Opportunity Ripe for Hyperlocals to Help SMBs Get Social

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Patrick Kitano is a guest author. If you’d like to submit a guest post, click here.

Social media marketing is becoming more and more important for local businesses — even if many of them don’t realize it yet.

A recent BIA/Kelsey survey found that 48% of SMBs are on Facebook. However, the more telling implication of the chart below is how SMBs don’t even use marketing methods that have been around for a while (just 43% do email marketing?) or are well-recognized as effective (only 22% with blogs, many of which probably have pretty low output).

pew internet local media

At Street Fight Summit last month, Patch president Warren Webster said that 50 percent of the businesses in communities covered by his network don’t have websites. Simply put, local merchants don’t understand the new marketing rules, and many aren’t even sending email blasts to their customers, let alone monitoring YelpFoursquare, and Groupon.

So there is a wide-open opportunity for companies to step in and service literally hundreds of thousands of SMBs who need to develop a social marketing plan. Business owners don’t have time to get up to speed on all of this — they need a turnkey solution provider who understands their locality and their business, and is affordable. With such demand, it’s surprising to see very few social marketing agencies operating at a local level. The hurdle may be that social media marketing demands smart, local people for hands-on engagement, and the cost of procuring that talent may not scale or be too expensive in the face of small SMB marketing budgets.

Hyperlocal publishers are well positioned to support their business communities by providing turnkey social marketing services. Brian Kinkade created Apsides Media Group to provide local social marketing that works in conjunction with his ten local media sites in Denver. As a local media publisher, he not only offers to manage the local merchants’ social marketing but also has the media distribution platform to actually implement the programs. The new business model is to create subscription revenues by providing marketing services that engages his company with the client — as opposed to selling “rate card” advertising that is transactional and doesn’t engage the client beyond a pay-for-play level.

Social marketing services can be “outsourced”, but only to companies that understand the nuances of American social and business marketing culture (so we can’t outsource SMB tweets and Facebook updates t0 India). Main Street Hub is one of the first companies I’ve seen that can turnkey manage local merchants’ social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp and more) in scale for a $200-300 monthly subscription. Matt Stuart, co-founder of Main Street Hub, explains: “Millions of small businesses are affected by social media within their communities. Their customers find them on Yelp or Foursquare, and tell their friends on Facebook and Twitter. What business can manage all these websites?”

Hyperlocal media companies are perfectly positioned to help these companies manage their social presences. It’s up to them now to get to this opportunity before someone else does.

Patrick Kitano is founding Principal of Domus Consulting Group, an advisory for social commerce and social engagement solutions, and administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of Media Transparent, and contributor to Social Media Today, Daily Deal Media, and The Customer Collective.