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Simple Ways to Keep the Holiday Spirit

Social Sonar - Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas is literally upon us.  Here are some simple tips to keep the holiday spirit in your store to make 2012 your best year yet. 

1.     Remember to use social media sites to have a conversation with your customer. You can offer discounts and deals but you should also converse with your fans and followers. Responding to questions and comments builds a relationship and your brand.

2.     Build your empire by asking your current customers to bring their friends into the fold. You can offer discounts to those who invite their friends to your business. You can run a contest to see who can bring in the most new fans. Or you can simply ask people to suggest your business to their friends if they are happy with your customer service. However, you do it, word-of-mouth marketing is one of your best bets for building your customer base. 

3.     Offer your own deals. The jury is still out on discount websites like Groupon and Living Social. Customers, of course, love the great deals but businesses lose a lot of money, and often have few return customers. By offering your own discounts and deals through your social media profiles, website and newsletter, you are catering to your own customer-base and rewarding them for their loyalty. 

4.     Connect your brick-and-mortar store to your online profiles. You should advertise in-store which social media sites you are using. You should have links on your website, but you should also have in-store signs, which let your customers know where they can find you in the virtual world. 

5.     Encourage check-ins. Offer discounts for checking-in to your store on Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, Gowalla or other apps that allow customers to announce to their friends that they are in your store. Facebook now groups certain posts together, so if multiple customers are checking-in, their friends on Facebook will see that your store is a popular place. 

Remember a social business is a happy business. Social Sonar wishes every a very safe and Happy Holiday Season. We look forward to entering 2012 with you and watching each and every one of your businesses grow. 


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.


Five Tips For Writing a Great Blog

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Need a Company Page on LinkedIn?

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 19, 2011
LinkedIn, long known as a website for job seekers to keep track of their professional experience, recently enabled status updates on company pages.  The company pages do not appear to be in direct competition with Facebook fan pages and Google+ brand pages, as the purpose would most likely be to release job opportunities to your followers, rather than specials and deals to your customers.   Regardless, LinkedIn is another social media website that you may be interested in checking out. 

In LinkedIn's own words: 
"A Company Page is a place for companies to provide more information about their products and services, job opportunities, and company culture.  Any LinkedIn member can follow a company that has set up a Company Page to get updates on key developments."

We logged into LinkedIn and checked out the company page for Google.  They have over 350,000 followers, almost 40,000 employees on LinkedIn, and are advertising 1,200 jobs.  Facebook has almost 120,000 followers, 4,000 employees on LinkedIn and is advertising 17 jobs all over the world. 
LinkedIn also lists the careers that may be interesting to you and offers a suggested list of companies you may want to follow based on your resumé

It is fairly easy to add your company page to LinkedIn.  There are some security controls in place to make sure the wrong person doesn't claim your company name. 
If you do choose to claim your company on LinkedIn, your best plan of action is to make sure that it has fresh content to entice followers.  There's nothing worse than a company page that has no followers.  You can also ask your colleagues to "recommend" your company, which again adds content to your page.  One very important feature is enabling your RSS blog feed to post to your company page on LinkedIn.  Since you should be updating your blog on a regular basis, this too will keep your company page full of new posts. 

As with Google+ brand pages, LinkedIn's company pages might not be a necessary evil (i.e., time-suck) for now, but they may be in the future.  It is worth keeping an eye on LinkedIn, as a company page may someday be as important as having your website and Facebook fan page. 

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. 

Treating Your Customers Right

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 09, 2011
You have your Facebook and Twitter pages set up for your business.  Your website is designed beautifully.  You are blogging and sending out newsletters.  You have an amazing store, product, service, etc.  Your prices are right.  You get people in the door...but they don't always come back. 

What could be wrong?  Sure the economy is down but there should be a few more repeat customers.  Maybe you need to ask yourself how you treat your customers once they walk through the door?  The stress of life can get to all of us.  However, if we are in an industry where we are dealing with customers, we need to make sure we don't take it out on them. 

I had a friend who went to a service-based company.  She was essentially held hostage during her treatment while the service-provider ranted about her life.  For two hours.  She has never returned to that business.  It is unfortunate because that person was very good at the service she provided. 

Although the customer is not always "right," they should be made to feel welcome in your store.  They are there to have a lovely dinner, buy a product, get a massage, etc.  There are many other places in which they could be spending their money, so why not provide them with an atmosphere to which they would love to return (and recommend to their friends)?

You may be providing a product or service, but don't forget that you (and/or your employees) are also part of the package.  A smile and a kind word go a long way!

Tell us about some of your favorite experiences with customers or vendors.  I bet we hear more positive stories than negative! 

Learning a lesson from Facebook's recent changes

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 22, 2011
Facebook recently changed its layout (again) and people were not happy.  I saw hundreds of posts from people threatening to cancel their accounts.  It has been a couple of weeks and I haven't lost many friends as far as I can tell. 

Facebook has over 750 MILLION users worldwide.  53 BILLION minutes were spent on Facebook in May 2011 alone.  They have you (and me).  We are hooked, and they know it. 

Does Facebook care what you think of their constant changes?  Maybe a little.  Will you cancel your account in protest?  Probably not.  I constantly see people posting status updates about how they are going to boycott Facebook and close their account for various reasons.  I see most of them back on within a few days (they don't bother closing their account, they just suspend it so they don't have to rebuild their profiles and friend lists -- meaning they too knew they weren't going away forever).  Facebook makes it so convenient to keep in touch with family members, business associates and former friends you haven't seen in 20 years. 

Am I writing this post to slam Facebook, or you (and me) for loving it?  No.  I do, however, want to make a point that humans are creatures of habit.  We usually do not like change.  If your business does not have 750 million customers, then perhaps you should not follow Facebook's lead and change your website layout every few months. 

It is important to create your identity and stick with it.  Make a logo.  Have a tag line.  Make your company unique.  Then drive that point home with your customers. 

Once you have created a loyal following, let's not rock the boat.  I say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  (Right, Netflix?)  And if you are too busy to monitor your online social networks to make sure your customers are happy, let Social Sonar do it for you!

There is no overnight success

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 15, 2011
There is something to be said about the tale of the tortoise and the hare.  Of course, when you started your business, you hoped for overnight success.  You put so much of your blood, sweat and tears into preparing for the big opening.  Certainly, you may have decent sales, but how do you get more?

There is a huge push toward putting advertising dollars into social media.  It is like a shiny new toy -- everyone's favorite go-to.  "Put your business on Facebook and Twitter and that will bring in new business like you have never seen before!"  However, nothing is a sure thing and there are no overnight success stories.

Even with the added benefit of Facebook and Twitter, and reaching new audiences you may never have found before, building your company into it's own brand is a process.  Facebook and Twitter are definitely great tools for helping to build your reputation, but it takes time.  Initially, getting your current customer base as a Facebook fan or Twitter follower should be your goal.  The next step is to provide the kind of content that will be interesting enough for them to share with their friends.  Provide information or special sales and discounts.  Ask questions and get people to interact with you.  Hold contests and give-aways.  In other words, create a personal touch in an otherwise impersonal online world. 

Even as you build your fan and friend bases, you can't always expect to see sales in your store immediately.  In order to track where your sales are coming from, you can always offer special discount codes for each social media site to see where your customers might be logging in.  At the end of the day, though, think of the social media game as more of a process to build brand loyalty first, and then the sales will follow.

Creating your brand can sometimes be a time-consuming process.  If you need assistance with building your social media plan, please let Social Sonar know!

The American Dream

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 08, 2011
It is no secret that the economies around the world are struggling.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is a perfect example of people being fed up with big corporations influencing government.  Whether you agree with them or not, it definitely makes one thing clear to me:  Small businesses, which were once the lifeblood of our country, are the key to bringing the economy back.  The American Dream cannot be lost. 

What can you do to encourage people to spend their hard-earned money at your "mom and pop shop?"  While you may not want to publicly align your business with any political movement, a simple thank-you to your customers is an easy way to acknowledge their choice to spend money locally.  Perhaps you can offer a discount:  Thank you for supporting local businesses -- 10% off on [a certain day], or maybe an even larger discount for those who have a driver's license with an address within 100 miles.  Maybe even make it bigger.  Thank you for vacationing in our town -- 20% if you have a passport from another country. 

The possibilities are endless.  You would need to evaluate your business and what service or product you are offering, then decide what kind of incentive will work best for you. 

You can incorporate social media into the game by asking trivia questions on your Facebook or Twitter pages, then offering discounts to those who come in with the correct response.  Anything you can do to create a sense of community will help build your business and create loyalty from those who live in your neighborhood. 

We at Social Sonar believe that supporting small businesses is the best way to get people back to work.  We also believe that social media is one way to promote business and build community.  Please download our e-book for tips on how to help your business grow in the social media world.

Social Sonar's Mixer at Twirly Girls!

Social Sonar - Monday, September 19, 2011
Social Sonar recently held a mixer for local business owners to discuss how social media affects them.  Twirly Girls hosted the event and we had ten business owners (and a few friends) in attendance.  The feeling in the room seemed to be somewhat uniform: With the hard times brought on by this economy, being creative and building your own business has become the only way some families can put food on their table.  We were very excited to see such innovative entrepreneurs at the mixer.

Among our attendees, we had Bel, the owner of the dance studio Twirly Girls, who has been successfully running her business for over two years.  She uses Facebook, Twitter and Meetup to keep people up-to-date on the studio's events.  Doug joined us and he owns DK Designs.  He creates the t-shirts sold at Twirly Girls.  He is not yet using social media for his business.  We also had Jenna's Jams.  Jenna jars and sells her own jams and pickles.  She manages a fan page on Facebook.  Andrew from Liquidpulp Photography, who does most of the photography for Twirly Girls, was also in attendance.  He uses Facebook and Twitter to publicize his deals.  Shelly from Shelly's Pole Studio was there and also very kindly performed a demonstration for our audience.  She also uses Facebook and Twitter for her business.  

Besides discussing the benefits to using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, a hot topic was whether using deal websites such as Groupon or Living Social was beneficial to small businesses.  Although the sites are certainly continuing to find companies with deals to offer, it seems like many business owners are wary of the price cut they have to make in order to have access to any deal site's customer list. On one hand, offering a deal may expose your business to a whole new set of customers.  On the other hand, you are being paid a fraction of what you would normally make and there are no guarantees that any of those customers will return.

We also touched on the topic of professionals, such as doctors and attorneys, using social media.  As it gains popularity, having some kind of presence on social media websites is becoming almost mandatory.  We discussed some of our success stories, and how you can build followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook. 

The members of Social Sonar really enjoyed interacting with our attendees.  Each of us have a different area of expertise, so we were able to bring a fairly vast amount of experience to the event.  We felt that these owners already understood the importance of incorporating social media into their marketing plan -- some just needed some advice on how to implement it.  Personal interactions with your customers through social media sites can make a significant difference to a customer who might be on the fence about using your service or buying your product.  

We at Social Sonar really feel like owning your own business is the American dream and we feel very fortunate to have shared our time with this group of local business owners.  If you are interested in hosting a Social Sonar mixer with other business owners in your area, please let us know.