Up Periscope

Social Sonar's Mixer at Twirly Girls!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media for the Hospitality Industry

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 06, 2011

Cold Calling Concierge provides lead generation for the hospitality industry. Today we talk to owner Heather Yesko about social media in her industry and attitudes toward social media in general.

1. How do you use social media at your company?

Although we firmly believe that making face-to-face, or at least voice-to-voice contact with people is key, we have found that social media sites are outstanding resources when it comes to connecting with others. We use avenues such as LinkedIn and Facebook to find potential clients, to keep in touch with existing clients and to promote our services. Even though these sites are pretty standard in social networking, due to the overwhelmingly successful response we have seen using them, we don't have the need to go elsewhere. We are however, always open to trying new advances in social media as they arise.

2. Have you seen a change in how companies are using social media? If so, can you explain?

Within the past few years social media seems to have switched gears from being a 'trend' in the marketing industry, to a standard in the business world. I consider this to be a positive, natural progression in our society as long as people are able to maintain a healthy balance of new technology and old fashion practices. Utilizing the internet to boost business is great and I think everyone should be educated on how to do so, but commodities such as in-person meetings and handwritten letters are personalized touches, not to be forgotten.

3. Where do you see social media, as it pertains to hotels and hospitality, going in the future?

The sky's the limit. I think the hospitality industry currently has access to the social media outlets they need to achieve their desired results, but the problem is: A.) They don't know how to use them efficiently or B.) They know how to use them, but simply don't. I read somewhere once that social media has become a staple more than a distraction and I think that is a great outlook to have, but in order to have our employees and future generations adopt that mind-set, training and motivation is required.

4. As an industry, what would you say the top 2-3 social media sites are to keep an eye on? Why?

I have a feeling that the sites to look out for are the ones that have yet to be created.

5. Do you have a dedicated person(s) to handle social media at your company? Why or why not?

I personally handle all of our social media. My employees do not have the bandwidth to take on any tasks other than catering to their clients. I have found during my years of experience, that the majority of people in the hospitality industry too often become overwhelmed with having to multi-task throughout their day which leaves them spreading themselves too thin in certain areas; unfortunately sometimes the most important areas. Because of this, my employees each have the same job to focus on throughout the day, everyday. This practice has shown high productivity and consistent results.

6. How, if at all, has social media changed the way you interact with clients and potential clients?

Social media has allowed us to reach people, that without it, would have never even been a blip on our radar. It's amazing how easy it is to saturate a particular market, or research a certain cross-section of people with just a few clicks of the mouse. And likewise, clients and potential customers can easily contact us and stay up to date on our latest services on their own time.

7. In general, do you see social media reputations as being more of a brand or property-level responsibility? Why?

I feel that it is a mixture of both. I think it's up to the brand to set the standard and protocol for how they wish to represent themselves through social networking and its up to the properties to uphold those standards. The brand should educate their properties on how to efficiently promote their services, but it is each property's duty to take that information and use social media to make it a reality. It's kind of like a parent-child relationship, or at least it should be.

8. Do you think it is harder for branded/corporate or boutique/smaller hotels when it comes to managing social media? Why?

When it comes to managing social media, I can see how it might be harder for branded/corporate hotels simply because they are working on a much grander scale. Keeping their message consistent and making sure the their properties are actively using social media could present a struggle, but as long as they have a plan in place and have the right management in place to educate and motivate, it should run smoothly. Boutiques and smaller hotels might have an easier time managing their social media, but they have the added difficulty of it actually working for them. Because they are on a smaller scale and the public might not be familiar with their property, as they would a large, popular brand, their hotel could easily be overlooked or fall through the social media cracks.

Seven Tried and True Social Media Tactics for Facebook and Twitter

Alison Kawa - Saturday, July 23, 2011

There are a number of tried and true Facebook and Twitter tactics to engage and grow your audience. Here are some of our recommendations.

  1. Exclusive specials.
    Some companies offer discounts you can only receive if you are a fan or follower. This gives customers a reason to continue to use that channel.
  2. New products.
    Announcing new merchandise or services, especially if those are exclusive previews, is a great way to encourage site visits, as well as make your customers feel special.
  3. Offers.
    Facebook and Twitter are a good place to re-iterate ongoing offers. This type of post or tweet should be used sparingly unless you are an online deal site. Your company should have more to offer than just savings.
  4. Contests.
    Encouraging customers to think about and engage with your brand, whether it includes making a fun video, taking a picture, or just signing up for the chance to win, are easy ways to remind people about your company – and encourage sharing with their friends.
  5. Sharing.
    Asking people to share their lives is the equivalent of asking a friend about their weekend. People want to let you – and the world – know who they are and what they’re doing. It shows you want to get to know them better. As an added bonus, every time they share a link or photo on your wall, it is added to their feed for their friends to see.
  6. Tips and tricks.
    People love learning new things. Whether it’s related to your product or your industry, you come off looking like an expert and a resource when you’re the source of the information.
  7. Commentary.
    Having an explanation or opinion on things that concern your customers, whether it’s new laws or industry news, is a great way to show your voice, as well as let your customers know you’re thinking about their needs and concerns. Just be sure not to ostracize any of your customers. Ask them what they think.

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.

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