Eighty four percent of people now access the internet from a mobile device. The implications for district managers are vast. Consider those good old printed business directories. If nearly all of your visitors arrive with a mobile device in their hand, do you need as many printed directories to tell customers about your local businesses? We recognize that every district is different, and while directories may remain integral to your overall marketing efforts, this example is also an illustration of how new technology is changing some of the fundamental ways in which business district organizations have marketed their businesses in the past. These programmatic decisions are especially important when resources are tight and every expenditure counts.

As we think about the changing retail landscape, we were excited to get to know the folks at Saltwater Software, a provider of digital solutions for BIDs, including the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership and the LA Fashion District. They face these challenges daily and had some good insights to share. They recently issued a White Paper entitled “No One is Looking for your Website…and That’s OK” that highlighted a number of ways in which digital information technology is changing the ways in which business districts maintain their information and market local businesses to the general public. Here are our top three takeaways for district managers.

REGULAR AND CONSISTENT IS BETTER THAN BEING SPREAD TOO THIN. It can sometimes feel like there are a seemingly endless number of social media platforms out there. Don’t try to master them all. Instead, elect two or three that you plan to use and then make sure you feed content to them regularly. Letting a platform go dormant will diminish its utility to your users, and will make getting their attention more difficult over time.

AUTHENTIC CONTENT IS KING. The good news is that the on-line marketing content you develop need not always be polished. In fact, raw and authentic content can hold more credibility with users than flashy pieces. This suggests lots of opportunities, especially for smaller organizations. Have you considered videotaping interviews with local business owners using your iphone? Or sponsoring a contest for budding videographers interested in developing fun content for your website and social media accounts? There are so many ways to go about developing authentic content in partnership with your businesses and shoppers – don’t be shy to try new things and have some fun with it!

STRUCTURED DATA. PERIOD. If you haven’t heard this term, consider yourself forewarned. Structured data is the future of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Simply put, it refers to the way in which search engines prefer to collect and display data. Search engines now issue clear guidelines on the kind of information they want and how they want it presented. If it is not in that precise structure, search engines will gloss over the information on your website. If your website is properly designed, Google, the reigning king of location based search engines, will pull data, index and map it without your businesses even necessarily claiming their business on the platform. Brilliant. For those of you with business owners who do not have any on-line presence, or with a website that does not adhere to the latest guidelines, this could make a huge difference in the number of potential customers that find your businesses when they use google or other search engines and directories. The ability to structure your data properly happens behind the scenes of your website, and requires website designers and developers with the expertise to make sure that the data you enter is structured according to the guidelines issued by major search engines.

Finding ways to better connect to your customer base is key to helping your local businesses succeed. As you develop your social media strategies and think through your website strategies it is helpful to keep in mind these simple ways in which digital tools help you work smarter, not harder.