Like it or not, businesses are being evaluated through social media by the public. Web searches show good, bad and even ugly evaluations.
But the electronic postings also offer businesses a big marketing opportunity, said Mike Byrnes, the local business advisor with the New Mexico Small Business Development Center.
"I've been performing what I call my Ruidoso Walk About," Byrnes said of the brainstorm that came to him early this year. "I'm dropping in on businesses and letting them know about these aspects of marketing. And explaining how they can leverage or make the most out of these without spending a lot of money or any money at all. They are in the public eye and there are people coming to town who are walking around with cell phones, smart phones, and they're making some decisions about where they're going to buy whatever based on these reviews and based on these listings."
"I guess it was in early January, it occurred to me that one of the opportunities for local businesses that exists and hasn't been fully exploited is the online free listings available from various companies like Google, and Yelp and Tripadvisor and Urban Table and a number of others," Byrnes said.
Over the last year or so Google has evolved its mapping to include the listing aspect, called review sites.
"And it's a means by which people who have used the services or eaten at the restaurant or spent a night at the hotel, can evaluate their experience. So it's both
an advertising and a review opportunity."
Byrnes noted Google purchased Zagat, a well established review website that primarily focused on restaurants.
"People for many years would go and eat dinner and then review. There would be public reviews of the restaurant. That's what's evolving online today."
Now take the online services to the smart phone.
"You can download the free app that says Tripadvisor or whatever and then based on your GPS, it knows you're in Ruidoso," Byrnes said. "It may in fact know you're on Mechem in the 2600 block and you might say, 'Where do I go for lunch?'"
The smart phones are sometimes used to come up with an answer.
"One of the things I ask when I drop in local businesses, 'Have you ever seen anyone standing out on the street with a cell phone not talking on the phone but looking intently at the cell phone?' And they say absolutely. If you drive up and down Sudderth on a weekend, I guarantee you will see someone with a cell phone and they're not talking into it, they're looking at it."
Byrnes said just about every business that has been in operation for a year or more is listed on one or more of the review websites. And what is there is not necessarily something that the business submitted. But once on a review site, businesses can claim the listing and make updates, something Byrnes recommends.
"They should tend to this listing. They should complete it -- fill it out with all the information about it. They should address reviews, good, bad or indifferent. Engage with and show that they are tending to that review. The more good reviews you get, the higher the ranking."
And use the reviews to improve the business.
"Steve Gomez at the Cornerstone Bakery is a very firm believer. He prints out
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