As we begin to navigate the new-normal with businesses slowly re-opening amid COVID-19, it’s essential to consider how your multi-location business can reinvest its localized marketing strategies. Throughout this blog, we’ll cover which local search and social platforms have made changes due to the pandemic. Consumer behaviors have caused this shift to digital-first, and it’s essential for multi-location businesses to have a localized presence on the key search and social platforms (Facebook, GMB, and Yelp) to meet consumers where they’re researching purchase decisions, and spending even more time online. We will also review some additional strategies that you should consider incorporating into your localized marketing efforts to solve for this new normal. 

 Facebook for Business Updates

 Over the past few months, Facebook made several updates to its platform to accommodate changes put into place due to COVID-19. As your business begins to re-open, it’s crucial to take advantage of these new updates. They can help your localized marketing efforts and align with the idea that consumers are spending more time online, which is not a trend that is new, as evidenced by data found in our 2020 Localized Marketing Benchmark Report

 One of the most significant changes that your multi-location business should be aware of is the addition of Facebook Shops. Facebook Shops will be an extension of your existing Facebook Page tools, and according to Facebook, should be relatively easy to set up. Your multi-location business can determine which products it would like to feature in its shop, and the items will be showcased like a catalog. If your multi-location business is still lacking foot-traffic due to COVID-19, Facebook Shops provide a great opportunity to recoup some of that lost revenue. 

Similarly, Facebook has added a “Business Nearby” feature. Using a “Business Nearby” feature, Facebook users will be able to get the latest information on local stores, message them, places orders, or buy products. The feature highlights posts from local businesses so that users can gain insight into what the company is offering. The purpose of this feature is to increase virtual foot traffic to your business. 

 Facebook has also allowed businesses to indicate temporary service changes on their profile. Facebook allows businesses to mark on their Facebook pages whether or not their business is open with service changes or temporarily closed due to COVID-19 as seen below. 

Google My Business (GMB) Updates

 Google My Business has also made a significant number of changes throughout the pandemic. When stay at home orders were first put in place, GMB limited the number of their services on GMB profiles. For instance, businesses weren’t able to see new reviews and its Q&A feature was temporarily unavailable unless the questions were related to businesses in the medical field. These restrictions have since been removed, and GMB is now functioning with more options than pre-COVID. 

 For instance, GMB added support links to its profile, which would allow multi-location businesses to add a donation link or a gift card link to their profile. If your multi-location business is struggling financially due to the impact of the current pandemic, you should consider adding support links. 

 GMB also added a new feature that allows you to include secondary hours in your profile. If your business currently has senior hours in place or delivery or take-out hours that differ from your dine-in hours, these changes are highlighted in the secondary hours’ section of your GMB profile. It’s important to minimize confusion for your consumers during this challenging time, and secondary hours is a great way to do this. 

Yelp Updates

 Multi-location marketers also saw a few platform updates on Yelp over the past few months. One of the biggest changes Yelp made was creating an advisory banner for COVID-19 that businesses could place on their Yelp profiles. This banner allowed multi-location businesses to edit this alert to communicate specific updates about your business in response to COVID-19. As mentioned previously, it’s essential to keep your consumers informed during this time, and the Yelp advisory banner provides an easy way to manage your communications. 

 Yelp also fast-tracked a new product development during this time. Yelp is adding a new category to its platform called “virtual service offerings.” This feature will cater to certain activities your business is currently hosting virtually. For instance, if your multi-location business is a hair salon and is providing tutorials on how to make your hair coloring last, you can add this to your virtual service offerings. 

Yelp found that businesses were already adding this information to their profiles, so they decided to create a particular area where it could be displayed and stored. Although this is not yet available, make sure your multi-location business is staying on top of this update to get the most out of your localized marketing efforts. 

 Additional Localized Marketing Strategies 

 Now that we’ve gone through the most important local search and social platform updates that we saw over the past few months, let’s get into other localized marketing strategies your multi-location business should consider in this post-pandemic digital world. 

       1. Chatbots

 Chatbots are an excellent tool for your multi-location business to invest in as you navigate your localized marketing strategy for the comeback. Many businesses have been forced to reduce their headcount or trim their budgets, and chatbots provide an efficient way to communicate with your consumers and take a lot of the work off your overworked marketing team. Once chatbots are set-up, they do a lot of the work for you! Chatbots can communicate with your target audience, answer any questions they may have in real-time, and give them the information they may not be able to find online. Chatbots are also a win for the consumer because rather than having to sit on the phone or wait for an email response, chatbots provide more timely communication. 

 For more information on the benefits of chatbots and how they can strengthen your localized marketing strategy, check out our blog on the topic. If your multi-location business is looking for a chatbot solution built for multi-location businesses, SOCi SmartBot™ is here for you! SOCi SmartBot™ is always on and never misses a question or lead. The first of its kind, this Messenger chatbot delivers localized, proactive responses to commonly asked questions. It can drive call-to-actions, including calls, website clicks, appointment setting, purchases, and more!

       2. Localized Social Ads

 COVID-19 slowed the demand for ads on local search and social platforms momentarily, but that demand is back. If your multi-location business is looking for ways to stand out online, ads are a great opportunity. Many businesses had to pause their ad spend amidst the pandemic, so it’s the perfect time for your business to invest in ads if you have the means to do so. Facebook saw that the CPM for video ads has also rebounded close to what it was pre-coronavirus, highlighting that consumers are ready to start seeing ads again. While there is not a lot of data currently out there due to the novelty of this situation, it’s clear that localized social ads are worth investing in to further the reach of your target audience.  

 While your multi-location business should still be mindful of the tone-of-voice and message you’re spreading during this, it’s time to start reinvesting in your localized ad strategy. For help managing your ads across your business locations and local search and social platforms, SOCi can help! SOCi Ads PLUS allows corporate to pre-set ad content, targeting, geofencing, lead gen forms, and other time-consuming aspects of social advertising. Then, the local business needs to log in, enter an amount, and put their capital to work. By simplifying this process, brands will see locations increase their use of social ads for an improved marketing ROI.

       3. Google Q&A

 GMB’s Google Q&A feature is also a great tool to invest in as you prepare your localized marketing strategy for the comeback. Google Q&A allows consumers to ask questions on your GMB profile and provides an opportunity for anyone to respond. Your business needs to respond to these questions promptly, similar to ratings and reviews. While there are already so many changes that have happened due to COVID-19, you can provide them a sense of stability by answering any questions they may have efficiently. Our recent blog highlights other ways Google Q&A can propel your localized marketing efforts to the next level and help differentiate you from competitors. 

 As you can see, there are many opportunities for your multi-location business to reinvest in your localized marketing strategy as your business re-opens. If your business needs help taking your localized marketing strategy to the next level, SOCi can help! For more information on how SOCi can assist in your localized marketing efforts and help your business level-up, email us today at help@meetsoci.com

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