Social networks give small businesses new local targeting options

Facebook and Twitter offer new ways to schedule posts and reach specific audiences; mobile marketing service Pontiflex integrates social updates with automated emails.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

It seems like the word of the week for social networking companies is "local."

First, Foursquare unfurled a new feature that lets businesse send promotions and updates to followers based on whether or not they have checked in near specific locations. But Facebook and Twitter have also announced improvements to their local targeting features this week, and the same theme is behind an update from mobile marketing technology company Pontiflex.

What's new?

Twitter's "Targeted Tweets" function is an extension of its existing "Promoted Tweets" service, which is used by advertisers to offer discounts or special content. 

Targeted Tweets is pitched as a way for companies to make an offer just to specific communities, such as followers in the New York area. That way, they don't have to barrage people who aren't relevant for the offer with unnecessary updates. 

The tweets can also be scheduled, so that a rolling introduction that takes place over a period of days or weeks is accommodated appropriately.

"As with all Promoted Tweets, advertisers only pay when users engage with it, and Tweets that generate the most engagement are likely to appear more often," the company wrote about the new feature. "Simply put, advertisers are rewarded for messages that resonate with audiences."

Facebook has likewise updated the administration tools associated with Facebook pages so that businesses can create and schedule page posts anywhere from 15 minutes to six months in advance.

In addition, it has created a way to create Page post that don't show up on a Page timeline but DO show up on the right-hand navigation panel if an appropriate follower visits your page. This would allw you to make offers to certain local visitors without running afoul of Facebook's rules about what's appropriate to post on a Page timeline.

Another less well-known company, Pontiflex, also introduced a service this week that might be of interest to local businesses that are using the Constant Contact email marketing service.

The tool, called Social FollowUp, lets small businesses send automated email messages to people have signed up for their mobile ads by repurposing updates that they are already sending to Twitter or Facebook. 

One of the companies using the service is 61 Local, a company in Brooklyn, N.Y., that specializes in crafted beers. Now, whenever the company sends out social network updates about local events or promotions, that information automatically gets sent out to people that have opted into the company's mobile updates via email.

"The fact that the emails are completely automated is huge," said David Liatti, the owner of 61 Local. "As a small businesses we don't have the time to design and manage a complicated email program. Social FollowUp helps us take our Facebook and Twitter updates even further without having to do anything extra."

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