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What’s the Deal with Online Deals?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We love a good deal. There's something awesome about getting that thing you desperately need or desire for a few bucks off. Special deals helps us feel like we're in the loop, and somehow ahead of the rest of the pack. They also help us feel rewarded for being loyal customers. But from your perspective, deals can be risky business. Social media is a great way to promote savings, but are you using the intersection between deals and social media to the best of your advantage?

Don't be a Coupon Machine

It's tempting to use social media as the primary way to advertise coupons, sales and deals. The danger here lies in becoming a coupon catalogue. Don't let special offers take over in such way that all your other content falls by the wayside. You need time and space to develop other aspects of your brand, so don't let the coupon clutter build too much.

Do Reward Loyal Followers

If you're trying to engage with your most loyal customers, deals and savings are a great way to reward their excitement and passion for your product. You can generate excitement online with competitions, teasing special deals along the way. It's also not a bad way to repair damage from bad customer experiences.

Online-Sales.jpg

Don't Use it as Your Only Strategy For Growth

As this study from Rhythm Insights shows, most social media users (close to 60%) follow brands to show their loyalty or support. Creating original content that shows off who you are as a brand is much more vital to a sound social media strategy, so make sure that those efforts take priority over publicizing deals.

Do Make Stipulations

For any deal you're offering, always make stipulations. Plan ahead and set deadlines for deals to expire. Brainstorm with staff members to make sure there aren't any gaping loopholes in your plan that would allow someone to run off with more than you can afford to give away. Make sure you communicate all the fine print to your followers before they take you up on any special deals. You can avoid awkward confrontations and negative customer experiences that way.

With the knowledge that gaining and retaining followers doesn't rely solely on the discounts you offer, you can relax a little and refocus your energies elsewhere. Be as specific as you can with what you're offering, so that your next coupon or sales discount isn't a deal breaker for your most valued customers. Finally, have fun! Create contests, roll out deals with teases that build excitement and document people enjoying your special offers so that you have a reminder of what makes it all worth it.

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.

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.

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.

Important 2012 Holiday Shopping Days

Social Sonar - Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Holiday season is upon us. We see it everywhere we go: the local drugstore, big box store, and e-commerce websites. Every marketing effort is being put toward holiday sales. Whether you're a small or big business, you should take note of important holiday dates. These dates will help you keep in line with your competitors, as well as bring in possible new customers who are in the mood to shop. Mark your calendars for the following dates:

November 22: Thanksgiving Day (US) - Online promotions

Online retailers are learning to post offers early. They are marketing to consumers who spend time in long lines for those "big bargains". Developing one-day Thanksgiving offers can help bring in sales. While big box store are stocking their shelves, you can start generating revenue with the growing online market.

November 23: Black Friday

Oh yes, you know about this day well. Black Friday is the day millions of shoppers get up at 3am and stand in line to get deeply discounted items. Don't be afraid to be part of this shopping extravaganza. You may not be a big box store, but it doesn't mean you can't create great deals.

November 24: Small Business Saturday

On this day we say to shoppers, "Shop Local". This holiday season shouldn't just be about the big box store or mass production. Offer one-day specials and discounts. If you're a restaurant, offer a free dessert with the purchase of an entree. Local stores, offering unique gifts and showcasing your merchandising this particular day will go a long way. If you use social media to promote Small Business Saturday, remember to use hashtag #smallbizsat. Get on the Official Map.

November 26: Cyber Monday

Technically (pun intended), this is a new tradition. This is the day many shoppers head back into the office and start to look for great deals online. Offer an incentive for shoppers to shop at your online store. Tie in social media acquisition or engagement. Advertisers like Origins (EA Games) will post things like, "Fans can enjoy an 30% off of clearance items if we receive 200 likes on this post by 1pm." They reveal the 30% off code once they have received the 200 likes. It's a great tactic, and you can use it too.

December: National Shipping Day - Global

The competition will be doing this, so you should, too. The following days will be National Shipping Day for these countries:

Merchants within these countries will provide free shipping on any order with a guarantee that shoppers will receive their items before Christmas. This is one of those rare times your mother didn't anticipate when you should do something just because everyone else will be doing it.

Experience Required - 6 Reasons to Hire a More Seasoned Social Media Manager

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 24, 2012

person typing We're not here to tell you what your process of hiring should be, but you certainly don't want to just pick someone you deem as "really good at Facebook". We're certainly not saying recent college graduates aren't qualified to work with social media, or that they are not more than capable of handling the responsibilities that come with running such an important aspect of your business.

However, since social media is a relatively new thing, many businesses assume that a younger employee is more knowledgeable with this channel. This is the kind of thinking that can get you into trouble. Social Media is important, and just like any other part of your business, you want to hire the most capable and experienced person. Some problems you may encounter are:

1. Lack of Social Media Etiquette

Yes, this newly minted graduate knows Facebook and Twitter, but do they know how to create posts that reflect your brand? Do they understand how to manage awareness of your products? Can you rely on them to take their responsibilities seriously? The last thing you want is a late night Instragram photo posted on the wrong Facebook Wall or a customer mistreated. The Chrysler Twitter incident and Best Buy Facebook ordeal are good examples of how bad this can be.

2. Getting on the Job Training

I know what you're thinking - how can this person gain experience if we don't give them a chance? Remember: there is a difference between having someone manage your social media and entry level experience. Social Media incorporates marketing, public relations, branding, customer service, and sales. We learn these things through years of on-the-job experience. Professors can only do so much.

3. Unfamiliarity with Your Business

Your business is your livelihood. Trusting a workforce newbie can be a risky. This person will need to really understand what your company stands for, the products or service that you provide, and the marketplace. We all have to learn these things when we start working at any company, but a new graduate will have a deeper learning curve.

4. Communication, Communication, Communication

The art of communicating in a businesslike manner is truly learned. It took many of us time to learn how to read company communication and reply in a professional manner. While blogs and social media interaction are allowed to be less stiff, you need to ask yourself, Does my new hire know the difference? Does this person know when to use a more formal tone?

This leads us to the next point....

5. Humor: Friend or Foe?

We all have a different sense of humor, and social media certainly can entertain us, but does your ingénue know the boundaries? The last thing you want is to offend your consumer base, like the famous Kenneth Cole Egyptian riots tweet, or the disastrous jokes Aflac spokesman Gilbert Gottfried made about the Japanese tsunamis.

6. Inability to Analyze Efforts

Social Media isn't just about posting and engaging. You need to find out if using these channels is working. You need someone who can understand the nuts and bolts of your marketing efforts. Can your hire craft content to engage and inspire fans? Can they also create reports and analyze high level information to determine next steps?

Here is the bottom line: you need to make sure you hire the right person for the job. Experience is necessary, but in some cases, budgets make it difficult to retain an expert. If you hire a new graduate, make sure you set expectations and keep control. Ensure all accounts created use your company's email address, passwords are shared with you, and all posts are double-checked before they are put out on social media. This may seem like a lot of work, but it's best to maximize return on this important part of your marketing plan.

Learning from Negative Yelp Reviews: Keep Calm and Carry On

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

surveyEveryone has an opinion, and people certainly aren't afraid to express them, especially on sites like Yelp. In fact, Yelp rewards some reviewers with elite status, which gives yelpers access to private parties and events. Yelp encourages reviews and highlights small business on their 78-million-monthly-unique-visitors site, however, negative feedback can affect potential consumers.

How can a small business turn negative Yelp feedback into something positive? Well let's start by suggesting you take a moment and walk away from your computer. After all, this is your business, and you've worked hard to create excellent relationships with your consumers. It would be unrealistic for anyone to say that you shouldn't get a bit angry or upset.

Once you've taken a few moments begin to read the reviews, ask yourself, "Do I see a pattern?" Are consumers upset about how quickly service was provided? Are they upset that a purchased item did not meet their expectations? Did the consumer feel they were met with rude behavior?

This is a perfect time to examine how you can improve as a business. If service is the consistent issue, think about hiring a few more employees to ensure your team isn't overwhelmed. Why not take this opportunity to talk to your team about the issues that have been brought up?

  1. Ask staff if they feel this has been a consistent problem.
    It's likely your customers aren't the only ones frustrated with a recurring issue.
  2. Start to troubleshoot.
    What are some reasons this issue is occurring?
  3. Ask for staff feedback.
    They work there too, and want the business to succeed. Many large companies like Google rely on people directly in contact with the customer in order to come up with ideas.
  4. Remain objective.
    Remember, objectivity is key in turning a negative into a positive. Seeing the issue from an outsider's perspective will enable you to come up with a solution.

Now that you've addressed the issues internally, and hopefully found solutions, it's time to reach out to the Yelp reviewer. Addressing the negative talking points the reviewer has indicated on their post is the best way to respond. Be courteous and thank them for their feedback. The consumer will be happy to know that you listened to them and will hopefully end up with a more positive opinion of your business.

Remember that negative feedback can be a good thing when taken constructively. It will improve your business and allow you to connect with consumers.

F-Commerce and your Facebook Page

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Have you ever considered empowering your Facebook Page with an attached online store? There are now a growing number of social media commerce solutions (affectionately known as F-Commerce solutions) that allow you to offer your Facebook Fans direct access to your products/services. Pretty exciting, considering that if you've got a following on Facebook, you'll have built-in access to potential customers.

We recently spoke with small-business owner, Emily, about her experience with social commerce platform, Payvment. So far, she says that things have been going smoothly, noting that, “the interface was very straightforward, and our overall user experience has been great.”

Emily's business is in the home decor industry, so for her, using social media to sell product is actually a good way to test the waters with new inventory. Since her business page has about 6,000 fans on Facebook, she feels like she has access to the opinions and buying habits of a larger cross-section of potential customers than she would in her brick-and-mortar store. She especially appreciates Payvment's polling feature, which allows her to gain valuable information on her customers' needs and ever-changing tastes. And her customers don't have to go very far to check out her newest products - there is a nifty “Shop Now” button at the top of the timeline-style page, right next to the “photos” icon.

As of right now, she is very low-volume, so her service is free. However, she says that if things continue to go well, she may consider upgrading to the premium service. Still, even though sales have been steady, she does have some misgivings at times. “Is my business page a place where people can have a community in a non-threatening way - meaning without the pressure to buy - or is it a store? I still haven't quite figured that out.”

Either way, it's clear that F-Commerce industry is poised to explode in the next few years. If you're interested in exploring how F-Commerce could have an effect on your business, then look no further than Social Commerce Today's list of 20 Leading F-Commerce Software Solution Providers.