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Socially Speaking – A Social Call to Action

2012/04/16

97% of consumers search online when looking for products or services*. In simpler terms, this means that nearly all potential customers use the internet when looking for a local retail store or restaurant. Shoppers are using a variety of technologies and sites to search, review and get involved with the businesses they patronize including search engines, review sites, location services and social networks. If you talk to many business owners, especially the smaller retailers and restaurateurs, you’ll find they struggle to find the time or knowledge to embrace these technologies, use them to acquire or retain customers and gauge how effective they are. This column was created to help inspire you, the point of sale and technology VAR, to fill this gap by learning the technologies and sites used by consumers and turn that knowledge into a billable service offered by you to help your business clients get involved.

In almost every issue of connect we’ll tackle a site, tool or technology that businesses can use to interact with their customers, dissect how consumers use it, how a business should be involved and how your dealership can help them do this. For the first issue, let’s lay out a brief, partial overview of how consumers are finding, commenting on or interacting with a business and point out a few interesting facts.

The most common way to search for shopping and dining venues is through a search engine, such as Google or Microsoft Bing. This used to be a fairly straightforward process of SEO, however, both search engine giants have revealed that search results are now influenced by reviews, check-ins and social network chatter about a business. This means that the frequency and loudness in which customers talk about a business on various social networks can directly affect how many people walk in the door. We’ll discuss what this means and how to influence it.

There are a growing number of user review sites, such as Yelp and Zagats (now owned by Google), that are used by people to post and read reviews about the various businesses they have patronized or are thinking of trying out. One customer can directly affect whether or not other potential customers will try to patronize a business. We’ll review best practices a business can engage in to be part of that conversation.

Proximity searches have become an important factor for a business, especially with the explosive growth of mobile and the emergence of location based social networks such as foursquare. Google, with their Google Places service, allows businesses to claim their venue and matches searches, reviews and other interactions from customers with that venue for a nominal fee. Businesses can’t afford to ignore these tools. We’ll discuss how you can package these tools into a convenient, recurring service for your retail and restaurant customers.

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have become a popular place for businesses to market to, and interact with, their customers. The popularity of social networks has been matched by a stubborn inability to calculate the return on investment that a business puts into them. 90% of consumers trust online recommendations from people they know** – that’s a striking statistic that shows how influential social networks can be on a business. We’ll review some tactics a business can use to engage socially.

Sources: *(BIA/Kelsey), **(Nielson 2009)

There’s a lot more to talk about in the months ahead…let’s make this interactive. We’d like to hear about your successes and your failures. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, reach out to our “Socially Speaking” authors on Twitter or LinkedIn so others can follow the dialogue! #SociallySpeaking

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