SoLoMo: your new best friend

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So when was the last time you used your phone to look up a good place to eat? How about the last time you used your phone to check prices on a product while you were standing in a store aisle? Or perhaps you checked on movie showtimes on your phone while sitting in the restaurant. If all the reports, surveys, and research that I am reading are true, then we are just starting to scratch the surface of what the world of mobile is going to do for us and our businesses. My smartphone has already become a tool in my tool belt that sits equal with my pc. And guess what? More and more of your customers are exactly like me.

Enter one of the latest buzz terms going around. SoLoMo. I didn’t create it, but I wish I had. It stands for “social, local, mobile”. It takes into account 3 of the most important aspects of being successful as a business today: use the hottest way of connecting with your customers (social), while doing it in the medium that your customers use daily (mobile), and tapping into the bread and butter of most small businesses… local.

I am getting ready to list for you the 7 steps to take if you want to jump into the SoLoMo arena, but I should say up front that some businesses probably don’t need to worry with this. There aren’t many things that are one-size-fits-all, and if you are in the hazardous waste disposal business then you might not find this stuff very useful. Having said that, let’s get to those 7 things:

1. Plan – I know, an ingenious first step, right? But oddly, a step that many businesses skip. They create a Foursquare venue because their competitor has one, without actually knowing what they want to do with it. You have to plan what you want to accomplish with your Foursquare check-in special, your Twitter account, your text messaging outreach, your Facebook offers promotion, or your Groupon offer. Here’s an idea… write it down. Talk about it. Tell your employees. Get everyone on the same page. Plan.

2. Establish a presence – now you have to make sure that you ‘set up shop’ inside all those tools. Create the Foursquare venue, the Google Places page, Yelp page, and so forth. Make sure that you are there where your customers are going on their phones. Also think about establishing an account with Groupon, LivingSocial, Loopt, Where, and Google Offers (limited avail).

3. Learn the ropes – I tell people all the time, you can’t know how to use Foursquare for your business until you use it yourself. So use all those location-based and mobile services. Know what a user goes through and what the experience is like, so that you’ll be able to provide the very best experience for your customers. Don’t try using it for your business till you live in the trenches for a little bit.

4. Engage – once you flip the switch to start using those things with your business, then engage your customers. Answer their questions. Help them. Be proactive. Listen to them and actually respond when they reach out to you on any of those places. And be generous in your offers. Would you jump through hoops to get something stupid? No, you wouldn’t. So don’t do that with your customers.

5. Educate your customers – regardless of how many smartphones are out there and all the stuff that we do with them, some folks will be confused or inexperienced about some of the SoLoCo tools. Foursquare is still growing in popularity and I talk to people all the time who haven’t heard of it. But once I show them, they get it. Be prepared for you and your staff to explain things to customers and encourage them to engage with you.  It will pay off.

6. Monitor – you won’t know how you are doing unless you collect some stats and see how it goes. Thankfully, there are lots of those tools out there. Most of the tools I already mentioned have built-in metrics so you can at least see some basic data on how you are doing. But if you want to go deeper, then you might want to make a small monthly investment in some monitoring tools.  I personally love Hootsuite myself, but Convince & Convert published a fantastic article about tools designed for small businesses, and small budgets. Read it here.

7. Repeat – if you look on your shampoo bottle you will find instructions on how to use it. Seriously. It says ‘lather, rinse, repeat’. If you took it literally, then you would use the whole bottle in one session, right? Because repeat means… well… repeat.  But when it comes to this SoLoMo, that is exactly what it means. You don’t stop. You learn from what you did, repeat what was successful, stop what wasn’t successful, and keep on keepin on. This whole SoLoMo thing needs to become just like your payroll, cleaning the bathroom, and paying your bills. It needs to become part of the fabric of what you do.

So I convinced you? Awesome. Now what do you do? Step 1 my friends. Step 1.

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