Monday, 06 March 2017 10:31

Social media and business: Get internet-ready for eclipse

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Visitors from all over the world will soon be collecting in Southern Illinois for a few minutes of darkness. No, I’m not talking about Ozzy Osbourne. Of course, like the rest of this month’s SBJ, I’m talking about the 2017 solar eclipse that will have its longest point of duration right here in Southern Illinois.

Make no mistake, while these visitors won’t be physically here for another 174 days, that doesn’t mean they aren’t already here.

You may be asking, “But Nathan, how can someone in London be here already? The eclipse isn’t until August.”

The answer: the internet.

What once took a phonebook, a map or a willingness to risk a bad restaurant or crummy hotel room now takes common internet access. Visitors are already visiting Southern Illinois through their computer screens and smartphones. Visitors are already sampling the food through reviews and pictures and they’re requesting rooms with softer or stiffer pillows. Visitors are pre-planning their driving routes, and when they get to Southern Illinois, their navigator is just a button away.

Visitors sure as heck are not using a phone book.

What these visitors are using is TripAdvisor, Facebook and a plethora of other digital resources that will set expectations that we, as a region, need to be ready to fulfill when these visitors arrive. For business owners in the hospitality industry, this means tidying up your digital storefront before visitors start walking through your actual storefront. This means representing your business accurately online so when visitors do walk through your front door their expectations are met, not mauled.

Now that you know the concept of why, let’s talk about how.

Start by searching your business. Regardless of what search engine you personally prefer, search your business on Google. With more than two-thirds of search traffic in the U.S. occurring through Google, it is the undisputed search champion. Additionally, Google offers a lot of free tools to help your business be a champion. Sign up for Google My Business and make sure all of the information for your business is accurate. Are your operating hours correct? Is that address your actual address? Is the first picture you see when you search your business one that best represents your facility?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then take 20 minutes and claim your listing. Also, and I hear the opposite of this from clients all of the time, answer Google’s telephone call and follow their instructions. When Google calls it’s usually for your benefit, not to sell you something.

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Once you’ve got your Google listing claimed, start focusing on the listing that come up first when you search your business. If Yelp is the first link that displays when you search your business, but there’s not a TripAdvisor link until the second search page, it’s best to focus on Yelp first, but don’t forget to claim your listing on all of the premier listing sites you can think of. While some visitors will be searching using broad sweeping search engines, others will use the site they already belong to to plan their trip. It’s is important for you to be organized and presentable on all of these sites because of this.

Finally, after you’ve claimed these business listings and filled them with accurate information that represents your business honestly, it’s time to show activity. If you’re using Facebook, make sure you’re posting often enough that visitors to your page will know that you’re open. Even though your hours may say you’re open, if you’ve not posted since March 2016, visitors may assume that you’re closed and not visit.

You should also be monitoring customer communications with your business that use any sites that display your business’ information. You don’t have to respond to these reviews or comments if you do not feel confident in your abilities to politely engage your customers, but if you regularly update review sites and other sites that display your business’ information then visitors will know that you’re monitoring your online presence and that you are (hopefully) working to fix any shortfalls that may be outlined in customer reviews or comments.

As a bonus, there are many tourism sites that are providing business listings. Get in touch with Williamson County, Southernmost or Carbondale tourism bureaus and ask about what listing services they have available to local businesses. Some may cost money, but some of these tourism organizations offer services that will cost your business nothing out-of-pocket.

These aren’t just listings, they’re opportunities. They will not only help your business, but our region. Like the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships.

Nathan Colombo is a Carbondale native, stand-up comedian, and marketing professional. His small business, Brand Advocacy Group, Inc, provides digital media services for other small, local businesses in and around Southern Illinois.

Author : NATHAN

Source : http://thesouthern.com/business/southern-business-journal/social-media-and-business-get-internet-ready-for-eclipse/article_7d12e081-ca02-5d72-8bac-9a38ea04f07a.html

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