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Digital World

Jan 30, 2013 08:48AM ● Published by Lisa Drake

It's a Digital World

A marketing tool for local businesses

The digital world seems to be taking over. It’s online, everywhere and here to stay.

Think about it. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Mobile Optimization. People are constantly tweeting, pinning and status(ing). Yet, the fact that we're all exposed to social media in particular, and digital in general, few local businesses are experiencing the full digital benefits. Why is that?

It boils down to both how quickly things are evolving and a misunderstanding of the basics.

Advertising research firm Borrell Associates (borrellassociates.com) recently interviewed hundreds of local businesses and reported, "Business owners told us that they felt overwhelmed, that they did not understand all of today's local media choices - the confusion of online, social, mobile app, deals, keywords, blogs, SEO, tweets and so on. They did not have the training to deal with it, they did not have the time to deal with it, they did not have the staff to deal with it."

What are the basics?

Things like reputation, social media and search engine optimization (SEO) comprise
the foundation of digital. Ironically, these are the same ideas that comprise the
foundation of the real world. You spend a lot of time building the reputation of your
business and you collect testimonials whenever you can (Reputation). Of course word
of mouth and face-to-face contact with your customers is a great way to learn from them to improve your business and gain new customers (Social Media). Finally, if people can’t easily find you then they won't do business with you (Search Engine Optimization).

But you must go beyond merely understanding these concepts. You must apply them to achieve success online.

Reputation Management

Many websites and businesses have emerged to help you build and manage your
reputation online. Most of these services offer free options – take advantage of them in order to help build SEO.

The challenge is ensuring that the reputation you build benefits you wherever people find your business. A listing in the Directory at MansfieldMagazine.com powered by Locable enables you to collect and share reviews and testimonials on our website, on your website via our reviews widget, and on your Facebook page with our Facebook app so that no matter where potential customers find you they find the same <you>. Listings are free to create and paid upgrades are available to help your business
stand out and get more out of your efforts online.

Reputation management is the one foundational activity you can most directly influence and can be made to happen in a near-automated way once setup.

Check out MansfieldMagazine.com/places for more information on listings in our Directory.

Social Media

Social Media is the most challenging component of digital for local businesses. In part, because it's on the opposite side of the spectrum from Reputation Management, it can be the most time intensive if using a brute force approach. But more so because social media is a form of and is quickly replacing TV viewing as leisure time. So in order for you to be successful you need to be entertaining.

Here's the rub; most local businesses are boring. We don’t think about them until we have a need for their services – plumber, electrician, painter, etc. There are exceptions for those businesses that have news and events but these types of businesses are a fraction of local businesses.

Does this mean "boring" businesses shouldn't attempt social media? Absolutely not! All local businesses should have a Facebook page, and some should have Twitter profiles or Pinterest accounts depending on their nature. Your website should be socially shareable, any content or blogs you create (see SEO below) should be socially shareable and you should piggy-back on others that are more established on social media such as participating on Mansfield Magazine's Facebook page which has the ability to connect with locals on a wide range of topics. Moreover, posting your events and activities on sites that are social-media-friendly and then sharing those activities to social media will help you benefit from Facebook and other networks.

You can start by posting free events in the calendar at MansfieldMagazine.com/calendar.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Finally, we have SEO, the 800-pound gorilla in the digital room. Ironically, your search results (how Search Engine Optimized you are) are affected by both your reputation online and your business’ participation in social media, among other factors.

Despite the fact that we all use search engines like Google and Bing, most people are
confused by how they work. They are indeed technological marvels, but the concepts
can be understood by all - if we can just get past all of the misinformation.

Consider this real-world example: You're in a new city and you hop in a cab. You tell the driver you want to have a four-star meal for dinner. Then he takes you down Main Street and before you know it you're at the best restaurant in town. Now, what if I told you that search engines are like the cab drivers of the Internet? Of course, online a customer types in what they are looking for and the search engine tries to figure out where someone really wants to go based on the phrase used, that is the <exact> phrase used and the level of detail.

They suggest a few places (or many) based on the content that exists on those
websites and how closely that content matches the search phrase. Though they don't
stop there, they also look at how many people are talking about your business on social media, linking to your website from their website or blog or directory. Links to your business are like a referral. If you're trying to get a job, getting introduced to the
company president is a lot more valuable than walking in off the street not knowing
anyone. So it is with search engines, the more links that you have from relevant
websites the better.

What is relevant? Well, it depends on your business and is primarily comprised of sites that are prominent and those that have a lot of content about a topic related to
your business. For example, if you're a Thai Restaurant and you have a glowing review with a link to your menu from a Local Restaurant review website which wrote an article about the best Thai Restaurants in town then that would carry a lot of weight; even more if people share that review to Facebook. Notice the bold italicized words are critical, Google plays a very complicated game of "Go Fish!" and this Keyword matching is an important aspect of it.

Search engines are a powerful driving force of the Internet and understanding how they work is essential to your online endeavors.

Want to learn more about SEO and Social Media or see what Mansfield Magazine can do to raise your profile online? Contact us here and for businesses with a listing in the directory you can join a free SEO and Social Media Webinar with our digital partner Locable. Just create/claim your business’ free or upgraded listing and you're in. Want to bring a friend with you? No problem, you're welcome to include employees and we encourage you to refer your friends to create/claim their business listing so they can join in too.

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