Use Geolocation Services to Promote Your Freelance Business

geolocationGeolocation is a hot topic in technology circles these days. Twitter has already added geotagging capability to tweets and Facebook plans to release a new location-based feature in late April. Google introduced Latitude in 2009, giving us all the ability to share our exact location with our friends at any given moment. Foursquare, Gowalla, and other location-based social networks are attracting new users at a rapid pace with no signs of slowing down, and “checking in” with these apps has become somewhat commonplace among the more technologically savvy (translate: geeks. I can say that because I guess I am one.)

So what does this have to do with your freelance business? Absolutely nothing, if you choose to ignore the next big step in online awareness and decide to relegate your business to the tried and true methods of marketing and self-promotion. I have only recently jumped on the bandwagon myself, but in doing so I have begun to recognize the potential for raising awareness and strengthening the branding of my business in my local community, as well as some simple search engine optimization (SEO) value they can provide. This post will examine a few of these services and how using them can contribute to your freelance business’s growth.


Start With Google Local Business Center

google-lbcThis is not something I had considered using, since I work from home and not in a legitimate ‘brick and mortar’ storefront, but after doing some research I realized that claiming my listing in Google’s Local Business Center (LBC) would create a lot of potential for discovery when someone searched for a designer in my local area. Think about it: how often do you use Google to look for a nearby business? Well, the LBC allows you to edit your listing as it appears on Google search pages and maps, and pretty extensively. I simply logged in and created my business listing, using my home as the mailing address. While some may say this is a security risk or providing too much information, the reality is that I have most of this information on my business cards and would provide it in a phone book listing, so it’s not anything that someone couldn’t find with a little research. I decided it was worthwhile to go ahead and provide the same information in my business listing, and now you can look up bkmacdaddy designs on Google maps!

Everything in the listing is editable, it’s free and it also provides some basic analytics. Once you set up your account you can see how many times users saw your business listing as a local search result, whether or not they clicked any of your links for more info or driving directions, and even if they clicked through to your website.

Another benefit of using LBC is that you can offer coupons on your map listing. This could be used to offer discounts to potential clients and attract local customers. You can also post about upcoming events or specials, so when someone clicks on your business they will see whatever is currently going on.

All of these tools can make your freelance business more accessible, discoverable and attractive to potential local clients in Google’s search engine and maps. Here are some of the main links to get you started:

Foursquare

foursquareWhen I set up my Foursquare account a few weeks ago it was with fear and trepidation of being sucked into yet another “latest social media craze.” I tried to stay away from using this service, especially when I kept seeing tweets about where people were, along with a link to Foursquare. I thought, “I sure don’t want everyone knowing everywhere I am all the time. Nor do I think they care. And what about security? Won’t burglars know when I’m not home by monitoring my Foursquare updates?” I still believe security is a legitimate issue, and therefore I am very careful with how and when I update.

With that said, I have begun to see some of the benefits these check-in games have. First of all, it is simple and not time-consuming at all to make a point of checking in at places whenever you are out and about. There is an app for almost any type of smart phone, and a few quick clicks gets you checked in. Next, you can choose to post your check-in on a variety of social networks (or none at all). This is where I see the potential rewards for a freelance business.

As you post a status update on Twitter or Facebook announcing your current location to the world, those who are near you may be made aware–especially if they have an account on Foursquare. This promotes real-life interaction and possible networking that otherwise may not have happened.

Another element is SEO. When you create your account, you are also creating a link back to your business’s website (if you have one). This is good for the search engines, plus when visitors check out your profile they will see your link and possibly visit your site.

Another thought is that every time you proclaim your latest check-in, you are sharing another part of who you are, which can be beneficial for those potential clients who want to work with genuine, personable people. It gives them insight and interest in who you are as a person, which puts a living breathing face on your business.

A couple personal benefits I have also discovered are:

  • I am more apt to get out of the house for a bit, rather than stay in front of my computer all day, if for no other reason than to check in somewhere.
  • There’s a bit of fun in the game aspect: you compete at your most-visited places to earn points, badges and become the “mayor” of a venue. Some venues even offer discounts or freebies to their mayor!

I am still very careful to not post too much information or especially when I am away for long periods of time. Recently I took a two-day trip out of town and checked in to a few places, but I simply made sure that no one else could see where I was when I checked in. This way I earned points without creating a security risk.

Gowalla

gowallaGowalla is probably Foursquare’s main competitor, and I noticed enough of my contacts were using this service to justify connecting with them through it. The setup is very similar to Foursquare, and just like Foursquare you can import your friends from other social networks, selecting which ones to import or not along the way. Again, you are providing a lot of the same benefits for your business, but because different people prefer different services–and you’re already checking in anyway–it makes sense to broaden the spectrum of people you could reach through these Geolocation services.

Gowalla has a slightly different game element to it. There doesn’t appear to be as much of a competition as there is an earning of rewards. At each venue you can “pick up” items on your phone app and collect them, then possibly trade them at the next one for something else you prefer. For my purposes, this was not all that relevant, but it’s a cute addition to the use of the app.

All Together Now

all-togetherOne of the coolest things I’ve learned about this setup as described is that I was easily able to find my freelance business on the two check-in services, because they use information from Google Maps to locate venues. So I started checking in to my business on both of them every time I came home to work.

Instead of tweeting that I just got back home, I simply checked in to both services and let THEM post to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. This not only gained me points in both services, but it expanded the awareness of my freelance business on all four networks simultaneously! On top of that, it only took two check-ins before I became the Mayor of bkmacdaddy designs. It was a proud moment, and I don’t think it will be possible for anyone to oust me from my title (unless my wife starts using Foursquare.)

Your Thoughts?

your-thoughtsIt is very early on in my own usage for me to make a strong determination of the benefits, but I can definitely see the potential that using these services–and others as they arise and are deemed worthy of fitting into my schedule–can have for your freelance business with extended use. Perhaps I will write a follow-up post further down the road to let you know any definitive results.

Are you using any or all of these services already? If so, what benefits have you experienced for your business? Do you think this is worth doing for your freelance business? Do you know of other ways to use these or other Geolocation services for your freelance business? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

First and last images by Shutterstock

Comments

  1. says

    I am not so sure how comfortable I am about people knowing my exact where abouts at any given time. Not that I am getting into trouble, but privacy concerns raise red flags.

    The other problem I see with location based systems, is the ability to advertise your business in the city next to yours or around your state.

  2. says

    Jordan,

    I agree regarding comfort level of sharing everywhere I am at any given time. I think you have to be very careful how you use it, and especially make sure it’s with a business focus as well as keeping security in mind.

    With Google’s Local Business Center, though, I think it’;s a no-brainer. This doesn’t have any negative effects as far as I can see, other than people knowing your home address. But if you’re truly trying to expand your business your home address is probably already public anyway, unless you use a PO box or something instead.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. says

    Very nice article! I’ve always been a bit on the skeptical side of things when thinking about using these apps. But I see your points on networking and how they can be a great thing. Thanks for lining it all out, I think i’ll definitely check them out a bit more before I decide to use them or not.

  4. says

    Great work…. I’ve been putting off Foursquare for much the same reason. Soon I will spend the first 20 minutes of my arrival, anywhere, telling the world that I am there. :)

    I’m curious how this works with businesses who are more regional (or US-wide). Currently most of my leads are not from local businesses but from various parts of the US. My advertising is also across the country.

    Is there a way this can boost that business too? Or, more likely, does it behoove one to do both (local and nationwide)?

  5. says

    Michael,

    Because I am a web designer, my business is global, and very little of it is actually local. I am hoping using these services will increase my local market. At the very least, I know they will increase my visibility in the online social media realm, and create more opportunities for connections there, so that’s already a proven benefit for me.

    I have to admit, my wife and kids give me a hard time that I make a point of checking in everywhere we go. But it really only takes about two minutes (not 20) if you have the phone apps (I use Android, but I’m sure there are iPhone & Blackberry apps too.)

    Good luck!

  6. says

    Yeah. I think you’re absolutely right. expanding your potential client base can’t hurt…and this is little to no cost. Plus I think while it’s such a small world nowadays and we’re all working remotely, there is a resurgence in local relationship-based commerce. And this is right up that alley.
    Thanks Brian!

  7. says

    Brian,
    Excellent article! I have been looking into how to expand my business in the local community for several weeks now, and this is one way! I have been slow to jump on this side of the social media bandwagon but, after your article, I have already signed up on google local business center and I am considering the other two! Thanks a lot for you helpful advice! I do agree, though, that these could become a security risk, if not handled properly.

  8. says

    I’ve unfortunately had someone misuse my location information to hurt my family and will not be participating in any social media that says where and when I am.

  9. says

    Google Local Business Center is something hive been thinking about lately. I’m also concerned that putting my home address as my business would be a good idea. One solution I’m considering is getting a P.O. box close to where I live. In my area I found very affordable boxes. for about $27 I get a 3×5 inch box for a whole year. By doing some local research maybe you can find great options.

  10. says

    None of my business is local, and I’ve been avoiding location based services, bc 1) They’re pretty annoying on twitter and 2) I don’t think anyone cares. However, that being said, I think using 4square or gowalla might be really useful when going to some kind of convention or meetup

  11. says

    Amber,

    Almost none of my business is local either, which is one of the main reasons I started using these services. I think we may be missing out on some possible local clients, and this may be a way to encourage some of those connections.

    Just like you, I think the constant tweets about where people are can be annoying, but I just ignore them. On the other hand, when I see someone mention a place nearby or that I know, it can spark discussion, which in turn can lead to any number of things. One thing that’s nice about the phone apps is they allow you to decide with every check-in if you want to post it to your social networks as a status update, so you can choose to not be annoying if you want. But then again, if you never make your location public, there’s not much point to using the service.

    Thanks for the input!

  12. says

    The Google Local Business Center is worth trying but the other two are just really annoying, especially on my twitter, it’s incredible how much 1 person can spam my twitter using these things. On a side note, I’m surprised to know that your business is mostly non-local. I find it is much easier to find local business than non-local especially since there are so many people out there to compete with online.

  13. says

    Antonio,

    Because I spend so much time online – and significantly less time out in the local community – it stands to reason that my business would be primarily online. That, paired with the fact that I’m actually a bit of an introvert – at least initially – in person and not a fan of “working the room” at networking type events or situations. It’s something I’m continually working on and hoping the more I put myself out there locally the more opportunities will arise.

    As far as the annoying tweets: I agree that in the past it was annoying, or at least noise, in my Twitter stream when I see a bunch of location tweets. Funny thing is, once I started using these services, those tweets didn’t seem so annoying anymore. It’s likely that once you’re using the services you understand a little better why others would tweet their locations.

    Thanks for contributing!

  14. says

    The best use of self promotion with foursquare was when a potential hire at the company I work for checked in at the building and left and left a comment regarding them being hired. It grabbed some attention. Sometimes I’ll leave comments at relevant locations with my contact info. Treats it like an ad.

  15. says

    Very interesting ideas here, Brian. As an online freelancer, geography hasn’t been a factor in marketing my services. However, as you point out, we should always consider prospects in our locality. Thank you for these links. Will definitely be checking them out.

  16. says

    I think this is a good read, marketing on a local level is always important, even if you work virtually. I’d be interested to hear what happened to David, as stories of people being taken advantage of by thieves for giving up their location are becoming more common these days.

    Be careful, but get yourselves out there!

    http://werkadoo.com

  17. says

    Great post. I think the true marketing takeaway of these new platforms will reveal themselves in time. For now, benefits of 4square and Gowalla are fairly obvious but not overwhelming. Google loc is, however, a terrific tool for making sure one is found when needed.

    http://www.christinaerl.com

  18. says

    I tried foursquare for the 1st time recently and it was very cool – but what’s the real difference between foursquare and a site like yelp?

  19. says

    Thanks for reminding me to update my Google local business listing. As for the other fodder about geolocational services, I checkin on Fourdquare once in a while but not for business purposes and I don’t share it with any networks other than those friends on 4sq I want to share it with.

  20. says

    I have had the same thoughts with the GeoLocation, first why would anybody be interested in where I am at? And ‘B’ what if the wrong type of person is interested in where I am at?
    I wonder if our ‘online selfs’ are superseding our real life personas, still I will try FourSquare and see if I can see any benefit for my business.

    thanks

  21. says

    I wanted to make a couple comments actually.

    In regards to Google Local Business Center (today renamed to Google Places fyi) – that is imperative for any business to be listed in there. It’s simple, free, and takes a couple minutes to validate your phone number – and it provides so much for your rankings and visibility online… Must have!

    In regards to Foursquare – I noticed you mentioned it provides a link back to your business web site. It actually does not – a personal profile can have a twitter linke and a facebook linke, while a business/venue page can only have a twitter username attached under the name, address and phone number. Nowhere does Foursquare link to a businesses site. I wanted to clear that up first off.

    Also in regards to Foursquare – I wrote a fairly detailed post outlining Local Search Marketing using Foursquare located here: http://rynoweb.com/local-search-marketing-using-foursquare
    It explains all the details of using Foursquare for local search.

    As for Gowalla… It’s fine for a local business to have a venue created and watch what people say in the stream but there currently is no SEO benefit to using it. They don’t list any business details like the address or phone number – all they have is the name and physical location on a map – they don’t even list coordinates in a microformat for Google to read / index. So currently nothing really to focus on there.

    Hope that helps a bit :)
    Cheers

  22. says

    Chuck,

    Thanks for your input, support and corrections.

    You are correct – I got the “link to your website” flip-flopped. Gowalla actually is the one that lets you add your website link to your profile, not Foursquare. Of course, to dismiss Gowalla this early in the game would, in my opinion, be shortsighted and foolish, especially since it takes seconds to set up and use, and I’ve already seen that my contacts and friend connections do not overlap much between the two. Time may show that Gowalla does not rise up to meet or match its competitor, but I, for one, would rather invest the minimal amount of time it takes to use it and “risk” it (I don’t consider it a risk or waste of time, in other words.)

    Regarding Google Local Business, many freelancers would not normally consider using this service, especially if they work from home, so it’s not quite as obvious in this context (as you can see from the comments.)

    Even though, as you pointed out, Foursquare does not provide a direct link to your website, it absolutely benefits your online presence and enlarges your online footprint, since it can be connected to your various social media accounts. In my book, that is always a plus!

    Thanks again for your comment!

  23. says

    @Brian yeah I agree on Gowalla (as well as whrrl, tellmewhere, placepop, rallyup, etc) – creating an account and making sure your venue is included with the right data takes a very small amount of time and should be done regardless. Lots of SMB’s get bothered by the fact there’s so many out there – ergo I usually just tell them (for the time being) to focus their few minutes on Foursquare for now. Evangelists of theirs will create the biz on the other LBS’s for them – but they still need to check :)

    And regarding Foursquare helping – heck yes it does :) I included the seo benefits in my post because Google and Bing are already indexing venues and G is using some shouts as cites… Bonus!

    Cheers

  24. ray says

    An excellent and informative article Brian, I think to embrace new networks and ideas is both important and dynamic with any business strategy. There are always going to be downsides as in content misuse etc, but I feel that the potential far outways the risk considering how exposed as you mentioned most business people are already, due to advertising etc.
    With the right guidance these services are an invaluble tool for any serious business person.

    Thanks Ray

  25. says

    An interesting look into geolocation and its relevance to social media as a whole. With foursquare and gowalla gaining more and more of a foot hold into many people’s lives I could see the importance of being able to be found on either or both of those sites.

  26. says

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    Η επανάσταση στο χώρο του Design λέγεται WOHNTREND HELLAS, τζάκια νέας γενιάς, τζάκια χωρίς καμινάδα με αληθινή φωτιά.
    Η WOHNTREND HELLAS δίνει την δυνατότητα σε όλους όσους ονειρεύτηκαν ένα tzakia εύκολα πια να το αποκτήσουν.

    | tzakia |

  27. says

    As more and more people are now accepting of GeoLocation & revealing their location. It is now possible to use this feature to enhance the location page of local mobile sites to provide automatic route and turn by turn directions.

  28. says

    hard boiled egg nutrition, There are a few interesting deadlines in this article however I don’t know if I see they all middle to heart. There is a few validity but I will take maintain opinion till I glance into it further. Just right article , thank you and we wish more! Delivered to FeedBurner as well

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