When I launched this site in early 2009, one of the compelling reasons for doing so was that I was struck by how many of the businesses in Leslieville are locally owned and operated. Another big observation was (and still is) how proud most Leslievillers, residents and business owners, are of their neighbourhood and its vitality.
So it seemed like a good opportunity to create an online dimension to Leslieville where all inhabitants could interact, communicate, and expand their relationships with fellow Leslievillers.
While discussion and interaction on the site has continually grown since launch, what has been noticeably lacking is the participation of local businesses in the online community.
Here are 10 ways (8 of them free) that local businesses should leverage TheLeslieviller.com to connect with Leslievillers:
- Create and update a profile page for your business.
Some local businesses have done a great job of this already. Be sure to include your business address, contact information, a description of what you do, and more. With more than 1,600 members on the site, you have a built in base of local people to interact with (unlike trying to build a list from scratch on Facebook). Creating a profile is free, so why not have one for your business and a separate one for you as an individual?
- Include your logo on your profile.
The avatar profile image is used throughout the website when activity is being promoted (especially on the homepage). So if you use your logo for your business profile image, it will give you quite a bit of site visibility when you're active on the site.
- Share your expertise.
Every member profile includes a fully functional blog. More than 90% of members on the site do not use this feature. It's a great opportunity for you to write and post short, helpful articles that leverage your expertise or special knowledge. Blog posts usually avoid blatant self-promotion and focus on giving the reader useful information or advice. What a great way to prove you're the best local option for your area of expertise. And re-use content you've already written for your website, brochures, or other blogs. It doesn't have to be original as long as it's yours!
- Participate in relevant discussions.
Not all discussion threads on the site are relevant to your business or expertise, but some of them certainly will be. And there's no reason not to start some interesting discussion threads that are closer to what you do. Again, these threads usually aren't self-promotional in nature, so focus on adding value and being relevant to the discussion when you post.
- 'Friend' your regular customers.
Just like on Facebook, you can 'friend' other members on the site. These friends are displayed on your profile page. What a great way to show viewers of your page that you're connected to the community. As a bonus, you and your logo also show up on the profile pages of everyone else you've befriended.
- Offer exclusive specials on your profile to measure success.
Want to measure if the time you're spending on TheLeslieviller.com is generating any business? Extend some compelling special offers only on the site, and keep track of how many people ask for that special when they walk through your doors or call you. If you don't share the special anywhere else, you can measure the response rate quite accurately. You don't need to give stuff away for free, but make sure the offer is compelling enough to make people take notice. Discounts of 5% or 10% usually don't work very well in this context.
- Link between your website and your profile.
Links to and from popular websites help you rank higher on search engine results pages. Since TheLeslieviller.com gets quite a bit of traffic, having links both directions between your profile page and your website (if you have one) can help you rank higher for Leslieville-related searches.
- Buy a banner ad, sponsor an email campaign, or run some promotional Twitter messages.
The only thing in this list that costs money! Banner ads have been placed strategically throughout the site to offer graphical, high visibility opportunities to promote your business not only to 1,600+ members, but also to 3,000+ other visitors every month. Email campaigns go out daily and weekly to members who have registered. Over 800 people follow @leslieviller on Twitter. We can get you instant exposure to thousands of people. More ad info here.
- Post in the classifieds.
This one speaks for itself. Free classified ads just for Leslieville.
- Join or create groups.
Groups on the site have formed for a variety of interest areas. A couple of businesses have even created groups for their customers and invited them to join. Whether you participate in existing groups that are related to your business, or create a new one for your customers, groups are a great way to keep in touch with people who share a common interest. Try not to be too promotional here either...people join groups to interact with other like-minded people.
So next time you're having a slow day in the shop, start chipping away at this list. If you invest the same amount of time in this local social networking site that most businesses do in Facebook, I suspect you'll be pleased with the results.
If you have other advice or experiences to share, please leave a comment below!