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2020 Industry News: The Important Updates You Missed


2020 was a year that brought a lot of change, both expected and unexpected. The same goes for platform updates in the world of localized marketing. Some of the most impactful platform changes resulted from the pandemic, while others were regularly scheduled updates. 


Throughout this blog, we’ll go through some of the biggest industry news we saw in 2020 and explain how it impacted localized marketing. As a multi-location marketer, it’s essential to stay on top of relevant industry news and understand how the updates can strengthen your localized marketing efforts to help you beat the competition. 


Google My Business Makes Significant Updates Amid COVID-19


Are you ready to elevate your digital presence on one of the most important and impactful platforms – Google My Business? The platform went through some major changes in 2020 – did you keep up? GMB was one of the platforms that brought some of the most extensive updates amid the pandemic was Google My Business (GMB). Throughout mid-March and April, Google paused users’ ability to leave reviews and for businesses to respond to reviews, except for medical facilities. The purpose of this was for the platform to focus on essential businesses, and so non-essential businesses could avoid any negative feedback concerning things that were out of their control. As companies were able to adjust to the new-normal slowly, GMB brought back ratings and reviews for all businesses.


GMB also added secondary hours to local listings. This allowed businesses to indicate if they had irregular hours due to COVID-19. For instance, at the beginning of the pandemic, many stores added “senior hours” or adjusted their hours to keep employees safe. These adjusted hours can still be shared on the business’s local listings. 


Similarly, GMB added more tools for its users to indicate what they’re doing to keep consumers healthy. If a multi-location business added curbside or delivery options, this could be indicated through the local listings. The purpose of all of these updates was to keep consumers informed in a time of uncertainty. There was already so much confusion in the early stages of the pandemic. Google was one of the first platforms to jump in and find ways to keep consumers updated with the most recent business information. 


Facebook Adds New Shop Feature


Consumers’ buying behaviors shifted as a result of the pandemic – everyone went digital, and that change happened nearly overnight. All major platforms took note and made significant changes – did your multi-location business capitalize on these updates? In what can be seen as a response to the digitally-focused world that occurred as people worldwide were encouraged to stay at home, Facebook added a new Shop feature. Facebook Shops was created to boost digital sales for businesses as in-store traffic took a major nosedive, and most were struggling during the pandemic. Facebook Shops was also expanded across Instagram and made it easy for businesses to set up a single online store on Facebook and Instagram.


Is your multi-location business already using Facebook Shops? Don’t miss out on this easy to find digital tool as it’s an extension of your existing business page – add it to your social and digital shopping arsenal. Once you set up your shop and decide which products to feature that will best speak to your local audiences, they will be featured like items in a catalog. While Facebook Shops are an incredible tool for multi-location businesses to activate during this tough time, Facebook realized that it also needed to support the consumer. To do this, Facebook added another new feature, which allowed for service indication changes on business profiles. With all these new features, determine what could empower you to work smarter, not harder, in finding ways to connect with your customers, and get your local profiles up-to-date, including the latest features from Facebook, and get your Facebook Shops up-and-running. 


Yelp Adds a COVID-19 Banner and Expands Its Features 


Yelp – while some multi-location marketers don’t see the benefit in this particular platform, did you know that the information housed within your local profiles on Yelp actually fuels search results for Siri, Apple Maps, Amazon Alexa, and Bing Voice Search? That just raised the Yelp stakes! Like Google and Facebook, Yelp also made changes as a result of the pandemic, such as adding a COVID-19 banner to its pages early on that businesses could update with information about their business that may have changed. This is another example of how digital platforms made significant updates to their platforms to reduce confusion throughout the pandemic. 


Yelp’s COVID-19 banner allows multi-location businesses to highlight that business hours and in-store options may differ due to COVID-19. Through the banner, companies will highlight whether or not they are enforcing social distancing, capacity restrictions, whether or not they require a mask, and any employee requirements they currently have in place. Rather than having consumers actively seek out this information from local businesses, businesses can be proactive and provide it to them. Don’t make consumers search for anything – if they can’t find the important information they desire, they’ll move on to your competition faster than you can imagine. 


Yelp has since expanded its feature updates to help businesses support social distancing through a waitlist feature and allow restaurants to upload their digital menus to their local Yelp profiles. If your multi-location business is on Yelp and not taking advantage of these features, you’re missing out on key engagements with potential customers. 


Google My Business Increases Messaging Functionality


Whew – that was a lot of COVID updates. It’s finally time for a few platform updates that aren’t directly related to the pandemic! While COVID-19 has been the headline story for most of the year, there are other platform updates worth mentioning. For instance, GMB increased its messaging functionality in several steps over the past year. One of the first steps Google took to improve its messaging functionality was to allow more businesses to engage with their consumers through direct messages in Google Maps and GMB listings. This platform update gave companies the ability to add a messaging option into their customer service platforms, and with Google being the first, and sometimes only, place for consumers to find key information about a business to make a purchase decision, you MUST activate all new features launched by GMB.


The update also provides consumers with more opportunities to message businesses, and businesses more chances to respond. In addition to adding messaging options, Google created smart replies and customizable features that companies can use when replying to messages. These smart replies enable consumers to get the answers to crucial questions they have without having to wait on a personalized response.


Google added another update to its messaging features that now allow consumers to message your multi-location business through Google Posts. Similarly, if a consumer tries to call your business and your business is unavailable, the customer will be asked if they want to send a message instead. Your business can then respond to the messages through your Google My Business account, Google Maps, or Search. All of these messaging updates signal that Google is trying to move beyond a traditional search platform, and aligning itself with more socially-focused features. If you want to take your digital presence on the top search platform to the next level, capitalize on these features,  engage with consumers, expand your reach, and win more business. 


Instagram Introduces Instagram Reels 


This blog wouldn’t be a recap of 2020 industry news if we didn’t talk about Instagram Reels. Earlier in the year, Instagram introduced Instagram Reels, a new way for consumers and businesses to create short, entertaining videos on Instagram. Like Tik-Tok, Instagram Reels allows you to record and edit 15-second videos with audio, video, and other creative effects. 

If you want a creative way to engage with your target audiences, Instagram Reels are worth exploring. Consumers interact and engage with this creative, short video content – make that meaningful connection and find innovative ways to weave Instagram Reels into your existing localized content strategy. Professional production is not the focus here – showing your location’s personality is. 


The videos created through Instagram Reels can be shared on your newsfeed. Depending on the size of your business’s Instagram account following, it may be eligible to be highlighted in a new section on the Explore page. The more your multi-location business tests new localized marketing tactics on various local search and social platforms, the better you understand what works best for your business. 


As you can see, there were many important industry news updates that occurred in 2020. Moving into 2021, what will the next updates look like? At SOCi, we’ll ensure that you get the latest industry news and get tips for how to add them to your localized marketing efforts. Not only will we bring you the most recent industry news, but we can also help you crush your localized marketing goals. SOCi is the central command for multi-location marketers and the all-in-one platform for your localized marketing needs. For more information on how SOCi can help your multi-location business, request a demo today!