The power of social media is changing the way we live. Recent data shows that one third of the global population or roughly 2.8 billion people, are active social media users. The number of social media users rose by 21% in January 2017 from a year ago, with Asia recording the highest growth. One of the main factors for social media explosion is the popularity of smartphones. According to SmartInsights data, nearly 90 percent of active social media users access platforms via their mobile gadgets.

These overwhelming facts and figures underscore the importance of social media marketing in any business. The Deloitte Consumer Review presented another compelling reason why businesses should be using their social media strategies to influence consumer behavior. “Many consumers prefer to turn to independent sources to access information rather than go directly to businesses,” the report said. These trusted sources include family and friends, customer reviews, and independent product or service experts.

Targeting The Right People via Local SEO

The first step in influencing consumers via digital channels is reaching out to them. Explore and understand the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the set of processes that “increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine.” Simply put, the main goal of SEO strategies is to place a webpage among the top results in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines.

However, placing on top of search results is not enough for businesses that aim to boost their profits. Local SEO is geographic. It enables local businesses to promote their products and services to local customers at exactly the time they’re looking for such offerings. Local SEO provides visibility not only in search engine results pages but also in business listings such as Yelp, Qype, and TouchLocal.

The Basics of Local SEO

Google, the world’s largest search engine, offers local SEO guidelines for businesses. Information is the pillar of local SEO. Your first task is to make sure your business name, address and phone numbers (NAP) are updated and consistent in all web pages and listings. NAP are also referred to as citation. According to Google, “local results favor the most relevant results for each search, and businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches.”

Google uses metrics in local ranking. To help users find the best match for their searches, Google algorithm choose businesses based on relevance, distance, and prominence.

Relevance, Distance, and Prominence

A tourist in Paris wanting to try the best pasta in town will likely enter the keywords “Paris pasta restaurant” on a search bar. Google or Bing will return business listings with complete and detailed information matching this search. This is why your NAP or citation needs to be updated and consistent. Inconsistency can hurt ranking.

If the same tourist searches for a restaurant but fails to specify a location, Google will calculate the distance based on what’s known of his/her location. Thus, it’s highly recommended that you check your business information on Google Maps.

Prominence is one metric that you’d need to work on. This is based on the information Google has about a business from links, articles, directories, and other places on the web. What influences prominence? Blog posts featuring your products and services, positive customer reviews, and your position in web results can help improve your local ranking.

Social Media and Your Prominence

What is the importance of social media and SEO to your online visibility? On one hand. Google has clarified that it doesn’t consider social media interactions (e.g. likes, shares, comments) in ranking web pages, but these can increase a business’ prominence, which is a local ranking factor. On the other hand, the world’s largest search engine has explicitly indicated that “SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”

The more people talk about your products and services online, the greater chances your social media content is shared and vice versa. The next question is how to create appealing content that will give you the right exposure.

Content Marketing For Your Business

Video is immensely popular on Facebook today. “Consumer video is exploding on our platform as Mark [Zuckerberg] was talking about, and that really creates ad opportunities,” according to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO. The world’s largest social network foresees that video will compose 80 percent of its content by 2019. Videos allow users can get information about a business in less than a minute. Moreover, it’s visually appealing compared to texts. A digital marketing agency in the Philippines, home to the world’s most active Facebook users, is tasked to promote businesses and encourage action in a 30-second video.

Snapchat’s Geofilters sharing information such as the date and venue of a Snap is an enticing way. Snapchat has more than 150 million active users in Australia and the U.S., mostly teens and millennials. Creating an appealing overlay calls for imagination and knowledge on Snapchat’s young demographics.

Manage Your Customer Reviews

Customer feedback and reviews impact local ranking. Google prioritizes businesses with a high number of reviews and high ratings. Encourage your customers to rate your products and services. The keywords in your customer reviews can also help in your local SEO. If you get a bad feedback, be quick to address this. Remember that people depend on independent sources when choosing a business and customers’ feedback is something that people consider as trustworthy. Whenever a disgruntled customer posts a complaint, acknowledge it and address the problem offline.

We cannot deny the power of social media and how it’s changing our lifestyle. The web has become an alternate universe, not an imagined world, but a real society where people interact and businesses flourish. Be on top of trends, seek technical expertise, and most importantly, always be open to change. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”