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Learning from Negative Yelp Reviews: Keep Calm and Carry On

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

surveyEveryone has an opinion, and people certainly aren't afraid to express them, especially on sites like Yelp. In fact, Yelp rewards some reviewers with elite status, which gives yelpers access to private parties and events. Yelp encourages reviews and highlights small business on their 78-million-monthly-unique-visitors site, however, negative feedback can affect potential consumers.

How can a small business turn negative Yelp feedback into something positive? Well let's start by suggesting you take a moment and walk away from your computer. After all, this is your business, and you've worked hard to create excellent relationships with your consumers. It would be unrealistic for anyone to say that you shouldn't get a bit angry or upset.

Once you've taken a few moments begin to read the reviews, ask yourself, "Do I see a pattern?" Are consumers upset about how quickly service was provided? Are they upset that a purchased item did not meet their expectations? Did the consumer feel they were met with rude behavior?

This is a perfect time to examine how you can improve as a business. If service is the consistent issue, think about hiring a few more employees to ensure your team isn't overwhelmed. Why not take this opportunity to talk to your team about the issues that have been brought up?

  1. Ask staff if they feel this has been a consistent problem.
    It's likely your customers aren't the only ones frustrated with a recurring issue.
  2. Start to troubleshoot.
    What are some reasons this issue is occurring?
  3. Ask for staff feedback.
    They work there too, and want the business to succeed. Many large companies like Google rely on people directly in contact with the customer in order to come up with ideas.
  4. Remain objective.
    Remember, objectivity is key in turning a negative into a positive. Seeing the issue from an outsider's perspective will enable you to come up with a solution.

Now that you've addressed the issues internally, and hopefully found solutions, it's time to reach out to the Yelp reviewer. Addressing the negative talking points the reviewer has indicated on their post is the best way to respond. Be courteous and thank them for their feedback. The consumer will be happy to know that you listened to them and will hopefully end up with a more positive opinion of your business.

Remember that negative feedback can be a good thing when taken constructively. It will improve your business and allow you to connect with consumers.

7 Reasons to Outsource Your Social Media Management

Social Sonar - Friday, October 12, 2012

1. It's Cheaper.

Using a low cost solution is far cheaper than an agency and frees up employee time to grow your business in other ways.

2. It's Safer.

There is always going to be a flow of feedback, and whether it's positive or negative, it's nice to have someone respond who is one step removed and skilled in damage control.

Business Owner Relaxing with Coffee

Relax. A trained professional has your social media under control.

3. It's Always on.

Your employees will love you if someone else is watching Facebook and Twitter 24/7, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

4. It Allows Focus.

Paying someone to cover the basics of writing and responding frees up your time and expertise to do bigger marketing pushes, like sweepstakes and videos.

5. It's More Effective.

People who craft content for social media know how to word posts to increase engagement and maximize responses, something that takes time and experience to learn.

6. It's Up to Date.

Facebook and Twitter are constantly changing. Someone who spends all day every day in those channels is on top of the latest trends and will adjust your program accordingly.

7. It Buys Peace of Mind.

You can sleep well at night knowing someone has Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp under control.

8 Steps to Run a Facebook Contest

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Carnival Prizes

Consumers have always loved the idea of contests, mostly because they're getting something free, but for a business it's a way to market their services or merchandise. Creating contests can help develop a customer database, and with the introduction of social media, it's a way for consumers to easily engage with their favorite brand. But do contests, especially social media contests, work?

Business owners provide some mixed feedback. While many recognize that contests increase the number of followers or likes for their business, some proprietors simply don't find social media contests useful. This made us question, are they conducting these contest the right way?

Expectations may be too high, and when the owners don't see the results they were hoping for, they simply deem the contest concept a failure. Be realistic and set goals which are reasonable for your business and your consumers. Contests help give your followers a reason to interact with the business and each other. As a business owner, try to focus more on your customer interaction, and less on the amount of Likes or Followers you're obtaining.

Social Media is an investment of your time and money, including the cost of the prize, and if you've paid money for a third party to run the contest, this cost can be overwhelming. Having to invest in both areas can set you up to create unrealistic goals.

I'm sure you're asking, "How can I ensure my contest is successful?" Well that's what we're here to answer.

1. Ask yourself, "Do I really need to run a contest?".

If you're a B2B company, running a contest won't really help you gain new clients. It makes more sense if your business sells directly to a consumer. Look at your goals, and if they can be accomplished in a more efficient or reliable way, take that route.

2. Set Realistic Expectations.

Make sure you set goals for the contest by asking the following: What do you want to achieve? Are you running this contest to bring awareness to your brand? Are you going to highlight a product or service that you provide? Do just want to increase Likes or Followers? Do you want to obtain feedback about your company? Be specific with your questions.

3. Match Your Fan.

Think about your business; if you're a clothing store, will conducting a photo contest work best? Maybe you could ask a question about a product. For example, recently Goorin Bros Hat Company ran a Free Hat Fridays contest. They posted a picture of their merchandise and asked followers "What would you wear with this hat?" They engaged consumers and randomly picked a winner from the 200+ comments.

4. Less Is More.

Remember to keep it simple. If your consumers have to fill out several pages just to win one prize, they'll abandon the idea, and you'll be left with few entries. Only ask for the information you absolutely need.

5. Pick a Perfect Prize.

Remember to ensure your prize shows off what your business provides. And make sure your giveaway reflects what your participants need to make an entry. If you own a camera store, and you're giving away a new state-of-the-art camera, have your participants post a picture they have taken.

6. Shout It from a Mountain Top.

Don't limit your contest to just Facebook or Twitter - let the world know! Include it in your email newsletters, on your webpage, and if you have a physical location, tell your shoppers. Make it a part of your marketing strategy. If you are going to run a print ad, save some room for the contest information.

7. Learn from It.

Once your contest is over, make sure you follow up. You've collected information to help you market to shoppers who showed an interest in your business. Keep them engaged. Let them know you heard their feedback. They'll appreciate knowing their comments made a difference, and they'll understand how important they are to you.

Last but not least...

8. Follow the Rules.

Social Media sites, especially Facebook, have rules and policies for running these contests. They have a list of do's and don'ts. For instance, Facebook regulations require that you notify winners via email, snail mail, phone call, or singing telegram before you congratulate them publicly on Facebook. They also ask that you state Facebook is not sponsoring the contest. We can list these forever, so let's make it easier - check out Facebook's Pages Terms.

Happy Marketing!

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.

9 Steps to Get Your Business Ready for the Holiday Season

Social Sonar - Monday, October 01, 2012
Holiday Gift CardThe Holiday Season helps business small and large create revenue, but the question is: How can you create a solid marketing plan during this competitive season? Here are some simple steps that can help your business generate dollars. Whether you’re a small business or major corporation, planning is everything.

1. Review Last Year’s Plan.
It’s a good time to look over what worked and didn't work for your business. The winning concept from last year is more likely to work for you this upcoming season. Your numbers won't lie. As a small business, it may be as simple as comparing a limited time offer with the other revenue generated during that time period.

2. Build This Year’s Plan.
Knowing what worked in the past is only the beginning. Start to think outside of the box. Keep in mind that some of these ideas don't need to cost you hundreds of dollars. It could be as simple as creating a social media contest to engage your users and help them with shopping.

3. Have a Plan B.
Back up plans are there to help if something doesn't go the way you'd hoped. Having a Plan B in your back pocket can help alleviate any stress. This may be as simple as switching your current offer. If you're giving a dollar discount, changing to a percentage off or free shipping could make a world of difference. Numbers can move a customer from a “maybe” shopper to a “yes” consumer.

4. Start Fall Cleaning.
Now that you have a plan in place, you'll need to start cleaning house. Examine your email list and remove any invalid email addresses. You want to be 100% sure you are reaching a person's inbox for the special sale. Every day counts during the holiday season, and you want to avoid the possibility that 30% of your targeted email list bounces.

5. Acquire New Consumers.
There are several ways to bring in consumers. One successful method is to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate the benefits of becoming an email subscriber. Create an exclusive email offer for new consumers as an incentive to join your list.

6. Collect Data for Analysis.
Your Holiday Marketing plan has been created, but how will you know if it is successful? Implement a reporting and/or data gathering system. Establishing a data collection method will allow you to examine what is working, and whether you need to start executing your Plan B offers.

7. Create and Review your Holiday Content.
All of your marketing plans and data collection methods are now in place. It’s time to get creative. It’s important to create and review your messaging by October in case you need to make adjustments. This may include email, Facebook, Twitter, and any ads, both online or in print. It’s time to take a note from Santa himself: make your list and check it twice. Find out what creative speaks best to your customer.

8. Get Testy.
Whether you're changing the checkout process on your site, or sending out engaging email communication, make sure everything is working optimally. Nothing is worse for your consumer than a bad user experience. Take advantage of cheap online testing sites like usertesting.com that make it easy to run quick A/B tests. You can get revealing results with as few as 15 testers. Be sure to set up A/B tests for your email marketing, as well. Subject lines are an easy change to make for big wins.

9. Don't be Afraid.
Planning can be stressful, but not having a layout for your Q4 season may cause a loss in revenue. Organization is key to eliminating holiday pitfalls and ensuring your days are merry and bright.

Happy Holiday and Marketing Planning!

Why Does Author Pete Cerqua Use Social Sonar?

Social Sonar - Thursday, September 13, 2012
Pete Cerqua, Author of The 90-Second Fitness Solution

"Social Sonar is the best thing that ever happened to my business!" - Pete Cerqua, Author of The 90-Second Fitness Solution

Pete's a busy guy. Between television and radio appearances, book signings, teaching classes, and personal training, he doesn't have time to log in to Facebook and Twitter and respond to questions or write posts, tweets, blog posts, and email newsletters. Here's why he loves working with Social Sonar.

He Saves Time.

Most of his clients want to know similar information, so if Pete personally responded to questions on his Facebook and Twitter accounts, he would be repeating himself a lot. That's just not the best use of his time. Pete gave Social Sonar a list of websites to use as a resource. If we get a new question and can't find the answer online, we send him a quick email and he lets us know how to respond.

He Saves Money.

Pete looked into hiring an expensive agency. He also considered hiring someone full-time. Neither of these options comes close to the low price of $349 per month for content management for his Facebook, Twitter, blog, and email newsletter. Plus, Social Sonar never needs to take a sick day or go on vacation. Services start at $79, so Pete can easily recommend our services to his friends who own small businesses.

He Saves His Brain.

Pete doesn't need to keep up on the latest news about Facebook, Twitter, and search engine optimization. His social media profiles and the way his posts and tweets are written are automatically adjusted to accommodate software updates and changes in style and best practice. This means he can focus on running his business and learning new things about personal training.

He Shows His Clients He's Listening.

Pete could be relaxing halfway across the world, and he's still answering client questions about how to curb sugar cravings and tone biceps. Social Sonar is answering Pete's clients in his words, and he doesn't have to worry about logging in to Facebook or Twitter ever again.

His Business Grows While He Sleeps.

Social Sonar looks for people on Twitter who fit his client demographic. We follow them to start a conversation and help them with their personal fitness needs. They retweet Pete's posts and spread the word about his business.

Pete's only one of the many business owners enjoying their freedom from the demanding needs of social media. Your time is valuable!

Learn how Social Sonar can help you, too >

Guest Blogging, Part 2

Social Sonar - Saturday, April 07, 2012

Last week we briefly discussed the benefits of guest blogging, and why it's important in light of new search engine algorithms. This week, we'll discuss the specifics of how to become or utilize a guest blogger.

How do I become a guest blogger?

Here are some of the steps that Liz Strauss of Successful-Blog.com suggests:

1. Search for a blog that relates to your niche or your interests. Perhaps you like to write about fashion. So, you look for fashion blogs. Be specific in your search. Perhaps you want to hone in on fashion for pregnant women.

2. Check to see if your blog of choice accepts guest bloggers. Some blogs have specific guidelines for guest bloggers. Make sure you understand what is expected of you.

3. Examine the blog to see if it seems to be a blog with high traffic. This can be difficult to ascertain. I like to look at comments, number of tweets and the amount of content the blog produces. I check to see if I can see a pattern in the number of posts per day/week.
Tip: You want to find a blog with decent traffic so that people will become familiar with your work. I’m not saying to never write for smaller blogs. But you should keep your purpose in mind.

4. Choose a topic that hasn’t been covered on the blog. Try to aim for a unique angle. For instance, with my pregnancy fashion example, you could write a post about swimsuits and cover-ups that flatter that baby bump.

5. Write the post.

6. E-mail your post to the blog’s owner. Most blogs will have a contact page, where you can find an e-mail address.

7. Wait one week, and respond with a follow-up e-mail if you don’t hear anything. Your short, simple follow-up e-mail could read as follows:
I wanted to make sure you received my guest blog post “Flattering That Baby Bump At The Beach.” I sent it on Wednesday, June 12. Will you be able to publish it?
Tip: You might want to attach your post again in case it has been overlooked. It will save your contact the time of having to ask you for your blog post and waiting for your response.

8. Wait another week. If you still don’t hear anything, use that guest blog post on your blog, pitch it to another relevant blog or use it for article marketing.

What if I want someone to guest blog for me?
Come up with a set of parameters for your potential guest bloggers. As an example, popular blog, Addicted2Decorating (http://www.addicted2decorating.com/advertise-with-a2d), has a great guest-blogger policy. Then, put the call out. Be sure to use all of the social media channels available to you, as well as your local business connections to find potential bloggers.

Is there way to track the benefits of guest blogging?

Yes, actually. There are now tools available that can help you to make sure your links aren’t tampered with after the fact and track things like Facebook likes generated by your blog post.

Guest Blogging, Part 1

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 04, 2012

 

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging entails writing a blog post for someone else’s blog. You get credited as the author of the post, and it links to your own blog or website so readers can find your site. For small businesses, it is most beneficial to guest blog for sites related to your market.

How being a guest blogger benefits you...
You’ll make business connections, engage new potential customers, and maybe get some clout out of the deal. You’ll also hopefully get the most important payoff - traffic to your site.

How your guest blog benefits others...

“...in the post-Panda era, guest blogging is one of the most powerful ways to rank higher with Google. The Panda-dubbed updates to the Google algorithm that started changing ranking factors (and search results) in early 2011 have dramatically shifted the search marketing game.

Where once a brute-force effort to blanket the internet with spammy back-linked content and stuff keywords for ranking could convince Google that a site was worth a high rank, now the focus has shifted more clearly to original, quality content. Google is in the business of serving up the most relevant online resources, so naturally, it wants websites to earn their search placement, not take it.” - Social Media Today, “Google Panda Makes Guest Blogging Easier”

This means that more and more webmasters are in need of high-quality, content-rich copy in order to improve their rankings in the search engine. Your guest blog gives them exactly that!

Be sure to check out Part 2 of this blog to find out how to become a guest blogger and more.

True Fans vs Vanity Fans

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Enthusiastic FansSometimes, when fan growth on your company's Facebook page is ticking along rather slowly, it can be tempting to investigate companies that can help you just buy new fans. Yes, they do exist, and they make all kinds of promises about being able to procure "targeted fans," fast growth, and more.

However, if you comb the web for reviews of fan-buying companies, you'll find that there is a very clear difference between true fans and "vanity fans." Here are some of the key differences between the two:

  • True fans tend to engage in meaningful interaction with you on your page, while vanity fans may not interact at all, or worse, leave strange commentary on your wall.
  • True fans are genuinely interested in your product and/or service, and are more likely to become brand ambassadors for you, spreading the gospel of your company to other people who might also become fans. Vanity fans may have been paid to fan your page (or they may be junk profiles), and therefore have little incentive to recruit other potential fans.
  • True fans are more likely than vanity fans to be in the proper geographical locations and demographics to actually become customers.

The bottom line here is perfectly summed up by Graeme Olsen Southwest eCommerce:

"Sometimes when you've started a new Facebook fan page, and you want some fan numbers to make it look more reputable, then you may wish to consider purchasing some fans. For example, you may feel that when someone visits your Facebook fan page, they are more likely to interact or join if they see 1000 fans instead of 3 fans.

But because purchased fans will never be as loyal as real fans, you should view them as just number builders (that is, just there to make your initial page look better). For that reason, you should source them as cheap as possible."

Still need a little more convincing that buying fans may not be as beneficial as it sounds? Check out this great article from Practical eCommerce.

F-Commerce and your Facebook Page

Social Sonar - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Have you ever considered empowering your Facebook Page with an attached online store? There are now a growing number of social media commerce solutions (affectionately known as F-Commerce solutions) that allow you to offer your Facebook Fans direct access to your products/services. Pretty exciting, considering that if you've got a following on Facebook, you'll have built-in access to potential customers.

We recently spoke with small-business owner, Emily, about her experience with social commerce platform, Payvment. So far, she says that things have been going smoothly, noting that, “the interface was very straightforward, and our overall user experience has been great.”

Emily's business is in the home decor industry, so for her, using social media to sell product is actually a good way to test the waters with new inventory. Since her business page has about 6,000 fans on Facebook, she feels like she has access to the opinions and buying habits of a larger cross-section of potential customers than she would in her brick-and-mortar store. She especially appreciates Payvment's polling feature, which allows her to gain valuable information on her customers' needs and ever-changing tastes. And her customers don't have to go very far to check out her newest products - there is a nifty “Shop Now” button at the top of the timeline-style page, right next to the “photos” icon.

As of right now, she is very low-volume, so her service is free. However, she says that if things continue to go well, she may consider upgrading to the premium service. Still, even though sales have been steady, she does have some misgivings at times. “Is my business page a place where people can have a community in a non-threatening way - meaning without the pressure to buy - or is it a store? I still haven't quite figured that out.”

Either way, it's clear that F-Commerce industry is poised to explode in the next few years. If you're interested in exploring how F-Commerce could have an effect on your business, then look no further than Social Commerce Today's list of 20 Leading F-Commerce Software Solution Providers.