Up Periscope

Treating Your Customers Right

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 09, 2011
You have your Facebook and Twitter pages set up for your business.  Your website is designed beautifully.  You are blogging and sending out newsletters.  You have an amazing store, product, service, etc.  Your prices are right.  You get people in the door...but they don't always come back. 

What could be wrong?  Sure the economy is down but there should be a few more repeat customers.  Maybe you need to ask yourself how you treat your customers once they walk through the door?  The stress of life can get to all of us.  However, if we are in an industry where we are dealing with customers, we need to make sure we don't take it out on them. 

I had a friend who went to a service-based company.  She was essentially held hostage during her treatment while the service-provider ranted about her life.  For two hours.  She has never returned to that business.  It is unfortunate because that person was very good at the service she provided. 

Although the customer is not always "right," they should be made to feel welcome in your store.  They are there to have a lovely dinner, buy a product, get a massage, etc.  There are many other places in which they could be spending their money, so why not provide them with an atmosphere to which they would love to return (and recommend to their friends)?

You may be providing a product or service, but don't forget that you (and/or your employees) are also part of the package.  A smile and a kind word go a long way!

Tell us about some of your favorite experiences with customers or vendors.  I bet we hear more positive stories than negative! 

Millennials: The Next Generation

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 05, 2011

In 2010, Pew Research Center released a report called, "Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next."  The report sums up their research on the Millennials, calling them:  "confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change."  The study was done over the phone with 2,020 adults responding, 830 of which would be considered the Millennial Generation ("MG") (aged 18 to 29).

This generation is of particular interest to researchers because they are the "always connected" generation -- with more than eight out of ten responders saying they sleep with their cell phones right next to their bed.  One-quarter said that technology is what sets their generation apart.  For the most part, the MG is more connected, more diverse, more liberal, more educated and less religious than previous generations. A summary of the report follows.  If you don’t want to read all of the statistics, please feel free to skip to the end.

 

In response to the question of whether they had a profile on a social networking site, 41% of all respondents said they did.  However, 75% of the MG said they had a profile (as compared to 50% of Gen X (30-45 years old), 30% of Baby Boomers (46-64 years old) and 6% of the Silent generation (65+ years old)).  Almost one-third of the MG visit their social media profile multiple times per day.

Eighty-eight percent of the MG use their cell phone to text.  Only 77% of Gen X'ers, 51% of Baby Boomers and 9% of the Silent generation send text messages.  Eighty percent of MG'ers have sent text messages in the previous 24 hours, 64% admit to texting while driving and 41% have a cell phone but no land line.  Compare that to 24% of Gen X'ers, 13% of Boomers and 5% of Silents.  Ninety percent of the MG uses the internet.  Not surprisingly, the Millennial generation says that new technology makes their life easier.

More and more each year, people in general are turning to the internet as their main news source.  For the MG, 65% use the television as their main news source, and 59% use the internet.  Barely one-quarter turn to newspapers.  By comparison, only 13% of the Silent generation uses the internet for news.

Thanks to the current state of the economy, 37% of the MG is currently unemployed.  Only three out of five MG'ers were raised by both parents and a full one-quarter do not have a religious affiliation.  Only one in five is actually married (and, in general, young people are less likely to be married now than 20 years ago).  For their parents, that number was doubled at the same stage of their life.  One-third are parents and more than a third of women in the generation who gave birth in 2006 were unmarried.  Seventy-five percent have never been married (as compared with 43% of the Silent generation, 52% of Boomers and 67% of Gen X'ers at the same age).  The MG is also more likely to be living with a family member or roommate than previous generations.

This is also the most liberal generation to date.  They are more tolerant of gay couples raising children, interracial marriage, mothers working outside of the home and couples living together without being married.  More than half (54%) say they have a close friend or family member who is gay.  Only 46% of Gen X'ers, 44% of Baby Boomers and 26% of the Silent generation report the same.  Nearly two-thirds of the MG supports gay marriage.  The one thing that the MG did take issue with was single mothers deciding to have children.  Fifty-nine percent said it was bad for society.  Only 62% of MG'ers said their parents were married while they were growing up (compared with 71% of Gen X'ers, 85% of Boomers and 87% of Silents).

The MG is the most likely to job-hop and over two-thirds expect to switch careers at some point in their life.  That is compared with 55% of Gen X'ers and 41% of Baby Boomers.  Fifty-seven percent stated that they do not expect to stay with their current employer for the rest of their working life.  However, 62% of Gen X'ers say they expect to stay with their current employer until they retire.

When asked about important issues in their lives, the number one response was "being a good parent" (52%) followed by "having a successful marriage" (30%) and "helping others in need" (21%).  Owning a home and having a high-paying career also make the list. Although only 25% of the MG has an official religious affiliation, most still have traditional beliefs about life after death, heaven and hell, etc.

The MG is more diverse than previous generations, with only 61% as non-Hispanic whites (Gen X is comparable at 62% but Baby Boomers are at 73% and the Silent Generation is at 80%).  Given that most immigrants appear to arrive in their thirties, those who make up the MG are actually more likely to be born in the United States.  Eleven percent of US-born MG'ers have at least one immigrant parent, which matches that of the Silent generation, whose parents came to the US in the late 1800's.  The MG is also the most racially tolerant group.

Despite the bad economy (or perhaps, due to the economy), this generation is set to be the most educated of all previous generations -- almost 40% of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2008.  One in eight has had to move in with their parents again due to the state of the economy.  Only 2% of MG males have served in the military, which compares to 6% of Gen X'er men and 24% of Silent men.  54% of MG'ers have at least some college education (up from 49% of Gen X'ers, 35% of Boomers and 24% of the Silent generation).

Although the generation has a whole seems to be optimistic about the future, one-third of the MG are currently unemployed and only one-third say they earn enough money to lead the kind of lifestyle they want.  Another one-third say they rely on family members for financial assistance, even though 14% of those are employed full-time. Despite those numbers, 41% of Millennials stated they are satisfied with the way the country is headed (as compared to 36% of Gen X'ers, 23% of Boomers and 14% of the Silent generation).  Those with higher incomes, are married and who attend church regularly are among the happiest of respondents.  Only 61% of the MG has medical insurance, as opposed to 82% of those over the age of 30.  Fewer also own homes (22% vs. 71% of adults over 30).  Again, though, the generation is optimistic about their future and realize that time is on their side.  Eighty-eight percent say they expect to eventually earn an income to live comfortably.

Despite believing that their elders have better morals and a stronger work ethic, the MG actually believes it is an adult child's responsibility to care for their elderly parents (a higher percentage, in fact, than other generations).  Nearly two-thirds of MG'ers felt this way.  They also get along with their parents more than previous generations.  Only 10% said they often had arguments with their parents.  19% of the Gen X'ers stated they often had arguments with their parents at the same age.

Tattoos are popular among the MG, with 38% having at least one (compared to 32% of Gen X'ers, 15% of Boomers and 6% of Silents).  Of those who are tattooed, almost 70% have more than one.  However, 72% said their tattoos are not easily visible.  Nearly one-quarter of Millennials have piercings in places other than their ears (as opposed to 9% of Gen X'ers and only 1% of those over the age of 45).

All four generations are fairly equal on the issue of "going green."  All make valiant attempts to recycle, buy green products and buy organic foods.  The percentages are higher for those Millennials who make more than $75,000 per year, which makes sense as green products and organic foods can be more expensive.  It looks like the MG is more active than the older generations and spend less time watching television.  Nearly 28% own a gun (which is slightly lower than the average of 34%).

According to a poll of 18,000 registered voters in 2009, 37% of the MG identified themselves as Democrat, 22% as Republican and 38% as independent.  In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials supported Barrack Obama over John McCain, 66% to 32%.  The generation has leaned left in huge numbers since being able to vote in the 2004 and 2006 elections (62% Democrat, 30% Republican).  However, by the end of 2009, views were changing and those numbers were more narrow -- 54% to 40%, still slightly in favor of leaning Democrat.  Regardless, the MG still has the lowest voter turnout at elections.  Millennial approval of President Obama's job performance has dropped from 73% in February 2009 to 57% in February 2010.

Self-Reported Ideology by Generation

                                                      Liberal                Moderate                Conservative

Millennial Generation                    29%                    40%                            28%

Generation X                                  20%                     38%                           38%

Baby Boomers                                18%                    36%                            43%

Silent Generation                           15%                    35%                            45%

           The percentage of young voters who turned out in 2000 was at 40% and jumped up to 49% in 2004.  Older adults rose 3 percentage points to 68%.  Young voters again turned out in higher numbers in 2009 -- to 51% -- which is still behind the 67% turnout for older voters.

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How can you use this information to your advantage?  Understanding how the Millennial Generation thinks is the key to learning how to market to them.  The best piece of information you can take away from this report is that this generation (and future generations) are relying heavily on technology and spending a lot of time on social media websites.  Make sure your business is "in the know."  Make your social media plan with Social Sonar today!

Social Media + Newsletters = BFFs

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Email iPhone AppPeople thought social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would make email obsolete, but the truth is, email is social media's "secret weapon". For people who aren't logging in frequently to update their status and check in on friends and family, email notifications function as a reminder to visit Facebook or Twitter.

Your email list is often more engaged than your Facebook fans or Twitter followers. It's easy to click a single button to fan or follow someone. It takes more effort to type in your email address. It also takes more trust. People see you as an expert, and are open to receiving communication from you alongside emails from friends and family.

One of the nicest things about email is that it can be read at a time that works for the subscriber. While there is a possibility it will get buried if their inbox is flooded with messages or checked infrequently, it will not be hidden under hundreds of status updates. It's easy to check on the go, since people can read email already downloaded to their mobile device even when they don't have access to internet.

Email also isn't limited by character counts, which means your business' voice can shine through. It's easier to go more in-depth in an email newsletter than create a bite-sized chunk people might miss as they scroll through updates. You can also craft a cliff-hanging paragraph that builds suspense and encourages people to visit your blog or website.

The good news is both types of marketing are a great investment. Social media and email marketing work in tandem to build your customer base by playing on each others' strengths. Facebook and Twitter cast a wide net to find people who might be interested in your business area. By providing interesting posts and tweets, you build a reputation as an industry expert with your fans and followers. Once a month you should promote signing up for the newsletter via social media. This way you will catch the most engaged fans and followers.

We can create an optimized marketing plan for your business that makes the most out of every marketing channel. Just give us a call.

Learning to value your time

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 29, 2011
One thing I've learned in the last few years is how important it is to place a value on my time.  That's not to say I expect to get paid for every minute of the day.  It just means I evaluate everything I'm invited to attend before deciding to spend my time there.  Some events will have emotional value, so that is worth my time.  Some might mean future business, so that is worth my time.  Some events might just be fun, and that is worth my time too.

How do you decide what your time is worth?  That is something only you can determine.  I remember before Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving in the US) last year, a group of people in Florida started a line in front of Best Buy a week before the actual date.  For their efforts, some were awarded a free iPad.  People were ecstatic.  I was happy that they were happy, but wasting a week of my life in line for the chance at some so-so deals, would not even be worth a $500 toy.  Perhaps those people were unemployed, so spending that time was easier for them than it would have been for me.  Perhaps they were looking for the attention from the media, so that made it worth their time.  Whatever their reasons, they determined that spending a week sleeping outside in front of a Best Buy was good use of their time.

There are only so many hours in the day, and you can't spend 24 of them on your business.  You need to determine the areas in which you are adept and admit where you might need help.  For example, if you do not enjoy writing, perhaps paying someone to ghost write blogs for your company is a good idea.  This way, you are not spending valuable time being frustrated that you aren't able to write for yourself.  If you do not enjoy or understand Facebook and/or Twitter, then hiring an outside company to handle customer comments and post fresh content on your page would be a good use of your resources. 

Only you can decide what your time is worth.  Do you have a social media plan?  If and when you are ready for help in the blogging and social media realm, Social Sonar is here to help you create a plan and then put it into action!

Learning a lesson from Facebook's recent changes

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 22, 2011
Facebook recently changed its layout (again) and people were not happy.  I saw hundreds of posts from people threatening to cancel their accounts.  It has been a couple of weeks and I haven't lost many friends as far as I can tell. 

Facebook has over 750 MILLION users worldwide.  53 BILLION minutes were spent on Facebook in May 2011 alone.  They have you (and me).  We are hooked, and they know it. 

Does Facebook care what you think of their constant changes?  Maybe a little.  Will you cancel your account in protest?  Probably not.  I constantly see people posting status updates about how they are going to boycott Facebook and close their account for various reasons.  I see most of them back on within a few days (they don't bother closing their account, they just suspend it so they don't have to rebuild their profiles and friend lists -- meaning they too knew they weren't going away forever).  Facebook makes it so convenient to keep in touch with family members, business associates and former friends you haven't seen in 20 years. 

Am I writing this post to slam Facebook, or you (and me) for loving it?  No.  I do, however, want to make a point that humans are creatures of habit.  We usually do not like change.  If your business does not have 750 million customers, then perhaps you should not follow Facebook's lead and change your website layout every few months. 

It is important to create your identity and stick with it.  Make a logo.  Have a tag line.  Make your company unique.  Then drive that point home with your customers. 

Once you have created a loyal following, let's not rock the boat.  I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  (Right, Netflix?)  And if you are too busy to monitor your online social networks to make sure your customers are happy, let Social Sonar do it for you!

There is no overnight success

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 15, 2011
There is something to be said about the tale of the tortoise and the hare.  Of course, when you started your business, you hoped for overnight success.  You put so much of your blood, sweat and tears into preparing for the big opening.  Certainly, you may have decent sales, but how do you get more?

There is a huge push toward putting advertising dollars into social media.  It is like a shiny new toy -- everyone's favorite go-to.  "Put your business on Facebook and Twitter and that will bring in new business like you have never seen before!"  However, nothing is a sure thing and there are no overnight success stories.

Even with the added benefit of Facebook and Twitter, and reaching new audiences you may never have found before, building your company into it's own brand is a process.  Facebook and Twitter are definitely great tools for helping to build your reputation, but it takes time.  Initially, getting your current customer base as a Facebook fan or Twitter follower should be your goal.  The next step is to provide the kind of content that will be interesting enough for them to share with their friends.  Provide information or special sales and discounts.  Ask questions and get people to interact with you.  Hold contests and give-aways.  In other words, create a personal touch in an otherwise impersonal online world. 

Even as you build your fan and friend bases, you can't always expect to see sales in your store immediately.  In order to track where your sales are coming from, you can always offer special discount codes for each social media site to see where your customers might be logging in.  At the end of the day, though, think of the social media game as more of a process to build brand loyalty first, and then the sales will follow.

Creating your brand can sometimes be a time-consuming process.  If you need assistance with building your social media plan, please let Social Sonar know!

The American Dream

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 08, 2011
It is no secret that the economies around the world are struggling.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is a perfect example of people being fed up with big corporations influencing government.  Whether you agree with them or not, it definitely makes one thing clear to me:  Small businesses, which were once the lifeblood of our country, are the key to bringing the economy back.  The American Dream cannot be lost. 

What can you do to encourage people to spend their hard-earned money at your "mom and pop shop?"  While you may not want to publicly align your business with any political movement, a simple thank-you to your customers is an easy way to acknowledge their choice to spend money locally.  Perhaps you can offer a discount:  Thank you for supporting local businesses -- 10% off on [a certain day], or maybe an even larger discount for those who have a driver's license with an address within 100 miles.  Maybe even make it bigger.  Thank you for vacationing in our town -- 20% if you have a passport from another country. 

The possibilities are endless.  You would need to evaluate your business and what service or product you are offering, then decide what kind of incentive will work best for you. 

You can incorporate social media into the game by asking trivia questions on your Facebook or Twitter pages, then offering discounts to those who come in with the correct response.  Anything you can do to create a sense of community will help build your business and create loyalty from those who live in your neighborhood. 

We at Social Sonar believe that supporting small businesses is the best way to get people back to work.  We also believe that social media is one way to promote business and build community.  Please download our e-book for tips on how to help your business grow in the social media world.

Do you get your news from social media?

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 01, 2011
I was recently reading a Forbes article about how social media was no longer optional for businesses. It mentioned that more and more Americans now get their news directly from the Internet.

I started thinking about 9/11 -- ten years ago.  I was asleep in my bed (in California) when the first plane hit the towers.  I believe I got a phone call.  I can't even remember who called.  My cousin?  My boss?  I just remember them telling me to turn the television on.  I remember panicking because my dad and cousin were traveling and I wasn't sure where they were (and we didn't know what was going on with the planes anyway).  I turned on the television and watched in horror as the second plane hit the towers -- complete mayhem playing out on television right before my eyes. 

Skip forward to Japan's 2011 earthquakes, tsunami and failure of it's nuclear power plant.  I heard about that first earthquake when I saw "God bless Japan" tweets on Twitter.  I quickly moved to Facebook and found stories being posted about the disaster.  I was horrified at what I was reading.  Granted, I am a world away from Japan, but my heart went out to everyone trying to survive such a disaster and without Facebook or Twitter, I most likely would not have heard anything about it until I watched the news the next morning. 

I don't bring up such disasters to bring you down.  I bring them up to prove a point -- and back up that the study cited above is true in my own life as well:  Print and television media/ads may be on their way out.  Internet and social media are definitely rising in popularity. 

What does that mean for your business? 

It's not that you should completely scrap print, television or radio ads, if that is what works for you.  However, with the invention of TiVo and DVRs, television commercials cannot possibly bring the same payoff that they used to.  Certainly with so many Internet news sites, and with print newspapers' subscription numbers dwindling, newspaper advertisements must be following the same trend as television.  This means that you should at least be considering what the Internet and social media can do for you.

At a minimum, besides a company website, you should take advantage of the free Facebook fan page and Twitter account.  Although it will take some time on your part (or your employee's part) to monitor these pages, keeping fresh content on your page is a somewhat inexpensive way to promote your company and build your brand. 

Do you use social media business already?  Please leave a comment, letting us know which sites are most important for your business.  As always, Social Sonar is here to help you understand how social media can work for you!

Social Sonar visits the Walnut Creek Sunrise Rotary Club!

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Wesley from Social Sonar was recently the featured speaker for Sunrise Rotary Club of Walnut Creek's early morning breakfast meeting. What is rotary club?  The Rotarians say it best themselves:  "Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world."  According to their website,  there are approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belonging to more than 31,000 Rotary clubs in 160 countries.  As Wes' uncle is a Rotarian, volunteering to speak at a rotary club meeting was an easy choice.

On the agenda for the day?  Social media -- especially Facebook.  Although Wes' presentation did focus on using different social media websites, once questions were opened up, it was clear that the group was most interested in using Facebook.  

Facebook is approaching 800 million users worldwide.  For clubs such as rotary, this kind of reach can be invaluable.  Although each club may focus their work primarily in their own areas, having sister clubs all over the world can bring people together -- making the world just a little smaller and a nicer place to be.  If there are large scale disasters, using social media sites can be a fast and easy way to make sure each club has the assistance it needs to help their own area recover.

This also brings up issues of privacy and the handling of oneself in a public forum.  As we like to say, what goes on Facebook, stays on Facebook.  So anyone should be aware that anything posted on Facebook or Twitter is there forever, even if you think it has been deleted.  

Social Sonar realizes that Rotary's Four-Way Test can be applied to social media as well as real life:  
1.  Is it the truth?
2.  Is it fair to all concerned?
3.  Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4.  Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Using social media to grow your circle and help make the world a better place is a way Social Sonar in which can assist your rotary club.  Please contact us if you would like us to prepare a presentation for your club!

 

Social Sonar's Mixer at Twirly Girls!

Social Sonar - Monday, September 19, 2011
Social Sonar recently held a mixer for local business owners to discuss how social media affects them.  Twirly Girls hosted the event and we had ten business owners (and a few friends) in attendance.  The feeling in the room seemed to be somewhat uniform: With the hard times brought on by this economy, being creative and building your own business has become the only way some families can put food on their table.  We were very excited to see such innovative entrepreneurs at the mixer.

Among our attendees, we had Bel, the owner of the dance studio Twirly Girls, who has been successfully running her business for over two years.  She uses Facebook, Twitter and Meetup to keep people up-to-date on the studio's events.  Doug joined us and he owns DK Designs.  He creates the t-shirts sold at Twirly Girls.  He is not yet using social media for his business.  We also had Jenna's Jams.  Jenna jars and sells her own jams and pickles.  She manages a fan page on Facebook.  Andrew from Liquidpulp Photography, who does most of the photography for Twirly Girls, was also in attendance.  He uses Facebook and Twitter to publicize his deals.  Shelly from Shelly's Pole Studio was there and also very kindly performed a demonstration for our audience.  She also uses Facebook and Twitter for her business.  

Besides discussing the benefits to using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a hot topic was whether using deal websites such as Groupon or Living Social was beneficial to small businesses.  Although the sites are certainly continuing to find companies with deals to offer, it seems like many business owners are wary of the price cut they have to make in order to have access to any deal site's customer list. On one hand, offering a deal may expose your business to a whole new set of customers.  On the other hand, you are being paid a fraction of what you would normally make and there are no guarantees that any of those customers will return.

We also touched on the topic of professionals, such as doctors and attorneys, using social media.  As it gains popularity, having some kind of presence on social media websites is becoming almost mandatory.  We discussed some of our success stories, and how you can build followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook. 

The members of Social Sonar really enjoyed interacting with our attendees.  Each of us have a different area of expertise, so we were able to bring a fairly vast amount of experience to the event.  We felt that these owners already understood the importance of incorporating social media into their marketing plan -- some just needed some advice on how to implement it.  Personal interactions with your customers through social media sites can make a significant difference to a customer who might be on the fence about using your service or buying your product.  

We at Social Sonar really feel like owning your own business is the American dream and we feel very fortunate to have shared our time with this group of local business owners.  If you are interested in hosting a Social Sonar mixer with other business owners in your area, please let us know.