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What Are Location-Based Services and How Can My Business Make the Most of Them?

Social media and the Internet have enabled people oceans away from each other to make meaningful connections (or share cat pictures). But as a small business, you’re probably more interested in connecting with your neighbors than with the other side of the world.

This is where location-based services come in.

What are Location-Based Services?

Have you ever heard of Foursquare or checking in on Facebook? How about Yelp? These are all location-based services.

Location-based services (LBS) are web-based services that utilize location information from GPS-enabled mobile devices to provide local data and recommendations to users.

According to Google, 95% of smartphone users have searched for local information using their mobile device. Imagine you have to go on a business trip to a city you’ve never visited. You arrive and you’re starving. How do you know the best places to eat? You could stop someone on the street and ask them, you could take a gamble on that corner café, or you could use Yelp to see the highest-rated Chinese restaurants within a quarter mile. This is what location-based services are all about.

Are Location-Based Services Right for My Small Business?

According to Econsultancy, 27% of companies planned to implement location-based marketing in 2013. As smartphones become more ubiquitous and businesses begin to leverage location information, the use of location-based services will rise.

Here are a few key questions that may help you determine whether location-based services are right for your business.

  • Do you have a physical brick-and-mortar location that customers can walk into? (retail, restaurants, hospitality, etc.)
  • Can you afford to offer deals or coupons in order to entice prospects?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should seriously consider location-based services.

How Can I Get Started?

The first thing to do is claim ownership of any listings you can find for your business. Facebook, Google Places, Yelp, and Foursquare are great places to start. Even if you didn’t create and/or don’t maintain your listings, they probably still exist. Once you claim these listings, you can manage the information and messaging.

The most common type of engagement in location-based services is the “check-in.” You may have seen this on Facebook or Foursquare. Checking in allows a person to tell their followers that they are at your location. This is free advertising with built-in social proof!

Consider putting up decals or signs with your social media profiles on them. Encourage check-ins by offering discounts, deals, or other special perks.

You can also take advantage of location-based services to ask for reviews. You’re already doing your best to create wonderful experiences for your customers. Why not encourage them to help you evangelize your brand by writing positive reviews?

A third method that you can use is targeted advertising. As more and more data is collected and people use GPS-enabled services, mobile advertising platforms such as Google AdWords and Facebook are giving business owners more options for ad targeting. Location is one of the most common options used.

People are looking for local information online. That’s a simple fact. The question is what they will find when they search. Will they find your small business at all? If they do, will you stand out from the rest? By leveraging location-based services early on, you can win more business from customers looking for products and services near them.

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