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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Keep it short.
Facebook users normally look at their newsfeeds via their smartphones or tablets, which means less space to view content. Grab their attention with short, valuable tidbits.
2. Ask for feedback.
You can create a customizable questionnaire to obtain solid feedback on your brand or services. Use Facebook’s poll functionality to start asking questions that will make your business run more efficiently and better reach the needs of your customers.
3. Write Facebook Notes.
Perhaps your business doesn't allow for weekly blog post, but you still have things to tell your followers and the format is too long for a regular post. Try using Facebook Notes to feature your insights in this shorter form. As an added bonus, the info also gets indexed in search engines.
4. Call Users to Action.
Ask a question, post an image, share a video or link, and invite feedback. If your content doesn’t offer some way for users to engage, you’ll get less traffic on your page.
5. Demonstrate Your Expertise.
If you're running a clothing shop, you should have some strong knowledge on fashion trends. Create a list of how-tos or offer tips on what your business knows.
6. Reward your Fans.
You always want to show your appreciation for followers who comment and stay in touch with your brand. Offer some Facebook exclusives from your business. It’s quick and easy a way to say, “thank you!”
7. Improve your Image.
Don't just search on Google images for fun or quirky photos. Post things that are going on with your business by taking photos or videos with your smartphone. This helps others see your brand in action.
8. Be Direct.
While you want to keep your posts short, you also want to make the messages relevant. If people are unclear with a call to action, they will be less likely to engage.
Most importantly, have fun with your Facebook page! Since it’s social media, engaging your followers doesn't mean only having business-related posts. People care more about engaging content that adds value to their everyday experience.
For those of you who have time to write your own Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, here's a helpful guide based on what we tell our own writers.
General Social Media Advice
- Include an image and/or link whenever possible. Example: “Thank goodness it's Friday! This week is toast. http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m43b06Wj0g1rosawp.jpg”
- People LOVE motivational and inspirational quotes. Try to work in at least one per week.
- Beautiful images, cartoon jokes, and cute pictures are always popular, as well. Try to work in at least one per week.
- Include a question or “call to action” whenever possible. These should start with a verb or action word. The easier the question is to answer, the better. Try to keep it from being Yes or No. For example, this question would likely be answered Yes or No: “It’s Friday night! Are you going out?” This is a question likely to get more engagement: “It’s Friday night! What's on your agenda?”
- Include information about the local area, if possible. Example: “Looks like a lot of fun family stuff is going on this weekend. What do you have planned? http://events.sfgate.com/search?cat=&has_kids=1”
- Try to limit the number of questions to one per post. Otherwise it gets too confusing and people don’t know how to answer. Example: “It's Friday. Are you staying in or going out? What are you doing the rest of the weekend?” vs. “It's finally Friday! What are you looking forward to this weekend?”
- Facebook has a maximum image height or width of 960 pixels.
- You should post on Facebook at least three times per week. You can do it once a day if the information is varied enough.
- Include only one link per Facebook post.
- Encourage people to respond by asking questions or requesting photos / stories / comments.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to Like posts. “'Like’ this if you have ever dreamed of ice cream.”
- Ideally you should tweet 1-3 times per day to catch people at various points in their feed. You can use a service like Crowdbooster to determine the best time(s) to post. They offer a 30 day free trial, and it's only $9 a month for their basic plan.
- Encourage people to share by making the tweets easy to pass along without edits. All they should have to do is retweet.
- Tweets are limited to 140 characters. Leave room for the tweetpic link if you’re including one (18 characters), shortened links, and your twitter handle if they retweet.
- You don’t need to include the your Twitter handle in the body of a tweet. If someone wants to RT it, they will leave the Twitter handle at the front, anyway.
- Don't be afraid to ask people to RT. "RT this if you can't live without butter."
- Include popular hashtags to take advantage of current topics. Check out Hashtags.org to see what's trending.
Have you discovered tactics that work well? Share them below!
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.
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.
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.
Many shoppers belong to several loyalty programs that allow them to acquire points, money, or merchandise. Big chain stores have been implementing this easy marketing tool to establish customer retention. Small business might assume that these programs will cost too much to implement and maintain, but their benefits can be greatly underestimated. Here are some reasons why you should kick off 2013 with a loyalty program.
1. Return Customers
If a shopper knows they are building up for incentives, they'll go out of their way to support your establishment. It's nice to think that if you get 10 cups of tea, you'll get one free. Chances are the customers who enroll or take part in the loyalty program know that they frequent your business and would benefit from the program. Its an easy sell.
2. Easy Implementation
You don't need to make your loyalty program complex. It can be as simple as stamping a card and having the customer fill out a form with her name, email address, and birth date. Or you can create a program where cards are swiped or scanned and allow for points to accumulate. Your choice is just a matter of budget and time.
3. Targeted Marketing Efforts
If you have a special promotion, or maybe even an event, you'll be able to communicate with the right audience. Maintaining a marketing database will ensure you are talking to consumers who already love your brand. You'll have a successful return on your invest because you will be speaking to the right people.
Social Sonar knows that we work with outstanding clients. We are passionate about their businesses, and we want to share their expertise. For the season of sharing and giving, we created our own "Social Sonar Gift Guide". No need to look any further than some of these local gems, arranged by state or province!
Save 15% on Handmade, Natural Gifts
No matter the time of year, being green is always the style! Freen crafts exceptional handmade candles, skin care products, and jewelry that will make anyone feel good. The Premium Soy Candles Collection Gift Pack will bring serenity and maybe a little romance to the lucky gift receiver. And right now enjoy free shipping with any order of $100 or more. Freen is also offering 15% off of their coveted gift packs until December 15th, 2012.
Pete Cerqua, Fitness Trainer
The Perfect Book for your Health Guru
Healthy living doesn't take a break, but the holidays make it easy for many of us to forget. How can you kick off a healthy 2013? Look no further than best-selling author Pete Cerqua, a respected and in-demand fitness trainer and all-around health guru. The 90-Second Fitness Solution, High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Men, High Intensity Fitness Revolution for Women are all perfect gifts to kick off the new year.
The Tea Smith, Omaha
Give the gift of Health with Tea
From the Far East to the Midwest, tea is nature's most delicious and healthiest beverage. The Tea Smith offers quality loose-leaf teas for your everyday caffeine drinker to your herbal enthusiast. Tea is calorie-free, increases your metabolism, and tastes delicious. The Tea Smith offers a variety of teas, gift baskets, and accessories. You don't have to live in the Omaha, NE area to obtain one of their fresh cups. Shop online or call one of their stores directly.
Essential Aesthetics, Inc., Danville
The Perfect Skin Formula
You only feel as good inside as you do on the outside. Give someone in your life the fountain of youth with the help of Essential Aesthetics in Danville, California. Their team specializes in liquid facelifts with fillers and Botox®. Winter weather is here, and laser resurfacing for skin rejuvenation is the perfect antidote.
Marin Gyrotonic Studio, Marin
The Gift of Health for Others or Yourself
Health is achieved by nourishing your body and mind. Marin Gyrotonic Studios facilitates this process by creating a tranquil sanctuary with workshops and group classes. Gyrotonic is a marriage between yoga and dance. Expert instructors at both Mill Valley and Tiburon, California are specially-trained to provide a path to a healthier life. Marin Gyrotonic Studios has memberships available, or purchase a package to start creating a new you.
Peekabootique, San Francisco
Your First Stop for Cute and Cuddly Children's Necessities
Located in San Francisco's Noe Valley, this children's boutique offers products from toy trucks to ballet gear. You can shop worry-free; every product exceeds baby and child safety standards. You'll receive expert advice on shopping for the littlest members of your family. You can even trade in outgrown toys and clothes for store credit!
Biotone Skin Clinic, Westport
Give the Gift of Beauty
The fountain of youth is a gift we can all appreciate. Nestled in Westport, Connecticut is the Biotone Skin Clinic. Their trained staff will help design the best anti-aging treatment for you. Services include, Non-Surgical Face-Lifts, Photo-Rejuvenation, Microdermabrasion & Hair Restoration. To obtain a gift certificate for their world class treatments, call (203) 256-9903. Why should celebrities get all the beauty secrets?
World of Enrichment, Homewood
Bring a World of Creativity to a Child in Your Life
The World of Enrichment in Homewood, Illinois provides the perfect place for families to express their creative side. Discovery is encouraged with Art Classes, Musikgarten Music Education, and Science 4 Kids. The children in your life can learn and develop their artistic techniques through painting parties or embrace their multicultural side with Spanish language classes. Contact World of Enrichment at 708-249-4008 to give the gift that will last a lifetime.
Tidy Maids, Durham
Give the Gift of Quality Time
With upcoming holiday and New Year's Eve parties, who has time to clean? This Durham, North Carolina company will guarantee you are satisfied with their quality team. Insured and bonded professionals allow you to have peace of mind while you enjoy quality time with your loved ones. Gift certificates are available; just contact their office at 919-720-4736.
Champa's Creations, Houston
Save 20% on the Gift of Beauty
Welcome to Champa's Creations in Houston, Texas. This salon and spa transforms its clients by offering hair and nails services, not to mention massages and oxygen facial treatments. Save up to 20% on all gift certificates. They offer an array of gift packages, as well, which includes Men's Only treatments. Remember, pampering isn't just for the ladies.
Imprint Massage, Seattle
Give the Gift of Relaxation
The gift of relaxation is always welcomed. Imprint Massage is located in Seattle with licensed massage therapists. Refresh and rejuvenate your loved ones with gift certificates. Imprint Massage offers Swedish, Hot Stone, and Pregnancy massage, among many others. Take comfort knowing your friends and family will be in the right hands.
AllSet Auto Glass, Vancouver
Save 20% on the Gift of Safety
Every year we all struggle to purchase the perfect gift for the man in our life. We normally purchase a tie, cologne, or a watch. If you're in Vancouver, you should give the gift of safety with AllSet Auto Glass. The winter roads can be tricky, and damage can happen on your way to holiday festivities. AllSet is offering a 20% off special on Rock Chip Repair (Retail: $57.00), Aquapel Windshield Treatment (Retail $68.98), and Trico Wiper Beam Blades (Retail $18.95) until December 31, 2012. This gift will be appreciated all year long.
Southern Cross Grill On Queen, Ottawa
Treat Your Favorite Foodie
For 20 years in Ottawa, Ontario, Southern Cross Grill On Queen has serving up grilled dishes with a Mexican flare. It's the perfect place for couples, family, and friends to enjoy tasty treats. Their walls are decorated with beautiful black-and-white photographs of Ottawa. Southern Cross Grill On Queen offers gift certificates, both online and in the restaurant, that any food lover would appreciate.
The beauty of technology is that it allows you to target the people you need to reach. "You can send fresh and compelling messages out to target audiences," says Michael Neumeier, principal of the Arketi Group, a small-business marketing consultancy in Atlanta. “You can use it to start delivering educational content to a narrowly focused list of people. Even if it’s only 50 people, if it’s the right 50 people, it’ll do wonders for your startup.”
Podcasting can help you become a leader and expert to your consumers. If your business is clothing, you should talk about the latest trends, fashion shows, or designers. If you own a wine shop, consider giving wine tips or food-pairing advice. In today's fast-paced world, catching a shopper's attention can be difficult. It’s easy for users to download audio content to their smart phones and listen to your advice on the go.
The fact that you're creating audio content instead of just adding words to a webpage means that your business will be seen as innovative. It gives you the kind of buzz that's harder to obtain. Allowing your content to be shareable and available can put you at the top of leaderboard.
The Holiday season is upon us. We see it everywhere we go: the local drugstore, big box store, and e-commerce websites. Every marketing effort is being put toward holiday sales. Whether you're a small or big business, you should take note of important holiday dates. These dates will help you keep in line with your competitors, as well as bring in possible new customers who are in the mood to shop. Mark your calendars for the following dates:
November 22: Thanksgiving Day (US) - Online promotions
Online retailers are learning to post offers early. They are marketing to consumers who spend time in long lines for those "big bargains". Developing one-day Thanksgiving offers can help bring in sales. While big box store are stocking their shelves, you can start generating revenue with the growing online market.
November 23: Black Friday
Oh yes, you know about this day well. Black Friday is the day millions of shoppers get up at 3am and stand in line to get deeply discounted items. Don't be afraid to be part of this shopping extravaganza. You may not be a big box store, but it doesn't mean you can't create great deals.
November 24: Small Business Saturday
On this day we say to shoppers, "Shop Local". This holiday season shouldn't just be about the big box store or mass production. Offer one-day specials and discounts. If you're a restaurant, offer a free dessert with the purchase of an entree. Local stores, offering unique gifts and showcasing your merchandising this particular day will go a long way. If you use social media to promote Small Business Saturday, remember to use hashtag #smallbizsat. Get on the Official Map.
November 26: Cyber Monday
Technically (pun intended), this is a new tradition. This is the day many shoppers head back into the office and start to look for great deals online. Offer an incentive for shoppers to shop at your online store. Tie in social media acquisition or engagement. Advertisers like Origins (EA Games) will post things like, "Fans can enjoy an 30% off of clearance items if we receive 200 likes on this post by 1pm." They reveal the 30% off code once they have received the 200 likes. It's a great tactic, and you can use it too.
December: National Shipping Day - Global
The competition will be doing this, so you should, too. The following days will be National Shipping Day for these countries:
Merchants within these countries will provide free shipping on any order with a guarantee that shoppers will receive their items before Christmas. This is one of those rare times your mother didn't anticipate when you should do something just because everyone else will be doing it.
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.