Find and Engage Locals

Hello from Grand Rapids!

I'm here for another Retail Success Summit hosted by Whizbang Training. Be sure to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter as I'll be sharing tips and tools form other retail experts who are here at the conference.

This week's focus is on participating in the local conversation.

To increase foot traffic to your store in July, especially for an event like 'Christmas in July,' which I shared some tips on how to leverage this sale and event concept in last week's focus that you can find here, you need to connect with the locals.

Years ago I used to manage social media profiles for businesses across the country. One business I worked with was a local restaurant that wasn't using social media. I set up all their accounts and one of the first things I did was connect with the local audience to increase their following and exposure to the people who would come in and eat, the locals!

How did I find local people to connect with?

  • I used Twellow.com and searched for people in our city, and surrounding cities. I then clicked on each of the Twitter user profiles and looked at the last time they updated, to ensure they were active on Twitter. If they were, I followed them and added them to a local Twitter List.
  • I went to the local chamber's Twitter page and followed the people they were following, and their followers (after ensuring they were active users).
  • I looked at local influencers, people who had a large following and looked at the hashtags they were using. I found locally focused hashtags like #city #region and started using those when I was talking about the restaurant.
  • Each week I'd go to my local list on Twitter and RT (retweet which means 'share') user's posts that were interesting or funny or inspiring, that our audience would enjoy.
  • Each week I'd comment on people's posts and give my two cents, advice, recommendations, invite them to the restaurant, etc.
  • On Facebook, we leveraged our email list to invite current customers to like us. We wanted to connect with them online, and stay top of mind sharing daily specials and pictures of our food.
  • Each week I liked and networked (by leaving comments) with the local university's Facebook pages and other local businesses in the area.

Finding and following the locals took a couple weeks, about 10 hours total. Networking each week took about 30 minutes a week.

This was back in 2008-2009 so Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook Ads didn't exist yet, so I primarily used Twitter and a Facebook page. If you're using these "newer" platforms, you can do the above on each network to find and connect with locals, (not each site has a directory of users like Twitter does with Twellow). Facebook makes it easy to target locals through their ads platform.

The key here is to follow users who are local, active, and fit your perfect customer description.

Then, you want to network with them. Make sure you don't just follow people and post updates about your store and products, you need to comment and engage on other local businesses and consumers's profiles and add value to the conversation.

If you found this tip helpful please share it with a retailer friend. I'll "see" you next week!