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Get Social for the Holidays

Social Sonar - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The gift-giving season is almost upon us and you know what that means-- it’s make or break time for a lot of businesses. If you don’t believe us, check out some statistics about holiday shopping from last year. Did you know that almost 20% of retail sales for the entire year happened during the holiday season? With a growing emphasis on online shopping, your business's digital presence is more important than ever. Are you prepared to come out of the holiday season a winner? Here are some tips to help you get there!

Create an Inclusive Calendar

With a slew of events, parties and holidays on the horizon, it’s a good idea to step back and get organized with a detailed holiday calendar. We’ve created a table with some important events here. It’s never a bad idea to include local events or holidays that are important to your community. When you’re trying to reach a broad audience, don’t forget the importance of being as inclusive as possible!

A holiday calendar can help you work backwards as you roll out special deals, gift guides, special in-store events, and more! Remember, it’s a highly competitive time of the year, so it pays to get an early start. Every business is vying for the attention of shoppers, so make sure you create periodic messaging that leads up to important shopping days like Black Friday. 

Get Your Online Store Ready for Traffic

Are you as prepared online as you are at your physical location? Setting up your online store with updated pictures, offers and information about shipping during the holidays can help set you up for success. Online shoppers have the ability to easily compare competing businesses, so make sure that you highlight special deals wherever you can. Emphasize information that will make customers want to choose you every time.

Don’t forget to leverage the power of social media either. Use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to direct your followers to your online store. Use social media to feature gift baskets, customer reviews and other special items that will encourage customers to browse through your other online offerings. Before you start encouraging traffic, make sure all your links are updated, so that users can easily navigate your store. 

Man the (Social) Deck

With increased traffic at your stores and online, there are bound to be more customers reaching out to you. Don’t be surprised when users use Facebook and Twitter to contact you with questions, complaints, rants, raves or friendly holiday greetings! Instead, make sure you have a good monitoring plan in place, with a smart dedicated user keeping an eye out for red flags. The more quickly you handle that disgruntled customer who just tweeted about you, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to salvage the situation before it spirals out of control.

Are you altering your social strategy for the holidays? With many Americans getting ready to do a big portion of their holiday shopping before Halloween, there’s no time like the present to get started!

7 Signs It’s Time to Revise Your Social Media Strategy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If you think you’ve figured out the social media game for good, we’ve got some news for you--social media can be a fickle friend. Your social strategy may be great today, but shifting trends, changing tastes and the arrival of new social networks can all change that very quickly! Here are a few signs it may be time to rethink your social media strategy.

“Is Anyone Out There?”

Has your number of followers plummeted? This is a sure sign that you need to take a look at your overall strategy. Fans might be jumping ship for any number of reasons (because your content is too repetitive, too impersonal or just plain annoying). Start with some research as to why people unfollow users on platforms like Twitter.

Your Customers Feel Ignored

Do you have angry customers coming into your shop or office wondering why you haven’t answered their tweets and Facebook messages? Customers hate being ignored whether it's online or in person. It’s time to rethink your social media platforms as an extension of the customer service experience you provide!

The Party Is Somewhere Else

If things seem dead, your most active users may have moved on to greener pastures. Are you still clinging to a dead social network? If your target audience is younger than twenty, you may want to invest more time and energy on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where teens and tweens are flocking to.

Your Website’s Traffic Isn’t What it Could Be

If you’re tracking visits to your business’s website and things are looking either lackluster or downright grim, you may not be leveraging the power of your social media platforms as well as you could.  

You Haven’t Published a New Blog Post in Months.

Your Blogger account wants to know where you’ve been for the last couple of months! The readers who follow your regular posts are also hungry for more! If your content has dried up, it’s time to set up a better blogging schedule. A weekly schedule gives you time to come up with ideas, the chance to edit things properly before they hit the web, and enough lead time to keep publishing on time. 

You’ve Got Hate Mail.

Yikes--talk about a red flag! If you’re getting e-mails and tweets from customers who are angry about your content, you may not know your audience as well as you think you do. Remember that reaching a broad audience might mean keeping polarizing opinions to yourself.

You’re Not Focused on Visuals.

Visual social media is dominating networks, so if you’re still relying purely on text to carry your message across, it’s time to bust out the camera! Flashy profiles with lots of high definition images are sure to attract more attention, especially fans who follow you through their mobile devices.

Are you in a rut when it comes to your social media strategy? You can never go wrong with increasing your engagement, answering questions promptly, sharing more of yourself and sharing a good variety of high quality content. How have you reinvigorated your social strategy over the past few years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Holly and Southwest Airlines: Lessons Learned

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Last week we shared the story of Holly, who earned the title of “Most Remarkably Kind Flight Attendant in the World" with a little help from social media. It’s a case study in how a company of any size can seize on an online interaction and turn it into an exciting and memorable real-life marketing opportunity. 

Contrary to what you may believe, you don’t have to be a huge company like Southwest Airlines to pull off a well-executed display of marketing savvy. Let’s take a look at some lessons learned from Holly’s story and how you can make Southwest’s approach work for your own business.

Monitoring is Key

Without good monitoring, it’s hard to see how Southwest could have concocted the plan to meet Holly and her admiring passengers at the gate. A sharp eye towards their ever-changing Facebook page helped them spot Rowland’s message in time to craft a response. Having constant awareness of online conversations about your business opens the door to creating personalized interactions, so make sure you have a comprehensive monitoring strategy in place.

Putting Out Fires is Only Half the Job

Dealing with disgruntled customers through social media is an important aspect of your social strategy, but don’t become so concerned with negative interactions that you forget to build on positive ones. Sometimes you need to put out a fire, but other times it’s important to sow the seeds of your next great customer experience. Look for opportunities to grow small interactions into lifelong relationships!

Response Time Matters

Without a rapid-fire response from Southwest Airline’s marketing team, Holly and her passengers would have likely been safely back home and sound asleep by the time someone got around to checking Facebook. Besides good monitoring, responding quickly also means going with your instinct, cutting through red tape, and trusting that you already have the resources to wow your customers with your creativity.

Little Details Go a Long Way

One of the best things about the story of Holly and her passengers is the detailed response they received from Southwest Airlines. They created special sash for Holly and presented her a giant commemorative cookie. Southwest even took Rowland up on his offer to sign a contract he himself had stipulated in his original Facebook post. That kind of thoroughness will leave your customers with little doubt that you are really listening to them!

How have you managed to create real life surprises for your customers that follow you online? Chances are, if you have, it’s had a big ripple effect, as delighted customers share the story and become evangelizers for your brand. At the end of the day, there’s no better ambassador for your business than a satisfied customer.

Is a Backlash Against Smartphones and Social Media on the Horizon?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Did you catch this video a few weeks ago? It quickly made its way around the Internet and became a viral hit with smartphone owners who recognized their own anxiety at the thought of making it through the day without their favorite mobile device.

The video features friends at parties, restaurants and at outdoor get-togethers opting to engage in the mediated social connections available through their phones and disregarding the social connections they could be making in person.

Sound familiar? With social media at your fingertips, it can be hard to put your phone aside, focus on the present moment and disconnect from the ever-present fear that you might be missing out on something else.

The sight of friends and family experiencing and observing a birthday party through the screen in their palm is more than a little dystopian, and it seems like the Internet agrees that we’re at a crucial point when it comes to considering the role of technology in our lives.

With more than 23 million views on YouTube, it’s clear that the makers of this short film have really struck a chord with people. More than one person who commented on the video vowed to stay off their phone for a while-- a smartphone sabbatical, if you will. Louis CK’s own thoughts on smartphones also went viral, showing how many people relate to the idea of living in a culture of distractions often provided by smartphones.

With more people questioning the way in which Internet connectivity is becoming more integrated into our daily lives, could there be a social media backlash brewing?

One thing's for certain, mobile devices aren’t going anywhere. In fact, some are even suggesting that there could be more mobile devices than people before the year is out! Take a moment to let that sink in. On a planet populated by billions of people, there would be more portals to engage in social media than there are actual human beings.  

If you think smartphones are ubiquitous now, just wait. As they continue to lower in price, they’ll become even more accessible to people from different walks of life, not just those with disposable income. Some companies are even flirting with the idea of free smartphones, although the idea of what constitutes “free” is more than a little bit tricky. Wearable technology will also increase people’s access to the Internet wherever they go, augmenting their experience of daily life and creating cyborg-like citizens that confirm the worst fears of luddites. 

Of course, what we are talking about when it comes to “intentional” social media use is really a cultural issue. While the rise of mobile technology is predictable, it’s harder to predict how people will respond to it. Will we embrace the integration of more technology into our lives by living in virtually altered presentations of the world around us? Will we modify our bodies to be closer to the technology that lets us connect with others through the Internet?

Taking a break from social media and mobile technology can be a healthy goal. But small business owners can’t ignore that it’s an integral part of their overall marketing strategy. The reach, level of interaction and sustained connectivity it offers is just too great to pass on when it comes to building a strong brand. Like other useful technological advancements that have helped entrepreneurs broaden their reach, it’s important to reach a balance.

Target the time you spend online by setting and following clear intentions when you log on. Set time limits for yourself when you’re on social media to force yourself to be more productive. For some suggestions on how to maximize your time online, you can follow our advice for avoiding the slippery slope down the social media rabbit hole.

Consider creating zero-tech zones for your friends and family where you promise to set aside your smartphones for a designated amount of time and focus on fully engaging with one another in person. You’ll be ahead of the curve when it comes to appreciating and making the most of online and real-time social connections. Your business and your personal life will be all the better for it!

What the Fox Say: A Lesson in Viral?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daft Punk, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke may all have had a jump start on trying to stake a claim on this year’s song of the summer, but just as fall arrives at our doorstep, a dark horse (or is it fox?) is leaping into the race to trump their efforts and rewrite music history.

The video and song in question are from a Norweigan group called Ylvis, and just like Old McDonald, these musicians have a keen interest in the sounds of various fauna. But unlike Old McDonald, whose scope of zoological sound sampling was bound to the barnyard, Ylvis goes one step forward to pose the eternal question, “What the Fox Say?”

Okay, maybe we’re being a little bit facetious here. The song hasn’t exactly rocketed up the Billboard charts, but it has absolutely dominated blogs and social media over the past week. As of this posting, it’s managed to rack up over 15 million views on YouTube. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an indisputable viral sensation.

If a Norweigan band can harness the power of the internet to raise its profile in such a powerful and immediate way, can you do the same? Here’s what we can learn about viral videos from “What the Fox Say.”

The Sincerity Factor

Treading the line between sincerity and irony is tricky, but it pays off. One way to get viewers hooked is to play with their expectations. If you caught yourself asking, “Are they for real?” while watching the Ylvis video, join the club. That mystery is a key ingredient that leads viewers to want to discover more. Did you catch the Worst Twerk Fail Ever video? Turns out it was just a gag from notorious serial prankster Jimmy Kimmel. Of course, there is a big difference between being tongue-and-cheek and being a flat-out liar. The trick is to know your audience and what kind of humor they’re primed for. 

Embrace the Absurd

Designer Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Absurdity and anti—absurdity are the two poles of creative energy.” We’re not sure what the heck that means, but exploring the absurd is definitely a way to reach people immersed in internet culture. If anyone disagrees, kindly refer those detractors to any of the Harlem Shake videos The internet is a strange place, filled with weird, wild stuff. Embrace it! Just check out two of the most influential pages on the web, Reddit and Buzzfeed, and see what you stumble across. Think of it as a daily digest of the web’s most viral idiosyncrasies.

Viral Fame is Touch and Go, but Still Important

Viral fame can come your way and then-- quick as a fox-- vanish into thin air. While it’s the holy grail of awesomeness (to borrow a little internet slang) for many marketers, it only represents a small part of what you can do through social media to reach out to fans. Still, harnessing even a little power from “the secret of the fox” can help you break out of the monotony of your usual content. Don’t be afraid to get a little whacky and meet your web followers on their level by speaking their lingo. That includes both the language you use and the visual media you create and share.

What’s your favorite viral video? Think about the things that make you come back to it over and over. Did you feel compelled to share it right away? Put yourself in the shoes of the customers on the other end of your social media strategy and you’re sure to gain a new perspective. Who knows, you might even score next year’s song of the summer. Better start planning now!

Thinking About Inbound Marketing? Start with Social Media

Social Sonar - Friday, August 30, 2013

A few years ago, “inbound marketing” may have seemed like an industry buzzword that was just another flash-in-the-pan fad, but in 2013, it’s proven to be an effective method of growing your business in an exciting and sustainable way. More than that, inbound marketing is a way to involve your customers by turning them into fans and, further down the road, evangelizers of your brand.

What exactly is so different about the inbound marketing approach? Unlike traditional methods of reaching out to customers, inbound marketing incorporates approaches that take advantage of customers’ interest and ability to find you. In other words, potential followers are interested in finding you, learning more about you and--if they love your brand-- helping other customers spread the good word about you!

If you guessed that the Internet and social media have played a key role in making inbound marketing successful, you’re absolutely right. In fact, it's hard to think how inbound marketing could thrive without the connectivity that the Internet provides.

The way in which customers are able to interact with brands through social networks is unprecedented and has shifted the rules of the game in a significant way. But without great content to capture attention, you might be missing out on one of the biggest ways to grow your brand.

Your social media strategy is the cornerstone of a sound inbound marketing approach. In some cases, it’s the first point of engagement that your customers have with your brand. In many cases, it’s the most meaningful form of interaction because it requires action and involvement from both ends. Social media opens a two-way street of communication where you can build lasting relationships, an ongoing rapport and sustained interest in the experience your brand provides.

Do you think inbound marketing is the next logical step for your small business or organization? Start with a healthy social media presence. Strategize to create and curate the most attractive content possible, keep fans coming back for more and be consistent with your engagement. Think of your presence on social networks as calling card that will lead to many new encounters, meaningful connections and ultimately a community of people invested in your brand.>

Social Media Gaffes: Domino's Apologizes for Great Pizza

Social Sonar - Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Some people really can’t take criticism. But you know what can be even more embarrassing? Not being able to take a compliment. That’s exactly what happened to Domino’s Pizza this past week when they accidentally responded to praise from a customer with an apology.

A social media faux pas is not the end of the world, and while it’s important to know how to bounce back from one, isn’t it even better to avoid having one altogether? Here are some important lessons learned from Domino’s Pizza mistaken social media “delivery.”

The "Domino's" Effect

If you have enough followers and brand recognition, your mistake is bound to be amplified through hundreds or even thousands of followers sharing the flub. A mistake might seem small, but it can have big ripple effects. In this case, it weakens the perception of a confident brand. 

Real Time Monitoring is the Way to Go

Automated messages may be a way to save you time, but they can’t replace the watchful eye and good judgement of a real person. A bot who is programmed to create responses based on keywords may not be able to generate the best response because it’s unable to understand the context of the original message. Allotting time and resources to a dedicated user will make your messaging more personable and responsive to changing scenarios.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Profile

When people engage you on social media, it’s in the hopes of reaching a real person on the other side. One of the things that’s frustrating about a mistake like this is watching the curtain roll back to reveal that there was an impostor there all along! With too much automation, you run the risk of losing sight of your original mission: greater access to the people who make up your company and can best communicate your core values online.

Don’t Expect the Worse

With any online interaction, it’s best to go in with a positive attitude. When you assume the worst,you may be the one unintentionally manifesting your most dreaded scenario.A gaffe like the one Domino’s experienced could betray your own insecurities about your product, and that’s unlikely to inspire confidence from your fans!

What do you think Domino should do differently in the future? Have you experienced a similar gaffe using automation? Share your thoughts below!

Facebook Profile or Fan Page?

Social Sonar - Wednesday, August 07, 2013

For those of you joining this program already in progress, it’s hard to deny that Facebook has become a virtual, modern-day version of the yellow pages-- with one glaring exception: you can actually interact with the listed companies in real time.

In the same way that you wouldn’t want your business excluded from something as essential as a phone book, refusing to list yourself on Facebook is a choice that limits your visibility and gives your competitors an upper hand. But when you do make the choice to jump into the fray, is it with a profile page or a fan page?

Facebook Profiles

Facebook profiles are the types of accounts that most individual users have. Your mom, your friends and possibly even your pets have these kinds of pages. Everyone with a Facebook Profile also has a timeline, where you update your status, pictures, links and videos. You can also easily send friend requests to connect with others. Unless your profile is set to be as public as possible, users will have to friend you before they can access content on your timeline.

Facebook Fan Pages

Facebook fan pages are a little different. For one thing, users can look at content directly as soon as they make the choice to “like” your page. This shortcuts the step of waiting for approval from a friend request. Fan pages have built in tools that help you keep track of who is following you. Unlike Facebook profiles, there is no upper limit on how many people subscribe to your updates-- a big advantage for a brand! If you want to create subcategories of content for fans to explore, you can build custom tabs. Fan pages are also indexed in Facebook’s search engine, which makes it easier for followers to find you.

It’s probably clear that for most of your business needs, a fan page makes the most sense. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t promote your business through your personal profile as well. Just make sure that when you’re representing your business you do so through your fan page. That helps to build the identity of your brand, give it a voice and build a following connected to your product or service rather than just one individual.

Tweet Chats: Take a Two-Pronged Approach

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Part of Twitter’s beauty is the way it forces users to be concise. Many interactions on Twitter consist of “one-offs,” retweets, short replies and, on occasion, longer back-and-forth exchanges that can last a few days. While this enables quickfire connections and dynamic newsfeeds, the brevity of this kind of communication can also leave you wanting more. That’s where Tweet Chats come in.

Tweet Chats lets you structure your Twitter activity around one specific topic for as long as you want. Whether you are looking to host one or just participate, the logistics are simple. Just set a time and create a hashtag that helps followers label their contributions to the conversation. Everyone who’s taking part can track new contributions by following the hashtag. Sound interesting? Take a two-pronged approach to make the best of Tweet Chats:

Reach out to Customers

If you have an active Twitter community that follows your business, you can host a Tweet Chat to connect with customers. If you’re on the cusp of a big announcement, treat it is a mini-press conference. You can facilitate the chat by asking customers questions or turn the tables and let them drive the conversation. When curious newcomers join your Tweet Chat, you have the chance to engage them and turn them into brand devotees.

Network with other Professionals

Looking to connect with other industry influencers? Look for Tweet Chats they may be hosting. Other people in your field might already be meeting to discuss new trends that could impact you. There’s even the possibility for strategizing to form important partnerships along the way.

What’s your area of expertise? Is there a pressing issue in your industry that you’re curious about? What are your customers' most frequent questions? Use this directory of regular chats and start Tweet Chatting your way to some answers!

Better Blogging Made Easy

Social Sonar - Wednesday, July 24, 2013
You don’t have to be a master wordsmith when it comes to blogging, but readers will appreciate it when you make an effort to share your best writing. Lots of us are born with the gift of gab, but committing those ideas to ink (or in this case pixels) is another story entirely. We’ve all prematurely hit “publish” and later looked back to spot a typo or two--or even worse, realized that our ideas are interesting but unorganized and hard to follow. If you’re intimidated at the prospect of sharing your thoughts online, don’t be scared. There are a few simple things you can start doing today to make sure that your great ideas aren’t undercut by your approach to writing.

Create an Outline

If you’re anything like us, you have a lot of ideas to share. Creating a short outline before you start writing can help your posts become more organized. Think of main ideas you want to touch on and then develop points that support those main ideas. Think of an outline as a handy roadmap that will help you avoid unplanned digressions and keep you and your readers on course. 

Stay Away From Jargon

Unless you are writing for other professionals in your industry, it’s best to avoid highly technical jargon. Not everyone may know what an “electronic engine immobilizer" is, but if you run a business related to cars, your followers are sure to be grateful for the explanation. Remember, not everyone is immersed in the culture of your industry, so don’t make people feel excluded from the conversation.

Err on the Side of Brevity

When you’re editing your blogs, look for opportunities to be more concise. Are there places where you’re being redundant? Can you replace a long phrase with two or three words? In our attempt to sound knowledgeable, we often lay on more words, turns of phrases and rhetorical devices than we need to. Trimming the fat can be hard because it often leaves your ideas exposed. Can they stand on their own? If not, it may be worth reworking your post.

What are your best practices when it comes to writing? Do you have advice from a favorite English teacher etched into your memory? Share your tips for better blogging below.