A couple years back I did a post outlining why you should consider demographic and audience when planning a social media strategy. The post dove into things like identifying how people engage your industry content, insight into the actual demographic of the community and finding niche specific networks to build your foundation. While the foundations still hold true I thought I would look specifically at how one might identify social networks to engage in if their doing business in a local setting.

When it comes to establishing yourself on social networks as a local business the foundation is the same. You want to be where your customers are and you want to understand early on how your potential customers engage on the social network, but once you've found where they are how do you know where to start?

Is It a Local Citation?

While it's probably not the ideal reason to establish yourself on a social network, as a local business you want as many data points available with your business contact information as possible. As it stands having a Google+ Local listing is going to be vital as a local business and since this will be the focal point of your online presence in Google moving forward it would be best to establish some sort of presence here even if your users aren't quite there yet. Many of the companies I work with post a weekly question or deal to help entice users who visit their page. The engagement is low, but at least the content is getting in front of people who may encounter the page from Google's local search results.

Facebook is another social network whose pages can strengthen a local presence. In fact, Facebook showed up as a top citation in nearly every major city in the U.S. showcased in and Whitespark's Best Citation Sources by U.S. City. Again, if your audience isn't here this may be an opportunity to be less involved, but at least make a presence. Some options could be filling your timeline with your company history as a means of telling your company story. This at least establishes you on the network and creates a presence that can fuel your local efforts. That being said, I find it hard to believe these days that a business can't find an audience on Facebook.

Are the Natives Active

Another great way to figure out where you should invest your time is by establishing where your locals are actually active. It can be fairly easy to identify if there are users from your area on a social network, but are they actually engaging in the community? Take a look at some of the user profiles from your area and see if they are regularly updating and engaging other users. If they are, this is probably a place you want to stake your claim. If it's just a bunch of users who established profiles and never returned it's probably not worth your time. *cough* Google+ *cough*

Does It Make Sense For Your Business?

This probably should have been the first point, but I felt that it's probably a more popular concept and I figured I'd save it for last. The bottom line is that as a local small business your time and resources are limited so before you take a dive into any particular network you have to ask yourself if it makes sense for your business. Pinterest is a huge social network that is sure to have a number of local users you can engage, but if you or your product is predominantly targeted toward the male audience Pinterest probably isn't the best place for you to be spending your time. The key, as with anything, is to make sure you only involve yourself in things that make sense for your business.

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