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More Facebook Changes

Social Sonar - Saturday, February 25, 2012

After unleashing its new Timeline format, all signs point toward Facebook changing how they format their ads.   

We wrote about how to use Facebook's paid ads here:


As the release of the new Facebook format grows, they will continue to capitalize on the popularity of photos and storytelling. In a letter to investors, Mark Zuckerberg describes his vision for the future of Facebook:  "We hope to improve how people connect to businesses and the economy. We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services. As people share more, they have access to more opinions from the people they trust about the products and services they use. This makes it easier to discover the best products and improve the quality and efficiency of their lives."

Zuckerberg also stated: "We hope to strengthen how people relate to each other. Even if our mission sounds big, it starts small — with the relationship between two people. Personal relationships are the fundamental unit of our society. Relationships are how we discover new ideas, understand our world and ultimately derive long-term happiness. At Facebook, we build tools to help people connect with the people they want and share what they want, and by doing this we are extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships."

This should drive home the point that rather than sell to your Facebook fans, you should be building a relationship with them. Although you can use Facebook ads to help build your brand's popularity, you should focus on posting content that compels your fans to comment and re-share to help spread the word about your company. 

Regardless of the format, one thing remains clear: Facebook will continue to capitalize on paid ads to allow you to boost your brand on their site. You should continue to ask your in-store (or online) customers to join you on Facebook. However, if you have expectations of marketing to new customers on Facebook, you should expect to include paid Facebook ads in your budget.

 

Is PayPal Safe?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Do you accept payments on your website?  If you don't have a merchant account to accept credit cards, PayPal is a popular method for accepting payments.  PayPal claims to be a safe way to exchange money, but is it really safe?

 According to PayPal, they offer the following protection for sellers:

  • Protection from buyer claims and chargebacks
  • A convenient process for responding to disputes
  • Seller verification and buyer address confirmation

They offer the following protection for buyers:

  • $0 Liability for Eligible Unauthorized Purchases when you meet our requirements
  • Refunds for incorrect orders or items that never arrive
  • A convenient process for resolving problems

PayPal is popular with eBay users (and is actually owned by eBay).  The fees to merchants (2.2% to 3.9%) is often higher than if you have an account with Visa or Mastercard (interchange fees vary but generally average 2% in the United States). 

Although some in the tech industry will tell you that PayPal is not as secure as they advertise, the general public appears to believe it is a safe site to use.  There is one website in particular that would have you believe that PayPal is not safe at all.  According to PayPalSucks.com, PayPal is not subject to Federal regulation since they are not a bank.  They list story after story from unsatisfied PayPal customers.  However, for every bad story, you will find ten (or more) happy customers.  So, we suggest you take every unhappy customer's story with a grain of salt.  For a company that has a reported 350 million users, we know that not everyone will be happy with the service. 

In fact, many of the "issues" with PayPal have more to do with consumers being phished or having a virus on their computer.  This is not an issue caused by PayPal, but by consumers clicking on phony links.  Unfortunately, if a consumer accidentally "shares" their password with a hacker, someone could gain access to their PayPal account, and ultimately, their bank account.  For this reason, having your financial information so available on the internet can be scary. 

One of Social Sonar's employees recently had this happen.  She had a Trojan Horse virus on her computer, which allowed a hacker to gain access to her PayPal account (and ultimately her bank account).  PayPal thought the charge was fishy and immediately placed her account on limited access.  Other than losing a little bit of time on phone calls, she ultimately lost no money.

Do you accept payments on your website?  Do you use PayPal?  Tell us about your experiences with PayPal or other merchant accounts.  

Increase Your Twitter Followers

Social Sonar - Saturday, February 18, 2012

Twitter LogoTwitter still appears to be the second most powerful social media site (topped only by Facebook).  Here are some tips to increase your Twitter followers:

  • Completely fill out your bio, including location (if you aren't world-wide) and website.  Incomplete or vague bios can cause people to wonder if you are a spam bot.  Complete bios also make you more "followable" as part of Twitter's Suggested User page. 
  • Cross-post your Twitter handle on other social media sites:  Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc.  Also, include your Twitter information (and, while you're at it, your Facebook fan page and website) in your e-mail signature block.
  • Include hashtags (#), which will help when users are searching certain topics.
  • This one is simple, but powerful:  Ask your followers to re-tweet your posts.  It exposes your Twitter handle to all of the re-tweeter's followers. 
  • When your customers are in the store, let them know you're on Twitter (have a sign on your counter, put a sticker or stamp on receipts, have business cards with your social media sites on them).
  • Tweet photos.  Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest have proven that photos are big business.  If the goal is to gain re-tweets, then posting interesting photos is a good start. 
  • Follow popular Twitter accounts and see what is working for them.
  • Track your users.  Use Qwitter to find out when someone un-follows you after a certain tweet.

Are you using Twitter?  Do you have any tips that have worked for you and your business?

The Social Media Disconnect

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Forbes recently reported on a study titled “Variance in the Social Brand Experience,” by The CMO Council and Lithium.  The study showed the disconnect between companies and potential customers using social media sites. 

It was found that 67% of consumers connected with brands on social media sites in order to receive some kind of discount or exclusive offer.  In other words, they expected to be "compensated" for their loyalty to your brand. 

One question posed to consumers:

The top answer was for "games, contests and promotions."

Another question posed to consumers: 

Again promotions and discounts top the list.

One of the questions posed to business marketers: 

Believing that a customer is looking for "deals" doesn't even make the top three on the list.

In order for brands to successfully use social media to market to consumers, companies need to understand what their potential customers are actually looking for.  If your customers are on social media sites hoping for a special deal, then perhaps you should give it to them.

What kind of content do you have on your social media sites?  Do you offer deals and discounts?

Is Tumblr Good For Business?

Social Sonar - Saturday, February 11, 2012

There is yet another addition to the growing list of social media websites.  Tumblr is a very simple blog site and, like Pinterest is photo/image-based (well over half of the content uploaded are images).  Tumblr had over 15 billion page views in January 2012. 

Some business owners have found that uploading flyers to Tumblr allows them to be shared easily, which spreads their content throughout the web.  However, the question we ask each time we introduce a new social media site:  Will your time be well-spent here when it is likely most of your customers are on Facebook as well?  Each business will have to evaluate this question carefully before deciding to spend time on an additional social media website. 

Tumblr offers seven options for posting content:
Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio, Video.  Users can then "like" your post or "re-blog" it.  Certain posts also allow comments.  However, many users will share or re-share content without ever responding or leaving a comment, so making your posts interesting and exciting to share is your goal on Tumblr. 

Have you ever used Tumblr -- either personally or for your business?  What do you think?  Is it worth it for businesses? 

 

Why a Facebook Fan Page is Better Than a Business Profile

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Last year, we touched upon the different options for businesses wanting to set up shop on Facebook.  You can read that post HERE.

Now we want to discuss why having a Facebook fan page is preferable to a profile for your business.  There are three big reasons to have a fan page:  unlimited fans (profiles have a limit of 5,000 friends); the pages are crawled by Google, which improves SEO; and, the fan pages are public so your customers can connect immediately without waiting for you to accept a friend request.

If you have a profile set up for your business and you want to convert to a fan page, here are the steps:

1.    You must have some kind of Facebook profile set up in order to set up a fan page.  You can use your personal Facebook page if you would like (the fan page does not link back publicly to your personal page).  Once you log into your account, you can access Facebook Pages on the left hand of your screen.

2.    Click "Create Page."  You would then choose whether your fan page supports a local business, brand/product, public figure, cause, etc.  Facebook takes you through the steps to name your page, add information, upload a photo and invite your friends to be fans. 

3.    If you already had a Facebook profile page for your business and you are now switching to a fan page, you can post the link on your profile for your friends to see.  You can send messages with the link as well, although sometimes people get frustrated if they feel they are getting too many messages. 

Once you have your new fan page set up, you would run it much like your business profile page.  When you post on the fan page, you will be posting as your business name (for this example, we will use "ABC Company").  You can choose to "Use Facebook as ABC Company" and visit other fan pages to leave posts.  You have to be careful about posting too many things on other fan pages.  Some pages don't appreciate advertisements.  But if your business is located in Los Angeles, California, there is no reason you can't visit fan pages for the area and try a post or two to see if they are welcome.  Just understand and respect their wishes if they ask you not to post anymore.  You can't post in groups or on other profiles when using Facebook as a fan page -- only on other fan pages.

If brand recognition is one of your ultimate goals, then a Facebook fan page is one of your best bets.  It will allow the general public to access your business instantly, which is what people have come to expect these days.

Do you use a Facebook fan page for your business?  Tell us about your business and how you connect with your customers on Facebook.

What Are QR Codes?

Social Sonar - Saturday, February 04, 2012

Quick Response (QR) codes are gaining popularity with smartphone users. A QR code is a two-dimensional bar code that holds some kind of information just waiting to be discovered. You would take a picture of the code with your phone and open it in your phone's browser (or use an app that will do it all for you in one place). Originally used to track vehicle parts, QR codes now allow customers to use their smartphones to scan for special deals or to learn "secret" information. 

A QR code links to a URL, so you can get creative with how you program your code to work for your business. If and when you are ready to use QR codes, here are a few suggestions:

~ Put a discount on a piece of direct mail advertising
~ Direct customers to deals on your Facebook page
~ Program an automatic Tweet or Foursquare check-in any time the code is scanned
~ Link to a YouTube video

If you are interested in creating a QR code for your business, you can make a simple one for free at http://www.qrstuff.com/. There are sites that will design fancier codes for a fee. Unfortunately, spammers can also pass along malware through QR codes, which makes some smartphone users hesitant to use them. QR codes are still a somewhat new advertising tool. Hopefully, as technology advances and people feel more secure using the codes, they will provide a fun and interesting way to advertise your business.

Have you scanned a QR code recently? What kind of information did it share with you?

 

What's Pinterest?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, February 01, 2012

In case you didn't have enough on your plate, here comes another social media site demanding your attention.  Meet Pinterest

Pinterest, an invite-only website, calls itself a virtual pinboard. The average person might use Pinterest to help plan their wedding or gather information about an upcoming trip. It relies heavily upon photos and videos, which are the most popular posts for business fan pages on Facebook. 

Pinterest does not (yet) allow business or brand pages, however, the external links that are pinned to each user's page help connect users with similar interests and may help drive business to your website. By setting up a personal account, you can "pin" photos and links to your business' website. If other users follow suit and "re-pin" (re-post) those links, it potentially allows your brand to be spread throughout Pinterest. Like other social media sites, Pinterest just gives you another opportunity to gain exposure for your brand and interact with your customers. 

You must understand your intended audience before you decide to request an invitation to Pinterest. The site is especially popular with women between the ages of 25 and 44, which comprise 59% of its readership. It caters to those searching for recipes, room décor, and do-it-yourself crafts. Pinterest's mission statement is: "Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests."

You should also be courteous if you are using Pinterest. Like with many social media sites, the point is to connect with your potential customers, not "shout" hard sales at them. Pinterest, in fact, warns: "Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion."

So, for the right business, using Pinterest may be a new and interesting way to share content. If you aren't sure, start by asking your customers where they are spending their on-line social time. Then you will know where you should spend your time too.

 

 

How to Get Facebook Fans in 2012

Social Sonar - Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everyone is trying to cash in on the social media marketing craze. The biggest player in the social media game for now is Facebook. So how do you get Facebook fans?

Facebook Logo
  • Have cards in your business encouraging your customers to become a fan. Make sure you have a permanent Facebook URL first.
  • Add your Facebook fan page links to your website and newsletter.
  • Include a signature line on all outgoing e-mails with links to your fan page.
  • Hold contests on your fan page that encourage other fans to suggest your page to their friends.
  • Post interesting content, including photos, which encourages your fans to share with their friends.
  • Cross-post your Facebook fan page link on other social media sites such as Twitter.
  • Peruse other Facebook fan pages under your fan page name and post links or comments. These link back to your fan page; just be careful not to spam other pages. Only post relevant, useful information.
  • Use Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories.

Although many of these options are free, they can be time consuming. Please let us know if we can help you with your Facebook fan page.

Advertising on Social Media Sites

Social Sonar - Saturday, January 21, 2012
Recently, Kissmetrics discussed marketing on various social media sites.  Here is a summary of their findings.

FACEBOOK

Facebook has 800 million users.  Although those with a Facebook profile generally leave their browser open for many hours a day, most are not actually on Facebook to buy items.  They are there to connect with friends and socialize.  So advertising to the Facebook users requires patience.  You should target users based on their interests to create a connection and build a relationship, however you should not try to sell directly to them. 

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn has 100 million users, the majority of which are there for professional reasons.  Over one million are high-ranking executives with decision making authority.  LinkedIn is best used for business to business marketing. 

REDDIT

Reddit receives millions of visitors.  If you are not familiar with Reddit, it is a social site that allows users to submit links, then allows other users to vote those submission "up" or "down," so that popular posts are more easily found.  The site can be useful to help create viral ad campaigns and cause awareness. 

STUMBLEUPON

StumbleUpon calls itself a "discovery engine" that finds web content for its users.  It "recently passed Facebook as the highest traffic referrer of any website."  To catch the StumbleUpon user's attention, Kissmetrics suggests flashy photos and catchy headlines.  They tout StumbleUpon's paid platform as possibly the best of all the social media sites. 

TWITTER

Twitter is still finding its way in the marketing world.  Apparently Twitter users are multi-taskers who are easily distracted.  Kissmetrics does warn that you need a fairly large marketing budget to advertise on Twitter.  However, if you are building a brand, the return on investment can be significant.

Have you tried advertising on any social media sites?  Let us know how it worked for you!