Today, word of mouth is electronic. Someone “likes” your business on Facebook and everyone sees it. People share information on businesses they like on social media sites. Someone checks in while hanging out at your coffee shop, showing everyone your business name and location on the map.
Now review apps are taking it a step further, allowing consumers to rate and share things they do with friends and strangers. No longer do customers have to take a chance on bad service or products. While driving around town, they can search for places nearby that friends and large numbers of strangers have rated. This is a prime opportunity for small businesses, who can take customer engagement a step further than traditional social media and even allow for mobile buying.
- Taap.It–“Taap.it helps you to look further inside a place,” Taap.It’s community manager Debbie Tran says. “The process of discovery, review, and documentation are pretty much the same with Yelp or Foursquare, who provides reviews and tips on places. But Taap.it is all about the interesting things; items, dishes, decorations, or just any details inside those places.” This app turns ratings and reviews into a fun game, offering points for each review you post. Those points can be traded for real-life gifts, like $20 coupons and free food items.
- Yelp–A popular local information provider, especially in larger cities, Yelp is listed as having at least 54 million unique visitors per month in late 2010. Unfortunately, as with any of these services, it’s important to note that the reviews are not moderated, so if a negative review is posted, there isn’t much you can do about it. Since the site does have such a large user base, it’s a great resource for marketing your small business.
- Local.com–Local.com is set up to help localize the Internet. Since many consumers simply want to know about businesses in their own area, Local.com allows a user to stay in his or her neighborhood. In addition to providing information about local businesses, the site also provides coupons and discount information. When you login to the site, it automatically loads your own area’s information based on the data is gathers about your location. Encourage your best customers to post reviews in order to help new customers find you while searching the site.
- Manta–This site is specifically geared toward small businesses. Think of it as local social networking for the small business community. Not only will you be able to get the word out about what you are doing to the consumer market, you’ll be able to network with other small businesses in your community in order to build a strong alliance.
- Merchant Circle–This app can help you in a variety of ways. List your small business and be found by local shoppers. Network with other small businesses in your community and across the country. Merchant Circle’s services aren’t just limited to its own website. It also helps you get listed with the top search engines and sends customers your way.
For small businesses, competing with big box retailers and other national chains can be challenging, to say the least. By localizing your listings as much as possible, you’ll be able to reach out to consumers in your community and maximize your marketing efforts.