Most merchants think they’re reaching a targeted demographic when they advertise on neighborhood blogs or run geofencing campaigns, but a new type of hyperlocal marketing platform is taking consumer targeting one step further and giving merchants an organic way to connect with consumers who are primed and ready to convert.
Location-based Q&A apps give local merchants a way to join ongoing conversations and reach out with individual support to people nearby who are searching for their products or services. These platforms aren’t strictly for marketing. Many have positioned themselves as apps for connecting people with questions about places to people with answers. But savvy merchants who use these local Q&A communities can become trusted experts, and they can funnel traffic to their businesses for free, often without running any paid campaigns.
Here are five examples of location-based Q&A services that merchants can use for customer acquisition.
1. Spray: Social communication through hyperlocal messaging
Spray is a crowd-messaging app for people seeking advice on what to see, do, and explore in unfamiliar locations. Users who find themselves in new places can tap into the collective wisdom by sending messages to other users located nearby. Users don’t need to personally know anyone on the service to get answers to their questions. Instead, they compose a “Spray,” set their geographic range, and then wait for responses from other Spray users nearby. Spray gives very small business owners a way to jump in on the local conversations going on in their communities.
2. LOCQL: Get answers about any place in the world
LOCQL is a location-based Q&A service that gives people a way to find answers or give advice about any place in the world. Users tell LOCQL three cities they’ve lived in, follow people they want to hear from, and then share their knowledge with the LOCQL community by answering some frequently asked questions about their cities. (For example, “What is the best Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles?”) LOCQL members vote on the best answers, which rewards knowledgeable users on the site. Local marketers can use LOCQL as a location and keyword-based search platform. They can also answer questions strategically to bring more customers into their businesses.
3. Kiwi: Share thoughts with the local community
Kiwi is a social Q&A platform that encourages people to share what they are thinking. Users can ask questions and post thoughts specifically with their local community or social circle, or more broadly with Kiwi users worldwide. The type of content that people can post includes pictures, videos, and text. Kiwi allows questions to be posted publicly or anonymously. Business owners can click on the “Nearby” tab to see posts from people in their own communities. They can then answer any questions related to their areas of expertise.
4. Ask a Nomad: Answers from an expert network of locals and travellers
One of the primary reasons why people ask questions on location-based Q&A apps is because they’re new to an area or just traveling through. Ask a Nomad caters to people in the second group. Using a network of travellers, locals and travel experts, Ask a Nomad serves as a place where people can ask questions like, “Where can we eat in Reno, Nevada?” or “Help me find a doctor in Dallas.” The more frequently local merchants answer questions posed by users traveling through their communities, the more opportunity they have to sprinkle in references to their businesses.
5. Bushlark: Real-time, location-aware, crowd-sourced Q&A
Mixing real-time, local Q&A with local discovery, Bushlark gives people a way to seek help from strangers with insights to share. Users ask questions and tag their locations, and Bushlark solicits answers from local experts. The concept behind Bushlark is that people are more likely to get useful responses when they pose their questions to local experts than when they ask their own social network of friends. By using Bushlark on a regular basis, small business owners could become experts in their own communities, and ultimately get access to consumers who are interested in learning about the best places to visit or things to try.
Know of other Q&A platforms that small businesses can use for customer acquisition? Leave a description in the comments.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.