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Five Tips For Writing a Great Blog

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blogging is an important piece of your social media marketing plan. Here are five tips for writing a great blog.

1. Post on a regular basis.
The first rule of blogging for your business is posting regularly. If I go visit a website and the blog hasn't been updated in six months, I always wonder if they are going out of business, or if they've just lost interest.

2. Write great content.
Posts should be entertaining and contain interesting information. Each blog post does not, however, need to be long. Shorter blogs that include a variety of content, like photos and videos, are usually easier for the reader to digest.

3. Encourage interaction.
Great blog posts cause the reader to respond. Asking questions will encourage your readers to leave comments. Make sure you respond to comments so that your readers feel a connection.

4. Link to other websites.
Don't be afraid to link to other blogs, articles or websites. Also, make sure you are tagging your posts properly for higher search engine rankings.

5. Ask for help.
If you hate writing, hire someone else to do it for you. Your time is valuable. When you are in business for yourself, there may be many tasks you may not feel comfortable handing off to other people. Blogging doesn't have to be one of those tasks.

Blog posts should be short, fun glimpses into your business that allow you to connect with your customers in a different way. Do you have a blog for your business? Tell us about it here and leave a link so we can read it!

Small Business Saturday is Almost Here!

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Saturday, November 26, 2011, American Express is encouraging consumers to "shop small."  Small Business Saturday is less about competing with Black Friday and more about showing your customers that the big stores cannot compete with the personal touch of a small business.  We at Social Sonar have long believed that owning your own business -- the American Dream -- is one of the keys to healing our economy.  

With only a week to go before Thanksgiving and the kick-off to the Christmas shopping season, start making your social media marketing plan now.  If you have specials to run that weekend, make sure you advertise using your newsletter, blog, Facebook page and Twitter page.  Although it is nice to use Facebook and Twitter to connect with your customers, often the direct contact of a newsletter can have a larger impact.  Make sure your subject line is catchy and clearly states that discounts will be given.  This will ensure people understand that THIS E-MAIL NEEDS TO BE OPENED

Once you have customers in the store, let them know you are on Facebook and Twitter.  I have heard a great suggestion that you get a rubber stamp and actually stamp their receipt so that it stands out.  This will encourage them to look you up when they get home.  You can have a newsletter sign-up list at the counter for e-mail addresses.  Even better, have an iPad on the counter to allow people to check in on Facebook, "like" your store and sign up for your mailing list.  Also, make sure your website is prominently displayed in your store and on any receipts or fliers you might hand out.  Then you can link Facebook, Twitter or any other social media sites directly.  You can also have your newsletter sign-up, which should automatically add addresses to your database.  If you place these social media plug-ins in a place easily seen on your website, this will help people find the correct store. 

After the holidays are over, you can then head back to your social media sites to continue connecting with your customers.  If your customers "like" your Facebook fan page, it will show up on their pages and perhaps their friends will follow suit.  This kind of new-world word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best free tools a business can use on Facebook to connect with new customers.  Your conversations with customers there should be less about selling and more about creating a relationship.  You can post discounts, ask trivia questions or run contests.  Post photos.  Give stress-free holiday shopping advice.  I visited one jewelry store that took photos of you with your new purchase on the spot and posted it to their Facebook site.  It definitely encouraged customers to "like" their fan page, then tag themselves in the photo.  

Business owners and consumers alike are looking forward to a prosperous 2012.  We can help you start the year off right by ending your year with a bang.  It's not too late to get your social media plan together. 


Millennials: The Next Generation

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 05, 2011

In 2010, Pew Research Center released a report called, "Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next."  The report sums up their research on the Millennials, calling them:  "confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change."  The study was done over the phone with 2,020 adults responding, 830 of which would be considered the Millennial Generation ("MG") (aged 18 to 29).

This generation is of particular interest to researchers because they are the "always connected" generation -- with more than eight out of ten responders saying they sleep with their cell phones right next to their bed.  One-quarter said that technology is what sets their generation apart.  For the most part, the MG is more connected, more diverse, more liberal, more educated and less religious than previous generations. A summary of the report follows.  If you don’t want to read all of the statistics, please feel free to skip to the end.

 

In response to the question of whether they had a profile on a social networking site, 41% of all respondents said they did.  However, 75% of the MG said they had a profile (as compared to 50% of Gen X (30-45 years old), 30% of Baby Boomers (46-64 years old) and 6% of the Silent generation (65+ years old)).  Almost one-third of the MG visit their social media profile multiple times per day.

Eighty-eight percent of the MG use their cell phone to text.  Only 77% of Gen X'ers, 51% of Baby Boomers and 9% of the Silent generation send text messages.  Eighty percent of MG'ers have sent text messages in the previous 24 hours, 64% admit to texting while driving and 41% have a cell phone but no land line.  Compare that to 24% of Gen X'ers, 13% of Boomers and 5% of Silents.  Ninety percent of the MG uses the internet.  Not surprisingly, the Millennial generation says that new technology makes their life easier.

More and more each year, people in general are turning to the internet as their main news source.  For the MG, 65% use the television as their main news source, and 59% use the internet.  Barely one-quarter turn to newspapers.  By comparison, only 13% of the Silent generation uses the internet for news.

Thanks to the current state of the economy, 37% of the MG is currently unemployed.  Only three out of five MG'ers were raised by both parents and a full one-quarter do not have a religious affiliation.  Only one in five is actually married (and, in general, young people are less likely to be married now than 20 years ago).  For their parents, that number was doubled at the same stage of their life.  One-third are parents and more than a third of women in the generation who gave birth in 2006 were unmarried.  Seventy-five percent have never been married (as compared with 43% of the Silent generation, 52% of Boomers and 67% of Gen X'ers at the same age).  The MG is also more likely to be living with a family member or roommate than previous generations.

This is also the most liberal generation to date.  They are more tolerant of gay couples raising children, interracial marriage, mothers working outside of the home and couples living together without being married.  More than half (54%) say they have a close friend or family member who is gay.  Only 46% of Gen X'ers, 44% of Baby Boomers and 26% of the Silent generation report the same.  Nearly two-thirds of the MG supports gay marriage.  The one thing that the MG did take issue with was single mothers deciding to have children.  Fifty-nine percent said it was bad for society.  Only 62% of MG'ers said their parents were married while they were growing up (compared with 71% of Gen X'ers, 85% of Boomers and 87% of Silents).

The MG is the most likely to job-hop and over two-thirds expect to switch careers at some point in their life.  That is compared with 55% of Gen X'ers and 41% of Baby Boomers.  Fifty-seven percent stated that they do not expect to stay with their current employer for the rest of their working life.  However, 62% of Gen X'ers say they expect to stay with their current employer until they retire.

When asked about important issues in their lives, the number one response was "being a good parent" (52%) followed by "having a successful marriage" (30%) and "helping others in need" (21%).  Owning a home and having a high-paying career also make the list. Although only 25% of the MG has an official religious affiliation, most still have traditional beliefs about life after death, heaven and hell, etc.

The MG is more diverse than previous generations, with only 61% as non-Hispanic whites (Gen X is comparable at 62% but Baby Boomers are at 73% and the Silent Generation is at 80%).  Given that most immigrants appear to arrive in their thirties, those who make up the MG are actually more likely to be born in the United States.  Eleven percent of US-born MG'ers have at least one immigrant parent, which matches that of the Silent generation, whose parents came to the US in the late 1800's.  The MG is also the most racially tolerant group.

Despite the bad economy (or perhaps, due to the economy), this generation is set to be the most educated of all previous generations -- almost 40% of all 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college in 2008.  One in eight has had to move in with their parents again due to the state of the economy.  Only 2% of MG males have served in the military, which compares to 6% of Gen X'er men and 24% of Silent men.  54% of MG'ers have at least some college education (up from 49% of Gen X'ers, 35% of Boomers and 24% of the Silent generation).

Although the generation has a whole seems to be optimistic about the future, one-third of the MG are currently unemployed and only one-third say they earn enough money to lead the kind of lifestyle they want.  Another one-third say they rely on family members for financial assistance, even though 14% of those are employed full-time. Despite those numbers, 41% of Millennials stated they are satisfied with the way the country is headed (as compared to 36% of Gen X'ers, 23% of Boomers and 14% of the Silent generation).  Those with higher incomes, are married and who attend church regularly are among the happiest of respondents.  Only 61% of the MG has medical insurance, as opposed to 82% of those over the age of 30.  Fewer also own homes (22% vs. 71% of adults over 30).  Again, though, the generation is optimistic about their future and realize that time is on their side.  Eighty-eight percent say they expect to eventually earn an income to live comfortably.

Despite believing that their elders have better morals and a stronger work ethic, the MG actually believes it is an adult child's responsibility to care for their elderly parents (a higher percentage, in fact, than other generations).  Nearly two-thirds of MG'ers felt this way.  They also get along with their parents more than previous generations.  Only 10% said they often had arguments with their parents.  19% of the Gen X'ers stated they often had arguments with their parents at the same age.

Tattoos are popular among the MG, with 38% having at least one (compared to 32% of Gen X'ers, 15% of Boomers and 6% of Silents).  Of those who are tattooed, almost 70% have more than one.  However, 72% said their tattoos are not easily visible.  Nearly one-quarter of Millennials have piercings in places other than their ears (as opposed to 9% of Gen X'ers and only 1% of those over the age of 45).

All four generations are fairly equal on the issue of "going green."  All make valiant attempts to recycle, buy green products and buy organic foods.  The percentages are higher for those Millennials who make more than $75,000 per year, which makes sense as green products and organic foods can be more expensive.  It looks like the MG is more active than the older generations and spend less time watching television.  Nearly 28% own a gun (which is slightly lower than the average of 34%).

According to a poll of 18,000 registered voters in 2009, 37% of the MG identified themselves as Democrat, 22% as Republican and 38% as independent.  In the 2008 presidential election, Millennials supported Barrack Obama over John McCain, 66% to 32%.  The generation has leaned left in huge numbers since being able to vote in the 2004 and 2006 elections (62% Democrat, 30% Republican).  However, by the end of 2009, views were changing and those numbers were more narrow -- 54% to 40%, still slightly in favor of leaning Democrat.  Regardless, the MG still has the lowest voter turnout at elections.  Millennial approval of President Obama's job performance has dropped from 73% in February 2009 to 57% in February 2010.

Self-Reported Ideology by Generation

                                                      Liberal                Moderate                Conservative

Millennial Generation                    29%                    40%                            28%

Generation X                                  20%                     38%                           38%

Baby Boomers                                18%                    36%                            43%

Silent Generation                           15%                    35%                            45%

           The percentage of young voters who turned out in 2000 was at 40% and jumped up to 49% in 2004.  Older adults rose 3 percentage points to 68%.  Young voters again turned out in higher numbers in 2009 -- to 51% -- which is still behind the 67% turnout for older voters.

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How can you use this information to your advantage?  Understanding how the Millennial Generation thinks is the key to learning how to market to them.  The best piece of information you can take away from this report is that this generation (and future generations) are relying heavily on technology and spending a lot of time on social media websites.  Make sure your business is "in the know."  Make your social media plan with Social Sonar today!

Social Media + Newsletters = BFFs

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Email iPhone AppPeople thought social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would make email obsolete, but the truth is, email is social media's "secret weapon". For people who aren't logging in frequently to update their status and check in on friends and family, email notifications function as a reminder to visit Facebook or Twitter.

Your email list is often more engaged than your Facebook fans or Twitter followers. It's easy to click a single button to fan or follow someone. It takes more effort to type in your email address. It also takes more trust. People see you as an expert, and are open to receiving communication from you alongside emails from friends and family.

One of the nicest things about email is that it can be read at a time that works for the subscriber. While there is a possibility it will get buried if their inbox is flooded with messages or checked infrequently, it will not be hidden under hundreds of status updates. It's easy to check on the go, since people can read email already downloaded to their mobile device even when they don't have access to internet.

Email also isn't limited by character counts, which means your business' voice can shine through. It's easier to go more in-depth in an email newsletter than create a bite-sized chunk people might miss as they scroll through updates. You can also craft a cliff-hanging paragraph that builds suspense and encourages people to visit your blog or website.

The good news is both types of marketing are a great investment. Social media and email marketing work in tandem to build your customer base by playing on each others' strengths. Facebook and Twitter cast a wide net to find people who might be interested in your business area. By providing interesting posts and tweets, you build a reputation as an industry expert with your fans and followers. Once a month you should promote signing up for the newsletter via social media. This way you will catch the most engaged fans and followers.

We can create an optimized marketing plan for your business that makes the most out of every marketing channel. Just give us a call.

Learning to value your time

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 29, 2011
One thing I've learned in the last few years is how important it is to place a value on my time.  That's not to say I expect to get paid for every minute of the day.  It just means I evaluate everything I'm invited to attend before deciding to spend my time there.  Some events will have emotional value, so that is worth my time.  Some might mean future business, so that is worth my time.  Some events might just be fun, and that is worth my time too.

How do you decide what your time is worth?  That is something only you can determine.  I remember before Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving in the US) last year, a group of people in Florida started a line in front of Best Buy a week before the actual date.  For their efforts, some were awarded a free iPad.  People were ecstatic.  I was happy that they were happy, but wasting a week of my life in line for the chance at some so-so deals, would not even be worth a $500 toy.  Perhaps those people were unemployed, so spending that time was easier for them than it would have been for me.  Perhaps they were looking for the attention from the media, so that made it worth their time.  Whatever their reasons, they determined that spending a week sleeping outside in front of a Best Buy was good use of their time.

There are only so many hours in the day, and you can't spend 24 of them on your business.  You need to determine the areas in which you are adept and admit where you might need help.  For example, if you do not enjoy writing, perhaps paying someone to ghost write blogs for your company is a good idea.  This way, you are not spending valuable time being frustrated that you aren't able to write for yourself.  If you do not enjoy or understand Facebook and/or Twitter, then hiring an outside company to handle customer comments and post fresh content on your page would be a good use of your resources. 

Only you can decide what your time is worth.  Do you have a social media plan?  If and when you are ready for help in the blogging and social media realm, Social Sonar is here to help you create a plan and then put it into action!

How a Blog Benefits Natural Search

Alison Kawa - Saturday, May 28, 2011

Having a blog is a serious time investment, and every word is worth it. Here's why.

Relevant keywords / number and placement of keywords

Blogging enables you to mention multiple keywords that can be relevant to a search. Every time you blog, you increase the number of times the keywords are mentioned. Often times keywords will end up in the title of your blog, increasing their importance in the Google ranking algorithm and making your site more likely to be returned in the results of a search.

Number of pages on a website

Having a lot of pages indicates to Google that you have a lot of information. Since Google’s mission is to connect users with the information they seek, having a blog positions you as an industry expert whose site is valuable. Each time you write a blog post, a page for that post is automatically created, increasing the number of pages on your site and increasing your Google ranking.

Frequency of site changes

Google wants to provide its users with the most up-to-date information. The logic is, the more often you change your site, the more current your information is. Google’s crawlers will re-visit your website and, if you have made edits since the last time it was crawled, the crawler will make a note of it and return more frequently. If you continually update your site, it will be crawled more and more often, and the information you post will be catalogued closer to real-time. Every blog post counts as an update to your site, and will increase your search engine ranking, as well as the frequency of your crawling.

Why Having a Blog Is Crucial for Your Business

Social Sonar - Saturday, May 21, 2011

It raises your natural search engine ranking.

WordPress LogoWe'll use Google as an example of a search engine, since it holds 80% of the market share. Google determines the ranking of a website with the following:

  • relevant keywords to the search
  • number and placement of the keywords
  • number of pages on the website
  • frequency of site changes
  • and many more (secret) methods

Every time you write a blog post, you:

  • increase the number of keywords on your site.
  • automatically create a page for each post, thus increasing the number of pages.
  • change your website and creating something new for the crawler to find during the next visit.

See the pattern?

It complements your SEM strategy.

Having a high natural search ranking actually increases your ranking for paid search, as well. By keeping your site relevant and timely with a blog, your ads will appear higher on the page and cost less per impression.

It gives you something to talk about.

Facebook and Twitter posts are great for a short format. If you have a big idea that warrants some explaining, a blog post is a great way to offer added value to your customer.

It's free advertising.

Blog posts are easy to share. By setting yourself up as an industry expert with a lot of experience, people are likely to listen to what you have to say, and share this information with friends and co-workers.

How to Master Search Engine Optimization

Alison Kawa - Saturday, May 14, 2011

How do you rank high in natural search?

The answer is simple and refreshing: Be useful. Have content people want to read. Not only will you be helping your customers, you will also increase your natural search ranking.

Many people create content with a blog. A blog is a great way to talk to your customers in a more informal tone. They get a better feel for you and your company, and they often find additional, useful information. In talking about your business, you are bound to use keywords that rank you higher in natural search results.

Make lots of friends. The more sites that link to you, the more important search engines think you are. It’s just like people. The more people have heard of you, the more important people think you are. The quality of the websites that link to you, however, is really important. A link from a major website like the BBC is much more important to your ranking than links from one hundred really small websites.

Have a lot of information. The more pages you have on your website, the higher your ranking in natural search.

Avoid Flash with every ounce of strength you have. Flash “breaks” your website for search engines. If you look at the code of a website using Flash, it simply states, “Must have Flash player to view this site”. It doesn’t tell the search engines anything about your website, or why it is relevant to the search.

Do your business a favor and focus on natural search from the beginning. Your money will be well-invested!

Welcome to Social Sonar

Alison Kawa - Saturday, April 30, 2011

For years we have been working with small businesses to craft beautiful, usable websites optimized for natural search. But a website and high search engine rankings are only part of an online media strategy. Consumers aren't just using Google to find things anymore. Increasingly, their first stop is an online review site like Yelp or social media site like Facebook or Twitter.

We like to save small business owners time. We have always set up websites to be editable without paying a designer to update the code. While most of our clients could find the time to update content, and even write the occasional blog post or email newsletter, it seemed there was never enough time to monitor all the social media and online review sites. Yelp and Facebook pages stood empty, and blog posts, which are a great tool for ranking higher in search results, fell by the wayside.

Most small business owners don't have the resources to hire someone full time, so we developed a suite of services to maintain the pillars of a good online reputation:

  • Responding quickly to Yelp reviews, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets.
  • Actively tweeting on Twitter and promoting your business on Facebook with relevant conversations about your business and promotions you're running.
  • Regular blogging and email newsletters featuring information relevant to the happenings of your business.
  • Incorporating your website into your social media strategy by encouraging reviews on key sites and displaying social commentary about your business on your site.
  • Helping businesses identify key social influencers and encourage interaction with them.

We're always open to new ideas and suggestions from clients and new friends. Hope to hear from you soon!

Best Wishes,
The Social Sonar Team