“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.”
Local data changes all the time. Businesses move and phone numbers change. It happens. When you operate a business with multiple locations, the task of making sure that all of your local listings are constantly up to date with the most accurate NAP (name, address, phone number) can be extremely challenging. Yet, your brand’s identity hinges on the accuracy of this data.
Imagine you own and operate a burger franchise with several locations across a metropolitan area. A potential customer searches for “burgers in Chicago” from their smartphone to find that they are only blocks away from one of your locations — or so they think. Months earlier, you seized the opportunity to move this particular location around the corner onto a busier street with more foot traffic.
While you may think you are capitalizing on the casual passers-by strolling down this busy street, because you never updated your business listing data you are losing customers who continue to show up at your old location only to find you’re no longer there. In fact, one could argue that these lost customers far outweigh the perceived advantage of casual passers-by from increased foot traffic as those that are searching for “burgers in Chicago” have explicitly expressed local intent through their mobile search behavior.
Bottom line: Consumers searching from their phones are often seeking information about the world immediately around them. Ensuring that your local profiles have accurate data is key to providing a quality experience to local consumers. In order for brands to scale locally, it is of the utmost importance to ensure the quality, local accuracy and local relevancy of all business listings across Google, Yahoo, Bing, Foursquare, Facebook and more.
In the past 3-5 years, combined advances in social media, local targeting, and mobile communications have produced a massive shift in brand messaging and customer engagement. Brands are now able to connect with specific audiences through convenient, timely, and sharable messaging giving potential customers what they want, when they want it, in the right location.
However, in order for brands to capture all potential customers across search and social and ultimately convert online traffic to offline foot traffic, brand messaging must be consistent. This messaging doesn’t just mean written copy, but it also includes creative and technological elements like design themes, branded imagery and seamless integration across device.
Anna Bager, Vice President and General Manager for IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) says:
“Consumers move fluidly across devices and platforms, and brands must do the same with their messages – not just by making sure that a banner ad is on both Android and iOS operating systems, but by being present across a variety of devices and taking advantage of the powerful features each has to offer.”
Bottom line: While these advances in social, local and mobile technology represent many new exciting opportunities, they also bring with them a great challenge for brands to maintain clear and consistent brand messaging.
The expansiveness of the social web — from Facebook to Yelp to YouTube to Amazon — has created a forum where people can engage directly with brands. Brands, in turn, must engage back with their customers. When they don’t, customers are quick to recognize a brand that is more robot than human.
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.
A brand cannot expect to build a strong online brand identity by delivering automated or boilerplate responses to real customer feedback, or, even worse, by not replying at all. What’s more, while early brand use cases of social medial focused solely on customer service and messaging, we are now starting to see examples of how social media is transforming customer and brand interaction at the point of sale. What that means for brands: failing to be human and engage with your customers through social media and reviews could have direct measureable effects on your bottom line.
Bottom line: Your customers are human — this much is obvious. What is not always so obvious is that from your customers’ perspectives, your brand should also be human!
Having a strong brand identity online is very important for any business that hopes to use digital media to reach, engage and retain customers. Things like accurate data, consistent messaging and being human may seem obvious, but these are the factors that provide a foundation for building the solid brand identity every business desires.