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Join a Local Social Media Platform: MerchantCircle

Some social media websites can work just like your local chamber of commerce. They may not be as social as being face-to-face, but you can make some solid business contacts and perhaps promote sales.

Being a member of your local chamber of commerce is the first step you should take when promoting your business locally. Nothing is more social that person-to-person contact. When people know you, recommending you becomes that much easier.

MerchantCircle is a small business social network that hones in on local. They are an online business directory, social business network, and marketing platform. The site was founded in 2005 as a business-to-business site (B2B), not unlike a chamber of commerce.

They built their brand mostly in small towns where larger sites don’t cover the locale. For example, in 2010, 50 percent of local businesses in Wasilla, Alaska were actively engaging on the site.

Their website states that “MerchantCircle is the largest online network of local business owners in the nation” and they probably are. Your company is probably listed because they originally gleaned business listings from the Yellow Pages and other sources. Businesses that "claim" their page on the site get a web page listing, a blogging platform, and an e-mail newsletter application — all under the MerchantCircle brand.

This year, MerchantCircle relaunched the site to be more consumer-focused, like Yelp. Now potential customers can search for and find providers across all business categories, including home repair and improvement; health and beauty; financial and professional services; construction and real estate services; and restaurants. Customer can also request quotes, access ratings, and provide reviews.

The site is growing quickly, so you should really take a moment to claim your company page. The process takes about five minutes. Follow these steps for the most efficient path to joining:

  1. Go to MerchantCircle (as shown in the figure) and type your business name and city in the search box.

    You could also click Join Now in the upper-right corner.

    The MerchantCircle home page.
    The MerchantCircle home page.
  2. When your business appears, click the red Claim Your Business banner.

  3. On the next page, create a MerchantCircle login by typing your e-mail address and a password. Then click Submit.

    The resulting page displays three pricing plans cost.

  4. Scroll down the page to the tiny letters at the bottom that read No, Thanks and click there.

    (If you want a paid plan, you can always sign up for it later.) Annoyingly, the next page populates with even more offers for you to purchase. (They will always be available.)

  5. Just say no: Scroll again to the tiny letters at the bottom of the page and click No, Thanks.

    At this point, MerchantCircle sends you an e-mail to confirm your e-mail address. The dashboard shown here appears.

    Your MerchantCircle Dashboard options.
    Your MerchantCircle Dashboard options.
  6. Edit your listing and your dashboard and add bells and whistles to your page.

  7. When you receive the MerchantCircle e-mail, confirm your e-mail address by following the instructions in the message.

When you confirm your address, you can add more of the aforementioned bells and whistles and save your work.

Your business now has a page on MerchantCircle. After you’ve claimed your page, you should do the following immediately:

  • Make sure your business name is correct. Your business name may have been drawn from an abbreviated version in the Yellow Pages.

  • Check your address listing. If you have a home-based business and you don't want your address shown in the listing, remove it using the Edit Business tab.

  • Upload a few photos. Upload a photo as your profile picture as well as three others to populate the gray boxes on the side of your listing. These photos might show your place of business, sample projects, or food items if you own a restaurant.

  • Check to see that you were categorized properly. Go to the Categories tab to select additional categories that best describe your services.

  • Connect your Twitter and Facebook Business pages. If you don't want MerchantCircle to be posting to these accounts, you can choose not to export posts from MerchantCircle to these pages.

  • Create your custom MerchantCircle web address and add a link to your website. On the Websites and Link page, type your company name to make a more personalized URL address.

None of these tasks take long. After you complete them, your company’s page will likely look like something like this figure.

A company page on MerchantCircle, all set and ready to go.
A company page on MerchantCircle, all set and ready to go.

If you have time, you can search for businesses within your community where you have friends. If they've claimed their business page, you see a color picture or logo in their listing. It’s kind of cool to be the first of your friends (and also gives you an advantage).

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