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Should you use a Facebook Group or Facebook Fan Page for your business?

Social Sonar - Sunday, September 11, 2011
There are really three options for you once you decide to put your business on Facebook (well, four really, but three "good" options).  

Choosing a Facebook fan page

A Facebook fan page is very easy to set up.  It allows you to choose a category of business or interest and include your business name, website, etc.  You would log in with your "Jon Smith" personal Facebook profile, then set up the "ABC Company" fan page.  When you post on the ABC fan page, you are posting AS ABC.  That also means if you personally "like" a link on your own page, ABC "likes" the link, not Jon Smith. 

Having a Facebook fan page also makes it easier to place ads with Facebook.  Facebook is constantly offering you to take advantage of their "Sponsored Stories," on the right hand side of your fan page.  If that is something you wish to do, you would follow a few steps and then your ad will be ready for approval. 

Facebook fan pages also allow your fans to write "Recommendations," which will also appear on the right hand side of your screen.  This is a free service and most times when a fan comes to "like" your page, Facebook will ask immediately if they would like to write a recommendation.  You may also ask your fans to come to the page and write one.

One current issue with fan pages is that people cannot generally tag photos with a fan page profile name.  They usually can, however, tag a comment.  So if you want to tag a fan page, I would suggest posting a photo and then making a comment below it, tagging the fan page.  Facebook could very well be in the process of fixing this, as you used to not be able to tag fan pages at all in comments.  When in your fan page, you can also use Facebook "as ABC Company."  This is a fun feature if you'd like to post as ABC, however, as of the posting of this blog, you can only post on other fan pages -- not in groups or on personal profiles. 

A draw-back (to some, but not to others) is that fan pages do not allow private messages.  All postings to ABC Company will be made publicly on the Wall.  This is fine if you don't want an overflowing in-box.  This can be bad if customers have issues that they are now posting publicly on your company's fan page wall.  Also, your personal Jon Smith Facebook profile does not automatically link to the fan page (unless you choose to publicize administrators), so people may not know that John Smith runs ABC Company's fan page (although, that is a positive for most).  Therefore, if you had hoped customers might send you a personal private message, that might not happen. 

Fan pages seem to be a good option for those who are planning to have many, many fans posting in their forum. 

Creating a Facebook Group

Facebook groups are often great for a more interactive experience.  When something is posted, or commented upon, it automatically moves to the top of the feed so that the popular posts are easy to find.  You can control the settings to make it secret, closed or open, based on who you would like to have posting in the group.  You also get an e-mail address associated with the it so that you can send e-mails to the entire group from your personal e-mail account.  Do not, however, underestimate how grumpy people can get when they receive unsolicited e-mails. 

Most people who dislike groups, however, complain that they don't like how they are added.  If you add a friend to the group, they are automatically placed in the group.  It doesn't ask permission of the friend.  They can easily leave the group, but I have seen many an argument go down in different groups over people being added without permission.  Also, if you, Jon Smith, posts in the group, you will be posting as Jon Smith, and not as ABC Company. 

Group members can very easily set up photo albums to share with other members.  You can also set up group chats and events or share documents.   

Groups seem to be especially great for smaller(-ish) groups of people who like to set up get-togethers or share photos -- for example, like a dance studio or a fishing club.

Setting up a Facebook profile for your business

A third option for your business is setting up a personal Facebook profile for ABC Company.  This means you would have two Facebook profiles -- one for Jon Smith and one for ABC Company.  You would need two separate e-mail addresses and log-ins.  For those who mostly want to use Facebook AS their company name, this is a fine option.  For those who don't want to maintain two separate profiles, it can be time consuming.

People can send you private messages, or choose to post on your wall.  You can also create a Sponsored Story ad using a profile.  Your customers cannot write a Recommendation, though. 

Your friends/customers may not create photo albums.  They can, however, easily upload a photo to your wall or tag you in their photos.  

Facebook Places

The fourth, not-so-great option I mentioned is the Facebook Places page -- basically Facebook Places is the entire phonebook dumped into the Facebook database to list companies all over the world.  It looks much like a fan page, which can cause confusion, but doesn't have all of the functionality of a fan page.  It allows people to "check-in" to places even if those companies do not have a fan page.  This created dual profiles for those companies who did take the time to create a fan page already.  Facebook is apparently working behind the scenes to allow companies to merge their fan and places pages.  However, if you wanted to try to run your places page like a fan page, you could certainly try it. 

I would suggest that if you are going to put in the effort, create a fan page, but keep an eye on the places page to make sure you aren't missing any postings by customers who aren't aware of the difference. 

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So those are your options for getting your business on to Facebook.  Each option does have certain positives and negatives, so you may want to make a list to decide which will work best for you.  What I would not recommend, though, is trying to maintain all three (or four) options.  It can get confusing and be extremely time consuming.  

In the meantime, if you need help getting your business on Facebook, Social Sonar would be happy to help!

Encouraging Your Customers to "Check-In"

Social Sonar - Saturday, September 03, 2011
Our smart phones offer many different options for "checking-in."  Yelp, Gowalla, FourSquare, Facebook places...  Many different versions of the yellow pages exist in digital form, allowing anyone and everyone to "check-in" and announce to the world exactly where they are hanging out at that exact moment.  Most of these apps on our phones link directly to Facebook and Twitter, giving an even wider audience to each post. 

BAM!  Free advertising for businesses! 

I often see these check-in's on Facebook and think to myself, "Man, I love the burritos there...I need to hit that place up," or, "I have a coupon to that store, I really should get in there and use it!"  Whether you have a shoe store, restaurant, day spa or flower shop, you probably have competition out there and if your customers can give you a leg up by recommending your store via the check-in, then you should take full advantage!

How can you get your loyal patrons to advertise for you? 

For some people, it's simply fun to be acknowledged.  I visited a costume jewelry store that had signs everywhere asking customers to "like" their fan page on Facebook.  The store offered to take a photo of the customer with their new purchase and post it to their fan page.  Most customers than happily scrambled to tag themselves (tagging themselves also exposes their entire friend list to your store's fan page as well).  It was like they were a celebrity being photographed by paparazzi in a jewelry store -- fun for them and free advertising for you. 

For others, perhaps offering a discount will help prod people into checking-in.  Maybe if a customer checks into your store during the check out process, you can offer 10% off.  People love feeling like they got a deal, and they didn't even have to work very hard for that one.  Another thing you can do is a special discount offer by e-mail when you see that someone has checked in (which will require some monitoring of your social media sites).  More simply, post on your Twitter and Facebook pages that you will give a discount if the check-in deal is simply mentioned at check out.  It could get people into your store regardless of whether they actually checked in or not. 

You can also hold a contest.  The customer who checks-in the most over the month will get a special gift package, discount or gift card to your store. 

The "check-in" certainly won't save the world, but it can definitely expose your store to new customers.  Sit down and figure out what will best encourage your customers to check-in and then implement it! 

If you need assistance with understanding the checking-in process or monitoring your social media sites, please visit www.socialsonar.com

Feeling Yelpless: Real Customer Service

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 27, 2011

So many of us seem to live in a virtual world. We rely on technology to tell us what to do, where to go, how to get there... We are lost if our iPhone dies and we have no access to our contact list, e-mails, texts, Facebook and Twitter. We hardly look up to see what's going on in the world because the entire world is in the palm of our hand.

When a company irritates us, many of us tell Yelp. It is easy to sit somewhat anonymously behind a computer and point fingers and talk about our horrible experience (although, hopefully, if you Yelp about bad experiences, you also Yelp about good ones). Putting aside the recent questions about Yelp's business practices, the concept of the website is actually pretty amazing. Allow people to go and talk about their own experiences so that others can make decisions based on those reviews.

Last year, I had a horrible experience with the service advisers at a local car dealership. After two particularly bad visits in a row (involving out-right lies trying to get me to spend money that I didn't need to spend), I decided to write a Yelp review. After some time passed, I did receive a response from the general manager asking me to return and give them another chance. Initially, I decided not to bother. I had found a new mechanic in the interim and I didn't feel like I needed to give a third, fourth or fifth chance to the dealership.

Fast forward a year. I received a recall notice for my truck. Recall notices mean you need to see a dealer. So I called up my local dealership again (you know, the one I said I would never return to) and made an appointment. The service advisers' desk were arranged differently and I thought to myself, "maybe they've made some changes!" Boy did they -- changes for the worse. This visit pretty much put the final nail in the coffin. The behavior of more than one employee was so out of line that I left almost in tears. I was charged a pretty large amount of money for something that I had no idea I would be paying with a list of many other items to be fixed -- all at a premium price, of course.

I updated my Yelp review to include the new experience and how I lowered my star rating from two to one -- with a note that I'd put zero if Yelp would have allowed me.

A friend suggested I call the dealership.

Huh?

No thanks. I'm Yelping! I don't want their pity, I want to warn other people from having to experience what I experienced!

No, really, maybe you should call.

I couldn't bring myself to call. I was still pretty upset about the whole situation and so I wrote an e-mail. I did not ask for a refund, and I did not ask for them to fix anything for me for free. I just factually stated what happened and how disappointing it was for a customer to be treated the way I was treated. I ended up receiving several e-mails from managers of this, that and the other. Everyone apologized all over themselves. Then the owner/general manager called and left me a message.

I debated awhile, then called him back and we spoke for probably 15 minutes. It was a great conversation. I explained that I just wanted him to know how his employees were acting when he wasn't looking. He seemed to genuinely appreciate the feedback. I did end up getting a full refund and some offers of freebies to come back. I haven't decided whether I'll return yet. But I do feel like taking my complaint outside of the virtual world and actually speaking to another human helped me get the closure that writing a Yelp review sometimes does not get you. (caveat: If you have a hot temper, this might not always work for you.)

I won't stop writing Yelp reviews. I like to review the good and the bad. But I now have a greater appreciation for human contact. Next time you have a bad experience with a company, maybe a call to the owner or manager will get you the results you were hoping for. This way you aren't sitting behind your computer with your negative Yelp review and nothing to show for it.

lolorashel lives in the bay area, where she tweets, posts, and twirls about Twirly Girl Pole Fitness: women of all shapes, sizes and abilities can flourish, get their sweat on and still feel sexy!

Protecting Your Business During Groupon Growth

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 20, 2011

Group deal websites can be a good experience for your company. They also have the capacity to create a huge headache.

Fortunately there are some things you can do to ensure things work out well for you and your new customers:

  • Make sure when you sign up that you get something in writing from the deal website outlining all promised rules and conditions before you agree to go ahead with the listing. 
  • Find out if you can get a direct dial number for one single person that will be your representative within the company. If you develop a relationship with someone, you will hopefully have an easier time getting a response if you have questions or problems after your listing has gone live. 

Websites like Groupon and Living Social continue to be huge deals (no pun intended) for consumers: products and services at half the price. However, as a business owner, make sure you weigh the pros and cons before you take the "easy" money.

Facebook Places vs. Facebook Fan Pages

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 13, 2011

If you've noticed duplicate "fan" pages for businesses on Facebook in the last year or so, you aren't the only one. Facebook created "places," which appears to be the entire white page phone book for the U.S. It allows people to "check-in" to places that don't have a fan page.

However, it created a duplicate nightmare for businesses that are on Facebook -- they now have TWO fan pages to try to manage. When searching for your business, a customer may accidentally end up on your places page.  It looks like a fan page and has a "like" button like a fan page. However, if you are unaware of your places page and only posting to and managing your actual fan page, they will be missing out on important information.

Originally Facebook asked business owners to combine their current fan page with their local places page. Businesses started doing this and then became very upset as they lost the majority of their fan page functionality.  Business owners then petitioned Facebook to remove the local page merging and Facebook did. It does appear that Facebook is trying to figure out internally how to deal with the situation.

If you and your business are in this situation, here's what you can do:  post the same posts to both pages, run the same contest on both pages and monitor both pages to respond to comments - that way you can communicate with all your fans via Facebook instead of only doing promotions for half of them.  It might be more time consuming, but until Facebook fixes the problem, you don't want to lose customers that may be on the "wrong" page.

If your business would like more information about what Social Sonar can do to help you manage your Facebook fan and places pages, please let us know!

Social Media for the Hospitality Industry

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 06, 2011

Cold Calling Concierge provides lead generation for the hospitality industry. Today we talk to owner Heather Yesko about social media in her industry and attitudes toward social media in general.

1. How do you use social media at your company?

Although we firmly believe that making face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice contact with people is key, we have found that social media sites are outstanding resources when it comes to connecting with others. We use avenues such as LinkedIn and Facebook to find potential clients, to keep in touch with existing clients and to promote our services. Even though these sites are pretty standard in social networking, due to the overwhelmingly successful response we have seen using them, we don't have the need to go elsewhere. We are however, always open to trying new advances in social media as they arise.

2. Have you seen a change in how companies are using social media? If so, can you explain?

Within the past few years social media seems to have switched gears from being a 'trend' in the marketing industry, to a standard in the business world. I consider this to be a positive, natural progression in our society as long as people are able to maintain a healthy balance of new technology and old fashion practices. Utilizing the internet to boost business is great and I think everyone should be educated on how to do so, but commodities such as in-person meetings and handwritten letters are personalized touches, not to be forgotten.

3. Where do you see social media, as it pertains to hotels and hospitality, going in the future?

The sky's the limit. I think the hospitality industry currently has access to the social media outlets they need to achieve their desired results, but the problem is: A.) They don't know how to use them efficiently or B.) They know how to use them, but simply don't. I read somewhere once that social media has become a staple more than a distraction and I think that is a great outlook to have, but in order to have our employees and future generations adopt that mind-set, training and motivation is required.

4. As an industry, what would you say the top 2-3 social media sites are to keep an eye on? Why?

I have a feeling that the sites to look out for are the ones that have yet to be created.

5. Do you have a dedicated person(s) to handle social media at your company? Why or why not?

I personally handle all of our social media. My employees do not have the bandwidth to take on any tasks other than catering to their clients. I have found during my years of experience, that the majority of people in the hospitality industry too often become overwhelmed with having to multi-task throughout their day which leaves them spreading themselves too thin in certain areas; unfortunately sometimes the most important areas. Because of this, my employees each have the same job to focus on throughout the day, everyday. This practice has shown high productivity and consistent results.

6. How, if at all, has social media changed the way you interact with clients and potential clients?

Social media has allowed us to reach people, that without it, would have never even been a blip on our radar. It's amazing how easy it is to saturate a particular market, or research a certain cross-section of people with just a few clicks of the mouse. And likewise, clients and potential customers can easily contact us and stay up to date on our latest services on their own time.

7. In general, do you see social media reputations as being more of a brand or property-level responsibility? Why?

I feel that it is a mixture of both. I think it's up to the brand to set the standard and protocol for how they wish to represent themselves through social networking and its up to the properties to uphold those standards. The brand should educate their properties on how to efficiently promote their services, but it is each property's duty to take that information and use social media to make it a reality. It's kind of like a parent-child relationship, or at least it should be.

8. Do you think it is harder for branded/corporate or boutique/smaller hotels when it comes to managing social media? Why?

When it comes to managing social media, I can see how it might be harder for branded/corporate hotels simply because they are working on a much grander scale. Keeping their message consistent and making sure the their properties are actively using social media could present a struggle, but as long as they have a plan in place and have the right management in place to educate and motivate, it should run smoothly. Boutiques and smaller hotels might have an easier time managing their social media, but they have the added difficulty of it actually working for them. Because they are on a smaller scale and the public might not be familiar with their property, as they would a large, popular brand, their hotel could easily be overlooked or fall through the social media cracks.

Using Facebook for Personal Business Profiles

Social Sonar - Saturday, July 30, 2011

Those Facebook fan pages sure are fun for restaurants, day spas and personal trainers. They can publish a daily special or advertise how well a client is doing with their weight loss. Facebook fan pages aren't for you, right? You are a professional -- an attorney, a doctor, an accountant. You put a suit on to go to work every day. Facebook is fun for sending pictures of your kids to your mom, but it is not for your business contacts. Or is it?

Facebook has 700 million users. I bet most of your business contacts have an account.

By night, I may be a blog-writing extraordinaire (or so I tell myself). By day, however, I am a litigation secretary, paralegal, and general admin to an attorney who practices in the insurance coverage industry. No, we don't do insurance defense, hired by insurance companies to represent car accident victims. We the represent insurance companies, who may be fighting with other insurance companies about coverage for said car accident victim -- a level above, so to speak. I know -- who knew that a wild pole dancing, blog-writing, social networker would have a real day job, right?!

Perhaps in our very specific and specialized field of law, a Facebook fan page is not essential. Our clients are generally large companies, so we deal with many faces in any given company. There is never one single person making decisions about cases -- from handing the work to us to signing off on a settlement. However, if we did personal injury and any Tom, Dick or Harry walking down the street was a potential client, a fan page might be something to consider.

I also don't think that a fan page would hurt our company. I "Google" pretty much everyone and everything. When I hire employees, I absolutely put their name into a search engine to see what comes up. I hardly believe I am the only potential employer doing this. So if someone decided to search for my boss' name or our law firm, I don't believe it would hurt to have as much of a positive presence on the internet as possible. .

I believe that a fan page can be beneficial to the internet-savvy professional, as long as it is managed properly. You want to make sure that your personal Facebook page has some distinguishing factor to keep it from being linked to your professional page. You certainly do not want the tagged photos from your drunken night out with friends to come up when people search for "Thomas W. Smith, Esq." Maybe you are Tom Smith professionally. However, why not be Tommy Smith privately? Sure, it might make it harder for your best friend from first grade to find you, but it might save you a headache in the long run. Even better, ask your friends not to post those photos -- what happens on Facebook, stays on Facebook...forever.

Having a website and/or Facebook page is becoming more and more common for businesses. It is almost as if you are not a valid company if you do not have some kind of presence on the internet. If your potential client searches your name, make sure you are controlling as much of the information released as possible. This is where Social Sonar comes into play. If you do not understand how social networking works, or think that just because you are not on Facebook, you are not being affected -- think again. Anyone can put any kind of information on the internet that they would like. Keeping up with the social media is important -- even in the professional setting!

lolorashel lives in the bay area, where she tweets, posts, and twirls about Twirly Girl Pole Fitness: women of all shapes, sizes and abilities can flourish, get their sweat on and still feel sexy!

Seven Tried and True Social Media Tactics for Facebook and Twitter

Alison Kawa - Saturday, July 23, 2011

There are a number of tried and true Facebook and Twitter tactics to engage and grow your audience. Here are some of our recommendations.

  1. Exclusive specials.
    Some companies offer discounts you can only receive if you are a fan or follower. This gives customers a reason to continue to use that channel.
  2. New products.
    Announcing new merchandise or services, especially if those are exclusive previews, is a great way to encourage site visits, as well as make your customers feel special.
  3. Offers.
    Facebook and Twitter are a good place to re-iterate ongoing offers. This type of post or tweet should be used sparingly unless you are an online deal site. Your company should have more to offer than just savings.
  4. Contests.
    Encouraging customers to think about and engage with your brand, whether it includes making a fun video, taking a picture, or just signing up for the chance to win, are easy ways to remind people about your company – and encourage sharing with their friends.
  5. Sharing.
    Asking people to share their lives is the equivalent of asking a friend about their weekend. People want to let you – and the world – know who they are and what they’re doing. It shows you want to get to know them better. As an added bonus, every time they share a link or photo on your wall, it is added to their feed for their friends to see.
  6. Tips and tricks.
    People love learning new things. Whether it’s related to your product or your industry, you come off looking like an expert and a resource when you’re the source of the information.
  7. Commentary.
    Having an explanation or opinion on things that concern your customers, whether it’s new laws or industry news, is a great way to show your voice, as well as let your customers know you’re thinking about their needs and concerns. Just be sure not to ostracize any of your customers. Ask them what they think.

Google+ vs. Facebook: The Battle Begins

Alison Kawa - Saturday, July 16, 2011

I would be missing the boat if I didn’t talk about Google+. The newest social network launched in beta mode two weeks ago, magically grabbing ahold of my contacts and long-forgotten Picasa albums.

Google+ presents a serious competitor to Facebook, which some believed would remain an unchallenged leader in the social media space.

There are a few ways Google+ will threaten Facebook’s hold:

Reach.
The new social network has access to millions of Google application users, all of whom have already heard of the service within a matter of two weeks.

Integration.
Google+ links with Gmail contacts and Picasa albums, making it easy for users to adopt and share the service.

Revenue.
Google+ has the social profiling and tracking Google AdWords has been using for years. Google+ will be able to serve more highly-targeted ads than Facebook, which does not have access to search history and email behavior. This will enable it to immediately take a piece of the social media advertising pie.

Google+ isn’t replacing Facebook in the immediate future. It will be interesting to see how things develop. No matter what the social network, Social Sonar is prepared to help you navigate and engage with your customers.

Top 5 Ways to Make Deal Customers Lifetime Customers

Social Sonar - Saturday, July 09, 2011

For most business owners, online deal sites offer a chance to get new visitors through the door. One of the biggest challenges of offering online group discounts like Groupon and LivingSocial is encouraging those visitors to return to your business. Since most online deal terms are not profitable to business owners, it is crucial to engage these new visitors in as many ways as possible to make the deal a success.

Here are our suggestions for a successful transition from singular to regular visits:

1. Treat Deal Customers like Regular Customers.

Girls on Cell Phones

News travels fast. You want it to be good.

Once a person enters the store with a deal in hand, the staff should take time to make their visit really personal. Deal seekers should not be treated half as well because they are only paying half price. A lot of people use online deal sites as a way of trying a store they have heard about from other sources. Even if a customer does not return, they will likely talk about your business to their friends or review it on Yelp. You want to make sure their story is a positive one.

2. Educate your staff on the details of the deal.

Every employee in your store should be well-versed in the details of the deal, so each customer gets the same deal - whether it's a week after the deal was bought, or three months. Discrepancies in terms and treatment often show up in Groupon forums, as well as Yelp reviews.

3. Get social with the deal seeker.

Encourage new visitors to sign up for Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and/or your email newsletter. Let them know you often post other discounts and specials on these sources. This keep your company top-of-mind and may encourage them to return.

4. Give them a reason to return.

If you have a rewards program, be sure to educate your newest customer on the benefits of becoming a regular.

5. Encourage them to review you.

Even if this customer does not return, they can still bring you more business. A positive review on Yelp encourages others to visit your store, whether they have a discount or not.

Have questions? Don't hesitate to give us a call. We can help you maximize your relationship with your newest customers.