A recent Pew Research Center poll seems to show that people are not using social media to find local business information. I am not here to dispute their findings, but I would like to talk about what I feel is the root cause of this problem.
There is a great little bar in my neighborhood. It’s been there for decades. It’s fun, the music is great and the drinks are reasonably priced. Unfortunately, business today is a just a trickle of what it was a decade ago. This might be because as times change, people’s behaviors changes; they start trying new places, don’t like the management of their old place, or just get bored of the same old thing.
Or it might be because this particular place does not use social media. They have a Facebook Fan Page, but it has only been updated nine times, with the most recent post from last March. They don’t use Twitter or even Google+; they don’t have a Flickr account, use Yelp or Groupon or any other social media marketing techniques.
In the meantime a new bar, in business just a few short years, has been using social media marketing effectively and they have packed house nearly every night.
The results of the Pew survey, in my opinion, have more to do with the lack of social media marketing use by small and medium sized businesses, local businesses, than it does with the habits of people who are looking for something to do or use, or a particular service in their local community. They are only going to look for your business via social media so many times before they realize they aren’t there. Then they will stop looking. Once this happens you have to re-train people to know where to look for your business.
If you are marketing a small or medium-sized business you need to be using social media. Especially if you are trying to attract a local crowd. People often use their own social media network to find out about local businesses; things to do, places to go; a good plumber, electrician or auto mechanic. If your business is not participating in social media you are less likely to remain a part of the social media conversations; less likely to get noticed by people in your service area.
The reason people aren’t using social media to find local businesses isn’t because they don’t know they can look there, it’s because not enough local businesses are using social media marketing to stay connected with their customers.
The news for social media is only slightly better when you include bars, restaurants and clubs in the mix with only 3% of the respondents saying social media does this job for them. Any time you see the words in a column saying “to small a group to give reliable statistics” you have to wonder about the impact of that area.
Oh and the big online winner for this information? Search. This says in some ways that people might actually be looking for a less biased review or it could be saying something entirely different. Either way it looks like people don’t trust the taste of their social media “friends”.
To be fair, the data used in these charts is approaching 1 year old already (January of 2011) which is a bit unusual for Pew but even if the number is higher today how much higher could it actually be?
In the end this should do nothing to deter local businesses from using social. In fact, there are many success stories of all types of local businesses doing great things with social to help sustain their business.
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