Up Periscope

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.

Dig Yourself Out From the Social Media Rabbit Hole

Social Sonar - Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do you ever get online and immediately feel like you’re hit with a giant wall of noise? Driving your social media strategy forward in an efficient way can be hard when there are so many distractions. How do you make the best of the time you’ve allotted to work on content you plan to publish? Here are three tips to make sure you stay on course instead of disappearing down the internet rabbit hole.

Create a Resource Bank

The internet is a wide, expansive world filled with lots of avenues to explore. That can be a good and bad thing. Trying to find something that catches your eye and feels worthy of sharing can be a long and fruitless task if you don’t know where to look. Don’t surf out to sea without a clear target. Instead, create a resource bank. Collect URLs of websites that you know offer the kind of great content you’re looking for. When you sit down to schedule your next batch of posts, you’ll have a head start.

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Use Google News Alerts

What key terms or words generally come up when you talk about your business? Creating aGoogle Alert (or several of them) is the best way to stay on top of what’s going on in your industry, all without having to leave the comfort of your own e-mail inbox. Do you find yourself drawn to news from the same source over and over? You may have found a new link for your resource bank! If you feel overwhelmed with alerts, try refining your search terms. If you’re too general, you might be casting your net too wide and saturating yourself with information.

Business or Pleasure?

Avoid the temptation to check your personal channels while you’re working on social media for your business. This can be tough, but it’s a good way to make sure you don’t get drawn into answering e-mails or following up on Facebook messages from old acquaintances looking to reconnect. Staying away from your friends’ Twitter feed or timeline also removes the temptation of clicking on links that lead you down the path to distraction. We’re all one cute kitten video away from wasting a lot of precious company time, so enforce a moratorium on baby armadillos, hedgehogs and handholding otters as much as you can. Worried about missing out on viral content? Don’t worry, if it’s truly viral, you are bound to run into it somewhere else, especially on big pages like Reddit or Buzzfeed.

How do you stay on task when you’re working on social media? Do you take on responsibilities yourself, or do you pass them on to a dedicated user? Whichever way you approach it, remember that finding good content and publishing it on time means organizing resources, dedicating attention and blocking out distractions.

What Teens Can Teach You About Social Media

Social Sonar - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Remember the old adage about children being “seen and not heard?” That saying may have held some weight for previous generations, but today's teens and tweens have become drivers of the way we communicate, building and participating in online cultures in ways that leave some folks in the dust.

Kids are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. Combine that with a formidable collective buying power and you have a demographic whose impact is impossible to ignore.

Young people can drive the success and failure of social media platforms, forcing them to adapt or die. Their recent mass exodus from Facebook to other places like Twitter and Instagram is one example of how shifting demographics have forced some companies to adapt (quickly) to the pace of young people's tastes and desires in an attempt to recapture them.

As a cornerstone of internet culture, teens and tweens build and contribute to massive online ecosystems, develop internet shorthand that spills over into real life and participate in social media in ways that small businesses could stand to learn from.

Getting Ahead of the Game

Teens and tweens are usually early adopters. They're one step ahead of the game when it comes to new technology and the latest social media platforms. Being an early adopter lets you stake out a space before others get there. It also makes you look like a leader who understands new trends and blazes ahead instead of lagging behind.

Connecting Real Life and Digital Networking

Young people are expert networkers. They actively seek out people to follow, stay engaged, ask questions and prioritize extending their influence online. More importantly, they realize that digital life and real life aren't separated by an iron curtain. Networks spill over, making real life connections become digital ones and vice versa.

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The upcoming generation of millennials is often accused of being the “Me” generation, but that doesn't mean that their efforts at self promotion aren't worth emulating. Teens and tweens aren't afraid to toot their own horn and you shouldn't be either. Put your accomplishments on display so the world knows just how great you are at what you do.

Joking Around

The internet is a place to let loose! Let your voice shine through by being honest. Writing for the internet doesn't require the formality that other media demands, so take the opportunity to be creative and put your sense of humor on display. People will see your brand as more personable and relatable that way.

A teen's life online may seem like fun and games, but young people are masters at learning new tools of the trade. Take a cue from teens and tweens so you can stay adaptable, curious and open to taking on new challenges. You'll be one step ahead of the competition and spearheading your way to a more creative approach to social media.

The Benefits of a Dedicated User

Social Sonar - Thursday, April 25, 2013

Does part of your social media plan include having a dedicated user-- someone whose job description includes planning and carrying out your strategy? In a small business setting it's typical, and often times essential, for staff members to wear many different hats. That sometimes means that jobs are shared or passed around as staff members become available to take them on. That approach can be great in some scenarios, but it doesn't mean everyone should have a hand in social media, or that the task should fall to whoever is available in the moment. There are benefits to centralizing your strategy in the hands of one or two people. It allows you to:

Be More Consistent

For a unified tone and approach, it's best to limit the amount of people publishing through your social media outlets. With different writing styles and varying response times to questions from customers, followers may find you unreliable or start seeing individual posts as too disconnected. For cohesion in messaging, which makes for stronger branding, a dedicated user works best.

Consolidate

Are you spread out over various social media platforms? Instead of having different users monitoring different sites, it's better for a dedicated user to have an eye on each of them. On the most practical level, it's easier to keep track of logins and accounts this way. It also allows for the task of tracking data to be centralized in one place, with one person checking in on various platforms and collecting relevant information periodically.

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Make Better Use of Time

Dedicated users translate into dedicated time. Spreading out your social media efforts amongst different staff members can mean that the time and energy spent on your strategy gets diffused. A dedicated user can use blocks of time to tackle answering questions, updating pages and scheduling new content. A piecemeal approach ultimately leaves you one step behind instead of one step ahead.

Does that mean that brainstorming about how to approach your plan should only be limited to the people who execute it? Not at all! It's great to have input from several members of your team during the initial planning phases. This allows you to tap into the creative potential of your team, gather great ideas and develop a plan that's a true representation of your organization. But as you execute specific parts of your strategy, funnel responsibilities towards one or two users who can hold it all together. It's the best way to present a confident overarching narrative that will strengthen your identity and keep your followers engaged.

Improvise Your Way to Social Media Success

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Yes, there's a lot of planning when it comes to setting up a successful social media strategy, but the ability to improvise is just as important. If you're familiar with improvisational comedy, sometimes called "improv," you know that coming up with great material on spot is easier said than done. Still, there are some good lessons to be gleaned from the world of improv that can make your strategy that much stronger.

"Yes, and..."

One of the first rules you learn in improv is to accept the reality your scene partners are trying to make and build on it (aptly summed up as the "Yes, and..." rule). Imagine an actor walking into a scene with the line “This spaceship is about to crash!” You can either accept that first line as a fact and start building a story together, or you can shoot it down with “What do you mean? We're at the mall.” The latter response is a scene killer, with two conflicting intentions putting the nail in the coffin before your scene gets off the ground.

The same can be said about your social media strategy. By reacting positively to the direction your followers start you off in, you can start building a longer, stronger narrative together. Once you've said “yes,” don't forget to build on their original ideas with your own contributions so that followers are incentivized to keep engaging with you.

Support your partners

While some parts of a scene about you, they're just as much about the dynamic you're a part of. The same is true about your presence through social media. If you're only concerned with how many people follow what you publish, you're missing the other side of the equation. Support your online community by the following individual users, chiming in on what they have to say and supporting the endeavors that they're trying to promote.

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Tell stories

A classic pitfall of comedic improv is to feel the need to rattle off a bunch of jokes that never add up to anything. In the same way, you don't want the messages you publish to exist in a vacuum. Remember that everything you put out there is part of a multi-faceted, ongoing narrative. It's good to concentrate on details, but you should never lose focus when it comes the the driving narrative you're trying to share.

Be spontaneous, flexible

Having a game plan is incredibly important, but don't be so dogmatic about sticking to your strategy. You could risk coming off as inflexible, standoffish and even stubborn. Instead, open yourself to the possibility that once you get in the game, things are bound to change. By being receptive to an ever-changing online environment, you can guarantee that you'll be a dynamic player, ready to explore new and exciting directions in your story building.

Listen

Finally, make sure your ears are always open to what your scene partners have to say. They might be feeding you important clues about where they'd like to take the narrative. When you listen carefully, the stories you tell in any medium will become more memorable, detailed and enriching. People will also feel that you're present, accessible and transparent.

A strategy doesn't always have to be a strict blueprint you never stray from. Be open to the possibilites that are happening around you and you'll be ready to thrive in the world of social media, where dynamic storytelling is the key to success.

3 Ways to Put People Front and Center

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Have you fallen into the trap of being purely transactional with your tweets and posts? It's easy to find yourself in a rut where you only announce things like discounts, new products, operational hours or other superficial facts about your business. But followers want a little bit more than that, and you're not likely to keep their attention for very long if you don't indulge them.

People who subscribe to you via social media want information that they can't get from somewhere else. They want to feel connected to the people behind the brand, and feel like they're an active participant in the story of your business. Here are three ways you can put people first to make sure your social media strategy is personal.

Feature Customer Stories

Do you have a regular who has been coming into your store for years? Next time you see them, ask them to answer a few questions about themselves and use social media to feature their story. It's a great way to make customers feel valuable and shows that your business is a vital part of the community. You never know what you'll learn about your customers along the way, and everyone loves to have at least fifteen minutes of fame!

Use Pictures

Take pictures (or encourage open submissions) of your customers enjoying the things that make your brand great. For instance, you could create a contest where customers submit pictures of themselves with their favorite pint from your micro-brewery. Generating original content makes your storytelling through social media become more dynamic and unique. Just make sure you always get the permission from the people featured in the photographs!

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Provide Backstage Access

Your employees don't have to be anonymous. In the same way you feature customers, you can share stories about the employees that make up the heart of your business. Pulling back the curtain on your operations can be a little scary at first, but remember, you're the publisher. You control what information to share and what should stay internal to your organization. Followers can learn why your employees love working for you, which encourages brand loyalty. Customers also get to learn more about the staff that serves them, helping to build a great rapport that builds lasting relationships.

Think of your social media platforms less as a news ticker with a constant stream of facts and more as a dynamic tool for storytelling. Start with people and build your stories out from there. Use original and found images as well as text to provide eye-catching information and you're sure to have an online presence worthy of the people who are the beating heart of your business.

Find Your Funny, Find Your Followers

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Not everyone is born with a funny bone, but flexing your comedic muscles every once in a while on social media is a terrific way to build your brand, gain followers and keep customers engaged. Afraid that you don't have what it takes? You don't have to be the next coming of Johnny Carson to succeed. Feeling like humor is too risky of a strategy? Staying on the sidelines might mean missing out on some memorable moments and great connections with followers. Here are 5 great reasons why it's worth it to get rolling with the LOL'ing.

It Strengthens Your Identity

Humor adds a whole new dimension to your brand. People may be following you for things like discounts or deals, but they also want special access. Your humor reveals important things about your own worldview, which opens the door to finding the followers that really relate to your mission and outlook. Joking with someone also creates a sense of familiarity. There's a reason why opening with a joke is referred to as “breaking the ice.” It immediately dissolves tension and shows that you don't take yourself too seriously.

You Become More Memorable

Users are much more likely to dismiss interactions that are purely transactional. A great joke or comment can stay with a user for a long time. That hearty chuckle you elicit from someone while they're stuck in traffic might be the thing that secures your place on someone's Facebook or Twitter feed.

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It Makes Your Content More Dynamic

Some messaging has to be serious to get the message across, but if you never alter your tone, your messaging becomes an endless drone. Break up the monotony by introducing humor.

You Become More Relevant

Topical humor is great! It shows that you're connected to the zeitgeist and have something to say about what's happening. Adding your voice to an ongoing conversation is always a good idea when it comes to making your presence known on social media platforms. Using humor makes you stand out even more in a sea of ever-changing commentary.

It Turns Followers Into Evangelizers

The person you make laugh today is the person who will be singing your praises tomorrow. Jokes are inherently viral. Once you hear something hilarious, you immediately want to share it. It only takes one look at a popular meme to show you how one funny idea can catch on like wildfire. If you're looking for retweets and shares, make sure you're bringing the funny.

Your own personal brand of humor takes time to develop. Get to know your audience and find out what they think is funny. Test the waters with a few zingers before you pull out all the stops. Most of all, don't miss out on a great way to grow your business by being too cautious or overthinking things. If you do, you might find that the joke is ultimately on you!

5 Basic SEO Strategies

Social Sonar - Thursday, January 17, 2013
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Search engine optimization (SEO) may not be part of the social media, but if you're creating or maintaining a blog, it may be particularly helpful for your business. Online portals like Google and Bing help give visibility to business using SEO. In the end, knowing the tricks these search engines use can help you create a sale for your business. Here are some basic SEO principles to help your site.

1. Tracking
If you don’t track and analyze your marketing efforts, how can you know if something is successful? The easiest first step is installing Google Analytics. It’s free for basic functions, so once you get used to various features, you can determine whether you need the paid version. Just try it out and start looking at conversions today.

2. Keywords
Determine keywords that fit the business and services that you provide. Utilizing keywords within your content, including tagged photos, is the best way to optimize your site. Since Google and Bing algorithms do all of the work, it won't cost you anything!

3. Site Map
Clean up the structure of your site. Don't overwhelm search engine crawlers with too many bells and whistles. While some sites use Javascript to give the site a sleek look, search engines can't read this design, meaning your website won't be visible to your potential consumers when they run a basic search.

4. Landing Pages
Creating targeted landing pages for services, products, or FAQs provides visitors answers to their search inquiries. Your homepage is certainly key to your business because it’s the introduction to your brand, but it’s not the only page to worry about. Providing a range of landing pages means your business will be optimized for search engine ranking and obtaining consumers.

5. Links
Structure your links. Make sure your content is strong and your pages are specific to what you are talking about. Example: www.yoursite.com/press_release/May_2012. Failure to provide specific links to content, or having links unrelated to the content itself, doesn’t help your SEO ranking.

Though these tips are helpful to remember, the bottomline is that if you don't provide strong content that showcases your business, services or products, the best SEO optimization will not bring people back to your page. Be sure to keep content creation in mind as much as these technical specifics!

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.

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.