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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.

Why Did Nintendo Pass on a Press Conference at E3?

Social Sonar - Friday, June 21, 2013

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Some aspects of marketing may seem like they’re too tried-and-true to give up, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be subject to some skillful reinvention. Just look at Nintendo’s recent decision to eschew a traditional press conference at E3 (arguably the biggest industry event for videogames in the world) in favor of sharing news with fans through social media. Nintendo’s decision to abstain from putting together a big presentation may have been considered suicide in the past, but that’s not necessarily true in an age where so many of the interactions between customers and the companies they love are happening online.

Instead of relying on one keynote address to summarize upcoming releases, Nintendo decided to use social media channels like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to roll out information directly to fans. It’s a shrewd move that pulls the focus away from creating a one-off event that’s built to impress reporters on the showroom floor and moves the conversation online. It also lets them add depth to their presentations by featuring video interviews with game developers that otherwise may not have been able to share stage time.

Nintendo-Controller.jpg

The approach means that users don’t need a plane ticket, special badge or press credentials to be first seat for news. It’s a case study in how to be open, transparent and engaged with lots of followers at once, without having to rely on traditional media outlets to relay information. It also collapses the wall between the conversations that are happening at the event and the ones that are happening online. In the past, users were used to commenting on impressions from journalists reporting from the floor. Now, they don’t have to wait for a slow trickle of information to react to--they can experience it in real time. Here is Regie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo America, explaining more about Nintendo’s unconventional choice.

What do you think about Nintendo’s decision? One thing's for sure, their use of social media instead of a press conference certainly got tongues wagging and became a story in and of itself!

Social Media Is for Lovers

Alison Kawa - Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last Wednesday my husband and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary at Michael Mina. Neither of us had been to the restaurant before, and we are wary of establishments with a "celebrity chef", but we went based on friends' recommendations. During our meal, the staff was attentive and the food fantastic, but what really made our experience unique was how they handled their social media.

About halfway through the meal, our wedding song "You Make It Easy" by Air came over the speakers. It's not a common song, so I made a remark about the coincidence to our server. Little did I realize my comment was setting in motion one of the most endearing series of events I've ever experienced at a restaurant.

Michael Mina CardMy husband got up to use the restroom and, while he was away, I tweeted, "Having anniversary dinner @MichaelMinaSF and they just randomly played our wedding song You Make It Easy by Air! Time to dance." Shortly after my tweet, we received a handwritten card from the manager wishing us a happy anniversary.

They brought us a slice of cake and a couple glasses of dessert wine, apologizing that, had they known it was our anniversary, they would have started us off with complimentary champagne. At the end of our meal, they brought us a copy of that night's tasting menu with "Happy Anniversary" written on it. By the time we got back to the car, I found they had followed me on Twitter and messaged me "@AlisonKawa thanks for spending your special day with us!!"

We were blown away by their responsiveness. These extra efforts required some care, but they didn't cost the restaurant a lot in time or money. In exchange, they got exposure to all my friends and gave me a brand experience I continue to talk about weeks afterward. If all businesses understood the power of these simple acts of personalization, they could create memorable customer experiences that do more to spread the word about their business than any marketing campaign.

Consider me a Michael Mina brand advocate!

How to Protect Your Online Reputation

Social Sonar - Friday, January 04, 2013

Sharing stories with friends and family is something people have always done. We discuss our relationship issues, career goals, and customer service experiences. Now we have the ability to let everyone know on social media, including strangers, what we have encountered. 

The issue many businesses find is that feedback is given anonymously. As business owner, you have to question the validity of feedback. Is it a consumer who genuinely wants to provide information to improve your service? Maybe a former employee? Perhaps a competitor looking to take business away from you? A bad review can hurt your business and ensure potential consumers will question whether to support your establishment.

Whatever the circumstances, you have to protect your online reputation. Here are a few tips to ensure you're looking out for your brand.

Listen

It's important to know what people think of your business, from customer service to products. Set up Google Alerts, which send an email any time your brand is mentioned online. Provide an area on your website where people can get in touch with you to leave feedback so you can recognize a potential issue early.

Respond

Some sites allow you to reply to your critics. It says a lot about your business if you answer a negative review with a polite or even positive statement. This will not only let the reviewer know you're paying attention, it will show potential consumers feedback is welcomed and addressed.

Encourage Positive Publicity

It's true you can't make everyone happy, but what about the customers who already enjoy your business? Rally your loyal supporters to get online and share their great experiences. Ask customers if they are willing to give a testimonial for your site, and provide them with your Facebook url so they can spread the good word there.

Establish Standard Policies

If you have not instituted a customer service policy, you may want to create one now. You want to make sure your employees understand the necessity of great customer care. Train them on how to speak to difficult clients. Everyone who works in your business should understand that each customer experience is important. You're building a brand and need to develop excellent communication lines between your employees and your customers.

It may seem time consuming at first, but the constant feedback can create the kind of buzz that will only benefit your business. Being aware of what is being said about your business will provide insights to improve and grow.

3 Reasons to Start a Loyalty Program

Social Sonar - Thursday, December 13, 2012
Frequent Shopper Stamp

Many shoppers belong to several loyalty programs that allow them to acquire points, money, or merchandise. Big chain stores have been implementing this easy marketing tool to establish customer retention. Small business might assume that these programs will cost too much to implement and maintain, but their benefits can be greatly underestimated. Here are some reasons why you should kick off 2013 with a loyalty program.

1. Return Customers

If a shopper knows they are building up for incentives, they'll go out of their way to support your establishment. It's nice to think that if you get 10 cups of tea, you'll get one free. Chances are the customers who enroll or take part in the loyalty program know that they frequent your business and would benefit from the program. Its an easy sell.

2. Easy Implementation

You don't need to make your loyalty program complex. It can be as simple as stamping a card and having the customer fill out a form with her name, email address, and birth date. Or you can create a program where cards are swiped or scanned and allow for points to accumulate. Your choice is just a matter of budget and time.

3. Targeted Marketing Efforts

If you have a special promotion, or maybe even an event, you'll be able to communicate with the right audience. Maintaining a marketing database will ensure you are talking to consumers who already love your brand. You'll have a successful return on your invest because you will be speaking to the right people.

How Can Podcast Help Your Business

Social Sonar - Thursday, November 15, 2012
iPod wearing earbuds
Podcasts are audio content that allows your consumer to listen at their convenience. The benefits of podcasting for small companies and business are greatly underestimated. Even bigger corporations don't take advantage of providing podcasts. Perhaps you should consider creating downloadable podcasts for your consumers.

Podcasts allow you to reach new and potential consumers. They also allow you to express your expertise and personality. Listening to a business owner, especially a small business owner, can intensify the passion of loyal followers.
 
The beauty of technology is that it allows you to target the people you need to reach. "You can send fresh and compelling messages out to target audiences," says Michael Neumeier, principal of the Arketi Group, a small-business marketing consultancy in Atlanta. “You can use it to start delivering educational content to a narrowly focused list of people. Even if it’s only 50 people, if it’s the right 50 people, it’ll do wonders for your startup.”
 
Podcasting can help you become a leader and expert to your consumers. If your business is clothing, you should talk about the latest trends, fashion shows, or designers. If you own a wine shop, consider giving wine tips or food-pairing advice. In today's fast-paced world, catching a shopper's attention can be difficult. It’s easy for users to download audio content to their smart phones and listen to your advice on the go.
 
The fact that you're creating audio content instead of just adding words to a webpage means that your business will be seen as innovative. It gives you the kind of buzz that's harder to obtain. Allowing your content to be shareable and available can put you at the top of leaderboard.

Important 2012 Holiday Shopping Days

Social Sonar - Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Holiday season is upon us. We see it everywhere we go: the local drugstore, big box store, and e-commerce websites. Every marketing effort is being put toward holiday sales. Whether you're a small or big business, you should take note of important holiday dates. These dates will help you keep in line with your competitors, as well as bring in possible new customers who are in the mood to shop. Mark your calendars for the following dates:

November 22: Thanksgiving Day (US) - Online promotions

Online retailers are learning to post offers early. They are marketing to consumers who spend time in long lines for those "big bargains". Developing one-day Thanksgiving offers can help bring in sales. While big box store are stocking their shelves, you can start generating revenue with the growing online market.

November 23: Black Friday

Oh yes, you know about this day well. Black Friday is the day millions of shoppers get up at 3am and stand in line to get deeply discounted items. Don't be afraid to be part of this shopping extravaganza. You may not be a big box store, but it doesn't mean you can't create great deals.

November 24: Small Business Saturday

On this day we say to shoppers, "Shop Local". This holiday season shouldn't just be about the big box store or mass production. Offer one-day specials and discounts. If you're a restaurant, offer a free dessert with the purchase of an entree. Local stores, offering unique gifts and showcasing your merchandising this particular day will go a long way. If you use social media to promote Small Business Saturday, remember to use hashtag #smallbizsat. Get on the Official Map.

November 26: Cyber Monday

Technically (pun intended), this is a new tradition. This is the day many shoppers head back into the office and start to look for great deals online. Offer an incentive for shoppers to shop at your online store. Tie in social media acquisition or engagement. Advertisers like Origins (EA Games) will post things like, "Fans can enjoy an 30% off of clearance items if we receive 200 likes on this post by 1pm." They reveal the 30% off code once they have received the 200 likes. It's a great tactic, and you can use it too.

December: National Shipping Day - Global

The competition will be doing this, so you should, too. The following days will be National Shipping Day for these countries:

Merchants within these countries will provide free shipping on any order with a guarantee that shoppers will receive their items before Christmas. This is one of those rare times your mother didn't anticipate when you should do something just because everyone else will be doing it.

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!

Are You Missing Real Facebook Fans? 5 Ways to Re-engage

Social Sonar - Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lady Gaga Drop on FacebookHave you noticed the total number of your Facebook fans dropping over the past month? You're not the only one. Even Lady Gaga is feeling the pain. Her fans dropped by 104,125 in the past week. There's no need to panic, however. It's just Facebook cleaning house.

As we mentioned earlier this month, Facebook admitted in its quarterly report that 83 million profiles are most likely fake. The profiles they are deleting are a combination of duplicate, mis-classified (pets, jokes, etc.), and spammer accounts.

In order to find out if you are dropping real accounts, do the following:

  1. Use Facebook asLogin to your Facebook account. Click the down arrow in the upper right hand corner to Use Facebook as Your Business Name.
  2. In the Admin Panel, click See All in the Insights section.
  3. Click Export Data.
  4. Export Insights DataKeep the Data Type on Page level data and change the date range to the beginning of the year.
  5. Click Download and save the spreadsheet with the rest of your reporting data. You have been tracking this, right?
  6. In the Excel spreadsheet, do a sum total for each of the months of Daily New Likes.
  7. Your Daily New Likes should be holding steady or increasing each month.

If you aren't getting new likes, there are some simple things you can do.

  1. Write Likable Content.
    Beautiful large images, cartoon jokes, and cute pictures and videos are always well-received. People enjoy fun and inspiring content, and it's easy for them to click "Like".
  2. Ask Simple Questions.
    The easier the question is to answer, the better. Try to keep it from being Yes or No. For example, this question would likely be answered Yes or No: "It's Friday night! Are you going out?" This is a question likely to get more engagement: "It's Friday night! What's your vote: Stay In or Go Out?"
  3. Take a Poll.
    People love to give their opinion. Take this opportunity to gain exposure, as well as feedback. Use the poll functionality in Facebook to introduce a question with popular answers. Throw in a funny answer, as well, to tempt people who wouldn't normally participate.
  4. Ask People to Like your Posts.
    Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to spread the word about your business on Facebook is to literally ask people to like your posts. You don't want to use this tactic too often, but if you pick something fun and ask people to like it, they're more likely to oblige.

    For example, if you are a personal trainer, post a motivational message with "Like this if you worked out today". People love to talk about their workouts, and when then like your post, their friends will see it on their page.
  5. Focus on Things that Matter.
    Most importantly, talk about things that matter to your customers, not just to your business. If you are a green business, mention environmentally-focused events and policies happening in the local area. As a pediatrician, talk about things moms want to hear, not just about keeping their kids healthy, but about ways to relieve their own stress and save them time.

Hopefully your daily new likes are steadily increasing. If you don't have time to write engaging content, give us a call.

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.