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Thinking About Inbound Marketing? Start with Social Media

Social Sonar - Friday, August 30, 2013

A few years ago, “inbound marketing” may have seemed like an industry buzzword that was just another flash-in-the-pan fad, but in 2013, it’s proven to be an effective method of growing your business in an exciting and sustainable way. More than that, inbound marketing is a way to involve your customers by turning them into fans and, further down the road, evangelizers of your brand.

What exactly is so different about the inbound marketing approach? Unlike traditional methods of reaching out to customers, inbound marketing incorporates approaches that take advantage of customers’ interest and ability to find you. In other words, potential followers are interested in finding you, learning more about you and--if they love your brand-- helping other customers spread the good word about you!

If you guessed that the Internet and social media have played a key role in making inbound marketing successful, you’re absolutely right. In fact, it's hard to think how inbound marketing could thrive without the connectivity that the Internet provides.

The way in which customers are able to interact with brands through social networks is unprecedented and has shifted the rules of the game in a significant way. But without great content to capture attention, you might be missing out on one of the biggest ways to grow your brand.

Your social media strategy is the cornerstone of a sound inbound marketing approach. In some cases, it’s the first point of engagement that your customers have with your brand. In many cases, it’s the most meaningful form of interaction because it requires action and involvement from both ends. Social media opens a two-way street of communication where you can build lasting relationships, an ongoing rapport and sustained interest in the experience your brand provides.

Do you think inbound marketing is the next logical step for your small business or organization? Start with a healthy social media presence. Strategize to create and curate the most attractive content possible, keep fans coming back for more and be consistent with your engagement. Think of your presence on social networks as calling card that will lead to many new encounters, meaningful connections and ultimately a community of people invested in your brand.>

Is Your Blog Fit to Print?

Social Sonar - Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is your blog fit to print? Even if it never makes it to the printed page, the content on your blog should face the same level of scrutiny as the front page of your favorite newspaper. While many of us can’t afford the luxury of hiring a copyeditor to hover over our shoulder and play grammar police, there are still a few easy steps that you can take towards communicating clearly and getting rid of pesky mistakes that might be taking away from your message.

Form an Editorial Board

Peer editing can be an effective way of catching mistakes before they hit the web. Put together the best writers from your organization and set up a system where you verify each other’s work. You might want to pre-establish some boundaries to ensure that some editors don’t get overzealous.Assure everyone that the goal is always to preserve the original writer’s voice and intentions while making the overall message as clear as possible.

Create Style Sheets

Do you have a consistent way of writing numbers, creating bullet points or capitalizing special industry terms? Routine readers are sure to pick up on inconsistencies, so it’s not a bad idea to create a style sheet. You can also remove ambiguity from the equation this way and make sure multiple writers are all on the same page.

Keep Writing Resources at Hand

We all get stumped every so often, and that’s okay. No one can remember every instance of correct spelling, punctuation or grammar, so it’s best to always keep great writing resources handy. The Chicago Manual of Style is sometimes referred to as the bible of copyediting--and for good reason! There is a tremendous amount of information to be found here, from military abbreviations to the preferred way to write out dollar amounts.

Make a Cheat Sheet with Common Mistakes

Do you often forget the difference between “effect” and “affect”? How about “there,” “they’re” and “their”? The rules of the English language aren’t always straightforward, and for each one you memorize, there always seems to be an exception! Don’t get hung up on mistakes. Instead, learn from them! Keep a log of the words you misspell, the commas you misplace and other repeat offenses and you’re guaranteed to start seeing less of them as your writing moves forward.

The best part about blogging? You can always log back in, change a typo and hit update! Still, anything that represents your brand should also represent your hard work, knowhow and attention to detail, so before you hit publish, get down to the nitty gritty details and make sure that they’re adding up to a big picture worthy of your efforts.

Social Media Gaffes: Domino's Apologizes for Great Pizza

Social Sonar - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Some people really can’t take criticism. But you know what can be even more embarrassing? Not being able to take a compliment. That’s exactly what happened to Domino’s Pizza this past week when they accidentally responded to praise from a customer with an apology.

A social media faux pas is not the end of the world, and while it’s important to know how to bounce back from one, isn’t it even better to avoid having one altogether? Here are some important lessons learned from Domino’s Pizza mistaken social media “delivery.”

The "Domino's" Effect

If you have enough followers and brand recognition, your mistake is bound to be amplified through hundreds or even thousands of followers sharing the flub. A mistake might seem small, but it can have big ripple effects. In this case, it weakens the perception of a confident brand. 

Real Time Monitoring is the Way to Go

Automated messages may be a way to save you time, but they can’t replace the watchful eye and good judgement of a real person. A bot who is programmed to create responses based on keywords may not be able to generate the best response because it’s unable to understand the context of the original message. Allotting time and resources to a dedicated user will make your messaging more personable and responsive to changing scenarios.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Profile

When people engage you on social media, it’s in the hopes of reaching a real person on the other side. One of the things that’s frustrating about a mistake like this is watching the curtain roll back to reveal that there was an impostor there all along! With too much automation, you run the risk of losing sight of your original mission: greater access to the people who make up your company and can best communicate your core values online.

Don’t Expect the Worse

With any online interaction, it’s best to go in with a positive attitude. When you assume the worst,you may be the one unintentionally manifesting your most dreaded scenario.A gaffe like the one Domino’s experienced could betray your own insecurities about your product, and that’s unlikely to inspire confidence from your fans!

What do you think Domino should do differently in the future? Have you experienced a similar gaffe using automation? Share your thoughts below!

Facebook Profile or Fan Page?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, August 07, 2013

For those of you joining this program already in progress, it’s hard to deny that Facebook has become a virtual, modern-day version of the yellow pages-- with one glaring exception: you can actually interact with the listed companies in real time.

In the same way that you wouldn’t want your business excluded from something as essential as a phone book, refusing to list yourself on Facebook is a choice that limits your visibility and gives your competitors an upper hand. But when you do make the choice to jump into the fray, is it with a profile page or a fan page?

Facebook Profiles

Facebook profiles are the types of accounts that most individual users have. Your mom, your friends and possibly even your pets have these kinds of pages. Everyone with a Facebook Profile also has a timeline, where you update your status, pictures, links and videos. You can also easily send friend requests to connect with others. Unless your profile is set to be as public as possible, users will have to friend you before they can access content on your timeline.

Facebook Fan Pages

Facebook fan pages are a little different. For one thing, users can look at content directly as soon as they make the choice to “like” your page. This shortcuts the step of waiting for approval from a friend request. Fan pages have built in tools that help you keep track of who is following you. Unlike Facebook profiles, there is no upper limit on how many people subscribe to your updates-- a big advantage for a brand! If you want to create subcategories of content for fans to explore, you can build custom tabs. Fan pages are also indexed in Facebook’s search engine, which makes it easier for followers to find you.

It’s probably clear that for most of your business needs, a fan page makes the most sense. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t promote your business through your personal profile as well. Just make sure that when you’re representing your business you do so through your fan page. That helps to build the identity of your brand, give it a voice and build a following connected to your product or service rather than just one individual.

Tweet Chats: Take a Two-Pronged Approach

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Part of Twitter’s beauty is the way it forces users to be concise. Many interactions on Twitter consist of “one-offs,” retweets, short replies and, on occasion, longer back-and-forth exchanges that can last a few days. While this enables quickfire connections and dynamic newsfeeds, the brevity of this kind of communication can also leave you wanting more. That’s where Tweet Chats come in.

Tweet Chats lets you structure your Twitter activity around one specific topic for as long as you want. Whether you are looking to host one or just participate, the logistics are simple. Just set a time and create a hashtag that helps followers label their contributions to the conversation. Everyone who’s taking part can track new contributions by following the hashtag. Sound interesting? Take a two-pronged approach to make the best of Tweet Chats:

Reach out to Customers

If you have an active Twitter community that follows your business, you can host a Tweet Chat to connect with customers. If you’re on the cusp of a big announcement, treat it is a mini-press conference. You can facilitate the chat by asking customers questions or turn the tables and let them drive the conversation. When curious newcomers join your Tweet Chat, you have the chance to engage them and turn them into brand devotees.

Network with other Professionals

Looking to connect with other industry influencers? Look for Tweet Chats they may be hosting. Other people in your field might already be meeting to discuss new trends that could impact you. There’s even the possibility for strategizing to form important partnerships along the way.

What’s your area of expertise? Is there a pressing issue in your industry that you’re curious about? What are your customers' most frequent questions? Use this directory of regular chats and start Tweet Chatting your way to some answers!

Better Blogging Made Easy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 24, 2013
You don’t have to be a master wordsmith when it comes to blogging, but readers will appreciate it when you make an effort to share your best writing. Lots of us are born with the gift of gab, but committing those ideas to ink (or in this case pixels) is another story entirely. We’ve all prematurely hit “publish” and later looked back to spot a typo or two--or even worse, realized that our ideas are interesting but unorganized and hard to follow. If you’re intimidated at the prospect of sharing your thoughts online, don’t be scared. There are a few simple things you can start doing today to make sure that your great ideas aren’t undercut by your approach to writing.

Create an Outline

If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of ideas to share. Creating a short outline before you start writing can help your posts become more organized. Think of main ideas you want to touch on and then develop points that support those main ideas. Think of an outline as a handy roadmap that will help you avoid unplanned digressions and keep you and your readers on course. 

Stay Away From Jargon

Unless you are writing for other professionals in your industry, it’s best to avoid highly technical jargon. Not everyone may know what an “electronic engine immobilizer" is, but if you run a business related to cars, your followers are sure to be grateful for the explanation. Remember, not everyone is immersed in the culture of your industry, so don’t make people feel excluded from the conversation.

Err on the Side of Brevity

When you’re editing your blogs, look for opportunities to be more concise. Are there places where you’re being redundant? Can you replace a long phrase with two or three words? In our attempt to sound knowledgeable, we often lay on more words, turns of phrases and rhetorical devices than we need to. Trimming the fat can be hard because it often leaves your ideas exposed. Can they stand on their own? If not, it may be worth reworking your post.

What are your best practices when it comes to writing? Do you have advice from a favorite English teacher etched into your memory? Share your tips for better blogging below.

Social Media and the Art of the Tease

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What motivates customers to follow you on social media? For some, the promise of having firsthand knowledge about new projects and products is too good to resist. Followers love having a direct line to you so that they can be the first to know about big changes that your brand is rolling out. Creating teases and previews on your social media platforms can be a great way to create a feeling of exclusivity and special access for your customers.

Be Mysterious....

Don’t give it all away at once. Instead, create a social media campaign where you slowly roll out small updates that culminate in a big reveal. You can build anticipation this way and encourage your followers to engage with each other to guess what it could be.

...But Don’t Play Hard to Get!

Mystery is great, but you don’t want to prolong it unnecessarily. You could end up turning the attention and interest of your audience into frustration. The hype game can be tricky this way. Make sure you have something really special to reveal at the end so that your followers don’t feel spurned.

Use a Variety of Media

You can crop photos to reveal only a portion of what you’re about to premiere, use small snippets of video or write cryptic clues. Vary your message to make the mystery that much more titillating. As you start getting attention, you can be coy with your responses to comments, letting customers know they just might be on the right track.

Is there a downside to teasing new developments? There absolutely can be. If you don’t follow through with your plans, you may find yourself surrounded by once-eager, now-empty-handed followers who are ready to move on from you. Do your best to preview plans that are already in motion and that you are sure will be completed. As phases of new project are completed, share staggered updates through social media. That way you won’t become a victim of your own hype.  

What big projects are on the horizon for you? A venue change? A brand new product? Maybe an entire re-branding? Whatever it is, use social media to give your next unveiling the attention it deserves.

Learn More About Your Followers With New Facebook Graph Search

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Facebook’s latest update is a more intuitive and personalized kind of search engine. With dozens, hundreds or thousands of interactions happening constantly, it’s impossible to keep track of the mountain of information that your business accrues every day. With the new graph search option, it’s easier to find out where your followers live, what kind of shows or movies they enjoy and even what kind of posts they’ve engaged with in the past. But what does that mean for your overall social media strategy?

Where My People At?

If you’re the owner of a pizzeria based out of Brooklyn, New York, you’re probably interested in growing your fanbase only as far as you can deliver. How do you make sure you’re targeting the people nearest you? With graph search, you can now pinpoint how many of your fans are local. If your service isn’t limited by a geographic location, you can see which areas are prime for expansion.

What Do You Like?

Are you curious to know what else your followers are into? This might be really valuable when it comes to cross promotional campaigns. If you discover that your customers are also big fans of Grumpy Cat, maybe it’s time to post a few more memes featuring her. You can discover more about the interests of your followers this way and tailor your content to encourage their engagement.


What’s My Demo?

With graph search, you can also pinpoint vital niche markets. You may suspect that your target audience exists in the overlap between millennial Harry Potter fans and beer enthusiasts, but up until now, there was no way to be sure. By pinpointing that precious overlapping slice of space where two big fields of interest intersect, you could be zeroing in on the most important demographic to your business. 

One of the great things about the search is that you can type in full phrases instead of just a string of search terms. That means you can find the answer to queries like “people who love mangoes and Rihanna.” Ready to try out graph search for yourself? Facebook is rolling out a beta version this week, so keep your eyes peeled and expect the option to show up soon on your own Facebook account.

Through the GrapeVine: Three Lessons from the Death of a Social App

Social Sonar - Monday, June 24, 2013

Last week saw the launch of Instagram Video, an expansion of the popular photo sharing app that lets users tell stories with up to 15 seconds of video instead of just static images.  The response was huge. In just 24 hours, users posted more than 5 million videos. As expected, Twitter’s own video application Vine has suffered as a result of Instagram Video’s popularity, so much so that #RIPVine became a trending hashtag on Twitter. Although it’s not clear if Vine will make a successful comeback, its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the social media sun does illustrate some interesting ideas.

Easy Come Easy Go

Today’s hottest social media platform could easily be tomorrow’s social media graveyard. Things move quickly online and it’s important to keep up. Having a dedicated user that is up to speed when it comes to online trends is essential. You don’t want to be the only person still trying to make Friendster happen after everyone has moved on!

Video is Big on Mobile

Both Vine and Instagram Video show that users are craving video on mobile, even if it comes in short snippets. Listen to your customers. What can you share about yourself through video that you haven’t shared before? Even in 15 second intervals, the storytelling possibilities are endless. The best tool for becoming an amazing video producer may already be in your hands! You don’t need fancy equipment or trained professionals to get started, so be your own videographer starting today.


Users Rule

The ebb and flow of popular online platforms is now squarely in the hands of users. Users decide when an application has run its course. When it comes to social media applications, people may be fickle at times, prompting fast changes, but they also have their eye on the next thing that will maximize their participation and take the next innovative step technologically.

Are you an early adopter of Instagram Video? What’s the most creative use you’ve seen for it so far? Share your comments below.

Why Did Nintendo Pass on a Press Conference at E3?

Social Sonar - Friday, June 21, 2013

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Some aspects of marketing may seem like they’re too tried-and-true to give up, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be subject to some skillful reinvention. Just look at Nintendo’s recent decision to eschew a traditional press conference at E3 (arguably the biggest industry event for videogames in the world) in favor of sharing news with fans through social media. Nintendo’s decision to abstain from putting together a big presentation may have been considered suicide in the past, but that’s not necessarily true in an age where so many of the interactions between customers and the companies they love are happening online.

Instead of relying on one keynote address to summarize upcoming releases, Nintendo decided to use social media channels like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to roll out information directly to fans. It’s a shrewd move that pulls the focus away from creating a one-off event that’s built to impress reporters on the showroom floor and moves the conversation online. It also lets them add depth to their presentations by featuring video interviews with game developers that otherwise may not have been able to share stage time.


The approach means that users don’t need a plane ticket, special badge or press credentials to be first seat for news. It’s a case study in how to be open, transparent and engaged with lots of followers at once, without having to rely on traditional media outlets to relay information. It also collapses the wall between the conversations that are happening at the event and the ones that are happening online. In the past, users were used to commenting on impressions from journalists reporting from the floor. Now, they don’t have to wait for a slow trickle of information to react to--they can experience it in real time. Here is Regie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo America, explaining more about Nintendo’s unconventional choice.

What do you think about Nintendo’s decision? One thing's for sure, their use of social media instead of a press conference certainly got tongues wagging and became a story in and of itself!