3 small businesses that prove no business is too small for the social Web

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Ever had the feeling that social media listening and measurement are just for big companies? If you need a reminder of how pervasively social platforms, particularly location-based networks and review sites, have permeated even the smallest of small businesses, try this: think of three small businesses you pass on your commute and look them up on Foursquare and Yelp.

To be sure, the three businesses I looked at here don’t face the problem of swimming through a noisy mess of thousands of social mentions per month, like a Fortune 500 brand does. Still, their reputations are being shaped online, one check-in, one review at a time. Here’s how 3 storefronts I pass everyday on the bus fare on the social Web.

1. Golden Crown Restaurant, Chicago

This no-frills Chinese restaurant doesn’t promise gourmet fare. Its signage primarily strives to inform you that egg rolls are available. But to date, Golden Crown has attracted 10 Foursquare check-ins and 14 Yelp reviews and an average Yelp rating of 4 stars out of 5 amongst utilitarian diners like Cate A., who says, “The food is a notch better than most Chinese hole-in-the-walls and they have a liquor license!” They know what their audience wants. Try the egg rolls.

2. The Cat Practice, Oak Park

OK, Chinese food has broad appeal, but this veterinary practice is for feline patients only. How much attention could this niche business possibly attract? Nine Foursquare check-ins and 8 Yelp reviews. While some of the reviewers go into more gory detail about their cats’ medical conditions than I care to read (cat plaque is a serious issue, apparently), the place is largely a hit with cats and their human attachés, like Susana E.: “I have taken my cat to see Dr. Lori a couple of times and he (the cat) seems to trust her.” Thanks to a largely positive Web presence, now prospective customers can approach their first visit with a feeling of trust too.

3. Pieritz Bros. Office Supplies, Oak Park

Full disclosure: CisionBlog blogger Heidi Sullivan worked here as a teenager. While only one Foursquare user and 6 Yelp reviewers have left their mark here, reviews largely reflect the quaint feel of the place. The nostalgia factor and proximity to a train station are clearly boons to this purveyor of nifty pens and notebooks, buffering them to some extent from the competition of big-box office supply chains. Says Yelper Liz O.: “Sure, you can get most of the materials at larger chains, but when you get TLC from local people who have been in the business for years, why not pick a local shop instead?”

If you think your business is too small to have its reputation shaped on the real-time Web, think again. If there’s only one review of your business to be found on the Web, that may be all anyone has to go on when deciding what to think. If you’re a small business owner, we’d love to hear about your experience with location-based networks and review sites.

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