From the Market Motive Forums: Where Are Your Influencers?
If you’ve recently opened a small, local business (or are working for one in some capacity) one of the first things you need to do is figure out who the influencers are in your area. These early evangelists will provide the online reviews and positive word of mouth you need to get both new and repeat customers.
You know there are customers out there that will love your product or service, but how do you go about finding them?
One of the first things to understand is that finding your influencers will generally be a very time-consuming process. Thankfully, the ROI has the potential to be quite high and help to get your biz off the ground.
Let’s look at some of our starting points:
1) The product being offered
2) Any geographical restrictions on the product
3) The target audience
4) Related topics
For purposes of this blog post, let’s say you’ve recently opened a frozen yogurt shop in your town. Using this type of business as an example, let’s break things down further.
1) The Product Being Offered
Your product is frozen yogurt, but it probably goes deeper than this. Is it one of those places where you fill your own cup and top it with whatever you want? Is it more like a traditional ice cream place? Do you do smoothies? Consider these things, as they will impact #3 and #4 below.
2) Any Geographical Restrictions
If you’re literally in the middle of nowhere, it could be pretty tough sledding. But let’s use Washington, PA (a town near me) as an example for this post.
3) Your Target Audience
This one can be pretty broad, but experience probably shows us that this type of store is popular with college students, the parents of younger kids, and women between 18 and 50ish.
4) Related Topics
This could be ice cream, desserts, family outings, date nights, health(ier) treats, etc., but we can also expand that to say “eating out in general.”
Now this is the point where having a base level understanding of social media is very handy. This includes what the top channels are and what the different types of social media are. As we understand those, we can start to think about where people might be engaged.
Using our knowledge of social media, we might say off the top of our heads that two areas of social offer us the best opportunity: social reviews and Facebook.
We’d prioritize social reviews because there are so many widely recognized services that are part of restaurants and social media. Sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yahoo Local Listings, Google Plus, etc. all offer us opportunities. So the first thing I would personally do would be to go check those for local frozen yogurt and/or ice cream places.
Let’s see this in action using the town near me, Washington, PA.
First I went to Yelp and ran a search for “frozen yogurt” in Washington, PA. I got a few listings, but not much in the way of review activity.
That’s OK. Sometimes that happens. So I moved on to Urbanspoon, which I discovered tends to get more interaction than Yelp in Western PA. It’s all regional so take the time to look.
There are several listings and review activitiwa. I had to broaden my search to “desserts” after “frozen yogurt” didn’t turn anything up, but I was able to find listings and discover that people were on this site reviewing them.
I could even go in and read the listings to see what people liked and didn’t like, which is great insight when you are opening or marketing a competitive business.
So now we’re starting to get somewhere in that we know people in this area are using Urbanspoon and leaving reviews on it.
But let’s keep digging.
I went to Google and ran a maps search for “frozen yogurt” in Washington, PA. There aren’t a ton of results – because there aren’t a ton of froyo places here – but I did find that Menchie’s (our local froyo place) does have a review.
Of course the irony here is that while the review is positive, the Google listing shows the Krispie Kreme building that is actually about half a mile away from Menchies. (Which tells you your competitor hasn’t claimed or updated their listing, which is also valuable insight.
Now, we could keep going through the other sites I mentioned, but we won’t. I think you see where I’m going with this.
What this search has done is let us identify some of the competitors we have in our area. Now we probably already knew about some of them, but what you never know until you look is who is doing anything with social media. If Sarris Candies is the top ice cream shop in our area, but they happen to do nothing with social media, then we can’t reverse engineer anything they do. If Menchie’s doesn’t have a big social presence, but does have reviews, then we know people are willing to talk about ice cream places online.
So our first step at this point ought to be to register our business on Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Google and to make sure all of our info is up to date and accurate. Then we want to consider doing check-in offers or other advertisements through these services so we can catch the eye of reviewers and customers.
Online reviewers are influencers, and while the rules on services like Yelp may mean we can’t reach out to them directly to ask them to come review us, we can make sure we are doing whatever we can to show up in front of them when they are using these services.
Please check out Part 2 where we talk about running searches for finding your target audience and top influences – all of whom will be your business’s early evangelist. In turn this will help you with both new and repeat business.
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