Social media has been a critical component of modern marketing strategies for years. Today, not having a Facebook page and Twitter account for your brand seems unthinkable. But while social continues to dominate the web marketing discussion, brands still struggle to quantify the value of social media, and develop social strategies that drive real business performance.
This is often especially true for brands which rely on foot traffic and in-store sales. While connecting social media to e-commerce is becoming easier, making the online-to-offline connection remains difficult to achieve and analyze.
For “local-national” brands, which operate multiple physical stores across a wide geographic region, a key challenge is moving from brand-social marketing, to local-social marketing. What’s the difference? Brand-social marketing is what most major brands do now. Such a strategy is likely to include single, corporate social accounts. These accounts will usually post generic content about the brand in general – sometimes content will be sales-oriented, like coupons or sales, but otherwise content will often just be fluffy branding material.
Creating true local-social content means moving away from a single, branded social outlet, and building a social voice for each of your individual locations. Walmart’s current local-social strategy is a great example of this. Every individual Walmart has a unique Facebook page, and each of these pages not only syndicates local content, but also actually posts unique content on a store-by-store level.
Consider the differences between this Walmart’s page in Los Angeles, and this one in New York. Each page posts unique content regularly, and the content posted varies from store to store. Consumers have an incentive to like and interact with their local stores, because the content is localized and relevant to their nearest store.
Local-Social Channels and Challenges
While Walmart might be excelling in their local-Facebook strategy, they’ve got issues with local reviews. The screenshot below is just one of many examples of Walmart’s review problems:
Walmart’s not alone – Best Buy has a similar problem -
In fact, any large enough brand is likely to gather a significant amount of bad reviews, complaints, and customer-service horror stories. Without any local-social infrastructure in place, these reviews will go unmanaged, without any replies from Best Buy.
Ironically, this creates a situation where local SEO can work backwards – for all the time Best Buy may have spent claiming and managing Google places, without review management, this optimization effort is going to boost bad reviews!
Beyond review management, the broader issue is content in general. This is the barrier that separates branded-social from local-social. And while it might seem like an insurmountable challenge to actually produce real, unique content for every location, many brands have already been doing it for years, in the form of the Local Ad.
Above is a weekly ad from Lowes. In the top right, you’ll see that Lowes is localizing this content to a specific location, and according to the Lowes Facebook page, “These offers are available for a limited time and are specific to your store.
The key point is that this content already exists! If Lowes could setup unique Facebook pages for each location, the Local Ad content could be syndicated hyper-locally through each Facebook page. This would add a lot of value for local Lowes customers – the offers are local, relevant, and less noisy than an email.
A Change in Perspective
Ultimately, real success in local-social is going to require a change in perspective. Especially for large stores with many employees, these locations have enough internal resources to at least produce some basic local-social content on a regular basis.
When combined with existing resources, like local ads, national brands should be able to put together enough content to run engaging, hyper-local social campaigns. The true change in perspective is treating every store like its own social marketing department.
It just doesn’t make sense to limit social media to a few marketers at corporate. Brands need to give store managers and employees the ability to produce their own content, monitor their reviews, and connect with their customers. Doing so allows even the biggest brands to be scalably, genuinely local.