Trends Every Business Should Watch
1. Consumers are using online sources to evaluate offline decisions.
Whether it’s finding, researching, reviewing, or socializing about businesses and products, consumers are now using 7.9 different media sources on average, and that number is continuing to rise.
Why? Because consumers can finally see the information online that they’ve always wanted to see. How good is my doctor? How good is this restaurant? How often does this product break? Sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube, TripAdvisor, ShopSavvy, and hundreds more are in the business of answering consumers’ questions. The conversation is happening with or without you, and if you’re not in the places where your consumer is, you may lose control of your reputation.
How to take advantage: Find out where your customers socialize, and shift your dollars and time to those media channels. There are many benefits to marketing through social media networks and search engines, and the ability to manage your reputation is amazing.
Nearly 90% of your consumers are online, and they’re watching and listening to the 25% we call influencers: the people who are praising, complaining, wavering about your business online. It might be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or anywhere online, which might seem annoying or scary. But if you really think about it, people have always been socializing about your business. It just happened more slowly and invisibly, mostly offline.
Now, for the first time ever, you can be present for nearly all of those conversations, starting online, extending offline. And, because you can be there, the nature of competition means that you must be there, inside that conversation, or your business will slowly erode. What most businesses don’t yet realize is that, if they neglect consumers online, even their happy customers will slowly go away, because other businesses will find them online and reward them with discounts, perks, and praise, offline as well as online. Being awesome offline will no longer be enough, because the consumer will soon expect awesomeness online and off, as your competitors start to deliver it.
How to leverage your time: If you can’t afford a full-time employee to monitor consumers and build large followings online, or if you don’t want the hassle of hiring and managing another employee, find a great social media management company with a background in marketing and brand management. Any company that takes the time to do market research, evaluate your presence against your objectives, and implement a social media marketing strategy, is well worth the $25-50/hour it’ll cost to hire them to grow and protect your business. See our Packages Page or About Us to see examples of how great companies leverage great consultants for a complete win-win.
2. Search engine traffic is shifting local, and pay-per-click ads are becoming ineffective.
American who are online (80%ish) are averaging over 40 searches/month on Google alone, and almost half of all internet searches are now for local services, a trend driven by smartphones and economic conditions. Consumers are realizing that the ads are ads; they’re clicking them less. But businesses finally understand that massive traffic comes from Google, and they’re bidding up the cost of these ads. Higher cost on ads with less people clicking, and that will only continue in the short term. However, there’s an answer: local search optimization.
As with all marketing, it’s important to understand what your objectives are first. Then, you need to understand exactly what’s being searched for. This is a foreign concept to most business owners because traditional advertising hides this data, or doesn’t know. Newspapers don’t want you to know that only 1% of the 20,000 subscribers read page 12, and they have no clue how many people are looking for your product. But Google and Facebook and a handful of social media marketing consultants can now give you this amazing information!
I can tell you, for instance, that 300,000 Americans searched Google for a veterinarian last month, and that’s an increase of 10% from the month before. I can show you where 50% of that traffic went, in whatever town you live in. It is absolutely insane and exciting, how much more we know about consumers, thanks to new technologies and social media.
How to take advantage: Act like you are a consumer of your business. Use Google to try to find it. Almost 70% of the people searching for your product will click on the #1, #2, or #3 result on page 1 of Google. If your business is in the top 3, you’ll need to build a dominating strategy to stay there, because #4 – 10 will soon be coming after you. If you’re not there, get the help you need… immediately! The payoff is massive. “Search engine optimization” is the consultant term for “Get me to the top of Google,” and over 2 million Americans searched that term last month. It’s safe to say that nearly all of those searches come from businesses, including your competition!
How to leverage your time: As all things online, there are easy ways to do it that will ultimately hurt you (those are called “black hat” methods), and there are harder ways to do it that won’t be as fast, but will ultimately help you dominate your local, regional, and possibly national market. Those are called “white hat” methods and they are a big part of what Original Social Media management consultants do. Whether you outsource this duty to my company (click here for info on that) or hire an employee to do it, make sure you know the difference between “white hat” methods and “black hat” methods before you spend any money on search optimization. Ask the consultants or employees, and double check their answers online, or with us. Your entire business depends on it.
3. Cell phone technologies are driving offline behavior.
These mobile technologies range from iPhone/Android/mobile applications (20% of America has a smartphone; 50% by 2014), to check-ins (Facebook Places, Foursquare, Yelp), to customized pay-per-click ads on Google searches (Google still accounts for 60-70% of all online search traffic, which will continue to shift to smartphones).
Location-based mobile is changing rapidly, and the best way to take advantage of these is to stay informed via our free monthly newsletter (click here to open a new window to subscribe). Integrating location-based mobile ideas with your other social media marketing plan strategy, and amplifying your efforts using search engine optimization, will give you a clear advantage over other businesses. Finding advisors who understand holistic planning (from business plan to marketing plan to actual tactics) will serve you better than finding specialists who don’t understand your overall operations and objectives.
4. Consumers are starting to filter their decisions using their friends’ opinions.
As of 2010, Google search still dominates consumer search activity, but it’s not filtered or customized on an individual level. “Best realtor in Chicago” today will return the same thing to everybody. In a few years, it’ll return the “Best realtor in Chicago” for you based on who your friends and people like you have used. This is why social media marketing on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and LinkedIn is so valuable.
Trends indicate what we all suspected: as consumers, we don’t trust ads or search engine results as much as we trust human reviews, especially aggregated review databases like Yelp and TripAdvisor and Ebay and Amazon.
Say I need a real estate agent in Chicago. What do my friends think? What do people like me think? These are the time-consuming questions that are being answered quickly with social media, and it shows. Our Facebook “socially-filtered” ads perform 4 times better (and are about 50% cheaper) when the ad shows a connection between people (i.e. “Your friend John Smith likes this”).
How to take advantage: Start building great online reviews in at least 3 social media locations where your customers are, AND build large followings on the sites where most customers socialize. Social proof online has the same effect as a buzzing crowd has offline: more business. And not only will that impact you positively in the short term, a large following online will be a critical lifeline to your business in the next 5 years, given the trends toward socially filtered search and purchasing.
How to leverage your time: A social media management company can manage this for $25-50/hour in 1 hour/day for you, and free up your time to run your business. You’ll still need to devote a few hours per month to respond to major complaints and major praises (which the company will bring to your attention immediately), but the bulk of the time-draining social media tasks can be outsourced to people who have the tools to do it much more quickly than you can. Click here to see our social media packages for some examples of how other businesses are currently outsourcing these important duties to us.