How has the social media revolution affected multi-location businesses?

In the past, it was enough for businesses with multiple locations to coordinate advertising with the national or regional headquarters and rely on mass media like print and broadcast ads with a slight level of customization based on area. There simply wasn't a way to reach individuals and small, geographically centered groups outside of direct mail, which is effective but has plenty of limitations.

While mass media is still an effective force in advertising and connecting with customers, it's no longer as universal or as powerful as it once was. Social media has proven itself as an unparalleled tool for connecting with people on local and individual levels, with the additional benefits of being accessible from a variety of locations and deeply customizable. What does the explosion of social networks mean for multi-location businesses?

Here's a look at some major shifts seen since social media hit the mainstream for people and businesses:

Businesses on Social is Becoming More Accepted

Consumers like using social platforms in their personal lives and have generally come to accept the presence of businesses, especially when it feels personalized to their interests. Social media both increases the level of contact individuals can have with businesses and provides them more options for getting in touch or finding information related to a company. The increased practicality of dialogue means the public is more vocal about positive and negative experiences and expects businesses to respond. They also expect to find helpful and accurate information on social profiles.

Local Social Signals Influence Search Rank

One of the biggest changes specifically affecting multi-location businesses is the combined need for and opportunity to reach customers on the local level. A strong social strategy improves a multi-location businesses visibility in local search and gives customers what they're looking for. While national or global social accounts serve a purpose, they do little to highlight individual locations and drive consumers to them. This means each location needs a consistent presence on social media - an active profile that provides important locational and contact information and interacts with customers. This localized, two-way interaction is an element that is very new in marketing terms and especially powerful.

The equally important standing of each location also has to be considered, and this ties into consistent distribution of information across multiple social profiles. Providing accurate and consistent name, address - both for the Web and physical - and phone number data is critical both for customers looking for your location and to boost outcomes on search engine results pages. E-consultancy provided the reminder that this NAP data is among the most important for localized SEO and marketing. Without it, one of the major advantages of a localized social media strategy is negated.

"A strong social strategy improves local SEO and gives customers what they're looking for."

Engagement Metrics Gain Acceptance

Directly quantifying the impact of social media can be difficult due to the relevance of existing measurements, the ability of businesses to develop more effective measurements and the simple fact that social media is new and still growing. That doesn't mean social media is an ineffective outreach channel, however. Forbes shared metrics from CMO's 2014 survey that displayed significant year-over-year growth in engagement in various forms for businesses on social media, as well as concepts like customer acquisition costs. In general, businesses see success when they properly engage consumers in one-to-one and many-to-one situations on social media.

Multi-location businesses also have to consider the ongoing maintenance and use of these profiles. Without a clear strategy and somewhat regular posting schedule, these pages won't see much use by customers and a major benefit is lost.