Why Facebook “Likes“ and other social endorsements are important to the location based business

By: Jack Winston

The infographic below does a nice job of simplifying the steps to establishing a web presence for a location based business.  Pretty simple – right?

Well, not really.  The fact is, trying to maximize the marketing value of the web, the mobile web, social media, and location based services can be very complicated.  In order to not get paralyzed by the number of variables to work with, you need to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and think about how you make decisions on where you are going to dine, shop, hang out or otherwise spend your money.  You have access to the same tools your customers do: google maps, business websites, maybe a review site like yelp or zagats, maybe facebook, maybe a location based services tool like facebook places or foursquare.

While cultivating a positive portfolio of online reviews and ratings is important, the role of the Facebook “Like” or other social endorsements (e.g. Google +1) are going to increase in importance for traditional online businesses and in particular for the location based business.  A recent piece from GigaOm talks about the emerging role of social endorsements in web commerce strategies.

In our last post, we discussed the role of “Likes” in an overall Facebook marketing strategy.  The ability to establish a channel of communication to customers’ Facebook news feeds is of enormous value to a business trying to engage its customer base.

In addition to the advertising and social connection,  “Likes” are becoming particularly important for local businesses in 2 ways:

1. Consumers comparing the number of Likes you have vs. your competition

When a potential customer sits down at their computer to research where they will spend their money – whether it be for a restaurant, a shopping destination, or for entertainment – they take advantage of review sites like yelp, zagats.  Increasingly, they are also leveraging social media tools like Facebook to see what friends or members of their community are recommending – there are over 250 Million Mobile Facebook users that have access to the location aware functionality of Facebook Places.  With the number of “Likes” easily accessible to potential consumers checking out businesses in the area, the simplicity of comparing alternative destinations based on this measure is increasingly common.  The Facebook “Like” will increasingly become a more important comparison metric for attracting new customers.

2. The number of Likes (or equivalent endorsements like Google +1s) may influence your position in local search results.

Google Maps is still the most commonly used location aware mobile app.  An entire industry has been build around delivering strategies for optimizing your ranking in Google search results.   There is equivalent attention focused on optimizing a local business’ listing on location aware search platforms.  Google uses a complex algorithm to determine who ranks higher in local search results based on factors related to location, relevance, and reputation.

Location: Comparing location is pretty obvious with GPS enabled phones and zillions of businesses listed with Google by address.

Relevance: Influencing your relevance can be accomplished by claiming your business listing on Google and adding appropriate key words and a description.

Reputation: Google rates your reputation with measures like site speed or the number of other websites with links to yours.  Google also uses social signals like twitter mentions to rate a site’s reputation.  While Google claims they do not consider Facebook “Likes” to determine local search results, it is unlikely they will be able to ignore the information value of 600 Million facebook users using the “Like” function to grade the reputation of a place.  Furthermore, with potential customers making decisions on where to go using social based web browsing tools like Rockmelt for mobile, the role of social endorsements in determining search results will definitely grow.

Facebook “Likes” are inherently valuable to the location based business – for advertising , for customer engagement, and for establishing credibility directly with potential customers and potentially search engines.  Bozuko is developing tools for businesses to engage their customers on facebook while they are on location.  Encouraging customers to ”Like” businesses on Facebook is one of the applications we are looking forward to talking to you about.

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