It’s best to sign up to find out about your local area. Take a look at the example below. These are the kind of posts that people frequently make on the site.
3. Monitor Twitter.
Engaging with other locals on Twitter is a great way to find out what’s going on in town and engage in conversation with others. One problem with Twitter is that it can be difficult to really focus in. For example, you may be following 300 people, and when you view your live feed, it seems to be the same user clogging up your feed.
Here’s a few tips for making your Twitter experience more efficient:
- Create Lists. Creating a list is a great way to help you organize the people you follow. For example, you can create a list of other local businesses, influential news sources in the area, and people with similar interests to you. Creating a separate list for each of these means that you can view a separate feed based on these interest groups. That way when Joe from the shop down the street is looking to partner with another local business, you’ll actually see that tweet. Learn more about creating a list.
- Search it Up. The search feature gives you an opportunity to get yourself involved in a conversation. You can also focus in on people searching for specific services. For example, a search for “Can Anyone Recommend” brings back a whole list of results of people looking for specific services. You can narrow down this search by looking at this list of results and limiting it to “People You Follow.” You can also save searches to refer back to them later. Even if your business doesn’t offer the services someone is looking for, you might still be able to establish yourself as a local expert and recommend other local businesses. Twitter also has an advanced search option, in which you can search by more specifics, like location. Learn more about saving Twitter searches.
- Use Your Manners. As far as Twitter etiquette goes, if someone tweets at you, take the time to respond. Thank any customers who tweet nice things about you. Engaging with your customers shows their followers that you are an active business who cares about customer service.
4. Stay Alert.
You are just way too busy to constantly monitor the internet. In the past you may have used tools like Google Alerts to track your business name or topics of interest. It’s difficult to use Google Alerts to actually get business because by the time Google crawls a page, you might be too late to respond to a blog post where someone asks for advice for their landscaping. The site IFTTT (which stands for “if this, then that”), makes it easy to set up “recipes.” For example, you can set up email alerts for a slew of different scenarios, like when someone makes a post related to your business service on Craigslist. You can set up similar alerts for searches on social sites, like Twitter and Facebook to alert you when you have been mentioned.
When it comes down to it, your best way to get business is to keep your current customers satisfied, encourage people to leave reviews after a positive experience, and answer the phone. The tips above will help you monitor the area for people who need you, but if you don’t answer the phone or respond to a contact form, then you might lose business. In addition, attending/sponsoring local events and connecting with other local businesses are great ways to create some more buzz about your business.
What other methods are you using to keep your ear to the ground?