Social Media Gives Local Brands Home Field Advantage

Big brands have dominated advertising and traditional branding spaces for as long as advertising has existed.  Their unthinkable marketing budgets have the ability to reach millions of potential customers in a single ad.  But the tide is turning in the marketing world.  While these large brands have embraced social media, they still have a distinct disadvantage at the local level.

Local brands have the flexibility to cater their social media campaigns directly to their local customer base, using the same tools that large brands are using to cover a wider audience.  In addition, local tools and services are growing in popularity which are increasingly difficult for large brands to monitor and be involved with.  Local businesses who take advantage of these tools can easily develop more meaningful customer relationships and create loyal customers and brand evangelists large brands cannot.

Twitter & Facebook

Services like Twitter & Facebook certainly have their appeal for keeping in touch with friends over long distances, but more and more, they’re being used as ways to network and meet up locally.  For any local business owner this should be music to your ears!

It’s difficult for big brands to scale their social media efforts on the local level,  particularly on Facebook and Twitter.  Instead, they generally have one large account with a sometimes intimidating following.  Because of this, however,  local businesses have the advantage of being able to cater conversations to their local market, network in a much more focused way, and develop more meaningful campaigns that directly appeal to their local customers.

Sure, Starbucks’ may have nearly 12 Million Facebook fans and just short of 1 million followers on twitter, and they do a very good job of interacting with that network; But what they can’t do with these accounts is cater updates, specials, events, and conversations to a local audience.   And for a business that relies 100% on local customers, that’s pretty important.

Geo-Local Services like Foursquare

Businesses that rely on local foot traffic who haven’t claimed their foursquare listing yet need to DO IT NOW.  The geo-location service creates numerous opportunities for local businesses to connect with loyal customers and provide incentives for new ones to keep coming back.  And much like Twitter & Facebook, it’s difficult for larger brands to monitor and customize all of their foursquare locations.

On top of this, for users, being mayor of a national chain isn’t quite as appealing as being mayor of the new local hot-spot everyone is talking about.  Where would you rather be seen checking in?  Sub-way, or that trendy sandwich shop everyone loves so much?  Advantage: local brands.

Yelp & Review sites

Yelp is the most popular local business review site on the web today.  But it’s not just about the reviews.  They’ve provided a way for business owners to claim their listing and even respond to reviews (publicly or privately).  Couple that with the ability to customize the business listing with pictures and compelling descriptions, yelp-like services provide opportunities for local businesses to communicate with customers in ways that most big brands are afraid to.

If you’re a member Yelp or another of one of these services, you already know: it’s not about the big brands.  I mean, who bothers to read yelp reviews of McDonald’s or Friday’s?  “Familiarity breeds contempt” as one review of a local Friday’s put it.  “You do not walk into a chain restaurant expecting something different ”  On the other hand: that restaurant that you drive by every day you’ve never been to?  Yelp is the perfect place to find out how their food is and what their dining experience is all about.  And I’m sure that business owner would jump at the opportunity to take an active role in that conversation.  And as a local brand, doing so is that much easier.

Community Involvement

Forget the online community for one minute.  I’m talking about local schools, clubs, events, local charities… the list goes on and on!  Hosting, sponsoring, or simply participating in local community events is not only a great way to spread a brand locally, but is much easier to incorporate into an online social strategy for the little guys.

While larger brands may have deeper pockets to buy up the large sponsorship spaces at these events, that’s about as “involved” as they get.  Local businesses can once again trump these big brands by showing what true community involvement is.  Publicizing, attending (take pictures!), and even talking about an event after the fact will spark conversations, expand local networking efforts, and generally express what the local community means to their business.

A local (Albany, NY) example of this is Price Chopper, a relatively small grocery store brand when compared to a company like WalMart.  And while they certainly don’t have the same marketing budget,  PC is constantly involved in the local community in ways that WalMart never could…and it works!

Going Local

Local pride is not necessarily an untouched marketing tactic, but it’s certainly a powerful one.  So when local business owners turn to the social web as a part of their marketing strategy, it’s a sure-fire way to separate themselves from the big brands that they never dreamed they could compete with….and win!