If you are managing or marketing a local business, you’re probably already benefiting from Google My Business, a free tool with resources to help increase your business visibility and help you connect with your customers.
The fact is that the Google My Business suite is one of the most effective tools to support your SEO efforts and to aid with effective geo-location. Additionally, Google My Business allows you to connect with real customers through Google Plus and facilitates two-way conversations via Google Hangouts.
As far as feature set is concerned, Google My Business gives Yelp a run for their money. Even when Yelp remains dominant in terms of traffic and trustworthiness, the reality is that when customers conduct a search and find your site, they are likely to find it in association with one of the many features of Google My Business, whether it is Google Maps or by looking at the cumulative star ratings displaying via rich snippets under the main search result for your business.
Up until a few weeks ago, there was a missing piece to the engagement puzzle that gave Yelp a significant edge, but that is no longer a barrier with the recent introduction of Google Local Guides.
What Is Google Local Guides?
Think about Google Local Guides as an upgraded, more integrated version of Yelp Elite Squad. Through reviews, face-to-face events, meet-ups, and other interactive engagements, participants of Google Local Guides stand to earn different level badges (currently level 1 to 4) that will activate a myriad of digital and real-life benefits, from exclusive invites to the right to display influential badges on Google Maps and receive special gifts, as well as connect with other influential reviewers in your community.
Why Google Local Guides Are Promising
One of the most valuable differentiators between the Yelp Elite Squad and Google Local Guides relates to how Google has managed to integrate Google Plus profiles in such a way that anonymity is not really an option. A person with a transparent identity and more of their real-life social network interacting with them online is less likely to engage in malicious rants and more likely to provide useful, positive business to local shops.
Can My Google My Business Profile Review Other Businesses?
Your corporate identity is not set up to become a reviewing member of Google Local Guides, but your personal Google Plus profile is. A little later, we will explore why this truly matters when it comes to growing your online reputation and developing a strong, network-based marketing model.
4 Awesome Ways to Leverage Your Personal Profile on Google Local Guides
Be an Early Adopter and Start Influencing Your Community and Supporting Satellite Businesses
If you have not yet joined Google Local Guides, then please do it now. Being an early adopter comes with a multitude of perks including awesome invites that will provide you radical amplification to your local social networks. The people you meet in these networks will remember you, and as a corollary will recall your venue or business as a viable option when seeking the products or services you offer.
In addition to engaging in face-to-face, sponsored events, take time to write honest, content-rich reviews for businesses and organizations that provide support services for your business. For example, if you are a local realtor and utilize the services of landscapers or contractors, then take time to review their services. Not only will they thank you for it, but you will also increase recall, and you will be the first in mind when it comes to making a personal recommendation.
Another creative way for realtors to leverage the tool is by providing reviews to local services and inviting their customers to check their Google Local Guides profile, using it as an introductory guide when they are new to the community and are looking for endorsed and trustworthy businesses to provide services and entertainment.
Join Meet-Ups, Connect, and Consider Hosting
Meet-ups, exclusive get-togethers, and parties for members of Google Local Guides give you access to individuals who stand a far greater chance of reviewing your business than the average customer. Take time to get to know the members of your local guides, and go the extra mile by hosting an event, especially if you run a venue such as a restaurant, bar, or other forms of hospitality or foodservice. In hosting an event, you will give other members of the community a direct opportunity to review your offering.
Become the Go-To Person to Test the Waters of Consumer Opinion
By learning to navigate Google Local Guides and engaging with other members of the community, you will be privy to opinions and trends that will better equip you to make marketing and product decisions that reflect the things your local community aspires to have. Study the reviews of the most prolific community members, and learn their likes and dislikes. Use the insights in shaping the way you do business and perfecting your product offering in order to become a local favorite.
Encourage Other Google Local Guides Members to Visit
Heading to a meet-up? Don’t go empty-handed. Make it a point to have business cards with creative marketing collateral such as an exclusive friends-and-family discount code, or a QR-based marketing campaign that leads the card recipient to your business and provides him or her randomized discounts or gifts.
Be sure to include other local guides members in your circles, and be intentional about sharing brand or business-related updates and promos from your Google business page into your personal profile. By connecting your social persona to your business, you add dimension and human connection that triggers credibility and a sense of community.
As an early adopter in the know you will place your business at a strategic advantage and have strong familiarity with the program to help you further advocate for your business. Step up to the plate and make this new tool part of your reputation strategy.