Many small business owners I talk to have noticed a big shift in their customers’ shopping habits. These shoppers are relying on their smartphones more than ever, whether to look up information about local businesses or to comparison shop. They’re also more social, posting reviews of products and businesses and sharing group buying deals with their friends.

Marketers have coined the term SoLoMo to describe this convergence of social, local, and mobile trends. Whatever you think of the term, SoLoMo offers a big opportunity for small business owners.

How SoLoMo works

I know a gourmet sandwich shop owner who takes advantage of the social site Foursquare to help build her business. Customers can use their smartphones while they are in the restaurant to share their location with friends in exchange for a small discount on a sandwich. As their friends come in, the shop owner encourages them to vote for their favorite sandwich on the shop’s Facebook page and enter a drawing for free lunches for a week.

In sum: The owner uses a social media tool (Foursquare) to attract people in the local area through their mobile devices, then uses another social outlet (voting on Facebook) to improve customer loyalty. That’s SoLoMo.

Here’s another example: A local chiropractor gets more clients by posting specials in his listings on online business directories like Yelp and YP.com®. When people in the area see an offer and visit his practice, he urges them to post a review on one of those directories or on another social site. Meanwhile, he has made his website mobile-friendly, so people reading the reviews on smartphones can find more information easily.

Put SoLoMo to use

How can you use SoLoMo to build your business? First, keep in mind that each company’s approach to integrating social, mobile, and local techniques may be different. The key to success is authenticity. For example, Foursquare may not be appropriate for a plumbing supply store, but Facebook could be. I can imagine such a store posting specials on its Facebook page and sending links to the offers via text or email to local contractors, who would access the offers on their smartphones.

SoLoMo is inherently customer-centric. This means you should optimize your mobile site with the search terms customers will likely use while on the go. Be sure your staff is up to speed on your offerings, prices, and current promotions. In a SoLoMo world, many of your customers may walk in armed with this information.

It’s OK to begin slowly. Start with any social, local, or mobile tools or tactics you use now and go from there. It’s important to watch how your customers shop. Then, grow your strategy by embracing the mobile devices and social sites they use most.

Enhance the SoLoMo experience

Don’t expect to see results from SoLoMo overnight. The pace of the payoff may depend on where you begin: If you already have a strong social media presence or mobile marketing program, you might see gains sooner than someone starting from scratch.

Assign an employee to track results, such as upticks in sales or phone calls. Online tools like Foursquare’s analytics package or Google Analytics can provide useful information as well. Regularly check reviews of your company on social sites and take customer feedback into account when launching new marketing efforts.

Have you tried SoLoMo yet? If so, what results are you seeing? Please share your insights below.

 

Alice Bredin is America’s foremost small business expert, with more than 15 years of experience in the small business market. She has provided highly practical, actionable advice to millions of business owners through her books, syndicated newspaper column, radio commentary, and small business forums.