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Ménage à Trois: A Marketing Love Story

Social Sonar - Monday, October 08, 2012

Ménage à Trois translates to "Household of three". Here at Social Sonar, we often talk about the Virtuous Cycle, the three services that complement and feed each other seamlessly to create a cohesive marketing program and serve as the basis for all other efforts. Combining services does more than triple your reach; it has a multiplying effect.

Virtuous Cycle of Marketing

1. Blogging

Maintaining a blog is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business. Not only does a blog educate your customers and demonstrate your expertise, it also greatly improves your search engine ranking. Every blog post increases the number of keywords and pages on your site, so search engines will rank your url more highly than other websites with less information.

Having a more highly-ranked site ensures more traffic to your blog, which leads to more people signing up for email newsletters, and more people liking your Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you run any Google AdWords campaigns, you can actually pay less and be ranked higher than less informative sites.

Blog posts also provide you with unique content to promote in your Facebook and Twitter messages, as well as your email newsletter. You can even run targeted marketing campaigns linking to specific blog posts, which are easier to set up than landing pages.

2. Social Media

Updating Facebook and Twitter pages shows customers your business is healthy, and you are keeping up with the times. Rather than expecting people to visit your website, you are meeting them where they already hang out and making it easy for them to interact with your business or check your hours.

Social media is an ideal tool to drive customers to your website when you need them to take an action. For example, you can promote your recent blog post on Facebook and Twitter. People click the link to visit your blog and spend time on your site, where you can convince them to make an appointment or call with questions.

You can even run specials on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Post a unique coupon code and send people to your website to make the purchase. You get to keep more money than if you partnered with a deal site like Groupon or Living Social.

Tell other fans on your Facebook and Twitter pages about your positive Yelp reviews, and encourage them to review you. You can even link directly to the positive review!

3. Email Marketing

Gaining the trust to receive an email address is one of the most powerful marketing relationships you can build. Make sure you always send relevant content so recipients are less likely to unsubscribe.

Blog posts are ideal for ensuring your emails are always interesting and informative. They enable you to take a "Something for Everyone" approach, as we mentioned in our blog post What Saturday Night Live Teaches Us About Email Marketing.

Facebook and Twitter are great tools to promote signing up for your email newsletters. People who sign up to receive your emails are more likely to make a purchase than someone who has only liked you on Facebook or followed you on Twitter.

This recent article from TIME states, "Forty-eight percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends, or retailers, but less than 1% of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links... For repeat shoppers, 30% of online purchases begin with an e-mail from the retailer."

Our complete package offers everything you need for the basis of a healthy marketing program: Blogging, Social Media, and Email Marketing. Give us a call at 1-866-843-4490 or send an email to service@socialsonar.com to find out how our customized automated solution can work for your business.

What Saturday Night Live Teaches Us About Email Marketing

Social Sonar - Thursday, October 04, 2012

Original Cast of SNL, courtesy of guardian.co.ukI recently lamented the decline in hilarity of Saturday Night Live at a family gathering. The show premiered in 1975, and some of its most memorable skits and characters were born during the first few decades. They were the work of formidable comedians, including John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, and so many other amazing artists.

My brother-in-law is studying at The Second City in Chicago, training grounds for many of the show's original stars. He explained the new formula for SNL: each skit appeals to a different audience. Rather than having a show that caters to only one sense of humor, the writers mix things up. This ensures that, while you won't split a seam at every skit, you'll find a couple hilarious. This is how the show has managed to stay on the air for 37 years (its anniversary is coming up on October 11!).

This "something for everyone" approach is ideal for email newsletters. Every email address on your list took a considerable amount of time and money to earn. You want to provide your subscribers with something that appeals to them each time they open an email from you, or they will unsubscribe from your list and you'll lose your investment.

Here are 4 tactics to create an engaging email newsletter:

1. Mix It Up.

It's nearly impossible to have a single article that appeals to every one of your subscribers. Consider the needs of your key demographics and include a piece of content for each one. You could even develop a standardized format with three to four topics. For a personal trainer this might look like: recent health news article, exercise targeting a certain muscle group, healthy recipe, and motivational tip.

2. Keep It Scanable.

People reading their email are not necessarily willing to commit more than 30 seconds to your message. In fact, with the prevalence of smart phones, reading long emails is sometimes painful. Busy people will skip or unsubscribe if your emails become a pain to digest.

Break up the email so it's easy to tell the topics at a glance. Use large headlines and include pictures to organize the design. Rather than having long articles, provide a summary with a link to the full article. Ensure all links are specific about their destination and include action words. Ex: Learn the 4 Tips for a Successful Email Newsletter.

3. Leave Them Wanting More.

There are many reasons to send an email: it keeps you top of mind, educates your audience, and hopefully, inspires them to take an action. Ideally your newsletter drives its readers back to your website.

A great way to do this is to provide a summary of a blog post, then link to the rest of the blog post on your website. Not only is this a great way of to include several different articles in your message, it also increases traffic to your site. This gives you an opportunity to convince visitors to make a purchase or schedule an appointment.

4. Make It Mobile-Friendly.

Recent statistics have shown the rate of emails being opened on mobile devices to be as high as 27%. Your business' statistic could be even higher if your audience is younger and / or more affluent. Keeping your emails mobile-friendly, with large font sizes and easy to click buttons, ensures your on-the-go readers are more likely to engage with your message.

If you don't have time to create a newsletter every month, why not have someone else do it for you? Social Sonar's email marketing package includes a mobile-optimized email design to ensure your readers have a great experience each and every message.

How to Prevent Getting Your Email Account Suspended

Alison Kawa - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Without realizing it, you may look like a spammer to your Email Service Provider!

Happy Chimpanzee
Best to Keep MailChimp Happy.

If you’re like many of our clients, you’ve spent years carefully collecting email addresses for your list. The problem is, you’ve never been able to find the time to send that first email. Finally you get around to choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP) like ConstantContact, MailChimp, or MadMimi, to name a few. Then you start the process:

  1. Design your email.
  2. Upload your list.
  3. Send your email.
  4. Receive an email from you ESP with this Subject Line: "Important Notice: Please call us"
In the body of the email is a message like this:

Getting your email delivered into your recipient's inbox is very important to all of us. It's one of the reasons we maintain one of the highest delivery ratings in the industry. In order to assist us we have various automated controls to monitor all aspects of your account and to help identify area's that may cause email delivery problems.

At this time your account has been identified to include a condition that may cause delivery problems. A review of your account must be completed for you to continue to send mail. We will review delivery issues/complaint rates, list collection practices, email content and frequency as well as any other matters that may violate our terms of service. Although your account has been temporarily disabled, your account is still active and will be billed accordingly.

Please contact us for a review of your account as soon as possible.

So What Did You Do Wrong?

There are a few things that can trigger an alert like this for an ESP. Here's some background:

Every email is sent from an IP address (a unique string of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer or mail server attached to the Internet). ESPs like Constant Contact, MailChimp, and MadMimi work hard to ensure all the IP addresses they own (sometimes referred to as their range of IP addresses since they are in sequential order) are whitelisted. This means they work within the guidelines set forth by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Gmail and Yahoo to avoid looking like a spammer. This practically guarantees all emails sent from their IP addresses make it into the inbox instead of spam.

ISPs like Gmail and Yahoo want to protect their email users from spam, so they watch for suspicious activities. These include the following:

You Sent to Spam Email Addresses.

One of the tactics spammers use to reach inboxes is finding a website address and then adding a “role” prefix to form an email address. Role addresses are basically guaranteed email addresses baked into every email setup. For example, if they want to send spam email to company.com, they would send to webmaster@company.com. This role address is almost always mapped to an inbox at the company.

Some of your customers may actually use these email addresses to sign up for your list. They include:

accounting@ media@
admin@ news@
admissions@ noc@
all@ no-reply@
billing@ office@
booking@ ops@
careers@ postmaster@
contact@ privacy@
contact-us@ remove@
customerservice@ request@
custserv@ resumes@
editor@ root@
everyone@ sales@
feedback@ security@
finance@ spam@
ftp@ subscribe@
helpdesk@ support@
hostmaster@ test@
info@ usenet@
information@ users@
investorrelations@ uucp@
jobs@ webmaster@
mail@ www@

This list also includes addresses that have "admin" embedded in the address, such as listadmin@, serviceadmin@, etc. ESPs generally will not send mail to an email address that contains the word spam anywhere in its name.

People Didn't Want Your Email.

Since you have never sent to your email list, or you haven’t sent to them in a long time, people may have forgotten they even signed up for your list. Their first instinct will be to hit the “Spam” button in their email interface.

When a huge percentage of email recipients are marking messages coming from an IP address as spam, ISPs take that as a sign the IP address is owned by a spammer, and they will start routing all emails from that IP address directly to spam instead of the inbox. This really upsets your ESP.

It Looks Like You Made People Up.

Since you have never sent to your email list, or you haven’t sent to them in a long time, there will likely be quite a few email addresses that are no longer valid. These emails will “bounce”.

From Campaign Monitor:

A 'bounce' means that your email was sent to a specific address, but the mail server that received the email for that person has sent it back, saying it could not be delivered. There are quite a few different reasons that might happen, and we can divide them into two main categories.

A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient's mail server (it recognizes the address) but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the intended recipient. A soft bounce might occur because the recipient's mailbox is full, the server is down or swamped with messages, or the message is too large. Soft bounces can also include things like auto-replies to your email.

...

A hard bounce is an email message that has been returned to the sender and is permanently undeliverable. Causes include invalid addresses (domain name doesn't exist, typos, changed address, etc.) or the email recipient's mail server has blocked your server. Servers can sometimes interpret bounces differently, meaning a soft bounce on one server may be classified as a hard bounce on another.

Once an email has soft bounced 3 times without any trackable activity, most ESPs consider this a hard bounce. Most ESPs automatically unsubscribe hard bounces, so they don't receive future campaigns.

A high percentage of bounces makes it look like you’re making up email addresses, something spammers do. ISPs take high bounce rates as a sign the IP address is owned by a spammer, and they will start routing all emails from that IP address directly to spam instead of the inbox. Again, this really upsets your ESP.

Preventative Measures

When sending to your email list for the first time, after after a long break, or switching a new ESP:

  1. Remove all “Role” addresses before uploading your email list. In the future, do not allow people to sign up for your email list with these types of addresses.
  2. Put your Unsubscribe link at the top of the email. This makes it easier for people to unsubscribe instead of marking you as spam, which will make your ESP very happy.
  3. Break your list into small batches. Upload a small list of people each day and send a copy of the newsletter to each list. This should ensure you don't get a bunch of unsubscribes and bounces at once. Be sure to remove duplicates before you break your list into chunks to avoid sending twice to the same person.

After your initial send, the number of bounces and unsubscribes should decrease significantly. You can likely send to your full subscriber base without running the risk of getting your account suspended.

Have you ever had your account suspended? Tell us your story!

Is Social Media Included In Your Marketing Plan?

Social Sonar - Monday, May 07, 2012

According to a survey by Forrester.com, even though 92% of those polled agree that social media has "fundamentally changed how consumers engage with brands," only 49% of marketers have "fully integrated" social media into their marketing strategy. Have you included social media in your marketing plan?

Here are four tips for successfully including social media in your marketing plan:

Choose Your Platform Wisely

There are so many social media sites. Choose yours wisely. We have discussed various popular sites in many of our blog posts and recently touched upon some smaller sites HERE. The big sites for many businesses are Facebook and Twitter. Other possible sites are YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr or Google+ (among others), depending upon your customer base. Don't waste time on all of these sites, however. Choose one at a time and test the waters slowly. 

Utilize E-mail Newsletters

It is essential to include links to your website, Facebook fan page, Twitter profile and other social media pages in your newsletter. You can also highlight upcoming specials and events. Newsletters are great because e-mails can be saved and read when your customer has a few minutes. Often posts on social media sites can get lost in a busy news feed, so reiterating certain posts in a newsletter is important.  

If you missed our previous post on e-mail newsletters, you can read it HERE.

Create Events on Facebook

Do you have an open house or other special event coming up? Create an event on Facebook! It is a fast, easy and FREE way to invite your fans to your store (make sure you include the Facebook event link in your newsletter). You can store photos, websites, or other information important for the event all in one location. You can also encourage fans to invite their friends (perhaps you can offer a discount or special for those guests who arrive first).

Read our previous post about fundraising events using social media sites HERE.

Content is Key

Whether we are talking about your website, your social media profiles or your newsletter, content is key. If you are not posting interesting and engaging information, your customers are not going to read your posts. Remember to engage your customer in a conversation rather than selling to them. Your content should add value for your audience, and should not overtly sell anything, which makes people want to share it with their network as well. You can read our previous post about the disconnect between brands and consumers HERE.  

Keep in mind that building your brand using social media is a process.  Have you officially implemented social media into your marketing plan?  Tell us about it here!

 

Meet Social Sonar!

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Have you ever wondered who is behind the curtain at Social Sonar?  Well, wonder no more! 

Meet Alison Kawa, Co-founder, Account Management.  

 

Why did you start Social Sonar?
I started Social Sonar for business owners like my dad. He owns a loose leaf tea shop. He’s busy and he doesn’t have time to blog, write a newsletter, or stay involved with all the conversations about his business on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and an ever growing list of social sites.

What does social media mean to you?
Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp are many people’s first impression of a business. People turn to Yelp to research where to eat, shop, and even which dentist to choose, Twitter for up to the minute news and deals, and Facebook to share their daily life and photos with friends and family.

How can social media help small businesses?
Social media allows you to join in the conversation, learn what people like (and hate), and gain the lifelong loyalty of your customers.

What does Social Sonar do for small businesses?
We work with you to create a social media plan to achieve your business goals. We monitor your online reputation and respond quickly, in the way you specify. We create unique, engaging content to share with your customers through Facebook Twitter, your blog, and newsletters. You approve it, we post it. We find you new customers, and keep existing fans coming back. With 24 hour responsiveness, everyday, we’re able to interact with your customers on their time, and they’ll love you for listening.

Next up is Wesley Gillis, Co-founder, Client Services. 


Why did you start Social Sonar?
My wife and I owned a store together a while back, and never found a good solution to deal with growing and marketing the business online. I felt that Social Sonar was a chance to create something that would help other business owners who are in the same boat we were.

What does social media mean to you?
I think human beings enjoy living in a community. As technology grew over time, it had the effect of isolating us from a feeling of being part of a group. Social media is our way of correcting that trend by intertwining our desire for community with the technology we are creating.

How can social media help small businesses?
A lot of small businesses are in a position of needing to educate customers about their service. Maybe there is something that makes your business unique, maybe you want to share the personality of your business because it’s something that your customers aren’t going to find anywhere else. Social media gives businesses a way to spread that message. Small businesses have always been about being part of the community, participating with customers and being part of people’s lives. Social media helps businesses continue to do this as their customers spend more and more time reading blogs, checking email and surfing Facebook.

What does Social Sonar do for small businesses?
Business owners know they need to stay active with social media, email newsletters and blogging. The problem is that they don’t have the time and don’t have the budget to hire a full-time person. Social Sonar gives these busy business owners a team of people who can handle learn the unique style and personality of the business, help manage their social media, keep Facebook and Twitter active, write and send out email newsletters and even blog for them.

And then we have Lori Myers, Director of Social Media. 


Why did you start Social Sonar?
Since I started helping my dance studio instructor with her social media a couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to help other people achieve the American dream. So many people have fallen on hard times in the last few years. Rather than look at it negatively, I see so many people turn on their creativity and invent ways to take care of themselves and their families. I realize that owning your own business is no walk in the park. You have to be everything to everyone at all times. Social Sonar allows business owners to get some of their precious time back by placing the reins of their social media marketing in our capable hands.

What does social media mean to you?
The term “social media” has become such a popular term in the last year. Everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon. To me, it encompasses all forms of digital communication: from the obvious Facebook and Twitter to YouTube, Yelp, LinkedIn, WordPress and Blogger. Anywhere on the Internet that people can connect, communicate and share ideas or information counts as social media.

How can social media help small businesses?
Facebook is great for reaching friends of your current customers. Twitter is amazing for helping you reach a wider audience. Responding to Yelp reviews can show people that you are conscientious about your relationship with your customers. Over half of Americans are on the Internet (which might not sound like a lot, but if you subtract out children and the elderly who might not be online, the number is significant), so you need to be there too.

What does Social Sonar do for small businesses?
Talking about a potential client base of “millions,” might be a little overwhelming. Social Sonar helps create and implement a social media plan specific to your business. If your product is available online, we can cater to a worldwide audience. If you are just trying to sell coffee in Middletown, USA, then we have a plan for you too. This allows you, the business owner, to get back to what you love doing -- running your business. Whether you don’t understand or enjoy social media websites, or you just don’t have time, Social Sonar is here to help.

 

Here Is Your Post-Black Friday Checklist

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday 2011 is history. Small Business Saturday is almost over. Cyber Monday is only a day away. The holiday shopping season has officially begun. Here is a checklist to maximize your post-holiday success with a social media marketing plan to keep those customers coming back.

1. Website.
Even if it is only a simple website with your contact information and store hours, websites are a basic requirement these days. Your website should also link to all of your social media pages so that your customers can decide which mode of contact works best for them.

2. Newsletter.
You should also have an e-mail newsletter that goes out on a regular basis. Whether it is weekly or monthly, connecting regularly with your customers keeps your business on their mind. Unless you are correcting a mistake, don't over-do it by e-mailing too often. You want your customers to look forward to hearing from you. Make signing up easy by having a sign-up button at the top of the front page of your website.

3. Blogging.
We have said it before and we will say it again: Publishing a weekly blog about your company and its products or services is an important part of your social media plan. Keeping your website updated with fresh content raises your rankings within search engines. This means when someone "Googles" your company, it will come up faster.

4. Facebook.
With 800 million users worldwide, your customers are most likely on Facebook. If you create a fan page for your business, it gives your customers a fun and easy place to connect with you. Also, when a customer "likes" your fan page, it is published on their wall for all of their friends to see, thereby exposing your business to another layer of potential customers.

5. Twitter.
With over 200 million users, Twitter is another great way to connect with potential customers. You can use the search function to find potential customers in your geographic area. You can also search tweets and profiles for key words to connect with people who may be interested in your business. If you tag your tweets with proper hash tags, it allows users to find you when they are searching for certain topics.

6. Other social media platforms.
You may decide that Google+, LinkedIn, Yelp, YouTube, Foursquare or other sites are important for your business. You don't want to create a situation where you are trying to manage too many profiles. However, if you know your customers are congregating in a certain place then you may decide to spend some time there as well.

If you would like to read some of our success stories about how other companies have used social media to promote their business, please check out this link: http://www.socialsonar.com/social-media-success-stories. Which sites are on your checklist? Leave a comment below to let us know!

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. 


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.