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7 Signs It’s Time to Revise Your Social Media Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If you think you’ve figured out the social media game for good, we’ve got some news for you--social media can be a fickle friend. Your social strategy may be great today, but shifting trends, changing tastes and the arrival of new social networks can all change that very quickly! Here are a few signs it may be time to rethink your social media strategy.


“Is Anyone Out There?”

Has your number of followers plummeted? This is a sure sign that you need to take a look at your overall strategy. Fans might be jumping ship for any number of reasons (because your content is too repetitive, too impersonal or just plain annoying). Start with some research as to why people unfollow users on platforms like Twitter.


Your Customers Feel Ignored

Do you have angry customers coming into your shop or office wondering why you haven’t answered their tweets and Facebook messages? Customers hate being ignored whether it's online or in person. It’s time to rethink your social media platforms as an extension of the customer service experience you provide!


The Party Is Somewhere Else

If things seem dead, your most active users may have moved on to greener pastures. Are you still clinging to a dead social network? If your target audience is younger than twenty, you may want to invest more time and energy on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where teens and tweens are flocking to.

Your Website’s Traffic Isn’t What it Could Be

If you’re tracking visits to your business’s website and things are looking either lackluster or downright grim, you may not be leveraging the power of your social media platforms as well as you could.  


You Haven’t Published a New Blog Post in Months.

Your Blogger account wants to know where you’ve been for the last couple of months! The readers who follow your regular posts are also hungry for more! If your content has dried up, it’s time to set up a better blogging schedule. A weekly schedule gives you time to come up with ideas, the chance to edit things properly before they hit the web, and enough lead time to keep publishing on time. 


You’ve Got Hate Mail.

Yikes--talk about a red flag! If you’re getting e-mails and tweets from customers who are angry about your content, you may not know your audience as well as you think you do. Remember that reaching a broad audience might mean keeping polarizing opinions to yourself.


You’re Not Focused on Visuals.

Visual social media is dominating networks, so if you’re still relying purely on text to carry your message across, it’s time to bust out the camera! Flashy profiles with lots of high definition images are sure to attract more attention, especially fans who follow you through their mobile devices.


Are you in a rut when it comes to your social media strategy? You can never go wrong with increasing your engagement, answering questions promptly, sharing more of yourself and sharing a good variety of high quality content. How have you reinvigorated your social strategy over the past few years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.


How Southwest Airlines Won Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Sometimes a company uses the power of social media to brighten someone’s day, put the icing on the cake of a great customer service experience, or quickly resolve an issue that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. But seldom does a marketing team channel the power of social networking to really blow the lid off a customer’s experience. That’s exactly what Southwest Airlines did for a couple en route from Nashville to Phoenix. Here’s the story of their flight attendant, Holly, and the whiz PR team that turned one online comment into an unforgettable event for everyone involved.

It All Started at Cruising Altitude...

Thousands of miles up in the air, a passenger named Rowland and his girlfriend had the good fortune of meeting Holly, an aircrew member set on going above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making her passengers comfortable and happy. When she learned that Rowland and his girlfriend were fans of Taylor Swift, she gifted them with some guitar picks that Swift’s father had given to her on a previous flight. Needless to say, they were elated!

One Post Spurred it All

Rowland was so taken with Holly’s generous gesture that we had to share it with the world. Here’s what he shared via Facebook:

“If someone in the Southwest Airlines corporate HQ can see this – I’m on flight 913 currently en route to Phoenix and I want yall to know that our flight attendant Holly is perhaps one of the most remarkably kind and helpful people my girlfriend and I have ever met. If you can meet us at the gate with something remarkable for this remarkable woman (a promotion, a raise, a chipotle burrito, anything), I will sign a document pledging to only fly Southwest from here on out (unless you do not fly where I need to go). Of course – I request a “Keyman Clause” in this agreement stipulating the contract terminates if Holly ever leaves. People like her are why I fly SWA.”


A Golden Opportunity

Seeing a golden opportunity before them, the marketing team at Southwest Airlines devised a plan. Their response included a well-earned sash and giant commemorative cookie for Holly (who had certainly proved herself to be worthy of her new title), and a freshly minted contract for Rowland, where he could follow through on his commitment to only fly Southwest Airlines. With a big to-do at the gate, the Southwest team was able to turn one great customer experience into a fantastic photo-op and viral story that was bound to gain some traction as it made its way across the web.

What’s the biggest takeaway from Holly and Rowland’s story? Interactions with guests and customers are at the heart of every business, so it's vital to shine a spotlight on them. With a sharp eye for what your followers are saying about you on social media and a willingness to spring into action when a great PR opportunity shows up, you can create a really memorable event that sums up what you’re all about as a business: building relationships and creating great customer experiences. What are some other big takeaways from Southwest Airline’s response? Stay tuned for part two of this blog post, where we delve deeper into some lessons learned from Holly, Rowland, and Southwest Airlines.

Get on the Soapbox: Social Media for Social Causes

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Non-profits, organizations for social change and independent advocators of good, lend me your ears! The time has come to step up to the social media soapbox to amplify your message, educate the populace and drive your community into meaningful action. With better approaches to blogging, e-mail marketing and social media, you can broaden your reach, invigorate your base and ultimately carry out your mission more effectively.

While it’s true that big corporations have a lot of money to put behind their big branding efforts, some of the most effective tools they have at their disposal are social ones like Facebook and Twitter, which non-profits and small businesses have equal access to. So why not take advantage of some of the best connective tools available to your organization? Here are four easy ways to get started with online organizing.

Create a Twitter Cheat Sheet

So you’re already on Twitter? Fantastic! Now it’s time to make the most of it. Creating a cheat sheet is a great way to keep track of important hashtags, influencers and key talking points. Here are some key hashtags to get you started.

Embrace Digital Development Tools

Online auctions are a great way to fundraise. Some websites even specialize in hosting auctions for non-profits. Make sure you leverage your influence on Twitter and Facebook to funnel followers towards your fundraising pages. If you’re running a multi-day online auction, create regular posts with great pictures that showcase each item. You can also take advantage of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

Reach Out to Like-Minded Organizations

There is power in numbers, so make sure you are connecting with individuals and organizations that share your values. Look for opportunities to connect with the missions of others. You’ll broaden the scope of your influence and find new collaborators and supporters. By staying regularly engaged on social media, you can find the most active conversations around issues that matter to you the most. It’s a great way to network while you also gain exposure to the philosophies and practices of other online activists. Try these approaches:

  • Check out this list of 26 major charities and non-profits making their mark on social media.
  • Host a Tweet Chat centered around overlapping issues.
  • Take advantage of person-to-person connections at events like conferences, retreats and summits. When you get home, keep important conversations going through social media.
  • Blog about a cause that's typically outside the scope of your organization, then share it with people and organizations who promote that cause. You can also offer to be a guest blogger for someone else. Don't forget to link back to your own page!
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and e-mail blasts to promote events that are being produced by other organizations. Then, when you host your own fundraisers or meetups, ask for your fellow organizers to return the favor.
  • Highlight Success Stories

    Social media is an incredible storytelling device. One of the biggest things to overcome as a non-profit organization fighting for social change is the cynicism of believing that nothing will change. To be certain, many fights worth fighting are an uphill battle. But by putting an emphasis on success stories through articles, long-form blog posts, and e-mail blasts, you can show that progress is being made every day.

    What other ways have you used social media to ignite your followership? Are your Facebook and Twitter feeds a repository for stale information, or are they filled with inspiring rhetoric that spurs others into action? Share your own experience below.

    Thinking About Inbound Marketing? Start with Social Media

    Social Sonar - Friday, August 30, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

    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.

    The Politics of Talking Politics on Social Media

    Social Sonar - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

    They say it’s always smart to avoid two topics during conversation: religion and politics. But the truth is, social media has become a huge platform for people to share their personal views about a slew of different perspectives, political or otherwise.

    When it comes to taking on politics and social issues, however, what you write, tweet and post on your personal accounts may not always be what’s best for the social media outlets that represent your business. While you may personally feel strongly about current events and issues of the day, does it make sense for your small business to get political?

    Vote.jpg

    For some organizations, the answer will be obvious. Take a look at your central mission. A non-profit that promotes gender parity in the workplace, for example, should absolutely use their social media soapbox as much as possible. You’ve got an incredible opportunity to mobilize people, engage them in a way that gets them to think about issues in a new way, and turn followers into strong advocates for your cause. The website Movements.org has some great online resources, including how to mobilize followers and raise funds through social media.

    If you’re a business that deals with other kinds of services, the answer to whether or not you should delve into politics is not as clear cut. If you’re a small restaurant, sports shop or electronics stores, for example, your mission is to appeal to a broad demographic. That may mean having to bite your tongue on questions that may be too polarizing. The last thing you want to do is stoke a fire on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed. 

    Still, finding a cause that your business or organization can rally behind might not be a bad idea. It shows that you’re an active members in the community and that your business has a mission beyond making a profit. If you’re shopping for a cause, attach yourself to something that isn’t divisive.

    A street cleaning project is a good example of a cause you could support without the fear of ruffling too many feathers along the way. Endorsing a political candidate, on the other hand, can easily become a case study in delving too deply into controversial territory. Instead, find a broader message that's still positive, like encouraging everyone to get out and vote no matter who their preferred candidate is. 

    So, next time you have the urge to publish that political rant online or share your views on a contested election, remember that the temporary glee you get from broadcasting your perspective may be great, but the ultimate effect might be alienating and counterproductive. When in doubt, focus on supporting issues that all of your followers can get behind so no one feels left out, even if it means letting your own opinion take a backseat for just a while. 



    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.

    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!

    People.jpg

    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.

    3 Ways to Grow an Opt-in Email List

    Social Sonar - Thursday, February 28, 2013

    Growing an opt-in email list takes time. It is highly discouraged to buy an email list, since the people on it are not qualified, and more likely to mark your email as spam. Once too many people mark your emails as spam, service providers like Gmail will send your messages to the Spam box for legitimate recipients, as well. Here are some more fruitful tactics you can try.

    email list1. Find a Partner.

    If you want to reach a lot of people quickly, consider partnering with another business that has a larger opt-in email list. The joint email should be very clearly marked as a partner email so you can build upon the trust the recipients have with the existing brand. It should simply be presented as an introduction or a special offer for people on the list.

    Ideally, you would create a special landing page for the people on the partner company’s list so there is continuity in the message. A special discount code never hurts, either.

    2. Use Your Existing Customers.

    If there are not any relevant companies willing to partner with you, you will need to build your own list. You should start by asking all of your current clients for their email addresses. If you already have their email addresses, you can send them an initial email asking if they want to receive regular email messages.

    It is a good idea to send all optional email messages from an email address that is different from the address you used to send admin communications. This way, if the customer unsubscribes from the new email series, they can still receive notifications about system outages and updates, as well as billing information.

    According to CAN-SPAM, since you have an existing business relationship with your customers, you do not need to ask for their permission to email them. However, to keep people from marking your email as spam and affecting your deliverability, you want to be sure you have their permission before you send a second one. This is known as a double opt-in, and is often a required step for legitimate email service providers like MailChimp and Emma. It also ensures that anyone on your list has chosen to be there, which should improve your deliverability in the long run.

    3. Ask for New Email Addresses.

    There are a number of different ways you can collect email addresses. If you have a physical location, the least painful way is to keep an iPad at the front counter or desk so people can sign themselves up. This saves the time of retyping and prevents having a paper sign up sheet where people can see each other’s email addresses; it protects your customers’ identity security. If you have to have a paper sign up sheet, ask your employee to keep it hidden until people need to sign up.

    You can also ask people to sign up online. You should have an email sign-up form on your website, and preferably on your Facebook page, as well. Many of the most popular email service providers have a Facebook app that allows you to easily add a form to your profile.

    It’s a good idea to let people know the type of content you will be featuring in your emails as an incentive to add their name to your list. You can also offer something for free in exchange for an email address, like an e-book, but it needs to be compelling enough for people to give up their real email address. Jay Abraham is doing a very excellent job with this. He gives away the transcripts for all of his books as a way of building his email list and developing a relationship with potential clients.

    You can also ask for email addresses as a required field in live chats.

    Slowly but surely, you will build a list of interested recipients. Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know.

    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.