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Get Social for the Holidays

Social Sonar - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The gift-giving season is almost upon us and you know what that means-- it’s make or break time for a lot of businesses. If you don’t believe us, check out some statistics about holiday shopping from last year. Did you know that almost 20% of retail sales for the entire year happened during the holiday season? With a growing emphasis on online shopping, your business's digital presence is more important than ever. Are you prepared to come out of the holiday season a winner? Here are some tips to help you get there!

Create an Inclusive Calendar

With a slew of events, parties and holidays on the horizon, it’s a good idea to step back and get organized with a detailed holiday calendar. We’ve created a table with some important events here. It’s never a bad idea to include local events or holidays that are important to your community. When you’re trying to reach a broad audience, don’t forget the importance of being as inclusive as possible!

A holiday calendar can help you work backwards as you roll out special deals, gift guides, special in-store events, and more! Remember, it’s a highly competitive time of the year, so it pays to get an early start. Every business is vying for the attention of shoppers, so make sure you create periodic messaging that leads up to important shopping days like Black Friday. 

Get Your Online Store Ready for Traffic

Are you as prepared online as you are at your physical location? Setting up your online store with updated pictures, offers and information about shipping during the holidays can help set you up for success. Online shoppers have the ability to easily compare competing businesses, so make sure that you highlight special deals wherever you can. Emphasize information that will make customers want to choose you every time.

Don’t forget to leverage the power of social media either. Use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to direct your followers to your online store. Use social media to feature gift baskets, customer reviews and other special items that will encourage customers to browse through your other online offerings. Before you start encouraging traffic, make sure all your links are updated, so that users can easily navigate your store. 

Man the (Social) Deck

With increased traffic at your stores and online, there are bound to be more customers reaching out to you. Don’t be surprised when users use Facebook and Twitter to contact you with questions, complaints, rants, raves or friendly holiday greetings! Instead, make sure you have a good monitoring plan in place, with a smart dedicated user keeping an eye out for red flags. The more quickly you handle that disgruntled customer who just tweeted about you, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to salvage the situation before it spirals out of control.

Are you altering your social strategy for the holidays? With many Americans getting ready to do a big portion of their holiday shopping before Halloween, there’s no time like the present to get started!

How to Determine your Ideal Customer

Alison Kawa - Monday, October 21, 2013

You should be thinking of your prospective customer from the moment you come up with your initial idea. Otherwise you won't be able to design a product! At each turn of product development, you should consider your customer. What would they find most helpful? How are other companies addressing this problem? Where are they succeeding or falling short?

Determining your Ideal CustomerThe question of who to design for is very important. You need to ask yourself:

  1. Who has the money?
  2. What is their problem?
  3. How can I solve this?

Starting out with "Who has the money?" is the opposite approach of what most people do when they come up with an idea for a startup. Most startup ideas are born out of personal frustration. "Why can't someone come up with an easy way to.... Eureka!"

Some angel investors are willing to fund your startup simply because they share your frustration and would like to see your product make it to market. However, most investors want to see a solid business model and customer acquisition plan before they hand over a check. Make sure you're setting yourself up for success by starting with a plentiful market.

We made this fundamental mistake when we started Social Sonar. My father's loose leaf tea shop was the inspiration for our service to manage social media for busy small business owners. We figured out a way to offer basic services at a very low cost and began signing up sole proprietors.

We soon discovered that even $150/month was a stretch for most small business owners. Tracking sales from social media is not a very straightforward process, and most of our customers didn't have the ability to attribute sales to our efforts. We found ourselves struggling to prove the value of our services and began losing customers sooner than we had anticipated.

Eventually we realized larger businesses would better understand the value of being seen as a content expert and building a relationship with their customers; they also have the resources to analyze traffic sources and attribute sales accordingly. Read: they have more money. 

We developed a higher-cost, more comprehensive offering for mid-sized businesses and have been more careful about who we sign up. Before we agree to provide services, we make sure they share the same goals and understanding of digital marketing we do. Our customers now stay with us longer and are more satisfied with our services.

Questions? Suggestions? Comment below or send us an email at service@socialsonar.com.

7 Signs It’s Time to Revise Your Social Media Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If you think you’ve figured out the social media game for good, we’ve got some news for you--social media can be a fickle friend. Your social strategy may be great today, but shifting trends, changing tastes and the arrival of new social networks can all change that very quickly! Here are a few signs it may be time to rethink your social media strategy.

“Is Anyone Out There?”

Has your number of followers plummeted? This is a sure sign that you need to take a look at your overall strategy. Fans might be jumping ship for any number of reasons (because your content is too repetitive, too impersonal or just plain annoying). Start with some research as to why people unfollow users on platforms like Twitter.

Your Customers Feel Ignored

Do you have angry customers coming into your shop or office wondering why you haven’t answered their tweets and Facebook messages? Customers hate being ignored whether it's online or in person. It’s time to rethink your social media platforms as an extension of the customer service experience you provide!

The Party Is Somewhere Else

If things seem dead, your most active users may have moved on to greener pastures. Are you still clinging to a dead social network? If your target audience is younger than twenty, you may want to invest more time and energy on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where teens and tweens are flocking to.

Your Website’s Traffic Isn’t What it Could Be

If you’re tracking visits to your business’s website and things are looking either lackluster or downright grim, you may not be leveraging the power of your social media platforms as well as you could.  

You Haven’t Published a New Blog Post in Months.

Your Blogger account wants to know where you’ve been for the last couple of months! The readers who follow your regular posts are also hungry for more! If your content has dried up, it’s time to set up a better blogging schedule. A weekly schedule gives you time to come up with ideas, the chance to edit things properly before they hit the web, and enough lead time to keep publishing on time. 

You’ve Got Hate Mail.

Yikes--talk about a red flag! If you’re getting e-mails and tweets from customers who are angry about your content, you may not know your audience as well as you think you do. Remember that reaching a broad audience might mean keeping polarizing opinions to yourself.

You’re Not Focused on Visuals.

Visual social media is dominating networks, so if you’re still relying purely on text to carry your message across, it’s time to bust out the camera! Flashy profiles with lots of high definition images are sure to attract more attention, especially fans who follow you through their mobile devices.

Are you in a rut when it comes to your social media strategy? You can never go wrong with increasing your engagement, answering questions promptly, sharing more of yourself and sharing a good variety of high quality content. How have you reinvigorated your social strategy over the past few years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Important 2013 Holiday Shopping Dates

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The holidays are fast approaching. If you haven't done it by now, you should create a marketing plan outlining your approach to each of the following 2013 shopping holidays.

Day Date Major Holiday Secondary Holiday
Wed 10/16/2013 Boss's Day
Thu 10/31/2013 Halloween
Sun 11/3/2013 Daylight Saving Time ends
Mon 11/11/2013 Veterans Day
Thu 11/28/2013 Thanksgiving Day First Day of Hanukkah
Fri 11/29/2013 Black Friday
Mon 12/2/2013 Cyber Monday
Thu 12/5/2013 Last day of Hanukkah
Sat 12/7/2013 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day
Sat 12/21/2013 First Day of Winter
Tue 12/24/2013 Christmas Eve
Wed 12/25/2013 Christmas Day
Thu 12/26/2013 Kwanzaa (until Jan 1)
Tue 12/31/2013 New Year's Eve

Holly and Southwest Airlines: Lessons Learned

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Last week we shared the story of Holly, who earned the title of “Most Remarkably Kind Flight Attendant in the World" with a little help from social media. It’s a case study in how a company of any size can seize on an online interaction and turn it into an exciting and memorable real-life marketing opportunity. 

Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t have to be a huge company like Southwest Airlines to pull off a well-executed display of marketing savvy. Let’s take a look at some lessons learned from Holly’s story and how you can make Southwest’s approach work for your own business.

Monitoring is Key

Without good monitoring, it’s hard to see how Southwest could have concocted the plan to meet Holly and her admiring passengers at the gate. A sharp eye towards their ever-changing Facebook page helped them spot Rowland’s message in time to craft a response. Having constant awareness of online conversations about your business opens the door to creating personalized interactions, so make sure you have a comprehensive monitoring strategy in place.

Putting Out Fires is Only Half the Job

Dealing with disgruntled customers through social media is an important aspect of your social strategy, but don’t become so concerned with negative interactions that you forget to build on positive ones. Sometimes you need to put out a fire, but other times it’s important to sow the seeds of your next great customer experience. Look for opportunities to grow small interactions into lifelong relationships!

Response Time Matters

Without a rapid-fire response from Southwest Airline’s marketing team, Holly and her passengers would have likely been safely back home and sound asleep by the time someone got around to checking Facebook. Besides good monitoring, responding quickly also means going with your instinct, cutting through red tape, and trusting that you already have the resources to wow your customers with your creativity.

Little Details Go a Long Way

One of the best things about the story of Holly and her passengers is the detailed response they received from Southwest Airlines. They created special sash for Holly and presented her a giant commemorative cookie. Southwest even took Rowland up on his offer to sign a contract he himself had stipulated in his original Facebook post. That kind of thoroughness will leave your customers with little doubt that you are really listening to them!

How have you managed to create real life surprises for your customers that follow you online? Chances are, if you have, it’s had a big ripple effect, as delighted customers share the story and become evangelizers for your brand. At the end of the day, there’s no better ambassador for your business than a satisfied customer.

How Southwest Airlines Won Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Sometimes a company uses the power of social media to brighten someone’s day, put the icing on the cake of a great customer service experience, or quickly resolve an issue that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But seldom does a marketing team channel the power of social networking to really blow the lid off a customer’s experience. That’s exactly what Southwest Airlines did for a couple en route from Nashville to Phoenix. Here’s the story of their flight attendant, Holly, and the whiz PR team that turned one online comment into an unforgettable event for everyone involved.

It All Started at Cruising Altitude...

Thousands of miles up in the air, a passenger named Rowland and his girlfriend had the good fortune of meeting Holly, an aircrew member set on going above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making her passengers comfortable and happy. When she learned that Rowland and his girlfriend were fans of Taylor Swift, she gifted them with some guitar picks that Swift’s father had given to her on a previous flight. Needless to say, they were elated!

One Post Spurred it All

Rowland was so taken with Holly’s generous gesture that we had to share it with the world. Here’s what he shared via Facebook:

“If someone in the Southwest Airlines corporate HQ can see this – I’m on flight 913 currently en route to Phoenix and I want yall to know that our flight attendant Holly is perhaps one of the most remarkably kind and helpful people my girlfriend and I have ever met. If you can meet us at the gate with something remarkable for this remarkable woman (a promotion, a raise, a chipotle burrito, anything), I will sign a document pledging to only fly Southwest from here on out (unless you do not fly where I need to go). Of course – I request a “Keyman Clause” in this agreement stipulating the contract terminates if Holly ever leaves. People like her are why I fly SWA.”

A Golden Opportunity

Seeing a golden opportunity before them, the marketing team at Southwest Airlines devised a plan. Their response included a well-earned sash and giant commemorative cookie for Holly (who had certainly proved herself to be worthy of her new title), and a freshly minted contract for Rowland, where he could follow through on his commitment to only fly Southwest Airlines. With a big to-do at the gate, the Southwest team was able to turn one great customer experience into a fantastic photo-op and viral story that was bound to gain some traction as it made its way across the web.

What’s the biggest takeaway from Holly and Rowland’s story? Interactions with guests and customers are at the heart of every business, so it's vital to shine a spotlight on them. With a sharp eye for what your followers are saying about you on social media and a willingness to spring into action when a great PR opportunity shows up, you can create a really memorable event that sums up what you’re all about as a business: building relationships and creating great customer experiences. What are some other big takeaways from Southwest Airline’s response? Stay tuned for part two of this blog post, where we delve deeper into some lessons learned from Holly, Rowland, and Southwest Airlines.

Is a Backlash Against Smartphones and Social Media on the Horizon?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Did you catch this video a few weeks ago? It quickly made its way around the Internet and became a viral hit with smartphone owners who recognized their own anxiety at the thought of making it through the day without their favorite mobile device.

The video features friends at parties, restaurants and at outdoor get-togethers opting to engage in the mediated social connections available through their phones and disregarding the social connections they could be making in person.

Sound familiar? With social media at your fingertips, it can be hard to put your phone aside, focus on the present moment and disconnect from the ever-present fear that you might be missing out on something else.

The sight of friends and family experiencing and observing a birthday party through the screen in their palm is more than a little dystopian, and it seems like the Internet agrees that we’re at a crucial point when it comes to considering the role of technology in our lives.

With more than 23 million views on YouTube, it’s clear that the makers of this short film have really struck a chord with people. More than one person who commented on the video vowed to stay off their phone for a while-- a smartphone sabbatical, if you will. Louis CK’s own thoughts on smartphones also went viral, showing how many people relate to the idea of living in a culture of distractions often provided by smartphones.

With more people questioning the way in which Internet connectivity is becoming more integrated into our daily lives, could there be a social media backlash brewing?

One thing's for certain, mobile devices aren’t going anywhere. In fact, some are even suggesting that there could be more mobile devices than people before the year is out! Take a moment to let that sink in. On a planet populated by billions of people, there would be more portals to engage in social media than there are actual human beings.  

If you think smartphones are ubiquitous now, just wait. As they continue to lower in price, they’ll become even more accessible to people from different walks of life, not just those with disposable income. Some companies are even flirting with the idea of free smartphones, although the idea of what constitutes “free” is more than a little bit tricky. Wearable technology will also increase people’s access to the Internet wherever they go, augmenting their experience of daily life and creating cyborg-like citizens that confirm the worst fears of luddites. 

Of course, what we are talking about when it comes to “intentional” social media use is really a cultural issue. While the rise of mobile technology is predictable, it’s harder to predict how people will respond to it. Will we embrace the integration of more technology into our lives by living in virtually altered presentations of the world around us? Will we modify our bodies to be closer to the technology that lets us connect with others through the Internet?

Taking a break from social media and mobile technology can be a healthy goal. But small business owners can’t ignore that it’s an integral part of their overall marketing strategy. The reach, level of interaction and sustained connectivity it offers is just too great to pass on when it comes to building a strong brand. Like other useful technological advancements that have helped entrepreneurs broaden their reach, it’s important to reach a balance.

Target the time you spend online by setting and following clear intentions when you log on. Set time limits for yourself when you’re on social media to force yourself to be more productive. For some suggestions on how to maximize your time online, you can follow our advice for avoiding the slippery slope down the social media rabbit hole.

Consider creating zero-tech zones for your friends and family where you promise to set aside your smartphones for a designated amount of time and focus on fully engaging with one another in person. You’ll be ahead of the curve when it comes to appreciating and making the most of online and real-time social connections. Your business and your personal life will be all the better for it!

Get on the Soapbox: Social Media for Social Causes

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Non-profits, organizations for social change and independent advocators of good, lend me your ears! The time has come to step up to the social media soapbox to amplify your message, educate the populace and drive your community into meaningful action. With better approaches to blogging, e-mail marketing and social media, you can broaden your reach, invigorate your base and ultimately carry out your mission more effectively.

While it’s true that big corporations have a lot of money to put behind their big branding efforts, some of the most effective tools they have at their disposal are social ones like Facebook and Twitter, which non-profits and small businesses have equal access to. So why not take advantage of some of the best connective tools available to your organization? Here are four easy ways to get started with online organizing.

Create a Twitter Cheat Sheet

So you’re already on Twitter? Fantastic! Now it’s time to make the most of it. Creating a cheat sheet is a great way to keep track of important hashtags, influencers and key talking points. Here are some key hashtags to get you started.

Embrace Digital Development Tools

Online auctions are a great way to fundraise. Some websites even specialize in hosting auctions for non-profits. Make sure you leverage your influence on Twitter and Facebook to funnel followers towards your fundraising pages. If you’re running a multi-day online auction, create regular posts with great pictures that showcase each item. You can also take advantage of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

Reach Out to Like-Minded Organizations

There is power in numbers, so make sure you are connecting with individuals and organizations that share your values. Look for opportunities to connect with the missions of others. You’ll broaden the scope of your influence and find new collaborators and supporters. By staying regularly engaged on social media, you can find the most active conversations around issues that matter to you the most. It’s a great way to network while you also gain exposure to the philosophies and practices of other online activists. Try these approaches:

  • Check out this list of 26 major charities and non-profits making their mark on social media.
  • Host a Tweet Chat centered around overlapping issues.
  • Take advantage of person-to-person connections at events like conferences, retreats and summits. When you get home, keep important conversations going through social media.
  • Blog about a cause that's typically outside the scope of your organization, then share it with people and organizations who promote that cause. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for someone else. Don't forget to link back to your own page!
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and e-mail blasts to promote events that are being produced by other organizations. Then, when you host your own fundraisers or meetups, ask for your fellow organizers to return the favor.
  • Highlight Success Stories

    Social media is an incredible storytelling device. One of the biggest things to overcome as a non-profit organization fighting for social change is the cynicism of believing that nothing will change. To be certain, many fights worth fighting are an uphill battle. But by putting an emphasis on success stories through articles, long-form blog posts, and e-mail blasts, you can show that progress is being made every day.

    What other ways have you used social media to ignite your followership? Are your Facebook and Twitter feeds a repository for stale information, or are they filled with inspiring rhetoric that spurs others into action? Share your own experience below.

    What the Fox Say: A Lesson in Viral?

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

    Daft Punk, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke may all have had a jump start on trying to stake a claim on this year’s song of the summer, but just as fall arrives at our doorstep, a dark horse (or is it fox?) is leaping into the race to trump their efforts and rewrite music history.

    The video and song in question are from a Norweigan group called Ylvis, and just like Old McDonald, these musicians have a keen interest in the sounds of various fauna. But unlike Old McDonald, whose scope of zoological sound sampling was bound to the barnyard, Ylvis goes one step forward to pose the eternal question, “What the Fox Say?”

    Okay, maybe we’re being a little bit facetious here. The song hasn’t exactly rocketed up the Billboard charts, but it has absolutely dominated blogs and social media over the past week. As of this posting, it’s managed to rack up over 15 million views on YouTube. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an indisputable viral sensation.

    If a Norweigan band can harness the power of the internet to raise its profile in such a powerful and immediate way, can you do the same? Here’s what we can learn about viral videos from “What the Fox Say.”

    The Sincerity Factor

    Treading the line between sincerity and irony is tricky, but it pays off. One way to get viewers hooked is to play with their expectations. If you caught yourself asking, “Are they for real?” while watching the Ylvis video, join the club. That mystery is a key ingredient that leads viewers to want to discover more. Did you catch the Worst Twerk Fail Ever video? Turns out it was just a gag from notorious serial prankster Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, there is a big difference between being tongue-and-cheek and being a flat-out liar. The trick is to know your audience and what kind of humor they’re primed for. 

    Embrace the Absurd

    Designer Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Absurdity and anti—absurdity are the two poles of creative energy.” We’re not sure what the heck that means, but exploring the absurd is definitely a way to reach people immersed in internet culture. If anyone disagrees, kindly refer those detractors to any of the Harlem Shake videos The internet is a strange place, filled with weird, wild stuff. Embrace it! Just check out two of the most influential pages on the web, Reddit and Buzzfeed, and see what you stumble across. Think of it as a daily digest of the web’s most viral idiosyncrasies.

    Viral Fame is Touch and Go, but Still Important

    Viral fame can come your way and then-- quick as a fox-- vanish into thin air. While it’s the holy grail of awesomeness (to borrow a little internet slang) for many marketers, it only represents a small part of what you can do through social media to reach out to fans. Still, harnessing even a little power from “the secret of the fox” can help you break out of the monotony of your usual content. Don’t be afraid to get a little whacky and meet your web followers on their level by speaking their lingo. That includes both the language you use and the visual media you create and share.

    What’s your favorite viral video? Think about the things that make you come back to it over and over. Did you feel compelled to share it right away? Put yourself in the shoes of the customers on the other end of your social media strategy and you’re sure to gain a new perspective. Who knows, you might even score next year’s song of the summer. Better start planning now!

    Is Your Store Camera-Ready?

    Social Sonar - Friday, September 06, 2013

    If you think celebrities are the only people getting constantly caught on film by roving bands of photographers, we’ve got news for you. Everyone’s an amateur documentarian these days, and that means anywhere where there’s a smartphone, there is likely to be a record of what went on there-- including plenty of pictures.

    That’s why it’s important to have a camera-ready store. If your small business deals with retail sales in any way, you already know that each store is a little slice of your brand that customers get to experience in person. Here are a few good reasons to make sure you try to win the prize for most photogenic.

    Visual Social Media is on the Rise

    If you thought expressing yourself in 140 characters or less was tough, try summing up your brand in just one image. That’s exactly the kind of thinking that big brands are trying to wrap their heads around as visual social media has saturated the web. With user-generated photography playing a big part in the rise of visual media on social network, your store is more than likely to become the backdrop for lots of moments, so make sure it’s ready to steal the spotlight at every chance.

    Yelpers and Reviewers are Everywhere

    “Everyone’s a critic,” the saying goes, and that’s especially true now that users have platforms like Yelp at the tip of their fingers. Applications like Yelp, which roundup reviews from everyday customers, are also visually driven. Many reviewers will take pictures of your store. Don’t let a disgruntled patron who complains about cleanliness have a heydey by also giving them the perfect photo-op to backup their criticism!

    Build Your Brand

    Thinking about the visual impact your store makes is a great opportunity to think about your identity. What kind of impression are you trying to make on customers? What are the best design choices that communicate those ideas effectively? Changes you make in order to be more photo-ready--like improving your lighting, updating frumpy decor or adding a fresh coat of paint--are changes that reflect well on you no matter how customers are interacting with you.

    Do you think your store is camera-ready? Walk around and look at things through the lens of your smartphone or digital camera. Something may look great when you’re up close and personal, but lose its charm once you see it on a screen, so take a shot at playing paparazzi for a bit and see what you discover.