In a recent Street Fight article, Terry Heaton wrote: “As an innovation, the Web can either be sustaining or disruptive. It can either help advance you, your reputation, and your brand — or it can utterly destroy the very foundation on which you or your business rests.”
While at first that may sound a bit dramatic, consider the fact that roughly one-third of all web searches have local intent and 73% of smartphone-wielding shoppers prefer to consult their phones rather than actual humans (i.e., retail clerks) for basic in-store assistance. Add to this the fact that mobile search queries quintupled between 2010 and 2012 and perhaps we start to see how the social, local, and mobile movement has revolutionized not only the consumer’s path-to-purchase but also the entire process of building and maintaining a successful brand image.
Hopefully these stats help to paint a clearer picture of the harsh reality that Heaton is pointing out, which is: In the increasingly mobile and locally-driven digital world in which we find ourselves, it is an absolute necessity to ensure the visibility and accuracy of your brand’s online identity while constantly working to build and preserve a socially-integrated and supported reputation. At the core of it all is the consumer’s mobile and local search behavior. With that in mind, here are three ways in which local search can (or should) be contributing to the preservation of your brand’s image.
1. First and foremost, your brand is a product itself. Whether your business is selling a tangible good, providing a service, or your business is simply you and your personal expertise, the core product that you must sell is the brand image itself. Therefore, your brand must be visible and discoverable across the entire digital landscape, and as the statistics above point out that means you must be optimized for mobile and local search discovery.
The process of ensuring your brand’s visibility and discoverability begins with claiming and syndication. It’s as simple as this: If you do not claim your profiles on social discovery and review sites like Foursquare, Google+ Local, Yelp, etc, then you do not own your brand’s identity. In an average month, Where 2 Get It’s clients’ claimed profiles capture more than 61.5 million impressions and 6.1 million actions. On a per-location basis, this breaks down to almost 550 actions per local business per month. Failing to claim your brand’s identity and not having visibility into that amount of online consumer interaction is a scary proposition.
2. Secondly, once your brand is visible, you must make sure the information is accurate. This sounds like a no-brainer, but consider national chains and franchisees with multiple locations spanning entire regions and the importance of the consumer’s experience in discovering and interacting with these national brands on a local scale. According to Google’s The Mobile Playbook, 40% of mobile-users have admitted to turning to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience with a brand. In most instances, the majority of that 40% is likely gone-for-good once they’ve had that bad mobile experience.
This speaks to the importance of providing accurate and useful local brand information to increase consumer confidence and guide a potential buyer further along their path-to-purchase. Capturing and providing accurate local data and applying it on a national scale is difficult (if not impossible) without the proper digital marketing solutions. In 2012 alone, Where 2 Get It’s business claiming and social data matching services helped drive over 16.5 million visits to local landing pages and 7.4 million mobile search page views. For 2013 thus far, Where 2 Get It’s services have helped account for 7.6 million local landing page visits and close to 5.5 million local mobile page visits.
3. Lastly, while claiming, syndication and data matching are all essential to optimizing a brand’s local search visibility and discoverability and thus contribute to the building of the brand image, the maintaining of that brand image is equally as imperative. What good does it do to own your brand’s online identity if you don’t use those various channels to foster a relationship with your consumers that demonstrates your brand’s willingness to listen and respond to the consumers’ wants and needs on a local level? Long gone are the days of thinking that the national brand is some giant, unreachable entity with ultimate power over the individual consumer. Social review sites like Yelp and public direct-to-source social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have shifted the power, so to speak, back into the individual consumer’s hands, where it should be. Still, it seems many national brands have yet to realize the importance of providing local feedback.
Therefore, if your brand does not have the ability to address consumers on a localized scale, you will likely be left behind for a competitor that does. Furthermore, the increase in hyperlocalized brand/consumer interactions provides enormous benefits for the business in the form of valuable local data which can inform better ad targeting and intelligent localized product-related decisions. But again, for national brands, scale becomes an issue. How do you monitor hundreds if not thousands of individual Yelp pages or Foursquare locations? Luckily, services like Where 2 Get It’s Review Monitor allow for aggregation, customizable reporting and scalable monitoring of local data from sources all across the social and mobile web.
While there are a lot of services out there that can provide creative design solutions and digital marketing technologies that aggregate, organize and report consumer data, it’s important to keep in mind what marketing guru Seth Godin recently said when asked: “What’s a brand?” His answer, “It’s not a logo, or an ad campaign. It’s a shorthand for the memories and expectations we have about our interactions with a product, service, organization or person.” More and more, those interactions that Seth speaks of are taking place on mobile devices and on a local scale. Being able to capture “the memories” and address “the expectations” consumers have about those interactions is what will set your brand apart.
Manish Patel is CEO of Where2GetIt.