The next generation of social media requires a degree of experience

In addition to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+, there is a new breed of social media websites and services that should be of great interest to small businesses. Yelp, FourSquare and CitySearch are all examples of commercially-oriented entities that help companies create an identity for themselves on the internet.

These websites offer the chance for businesses and customers to collaborate in the creation of a profile for a store, shop, company or organization that contains product information, maps, reviews and other valuable data. The more that businesses are involved in the maintenance of their profiles, the more it ultimately boosts their profits. Companies that actively support the use of discounts and coupons for frequent Yelp or FourSquare-using customers can benefit tremendously from the internet buzz that will soon surround them.

However, it is crucial for companies to use caution when embracing these new services. There is a chance that too much meddling by a company can sink any effort to be perceived as popular and useful on the internet. Some common mistakes are easily avoided with just a bit of practice.

The important phrase to remember is "actively support." A decent amount of enthusiasm is well and good, but constantly trying to influence one's CitySearch or Yelp page won't help at all. As mentioned, these profiles are a collaboration between customers and businesses, and when consumers perceive that the companies are taking too much of an interest in the direction of their page, it will be spotted quickly. Marketers shouldn't be discouraged with a few poor reviews – it isn't possible to please all the people all of the time. Fake reviews that are clearly in support of an organization stand out like a sore thumb and will quickly be replaced with genuine appraisals.

It is also a good idea not to spend too much effort marketing one's support for those websites. Of course, businesses will benefit from displaying stickers on the door or window of an establishment to remind customers that they can log on, find discounts and read reviews. However, too much effort makes it clear that a company is fishing or "trolling" for online credibility and favorable reviews.

Ultimately, the best way to become adept at using FourSquare, Yelp or CitySearch is to practice using them. Small business marketers should actively participate with those websites as customers first to get an appreciation for how they work and what the community on them is like. They should also be sure to download the smartphone apps so that it's clear what the customer experience in the store is really like.  

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