Social media for small businesses is a topic all on its own. For some small businesses (restaurants, photographers, etc.), social can be your #1 traffic driver but for many other types of small businesses (plumbers, insurance, etc.), social doesnt quite have the same appeal.
Regardless of the nature of your industry, its a well-known fact that social can aid your SEO efforts and help you get ranked and we definitely expect it to become more and more integrated in the future.
In terms of social, we generally recommend you participate on many of the main networks like Facebook, Twitter and any others where your target audience may be. Being active and social on all of those networks can often indirectly but positively affect your SEO efforts.
For this series of posts, were going to focus on Google+. Many people label Google+ as a social network but it is much more than that. Google+ is essentially a knowledge network and an additional layer that Google can place over search results and its other products to deliver you a better experience.
Google also recently changed Google Places to Google+ Local, integrating local search with this new network. Up to this point, it has only been a cosmetic change but this gives us many signs about how Google will incorporate local search to their social network.
Google+ Local Reviews
The move to Google+ Local did have a pretty big impact on reviews. Google changed their 5-star method to the Zagat method (30 point system). Google also new requires you to have a Google+ account to leave reviews and forces you to use your real name throwing anonymity out the door.
For most businesses, this probably isnt a huge issue but consider industries like plastic surgery, pay day loans, DUI attorneys, etc. and you can see why this would deter happy clients from leaving reviews.
I want to preface this by saying that its only a prediction but also a general belief my most local search analysts. We do believe that reviews will become a bigger ranking factor for local search. As Google feels more confident that reviews arent being spammed by knowing more about the reviewers through Google+, they can adjust rankings based on quality of reviews.
Its also important to note that when you write a review, it is automatically posted to your Google+ feed for all of your friends to see. You can also limit your local searches to see those reviewed by friends.
In the long run, being active on Google+ is definitely recommended. It may not big as big as Facebook right now but it could significantly impact your local search rankings on Google.
About The Author
Bryan Phelps manages SEO.coms small business division and a team of local search experts. Contact SEO.com for additional information.