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Should you use a Facebook Group or Facebook Fan Page for your business?

Social Sonar - Sunday, September 11, 2011
There are really three options for you once you decide to put your business on Facebook (well, four really, but three "good" options).  

Choosing a Facebook fan page

A Facebook fan page is very easy to set up.  It allows you to choose a category of business or interest and include your business name, website, etc.  You would log in with your "Jon Smith" personal Facebook profile, then set up the "ABC Company" fan page.  When you post on the ABC fan page, you are posting AS ABC.  That also means if you personally "like" a link on your own page, ABC "likes" the link, not Jon Smith. 

Having a Facebook fan page also makes it easier to place ads with Facebook.  Facebook is constantly offering you to take advantage of their "Sponsored Stories," on the right hand side of your fan page.  If that is something you wish to do, you would follow a few steps and then your ad will be ready for approval. 

Facebook fan pages also allow your fans to write "Recommendations," which will also appear on the right hand side of your screen.  This is a free service and most times when a fan comes to "like" your page, Facebook will ask immediately if they would like to write a recommendation.  You may also ask your fans to come to the page and write one.

One current issue with fan pages is that people cannot generally tag photos with a fan page profile name.  They usually can, however, tag a comment.  So if you want to tag a fan page, I would suggest posting a photo and then making a comment below it, tagging the fan page.  Facebook could very well be in the process of fixing this, as you used to not be able to tag fan pages at all in comments.  When in your fan page, you can also use Facebook "as ABC Company."  This is a fun feature if you'd like to post as ABC, however, as of the posting of this blog, you can only post on other fan pages -- not in groups or on personal profiles. 

A draw-back (to some, but not to others) is that fan pages do not allow private messages.  All postings to ABC Company will be made publicly on the Wall.  This is fine if you don't want an overflowing in-box.  This can be bad if customers have issues that they are now posting publicly on your company's fan page wall.  Also, your personal Jon Smith Facebook profile does not automatically link to the fan page (unless you choose to publicize administrators), so people may not know that John Smith runs ABC Company's fan page (although, that is a positive for most).  Therefore, if you had hoped customers might send you a personal private message, that might not happen. 

Fan pages seem to be a good option for those who are planning to have many, many fans posting in their forum. 

Creating a Facebook Group

Facebook groups are often great for a more interactive experience.  When something is posted, or commented upon, it automatically moves to the top of the feed so that the popular posts are easy to find.  You can control the settings to make it secret, closed or open, based on who you would like to have posting in the group.  You also get an e-mail address associated with the it so that you can send e-mails to the entire group from your personal e-mail account.  Do not, however, underestimate how grumpy people can get when they receive unsolicited e-mails. 

Most people who dislike groups, however, complain that they don't like how they are added.  If you add a friend to the group, they are automatically placed in the group.  It doesn't ask permission of the friend.  They can easily leave the group, but I have seen many an argument go down in different groups over people being added without permission.  Also, if you, Jon Smith, posts in the group, you will be posting as Jon Smith, and not as ABC Company. 

Group members can very easily set up photo albums to share with other members.  You can also set up group chats and events or share documents.   

Groups seem to be especially great for smaller(-ish) groups of people who like to set up get-togethers or share photos -- for example, like a dance studio or a fishing club.

Setting up a Facebook profile for your business

A third option for your business is setting up a personal Facebook profile for ABC Company.  This means you would have two Facebook profiles -- one for Jon Smith and one for ABC Company.  You would need two separate e-mail addresses and log-ins.  For those who mostly want to use Facebook AS their company name, this is a fine option.  For those who don't want to maintain two separate profiles, it can be time consuming.

People can send you private messages, or choose to post on your wall.  You can also create a Sponsored Story ad using a profile.  Your customers cannot write a Recommendation, though. 

Your friends/customers may not create photo albums.  They can, however, easily upload a photo to your wall or tag you in their photos.  

Facebook Places

The fourth, not-so-great option I mentioned is the Facebook Places page -- basically Facebook Places is the entire phonebook dumped into the Facebook database to list companies all over the world.  It looks much like a fan page, which can cause confusion, but doesn't have all of the functionality of a fan page.  It allows people to "check-in" to places even if those companies do not have a fan page.  This created dual profiles for those companies who did take the time to create a fan page already.  Facebook is apparently working behind the scenes to allow companies to merge their fan and places pages.  However, if you wanted to try to run your places page like a fan page, you could certainly try it. 

I would suggest that if you are going to put in the effort, create a fan page, but keep an eye on the places page to make sure you aren't missing any postings by customers who aren't aware of the difference. 

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So those are your options for getting your business on to Facebook.  Each option does have certain positives and negatives, so you may want to make a list to decide which will work best for you.  What I would not recommend, though, is trying to maintain all three (or four) options.  It can get confusing and be extremely time consuming.  

In the meantime, if you need help getting your business on Facebook, Social Sonar would be happy to help!

Encouraging Your Customers to "Check-In"

Social Sonar - Saturday, September 03, 2011
Our smart phones offer many different options for "checking-in."  Yelp, Gowalla, FourSquare, Facebook places...  Many different versions of the yellow pages exist in digital form, allowing anyone and everyone to "check-in" and announce to the world exactly where they are hanging out at that exact moment.  Most of these apps on our phones link directly to Facebook and Twitter, giving an even wider audience to each post. 

BAM!  Free advertising for businesses! 

I often see these check-in's on Facebook and think to myself, "Man, I love the burritos there...I need to hit that place up," or, "I have a coupon to that store, I really should get in there and use it!"  Whether you have a shoe store, restaurant, day spa or flower shop, you probably have competition out there and if your customers can give you a leg up by recommending your store via the check-in, then you should take full advantage!

How can you get your loyal patrons to advertise for you? 

For some people, it's simply fun to be acknowledged.  I visited a costume jewelry store that had signs everywhere asking customers to "like" their fan page on Facebook.  The store offered to take a photo of the customer with their new purchase and post it to their fan page.  Most customers than happily scrambled to tag themselves (tagging themselves also exposes their entire friend list to your store's fan page as well).  It was like they were a celebrity being photographed by paparazzi in a jewelry store -- fun for them and free advertising for you. 

For others, perhaps offering a discount will help prod people into checking-in.  Maybe if a customer checks into your store during the check out process, you can offer 10% off.  People love feeling like they got a deal, and they didn't even have to work very hard for that one.  Another thing you can do is a special discount offer by e-mail when you see that someone has checked in (which will require some monitoring of your social media sites).  More simply, post on your Twitter and Facebook pages that you will give a discount if the check-in deal is simply mentioned at check out.  It could get people into your store regardless of whether they actually checked in or not. 

You can also hold a contest.  The customer who checks-in the most over the month will get a special gift package, discount or gift card to your store. 

The "check-in" certainly won't save the world, but it can definitely expose your store to new customers.  Sit down and figure out what will best encourage your customers to check-in and then implement it! 

If you need assistance with understanding the checking-in process or monitoring your social media sites, please visit www.socialsonar.com

Top 5 Ways to Make Deal Customers Lifetime Customers

Social Sonar - Saturday, July 09, 2011

For most business owners, online deal sites offer a chance to get new visitors through the door. One of the biggest challenges of offering online group discounts like Groupon and LivingSocial is encouraging those visitors to return to your business. Since most online deal terms are not profitable to business owners, it is crucial to engage these new visitors in as many ways as possible to make the deal a success.

Here are our suggestions for a successful transition from singular to regular visits:

1. Treat Deal Customers like Regular Customers.

Girls on Cell Phones

News travels fast. You want it to be good.

Once a person enters the store with a deal in hand, the staff should take time to make their visit really personal. Deal seekers should not be treated half as well because they are only paying half price. A lot of people use online deal sites as a way of trying a store they have heard about from other sources. Even if a customer does not return, they will likely talk about your business to their friends or review it on Yelp. You want to make sure their story is a positive one.

2. Educate your staff on the details of the deal.

Every employee in your store should be well-versed in the details of the deal, so each customer gets the same deal - whether it's a week after the deal was bought, or three months. Discrepancies in terms and treatment often show up in Groupon forums, as well as Yelp reviews.

3. Get social with the deal seeker.

Encourage new visitors to sign up for Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, and/or your email newsletter. Let them know you often post other discounts and specials on these sources. This keep your company top-of-mind and may encourage them to return.

4. Give them a reason to return.

If you have a rewards program, be sure to educate your newest customer on the benefits of becoming a regular.

5. Encourage them to review you.

Even if this customer does not return, they can still bring you more business. A positive review on Yelp encourages others to visit your store, whether they have a discount or not.

Have questions? Don't hesitate to give us a call. We can help you maximize your relationship with your newest customers.

The Dish on Yelp

Alison Kawa - Saturday, June 25, 2011

For my entire life, I have always heard, "the customer is always right." This used to be a general saying meaning businesses would do what they could, within reason, to keep their customers happy and returning to their store. I don't know about you, but I have noticed lately that a lot of employees seem to know nothing about customer service. They are so far removed from the owners or management that the importance of customer loyalty means nothing.

Enter Yelp.

Yelp is a website that allows you, the consumer, to enter a review of a company. If Company A made you the happiest girl on earth, you can shout to the world that they made your day. If Company B gave you the worst service you've ever had, you can warn the masses to stay away from them. The hope is that enough honest reviews would be given so you could tell from the high number or good (or bad) reviews whether you should spend your money at that store.

Initially, Yelp did not allow store owners to respond to customer complaints on their site. Yelp would monitor postings to make sure that they were truly reviews, and not users fighting back and forth about whether a company actually was a good or bad place to shop. I did watch one of those fights go down once. My hair stylist's former landlord wrote some pretty nasty things on her personal Yelp listing once. A few users jumped in to defend the stylist. Yelp quickly removed all of the posts.

I have not had personal experience with what I am about to say, but I have had more than one person tell me a similar story so I believe it to be true. Some business owners claim that if they wanted to remove negative reviews from their listing, Yelp would tell them they had to pay a monthly fee. Business owners claimed it was extortion. A lawsuit seems to have changed how Yelp is doing business. Store owners are now more regularly responding to reviews. To most, it sounds like a great idea.

In my eyes, it opened up a whole new can of worms.

Last year, a group of friends and I went to a restaurant/bar for happy hour (we call ourselves the Mojito Girls). We usually meet up once a month for social hour after work. We often go to the same restaurant. They have 3-1/2 stars out of five on Yelp, with 462 reviews. To me, that's pretty good. They offer great specials, have delicious food and amazing drinks. This particular night, we had a terrible time. We started out on the wrong foot with the hostess and just continued downhill from there. I wrote them an email about our experience and did not receive a response (look here, businesses, if you're going to list an email address on your website, you really should monitor it and respond to emails). So I wrote a Yelp review -- a not so friendly one.

The owner responded pretty quickly and asked us to give them another chance. She offered a credit of $75 in food and drinks if we would return. So we did -- and we were treated like royalty. The chef sent out free samples of new recipes he was testing. The Bacardi girls were there and brought around free drinks to try. We received shirts and fun necklaces. It was a little over the top and we realized they were overcompensating because the entire staff knew we were "the complainers." But, by the end, we were happy campers. I thanked the owner for their hospitality and updated my review to let people know that we were again satisfied with their service.

A few months later, another restaurant gave us HORRIBLE service. I wrote a Yelp review and, within a week, I had $50 in gift certificates to that restaurant.

I realized I could be sitting on a GOLD MINE! If I wanted to go around writing bad reviews of restaurants, it looked like I could be eating free all the time! That kind of bothered me. I stopped writing bad reviews. I feel like Yelp is a great idea in theory, but I also recognize how easy it is for people to "buy" good reviews. I still read Yelp reviews, but I also take every review with a grain of salt. For most companies, you will find someone who loved them and someone who hated them. I usually scan the reviews, read a few one star reviews, read a few five star reviews, and then make my own choice. I recognize that you cannot make everyone happy all of the time. I also hope that companies are checking out the profiles of those customers writing bad reviews to make sure they are not serial complainers before they offer up freebies in exchange for a better review. Otherwise, some might be eating well for free every night of the week.

lolorashel lives in the bay area, where she tweets, posts, and twirls about Twirly Girl Pole Fitness: women of all shapes, sizes and abilities can flourish, get their sweat on and still feel sexy!

How Does Google Think? The Principles of Search Engine Rankings

Alison Kawa - Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everyone talks about the specific methods of getting your site highly ranked in natural searches, but the algorithms Google and other search engines use are constantly changing. While it's sure to remain some combination of placement and number of keywords, number of pages, and number of strategic links to and from other sites, it might be a better strategy to think about natural search from Google's point of view.

They want to return relevant information from a user's query so that person will return to search again on Google. Here is a list of questions Google engineers keep in mind when they tweak the algorithm:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don't get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you'd want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

You can find more details on Google's blog.

In short, it's not how you get your site ranked high, it's why. Please feel free to comment or contact us if you have more insights or questions about natural search.

Is It Time to Get Your Groupon?

Social Sonar - Saturday, June 11, 2011

Every day I get e-mails offering me discounts on items and services... Mamapedia, Schwaggle, Yelp, Living Social, Facebook, CBS, and the biggie...GROUPON. Everyone seems to be putting together their own version of the discount group deal.

The basic premise is the company offers your service or item at a HUGE discount You are e-mailed to their entire mailing list and (hopefully) come out with new customers. The catch is that, after discounting your product heavily, they take half as their fee, leaving you with some small percentage of what you would normally charge.

Twirly Girls Pole Fitness received an offer from Groupon last year. We were so excited. In our eyes, it meant Twirly Girls was a reputable company. We thought the owner Bel might get 30, 40, maybe 50 new Twirly Girls out of it. Clearly, we understood that not EVERY person who did the Groupon would continue on as a student. But even if 10 girls stayed on, that would be great money for Bel.

Bel wanted to offer her taster class (a one-time class to let people try out pole dancing), which normally costs $25. Groupon usually cuts the cost in half (so, we're down to $12.50), then pays you half ($6.25). Groupon pushed for more -- they wanted her to offer a month of classes. Bel normally charges $120 for a month of regular classes. Groupon offered the deal at $49, which means Bel received $24.50. That breaks down to around $6 per person per class.

The day of the Groupon offer, some of us sat excitedly around our computers and watched the "sold" number on the website skyrocket. By the end of the day, over 300 people had signed up to take a month of Twirly Girls classes. We couldn't believe it. Bel has a small operation -- just her and one other instructor, both only working part-time. It was a little overwhelming (but exciting) in the beginning. Calls started coming in immediately and Bel was then tasked with finding space to fit all of the new students into classes appropriate for their beginner level.

If a normal student pays $120 per month for four pole classes, each class costs $30. Bel tries to keep those classes light, so one girl to a pole. If six girls are in a class, she makes $180 for each 75 minute class. For the Groupon classes, if she required girls to share a pole, there would be 12 girls in a class. If they are each only paying $6 per class, she makes $72. She's doing twice the work for half the pay. In fact, it was hard to schedule 12 girls in any given class, so she really was only making about $35 per class. If Bel paid the other instructor to do the class, she was actually out-of-pocket money.

Another issue is that people have up to a year to use their Groupon. Bel was flooded in the beginning. This Groupon expires in November 2011. She said there is a large number of people who have not turned in their certificate. This means when the end draws near, she may be flooded again. Or, possibly, some number of people will never turn theirs in and that would be cash in Bel's pocket to make up for the "hit" she's already taken.

Although I know Bel appreciated the experience, and met some wonderful people (Hello to the visual pole girls -- Bel's all deaf class), I know she would do a few things differently. For one thing, she may want to stick with just offering the one-time taster class. I also believe she would not want to leave the offer open for an entire year. Of course, she did gain some new students, and that's what the Groupon is really about -- getting new students/customers.

In the end, for a company to decide if Groupon (or any other group deal) is right for them, they really have to decide if using the Groupon-type service will result in returning customers. I know some people who just snap up these deals and will never return to a store/company again, regardless of the service or product offered. Make sure your company is ready to deal with the onslaught of new customers and that your employees are adept at selling whatever you are offering to maintain some of those customers after the deal is done.

lolorashel lives in the bay area, where she tweets, posts, and twirls about Twirly Girl Pole Fitness: women of all shapes, sizes and abilities can flourish, get their sweat on and still feel sexy!

Are You Twitterpated Yet?

Social Sonar - Saturday, June 04, 2011

When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was a pointless website. Who would want to read a bunch of Facebook status updates? At least if I had to hear about what you ate for breakfast, I should also be able to see pictures of your adorable kids and dogs too.

I realized later that it could useful for businesses. Imagine a flight is going to be late. The airline can send one simple message (a "tweet") to let their followers know. Or maybe a retailer could offer specials to their loyal customers. Still, I refused to join.

Then I decided to brand myself. I didn't know what I was going to do with my brand but I wanted to own everything lolorashel. That meant getting a Twitter account. I told myself I didn't need to use it; I just needed to reserve my name. I initially added celebrities, hoping to see some public Twitter fights go down firsthand. Then I started adding some fitness fanatics, hoping for a few weight loss tips. Finally I realized there are a lot of my fellow pole fitness enthusiasts out there. So I started adding them too.

I would occasionally tweet the random Facebook status update but, for the most part, I used it to tweet links to my blog posts. I started to really pay attention to who I was following and who was following me. I started interacting with other tweeters, thereby creating relationships and they started including me in "Follow Friday" (#FF; a day where tweeters inform their followers of people they should also follow). I noticed that within minutes of posting a link to my blog, I'd already have five or six clicks (a lot for me and just something fun to track since I'm not trying to sell anything). I started really trying to understand and properly use the hash tags (#NotTooCoolForTwitterAnymore) to mark posts, which is also how they spot trending topics. Suddenly I started to understand the power of Twitter.

Twitter is not a bunch of Facebook status updates. Properly managed, it is a very powerful tool to reach millions of people you might never have had access to before. Unlike Facebook, users do not necessarily be your friend (or follower) to read your tweets. If you use hash tags to mark your topics properly, people searching for that very topic can easily find you. People also have the power to re-tweet your message, passing along your information to all of their followers with the simple click of a button.

My blog entries used to get 10-20 hits each time I posted. I only have 49 actual followers of my blog. I have over 500 friends on Facebook (where I also post my blog links). I also manage several fan pages on Facebook, which gives me access to a larger audience -- strangers who are not already on my friends list. I only have around 400 followers on Twitter. Yet somehow once I started posting blog links to Twitter, the clicks on my blog went up drastically. Some days I'm getting 80 clicks. I've had almost 15,000 hits on my blog in the last year and a half, and I'm not even really trying. Pretty decent for a girl who is just writing about her crazy little life.

I am now using the information I learned about Twitter to promote Twirly Girls Pole Fitness, a pole dancing studio in Pleasanton, California. I can quickly and easily post about events, workshops, classes or specials. I groomed the list of people Twirly Girls follows to be pole dancers and fitness tweeters. I also keep an eye out for people in the San Francisco Bay Area that are interested in fitness and dancing. The hope in adding these people is that they will follow me back. I don't exclude people who live far away because Twitter makes the world much smaller and you never know if someone will re-tweet your message and that will reach someone that is interested in your services.

It has been a fun experience learning about Twitter. Certainly a business would not expect any social network to be it's only marketing source. However it is a fast, easy and inexpensive way to connect with a new audience.

lolorashel lives in the bay area, where she tweets, posts, and twirls about Twirly Girl Pole Fitness: women of all shapes, sizes and abilities can flourish, get their sweat on and still feel sexy!

Welcome to Social Sonar

Alison Kawa - Saturday, April 30, 2011

For years we have been working with small businesses to craft beautiful, usable websites optimized for natural search. But a website and high search engine rankings are only part of an online media strategy. Consumers aren't just using Google to find things anymore. Increasingly, their first stop is an online review site like Yelp or social media site like Facebook or Twitter.

We like to save small business owners time. We have always set up websites to be editable without paying a designer to update the code. While most of our clients could find the time to update content, and even write the occasional blog post or email newsletter, it seemed there was never enough time to monitor all the social media and online review sites. Yelp and Facebook pages stood empty, and blog posts, which are a great tool for ranking higher in search results, fell by the wayside.

Most small business owners don't have the resources to hire someone full time, so we developed a suite of services to maintain the pillars of a good online reputation:

  • Responding quickly to Yelp reviews, Facebook posts, and Twitter tweets.
  • Actively tweeting on Twitter and promoting your business on Facebook with relevant conversations about your business and promotions you're running.
  • Regular blogging and email newsletters featuring information relevant to the happenings of your business.
  • Incorporating your website into your social media strategy by encouraging reviews on key sites and displaying social commentary about your business on your site.
  • Helping businesses identify key social influencers and encourage interaction with them.

We're always open to new ideas and suggestions from clients and new friends. Hope to hear from you soon!

Best Wishes,
The Social Sonar Team