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How to Protect Your Online Reputation

Social Sonar - Friday, January 04, 2013

Sharing stories with friends and family is something people have always done. We discuss our relationship issues, career goals, and customer service experiences. Now we have the ability to let everyone know on social media, including strangers, what we have encountered. 

The issue many businesses find is that feedback is given anonymously. As business owner, you have to question the validity of feedback. Is it a consumer who genuinely wants to provide information to improve your service? Maybe a former employee? Perhaps a competitor looking to take business away from you? A bad review can hurt your business and ensure potential consumers will question whether to support your establishment.

Whatever the circumstances, you have to protect your online reputation. Here are a few tips to ensure you're looking out for your brand.

Listen

It's important to know what people think of your business, from customer service to products. Set up Google Alerts, which send an email any time your brand is mentioned online. Provide an area on your website where people can get in touch with you to leave feedback so you can recognize a potential issue early.

Respond

Some sites allow you to reply to your critics. It says a lot about your business if you answer a negative review with a polite or even positive statement. This will not only let the reviewer know you're paying attention, it will show potential consumers feedback is welcomed and addressed.

Encourage Positive Publicity

It's true you can't make everyone happy, but what about the customers who already enjoy your business? Rally your loyal supporters to get online and share their great experiences. Ask customers if they are willing to give a testimonial for your site, and provide them with your Facebook url so they can spread the good word there.

Establish Standard Policies

If you have not instituted a customer service policy, you may want to create one now. You want to make sure your employees understand the necessity of great customer care. Train them on how to speak to difficult clients. Everyone who works in your business should understand that each customer experience is important. You're building a brand and need to develop excellent communication lines between your employees and your customers.

It may seem time consuming at first, but the constant feedback can create the kind of buzz that will only benefit your business. Being aware of what is being said about your business will provide insights to improve and grow.

3 Unconventional Ways to Engage Social Media Fans

Social Sonar - Saturday, December 29, 2012

We often talk about growing your fan base, but how can you  do this without running contests or paying for advertisements? You want to increase conversation, but you don't want to repeat the same tactics until they grow ineffective. Here are three outside-the-box ideas that can help you engage and grow your Facebook fan base.

  • 1. Crowdsource

  • Jeff Howe coined this phrase in 2006. He described the idea as "new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D.”
Basically, crowdsourcing is asking your fans to offer suggestions on how to solve or address an issue. It’s a perfect method to obtain information from your target audience while making them feel they have a say in how your business is run. 

This might be simply asking them to vote on a specific product or category. For example, if you own a clothing store and have two dresses that are identical, but are different in color, you can ask your fans to vote between the two. Whichever color gets the most votes will be carried in the store. 

  • 2. Spotlight Your Employees

  • Your brand isn't just about products. It helps your followers build a relationshop with your business if they can get to know who is helping run it. Adding this personal touch brings approachability to your brand
  • Remember that good customer service can help create positive buzz. Who better to highlight than the people directly in contact with your customers? Acknowledging an employee can also help your brand get exposure to their friends and friends of friends. 
Try spotlighting an employee once a month, or even bi-monthly if your company is large. You may see resulting growth in your Facebook fan and Twitter followers. You'll likely also find your employees feel more appreciated.

  • 3. Reveal New Products or Services

  • Fans love to know the latest and greatest for your business. Showing off upcoming or unusual products or services can help give your company a boost in sales. You can start off by teasing your fans. "Tomorrow we'll show off something new and exciting. Come back at noon to see our newest addition."
You can show off a small portion of the product photo and say something like, "Once this photo gets to 50 likes, we’ll show you the rest." Get them excited for what's fresh. 

You don't have to be a big department store or name brand to use any of these innovative ideas. Whether your business is big or small, you need to engage and build a relationship with your fans.

Growing Your Facebook and Twitter Audience

Social Sonar - Monday, December 17, 2012

Growing a fan base on Facebook is less of a "Build it, and they will come." philosophy and more of a "Respectfully join the conversation." situation. Increasing your audience requires a lot of help, since fan page permissions are very limited. You can't necessarily send messages to a new user or even see their friends. So how do you find new people? Rely on your current fan base.

Friends shoppingSharing is Caring.

Your number one goal is to get people to interact with your posts. Every time someone likes, shares, or comments on a post on your Facebook page, their friends are likely to see it in their feeds. Hopefully a friend will want to learn more and follow the link to investigate your page. If you have a lot of great content on your page, they'll "like" it too.

If you're a dentist and your Facebook page is full of pictures of severe gingivitis, people are probably not going to "like" it. But if you have fun images, inspirational quotes, and cute messages from the staff, a referred visitor is more likely to "like" your page.

Spread the Word.

People won't know you have a Facebook page if you don't tell them.

  • Add Facebook and Twitter icons to your website in a prominent place, usually the top right.
  • Print your Facebook and Twitter links on business cards, invoices, flyers, ads, and add them email signatures.
  • Post a decal or flyer in your window and on your counter.
  • Add the links on your packaging and freebies printed with your business information.

Convert Customers to Evangelists.

Your current customers are your best chance at getting new customers. As they are paying, ask if they have signed up for your Facebook or Twitter pages. Let them know the latest and greatest information about your business, as well as exclusive discounts, are available online.

Tweet It Out.

Your Twitter audience is much easier to grow than your Facebook fans. You can use software like TweetAdder to look for people who fit your customer / client demographic. Search local Twitter profiles and past tweets for keywords that indicate an interest in your services or products. Then follow those people. If they don't follow you back after a few days, unfollow them and move on.

Twitter only allows you to follow people at a certain ratio. If you have followed too many people who have not followed you back, Twitter will not allow you to follow any more until you unfollow some. Be careful not to follow or unfollow too many people at once, or Twitter will suspend your account for spam activities. This is why we recommend using a program to find new followers.

The content you post on your Facebook and Twitter pages should be different. Every so often, remind people you have more information on Facebook, and share a link to your page. This should help pull over more interested people on your Facebook page, where fans are harder to find.

If this all sounds daunting or confusing, you're not alone. Feel free to call or email us with any questions you have about social media.

3 Reasons to Start a Loyalty Program

Social Sonar - Thursday, December 13, 2012
Frequent Shopper Stamp

Many shoppers belong to several loyalty programs that allow them to acquire points, money, or merchandise. Big chain stores have been implementing this easy marketing tool to establish customer retention. Small business might assume that these programs will cost too much to implement and maintain, but their benefits can be greatly underestimated. Here are some reasons why you should kick off 2013 with a loyalty program.

1. Return Customers

If a shopper knows they are building up for incentives, they'll go out of their way to support your establishment. It's nice to think that if you get 10 cups of tea, you'll get one free. Chances are the customers who enroll or take part in the loyalty program know that they frequent your business and would benefit from the program. Its an easy sell.

2. Easy Implementation

You don't need to make your loyalty program complex. It can be as simple as stamping a card and having the customer fill out a form with her name, email address, and birth date. Or you can create a program where cards are swiped or scanned and allow for points to accumulate. Your choice is just a matter of budget and time.

3. Targeted Marketing Efforts

If you have a special promotion, or maybe even an event, you'll be able to communicate with the right audience. Maintaining a marketing database will ensure you are talking to consumers who already love your brand. You'll have a successful return on your invest because you will be speaking to the right people.

Methods and Resources to Promote Social Media

Social Sonar - Friday, December 07, 2012

The best way to get more "likes" on Facebook and followers on Twitter is to let your customers know about your sites. Below are some business cards and flyers with default text you can edit and order or print out. We recommend ordering from OvernightPrints.com. They are very reasonably-priced and high quality. We actually use them for our own business cards.

To promote Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Google Places:

  • Add Facebook and Twitter icons to your website in a prominent place, usually the top right.
  • Add your Facebook and Twitter links on business cards, invoices, flyers, ads, and email signatures.
  • Create a business card (like the one below) with your profile addresses. 
  • Post a small flyer in your window and on your counter. We made ours a double. Just print it on glossy paper and cut it into two halves.

To encourage signups for your email newsletter:

  • Keep an iPad or laptop at the front so people can sign up for your email newsletter.
  • If you don't have an extra laptop, but your database allows you to enter email addresses, your staff should ask customers as they are paying if they would like to be added to your email list in order to receive discounts and the latest news. This is the safest method and saves the most time, since you will be able to export these emails to your email newsletter software later. 
  • If your current database does not allow you to enter email addresses and export them, print out a form (like the one below) you can put on your front counter in order to collect email addresses. To better protect your clients' personal information, your staff should keep the form on a clipboard behind the front desk and only present it to a client after they have agreed to sign up.
Business Card FrontBusiness Card Front
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Business Card BackBusiness Card Back
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Half Sheet Flyer Promoting Facebook and TwitterHalf Sheet Flyer Promoting Facebook and Twitter
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Newsletter Signup SheetNewsletter Signup Sheet
Microsoft Word 2008

Social Sonar Holiday Gift Guide 2012

Social Sonar - Monday, December 03, 2012

Social Sonar knows that we work with outstanding clients. We are passionate about their businesses, and we want to share their expertise. For the season of sharing and giving, we created our own "Social Sonar Gift Guide". No need to look any further than some of these local gems, arranged by state or province!

Location Guide

Online

United States

Canada


Online

Freen Freen
Save 15% on Handmade, Natural Gifts

No matter the time of year, being green is always the style! Freen crafts exceptional handmade candles, skin care products, and jewelry that will make anyone feel good. The Premium Soy Candles Collection Gift Pack will bring serenity and maybe a little romance to the lucky gift receiver. And right now enjoy free shipping with any order of $100 or more. Freen is also offering 15% off of their coveted gift packs until December 15th, 2012.


Pete CerquaPete Cerqua, Fitness Trainer
The Perfect Book for your Health Guru

Healthy living doesn't take a break, but the holidays make it easy for many of us to forget. How can you kick off a healthy 2013? Look no further than best-selling author Pete Cerqua, a respected and in-demand fitness trainer and all-around health guru. The 90-Second Fitness Solution, High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Men, High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Women are all perfect gifts to kick off the new year.


The Tea SmithThe Tea Smith, Omaha
Give the gift of Health with Tea

From the Far East to the Midwest, tea is nature's most delicious and healthiest beverage. The Tea Smith offers quality loose-leaf teas for your everyday caffeine drinker to your herbal enthusiast. Tea is calorie-free, increases your metabolism, and tastes delicious. The Tea Smith offers a variety of teas, gift baskets, and accessories. You don't have to live in the Omaha, NE area to obtain one of their fresh cups. Shop online or call one of their stores directly.


United States

California

Essential AestheticsEssential Aesthetics, Inc., Danville
The Perfect Skin Formula

You only feel as good inside as you do on the outside. Give someone in your life the fountain of youth with the help of Essential Aesthetics in Danville, California. Their team specializes in liquid facelifts with fillers and Botox®. Winter weather is here, and laser resurfacing for skin rejuvenation is the perfect antidote.


Marin Gyrotonic StudioMarin Gyrotonic Studio, Marin
The Gift of Health for Others or Yourself

Health is achieved by nourishing your body and mind. Marin Gyrotonic Studios facilitates this process by creating a tranquil sanctuary with workshops and group classes. Gyrotonic is a marriage between yoga and dance. Expert instructors at both Mill Valley and Tiburon, California are specially-trained to provide a path to a healthier life. Marin Gyrotonic Studios has memberships available, or purchase a package to start creating a new you.


PeekaboutiquePeekabootique, San Francisco
Your First Stop for Cute and Cuddly Children's Necessities

Located in San Francisco's Noe Valley, this children's boutique offers products from toy trucks to ballet gear. You can shop worry-free; every product exceeds baby and child safety standards. You'll receive expert advice on shopping for the littlest members of your family. You can even trade in outgrown toys and clothes for store credit!


Connecticut

Biotone Skin ClinicBiotone Skin Clinic, Westport
Give the Gift of Beauty

The fountain of youth is a gift we can all appreciate. Nestled in Westport, Connecticut is the Biotone Skin Clinic. Their trained staff will help design the best anti-aging treatment for you. Services include, Non-Surgical Face-Lifts, Photo-Rejuvenation, Microdermabrasion & Hair Restoration. To obtain a gift certificate for their world class treatments, call (203) 256-9903. Why should celebrities get all the beauty secrets?


Illinois

World of EnrichmentWorld of Enrichment, Homewood
Bring a World of Creativity to a Child in Your Life

The World of Enrichment in Homewood, Illinois provides the perfect place for families to express their creative side. Discovery is encouraged with Art Classes, Musikgarten Music Education, and Science 4 Kids. The children in your life can learn and develop their artistic techniques through painting parties or embrace their multicultural side with Spanish language classes. Contact World of Enrichment at 708-249-4008 to give the gift that will last a lifetime.


North Carolina

The Tidy Maids DurhamTidy Maids, Durham
Give the Gift of Quality Time

With upcoming holiday and New Year's Eve parties, who has time to clean? This Durham, North Carolina company will guarantee you are satisfied with their quality team. Insured and bonded professionals allow you to have peace of mind while you enjoy quality time with your loved ones. Gift certificates are available; just contact their office at 919-720-4736.


Texas

Champa's CreationsChampa's Creations, Houston
Save 20% on the Gift of Beauty

Welcome to Champa's Creations in Houston, Texas. This salon and spa transforms its clients by offering hair and nails services, not to mention massages and oxygen facial treatments. Save up to 20% on all gift certificates. They offer an array of gift packages, as well, which includes Men's Only treatments. Remember, pampering isn't just for the ladies.


Washington

Imprint MassageImprint Massage, Seattle
Give the Gift of Relaxation

The gift of relaxation is always welcomed. Imprint Massage is located in Seattle with licensed massage therapists. Refresh and rejuvenate your loved ones with gift certificates. Imprint Massage offers Swedish, Hot Stone, and Pregnancy massage, among many others. Take comfort knowing your friends and family will be in the right hands.


Canada

British Columbia

AllSet Auto GlassAllSet Auto Glass, Vancouver
Save 20% on the Gift of Safety

Every year we all struggle to purchase the perfect gift for the man in our life. We normally purchase a tie, cologne, or a watch. If you're in Vancouver, you should give the gift of safety with AllSet Auto Glass. The winter roads can be tricky, and damage can happen on your way to holiday festivities. AllSet is offering a 20% off special on Rock Chip Repair (Retail: $57.00), Aquapel Windshield Treatment (Retail $68.98), and Trico Wiper Beam Blades (Retail $18.95) until December 31, 2012. This gift will be appreciated all year long.


Ontario

Southern Cross GrillSouthern Cross Grill On Queen, Ottawa
Treat Your Favorite Foodie

For 20 years in Ottawa, Ontario, Southern Cross Grill On Queen has serving up grilled dishes with a Mexican flare. It's the perfect place for couples, family, and friends to enjoy tasty treats. Their walls are decorated with beautiful black-and-white photographs of Ottawa. Southern Cross Grill On Queen offers gift certificates, both online and in the restaurant, that any food lover would appreciate.

eGift Card: Elevate Your Holiday Profits

Social Sonar - Thursday, November 29, 2012
gift card

Tis' the season to offer warm wishes and holiday cheer. Many of us will go to shopping malls or online to purchase items for people we love and for those who deserve a special thank you. There are some of us who prefer to avoid the guessing game of giving an actual gift, and we opt for a gift card. While some people may feel a gift card is impersonal, others say it's a perfect gift. Everyone has a favorite spot to patronize, so why not give someone a gift card to their favorite place?

Businesses can really benefit from offering gift cards. It's a great way to generate revenue and ensure future customers will visit their establishment.

From a marketing perspective, you will have a new sku that will allow you generate revenue without having to offer discounts. You can promote your new e-Gift cards via social media, on your website, and through signage in your business. Gift cards will allow you to count the revenue at the point of sale. Additionally, it will give your shopper convenience. The holidays usually mean shoppers are running from store to store, but implementing an online gift card will allow them to make a purchase right from home at any time.

One of the biggest holiday marketing questions is: how can your business offer something for the last minute shopper? e-Gift cards are the answer.

As a small business you may not yet have the technological capability to offer online gift cards. However, there are plenty of tech companies who can offer you a way to create sales and maintain a competitive edge.

Here are a few suggestions that can help you establish e-Gift Cards on your site. Do research on your own, as well, to ensure you are 100% comfortable creating this new form of revenue. These are recommendations that range from the technology-savvy to the small business just starting embrace e-commerce.

Giftango: This gift delivery company was founded in 2005 and offers several levels of integration. If you want to have a quick and easy solution, you'll want to look over the Basic Turnkey Solution, which will provide both plastic and eGift Cards. This basic solution is on the Giftango platform, which means you'll need to ensure that your website connects to this page. If you're looking to go all out, you can have a developer create an API solution, which will allow you to build your own interface. Options can be helpful when implementing this new eCommerce tactic.

TheGiftCardCafe.com: This Delaware based company works with all business small and large. The Gift Card Cafe also brings a sustainability factor to your business. They offer Instant Gift Certificates, which means less plastic, less waste, and more money for you. Their interface is simple to implement to your site. You just add a link to your site. They will take care of the rest. Their fees are low and will make it worth your while to use.

DIY-Microsoft Gift Cards: Perhaps using an outside vendor isn't something you want to jump into right now. With any new marketing tactic, testing is needed. How do you know outsourcing e-gift cards will be profitable for your business? No worries. Microsoft Office is another alternative. This software will allow you to create your own printable gift certificates to email to customers. You'll need to create a "Buy Gift Certificate" product link on your site. Additionally, you'll need to generate the code manually to establish a unique certificate number and allow you to track purchases more easily. You’ll need to connect to your current payment method. Once payment is verified, you or someone on your team will need to email the gift certificate directly to the consumer. The downside to this method is that it is not automated, and your customer will have to wait for an email from you. This link will help give you step by step instructions to help with this process.

Whatever method you decided to use, remember your consumers will appreciate the convenience.

Get Started with Social Sonar

Social Sonar - Monday, November 26, 2012

First, decide which package is best for your needs. For most businesses, we recommend our full service package, since Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, and email newsletters work really well together to create a holistic brand identity.

Once you sign up for your chosen package, you'll be able to fill out your company profile. This information will allow us to pick the best writer for your needs, as well as provide us with logins, passwords, and material we can use to create your content.

We will begin setting up your accounts, or optimizing them if they already exist. We'll also begin monitoring your pages and responding to comments using the information in your profile. If we ever have any question about how to respond, we'll send you an email beforehand to ensure we're best representing you. 

You will receive a username for our system where you can see posts and tweets. This will allow you to see upcoming messages, as well as messages that have already been published.

If you have an edit for an upcoming message, simply click that post and Add a note. Or you can edit the post yourself by clicking Edit post.

If you have an idea for a new post, like an upcoming event or special, you can fill out the Request a Post form. All submissions are re-written by your writer and approved by an editor before posting, so you don't have to worry about the post being perfect before you submit it. Posts and tweets are always optimized for the appropriate social media channel.

Our system allows you to participate as much or as little as your time allows. Some clients are simply too busy to send us suggestions, or they prefer their writer develops the latest and greatest material. Either way, you'll have consistent content on your pages, which should save you time and allow you to rest easy. We manage your social media so you can manage your business.

Eight Social Media Metrics You Need to Monitor

Social Sonar - Friday, November 23, 2012

You spend time, energy, and money making sure your social media presence is known to your customers. As a business owner, you may not have time to look at every graph and chart provided by your social media manager. With social media still being a new marketing tactic for some businesses, how can you tell if your efforts are successful? What metrics should you be examining?

1. Traffic

You should have Google Analytics or another program installed to track all the visitors to your website. Examine your traffic from all social media platforms. Create a chart that identifies your top sources. Over time you'll be able to see which have the most growth potential.

2. Visitor Retention

This is different from traffic reporting. Understanding the time people spend on your website when they are referred from social media is important. If you see that your visitors are leaving quickly, then you should consider updating the design and/or copy of your landing page. Also, look at the information you are providing. Are you just selling your products or giving useful information? Remember, interesting information goes a long way, and overselling a product turns fans away from your business.

3. Audience Reports

The purpose of social media is mostly to engage and interact with followers. Just remember you want those followers to grow in numbers. It's always good to keep records of how many new followers or likes you are receiving weekly.

4. Engagement Reports

Interacting with your followers is a key component of social media. Record the number of active members vs. total members. If you find that you have a low percentage of active members, perhaps you need to start a campaign to reach out to those members who have not participated in any social media conversations lately.

5. Conversion Rate

It would be unrealistic to say you aren't selling something on your social media site. Just like any other medium, you want to keep a good handle on what drove your consumer to make a purchase. Creating a unique code for your social media fans to use at checkout, or a coupon fans can print out and redeem in your brick and mortar store, is the most direct way to track sales.

6. Mentions

Are you giving people something to talk about? Be on the lookout for how often your brand gets mentioned. For Twitter you should create a #hashtag so you can look at what has been said about your business when you do a search.

7. Sharing Report

As a child we heard things like, "Sharing is Caring". The sharing report has the same idea behind it. Look over how many shares your Facebook posts have created. How many friends of friends have shared your posts with their network? It’s important to know that your content is worth spreading.

8. Blogger Breakdown

You share your ideas and tips with the world via Blogger or Wordpress, but are your readers connecting with your information? Remember to make sure that you turn on the "Allow Comments" section on these blogging sites. Encourage opinions from your readers. Always add in social media buttons like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. Make it easy for your follower to spread your word by the click of a button.

How Can Podcast Help Your Business

Social Sonar - Thursday, November 15, 2012
iPod wearing earbuds
Podcasts are audio content that allows your consumer to listen at their convenience. The benefits of podcasting for small companies and business are greatly underestimated. Even bigger corporations don't take advantage of providing podcasts. Perhaps you should consider creating downloadable podcasts for your consumers.

Podcasts allow you to reach new and potential consumers. They also allow you to express your expertise and personality. Listening to a business owner, especially a small business owner, can intensify the passion of loyal followers.
 
The beauty of technology is that it allows you to target the people you need to reach. "You can send fresh and compelling messages out to target audiences," says Michael Neumeier, principal of the Arketi Group, a small-business marketing consultancy in Atlanta. “You can use it to start delivering educational content to a narrowly focused list of people. Even if it’s only 50 people, if it’s the right 50 people, it’ll do wonders for your startup.”
 
Podcasting can help you become a leader and expert to your consumers. If your business is clothing, you should talk about the latest trends, fashion shows, or designers. If you own a wine shop, consider giving wine tips or food-pairing advice. In today's fast-paced world, catching a shopper's attention can be difficult. It’s easy for users to download audio content to their smart phones and listen to your advice on the go.
 
The fact that you're creating audio content instead of just adding words to a webpage means that your business will be seen as innovative. It gives you the kind of buzz that's harder to obtain. Allowing your content to be shareable and available can put you at the top of leaderboard.