Up Periscope

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. 

 

Tips for Using Twitter

Social Sonar - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Twitter can be a powerful tool for building your business. Just ask Lady Gaga - she currently has the highest number of Twitter followers in the world.

Here are some quick tips to get the rest of us started without recording an album.

Lady Gaga TwitterFind followers

There are many theories about the best way to get people to follow you. However, the easiest way is to follow them first. One in four people you follow will generally follow you back. If you search for terms that are relevant to your business, you can find potential followers ripe for the picking! You can also check out your competitors and follow some of their followers. You can avoid "spam bots" by not following people who have no tweets, or x-rated photos and links on their profiles.

Tweet content

Most people on Twitter do not want to see a steady stream of "canned" tweets. Although it is fine to Tweet links, you should also ask questions and have conversations with your followers. It will make you seem more like a "real" person. Don't be afraid to re-tweet great content. Just because you didn't write it, doesn't mean you can't share it.

Tweet frequently

There are multiple theories about this topic as well, but most estimates range from two to five tweets per day. The content should be varied. Maybe one or two tweets about your company. You can also tweet about the industry. Some can be re-tweets. You should also be tweeting at optimal times. If you are tweeting at 3 a.m., most of your audience may be in bed, and your message will be lost in the timeline by the time they are awake and checking Twitter.

Use Hashtags

Hashtags (# -- the pound sign) help mark certain keywords for tracking on Twitter. Often people and programs search for hashtagged words to re-tweet or gather related stories. Learning to properly mark your keywords with hashtags can help you gather followers who are interested in what you are tweeting about.

Track clicks

Twitter automatically shortens the links you include in your tweets now, but if you want to track clicks, you can use bit.ly. It's a free service which shortens your links so that you can use more of your 140 characters for content. It also tracks the number of people clicking and sharing your links.

__________

Twitter can definitely open your business up to a whole new audience. Just use this guide to get you started. You'll be off and running in no time with the Twitter world at your fingertips!

Social Media and Lead Generation

Social Sonar - Saturday, December 17, 2011
Although most social media experts suggest focusing on building your brand and having a conversation with your customers rather than trying to make a sale, you want to know that the time you are spending on social media sites is actually paying off. Webmarketing123 recently released a report entitled, "Social Media: The Tailwind for SEO & Lead Generation." This is a summary of their report and recommendations. 

One important way to help build your brand is to raise your ranking in search engines. Almost five billion inquiries are processed on major search engines every single day. Search engine optimization (SEO) is about getting your business to the top of those lists. By cross-promoting Facebook posts, likes and tweets, you will link your social media optimization (SMO) to your SEO program. Therefore, by communicating with your customers on social media sites, you may actually raise your SEO rankings. 

Webmarketing123 suggests mapping out your plan as follows:

    1.    Diagram: Choose your social networks.
    2.    Test: Figure out which types of campaigns work best with your audience.
    3.    Strategize: Decide which content you will promote.
    4.    Implement: Launch your campaign and grow your audience.
    5.    Monitor: Track growth.
    6.    Measure: Measure return on engagement (ROE) across periods of time.
    7.    Optimize: Develop fresh content and schedule posts and tweets to encourage customer interaction.

Your ultimate goal is to drive more traffic to your website, which raises your SEO rankings and makes it easier for customers to find you.  You also want to boost the number of "likes" on Facebook and increase re-tweets or replies.  Both people and search engines like fresh, keyword-rich content.  By keeping Facebook and Twitter updated with engaging and interesting content, you are improving your rankings. 

Close the circle by adding share buttons on your website.  This makes it simple for customers on your website to "like" or tweet about new content.  You should also cross-promote your blog on Facebook and Twitter.  Learn how to use keywords and hashtags on Twitter, so that search engines will add them to the search results page, which will help drive more traffic to your website. 

You can the measure your ROE by monitoring traffic on Google Analytics, measuring your buzz on Facebook and growing your followship on Twitter.  "In social media, your ROI is your ROE."

The social media/SMO/SEO/ROE/ROI world can be very confusing.  If you would like us to explain how social media can help improve your business, please let us know!

 

Social Media and Fundraising Events

Social Sonar - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Social media isn't just for raising awareness about your business. You can also use it to promote events at your store or do fundraising. We would like to share two stories about how social media helped increased awareness of recent fundraising events.

First up is Jimmy.  He works at the Rainbow Community Center, focusing on HIV awareness and education.  For 2011, he set a pretty high fundraising goal for the San Francisco AIDS Walk.  Here is how he used social media websites to make it happen.

Every year I participate in the San Francisco AIDS Walk. I host several fundraising events in the Bay Area and have been a top fundraiser for several years. But it wasn't until I joined the social networking world that my fundraising went to the next level. I set a huge goal this past year: $5,000. Using a group on Facebook, daily Twitter posts, a YouTube video and asking my friends and family to share, all three helped me not only reach my goal... but beat it! I was able to raise $8,000 in only 4 months. Social networking has really changed the way I promote my cause and provide outreach to my community. Without these social outlets, I would never have been able to reach my goal and help fight this epidemic.

What Jimmy doesn’t mention is that he also promised his loyal followers that he would do the 6.2 mile walk in six-inch red heels if he hit his goal.  He kept his promise.  Check out his photo at mile one.

 

Next is Dan.  He has a pretty amazing story and it is best told in his own words.

In memory of my brother Mike, who died of AIDS in 1995, I decided to participate in the 2011 AIDS LifeCycle bike ride, a seven day, 545-mile bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, raising money for AIDS and HIV services and prevention.  Each rider is required to raise $3,000, a feat in itself.

My main goal was to gain awareness for AIDS prevention -- raising money was not the driving force behind my decision to take this ride. I was at a loss for how to raise this large sum of money because I did not want to ask people for money in a bad economy. I decided to make a video telling "my story" of my brother dying of AIDS. At the end of the video I would simply ask the viewer to send me just one dollar. Who could say no to one dollar? If I could just get three thousand people to watch my video then I would accomplish my main goal of awareness having three thousand people hear "my story," and hopefully raise three thousand dollars.

I posted the video on YouTube and shared it often on my Facebook page. I also asked all my Facebook friends to please watch and share my video on their Facebook page too. I hoped for the best, but figured I would more than likely be writing a check from my own personal bank account for $2,000 (or more) to reach my goal and participate in the ride.

Within twenty minutes of the posting of my video on the Internet I had raised $500. What a shock! Had underestimated the power of social media? Within three weeks I had already raised $5,000 and the money kept coming in. By the time of the actual bike ride event arrived I had raised a whopping $18,800. My video has been viewed more than 5,824 times on YouTube and was re-posted on Facebook more than 1,000 times. All goals were exceeded thanks to the Internet.

However, this incredible fundraising didn't happen without hard work on my part and with a lot of help from my friends. I constantly kept on top of the video, posting it on Facebook often, sharing the address with anyone who would listen, and asking friends to ask their friends to post it.

My video was posted on Facebook by my friends who in turn asked their friends to post it, and so on. The local news media saw the video and the next thing I knew my video and story was on a major Bay Area TV newscast, the local newspaper and the front page of Yahoo! News for three days! The post office box was full of envelopes from all over the country, including envelopes from as far away as France and England.

Facebook and YouTube were the force behind my success in raising this huge amount of money for the AIDS Life Cycle Bike ride.  Social media should never be underestimated.

Here is a photo of Dan with actress Sue Sylvester on the day they left on the ride. 

 

We want to thank Jimmy and Dan for sharing their stories with us. They are a testament to the power of social media. Using these websites to promote your events and fundraising efforts can prove successful for you too. If you need help, just ask us how!

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.

 

Here Is Your Post-Black Friday Checklist

Social Sonar - Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday 2011 is history. Small Business Saturday is almost over. Cyber Monday is only a day away. The holiday shopping season has officially begun. Here is a checklist to maximize your post-holiday success with a social media marketing plan to keep those customers coming back.

1. Website.
Even if it is only a simple website with your contact information and store hours, websites are a basic requirement these days. Your website should also link to all of your social media pages so that your customers can decide which mode of contact works best for them.

2. Newsletter.
You should also have an e-mail newsletter that goes out on a regular basis. Whether it is weekly or monthly, connecting regularly with your customers keeps your business on their mind. Unless you are correcting a mistake, don't over-do it by e-mailing too often. You want your customers to look forward to hearing from you. Make signing up easy by having a sign-up button at the top of the front page of your website.

3. Blogging.
We have said it before and we will say it again: Publishing a weekly blog about your company and its products or services is an important part of your social media plan. Keeping your website updated with fresh content raises your rankings within search engines. This means when someone "Googles" your company, it will come up faster.

4. Facebook.
With 800 million users worldwide, your customers are most likely on Facebook. If you create a fan page for your business, it gives your customers a fun and easy place to connect with you. Also, when a customer "likes" your fan page, it is published on their wall for all of their friends to see, thereby exposing your business to another layer of potential customers.

5. Twitter.
With over 200 million users, Twitter is another great way to connect with potential customers. You can use the search function to find potential customers in your geographic area. You can also search tweets and profiles for key words to connect with people who may be interested in your business. If you tag your tweets with proper hash tags, it allows users to find you when they are searching for certain topics.

6. Other social media platforms.
You may decide that Google+, LinkedIn, Yelp, YouTube, Foursquare or other sites are important for your business. You don't want to create a situation where you are trying to manage too many profiles. However, if you know your customers are congregating in a certain place then you may decide to spend some time there as well.

If you would like to read some of our success stories about how other companies have used social media to promote their business, please check out this link: http://www.socialsonar.com/social-media-success-stories. Which sites are on your checklist? Leave a comment below to let us know!

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. 


Social Media + Newsletters = BFFs

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Email iPhone AppPeople thought social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would make email obsolete, but the truth is, email is social media's "secret weapon". For people who aren't logging in frequently to update their status and check in on friends and family, email notifications function as a reminder to visit Facebook or Twitter.

Your email list is often more engaged than your Facebook fans or Twitter followers. It's easy to click a single button to fan or follow someone. It takes more effort to type in your email address. It also takes more trust. People see you as an expert, and are open to receiving communication from you alongside emails from friends and family.

One of the nicest things about email is that it can be read at a time that works for the subscriber. While there is a possibility it will get buried if their inbox is flooded with messages or checked infrequently, it will not be hidden under hundreds of status updates. It's easy to check on the go, since people can read email already downloaded to their mobile device even when they don't have access to internet.

Email also isn't limited by character counts, which means your business' voice can shine through. It's easier to go more in-depth in an email newsletter than create a bite-sized chunk people might miss as they scroll through updates. You can also craft a cliff-hanging paragraph that builds suspense and encourages people to visit your blog or website.

The good news is both types of marketing are a great investment. Social media and email marketing work in tandem to build your customer base by playing on each others' strengths. Facebook and Twitter cast a wide net to find people who might be interested in your business area. By providing interesting posts and tweets, you build a reputation as an industry expert with your fans and followers. Once a month you should promote signing up for the newsletter via social media. This way you will catch the most engaged fans and followers.

We can create an optimized marketing plan for your business that makes the most out of every marketing channel. Just give us a call.

Learning to value your time

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 29, 2011
One thing I've learned in the last few years is how important it is to place a value on my time.  That's not to say I expect to get paid for every minute of the day.  It just means I evaluate everything I'm invited to attend before deciding to spend my time there.  Some events will have emotional value, so that is worth my time.  Some might mean future business, so that is worth my time.  Some events might just be fun, and that is worth my time too.

How do you decide what your time is worth?  That is something only you can determine.  I remember before Black Friday (the big shopping day after Thanksgiving in the US) last year, a group of people in Florida started a line in front of Best Buy a week before the actual date.  For their efforts, some were awarded a free iPad.  People were ecstatic.  I was happy that they were happy, but wasting a week of my life in line for the chance at some so-so deals, would not even be worth a $500 toy.  Perhaps those people were unemployed, so spending that time was easier for them than it would have been for me.  Perhaps they were looking for the attention from the media, so that made it worth their time.  Whatever their reasons, they determined that spending a week sleeping outside in front of a Best Buy was good use of their time.

There are only so many hours in the day, and you can't spend 24 of them on your business.  You need to determine the areas in which you are adept and admit where you might need help.  For example, if you do not enjoy writing, perhaps paying someone to ghost write blogs for your company is a good idea.  This way, you are not spending valuable time being frustrated that you aren't able to write for yourself.  If you do not enjoy or understand Facebook and/or Twitter, then hiring an outside company to handle customer comments and post fresh content on your page would be a good use of your resources. 

Only you can decide what your time is worth.  Do you have a social media plan?  If and when you are ready for help in the blogging and social media realm, Social Sonar is here to help you create a plan and then put it into action!

Do you get your news from social media?

Social Sonar - Saturday, October 01, 2011
I was recently reading a Forbes article about how social media was no longer optional for businesses. It mentioned that more and more Americans now get their news directly from the Internet.

I started thinking about 9/11 -- ten years ago.  I was asleep in my bed (in California) when the first plane hit the towers.  I believe I got a phone call.  I can't even remember who called.  My cousin?  My boss?  I just remember them telling me to turn the television on.  I remember panicking because my dad and cousin were traveling and I wasn't sure where they were (and we didn't know what was going on with the planes anyway).  I turned on the television and watched in horror as the second plane hit the towers -- complete mayhem playing out on television right before my eyes. 

Skip forward to Japan's 2011 earthquakes, tsunami and failure of it's nuclear power plant.  I heard about that first earthquake when I saw "God bless Japan" tweets on Twitter.  I quickly moved to Facebook and found stories being posted about the disaster.  I was horrified at what I was reading.  Granted, I am a world away from Japan, but my heart went out to everyone trying to survive such a disaster and without Facebook or Twitter, I most likely would not have heard anything about it until I watched the news the next morning. 

I don't bring up such disasters to bring you down.  I bring them up to prove a point -- and back up that the study cited above is true in my own life as well:  Print and television media/ads may be on their way out.  Internet and social media are definitely rising in popularity. 

What does that mean for your business? 

It's not that you should completely scrap print, television or radio ads, if that is what works for you.  However, with the invention of TiVo and DVRs, television commercials cannot possibly bring the same payoff that they used to.  Certainly with so many Internet news sites, and with print newspapers' subscription numbers dwindling, newspaper advertisements must be following the same trend as television.  This means that you should at least be considering what the Internet and social media can do for you.

At a minimum, besides a company website, you should take advantage of the free Facebook fan page and Twitter account.  Although it will take some time on your part (or your employee's part) to monitor these pages, keeping fresh content on your page is a somewhat inexpensive way to promote your company and build your brand. 

Do you use social media business already?  Please leave a comment, letting us know which sites are most important for your business.  As always, Social Sonar is here to help you understand how social media can work for you!