Should Local Businesses Stick With Search Engine Marketing In Preference To Social Marketing?

Any local business should be targeting the local market. That’s right, isn’t it? Surely if you’re the owner of a local restaurant, bar or shop, your core customers should live in broadly the same area or vicinity as you. It makes absolute sense therefore to concentrate all your marketing efforts on the local area using local search engine marketing. Yet, numerous surveys conducted over the last 12 months have indicated that a good number of local businesses have given up on local search engine marketing and have switched their attentions instead to social marketing. You might not think that’s such a bad idea, but what if the majority of your Facebook fans or Twitter followers don’t live anywhere near you? How’s that going to help your business prosper?

If you believe the results of the latest survey to come from the good old US of A, you might want to rethink your strategy if you’ve gone totally social and ditched your local SEO. Granted this is a survey of small local American businesses, and what happens over there doesn’t necessarily translate to these shores: but, generally speaking ideas from that side of the pond sooner or later finds their way over here.

The study, conducted by Roost, a social marketing platform for local SMBs, found that only 15% of local business fans actually come from the area in which the business is located. Roost surveyed 800 SMBs, and evaluated their social networks using its own scoring system, the Roost Local Scorecard. When it totted up its scores it discovered that the vast majority of Facebook fans were not from the area in which the business traded. Why’s this important? Well, if your business predominantly caters for local traffic like a restaurant for instance, you may well find that even though your social index is flourishing, your restaurant’s empty. If that’s the case maybe you’ve got some strategic marketing rethinking to do.

You might wonder why so many of these fans choose to like a bar or a shop when they maybe live miles away. Well, it’s simple enough really. If you look through your own Facebook account, just see how many of the shops and restaurant you’ve liked are actually within touching distance? I think you’ll be surprised just how few there are. We’ve all done it at some stage: been away on business or on a holiday and fallen in love with a place or a shop, and then liked it on Facebook. That’s as far as it goes though. The chances of you ever going back there are slim at best: it might be at the other end of the country.

The survey results themselves seem to have surprised even Roost. CEO, Alex Chang, summed it up when he stated:

“These initial findings are a real eye-opener in the world of SMB social marketing. With small businesses’ livelihood at stake when it comes to attracting local customers, we designed the Scorecard not only to evaluate a business’ local presence, but also to provide recommendations on how to improve their social marketing efforts in their local market.”

The Roost Scorecard was unveiled in June this year, and uses a proprietary algorithm to determine how well a business is penetrating its local market via social media. Business owners can see how local their customers are by using the Scorecard, which computes the geographic distribution of customer Likes, compares that to the current U.S. population data for that local market, and breaks the data down into a numerical score that businesses can use to gauge the effectiveness of their social media presence.

So, if you’re the proud owner of a local bistro considering throwing all your eggs in the social media basket, you might just want to hold fire for a while. Maybe it’s better to spread your bets. Don’t neglect your local search engine marketing. You wouldn’t want to finish up with an empty restaurant, would you?

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