Up Periscope

Martha Stewart Serves Up Bad Food Pics on Social Media

Social Sonar - Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Are you setting the table for a big feast today? You might be getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or both (Thanksgivukkah?), and that means after a day of cooking, greeting relatives and trying not to spoil your supper, you’ve got one thing on your mind: food.

Food is on our minds, too, and it’s not just because of the holiday season (although that certainly has our stomach growling in anticipation). Last week, culinary queen Martha Stewart’s food pics went viral, and not for the right reasons. Her shots are unsavory to say the least--a far cry from the perfectly presented dishes we typically associate with her brand. We love Martha, but posting pictures like these is most definitely a bad thing.

So where did Martha go wrong? Her strategy of sharing personal pics of food isn’t a bad one. In fact, from celebrities to the average consumer, sharing pictures of food online is a persistent trend in social media. Scroll through your newsfeed on any given day and you’re bound to catch a glimpse of a fancy home-cooked dinner spread, last Sunday’s epic brunch or a pastry so delectable it has to be seen to be believed.  

From a marketing perspective, getting social with food can be a great idea. For food-related businesses that haven’t shied away from using the web to grow their brand, social media has been a tremendous boon. Just look at the way tech-savvy food trucks have flourished with the help of social tools. Food pics have become such an integral part of a business’s online presence that Yelp has even created visual menus based on user submissions.

Martha’s issue is really a matter of execution. The impulse to share food pics is great, but for a big brand that’s synonymous with lifestyle, good eating and perfecting homemade meals, the visual content has to be up to snuff. While the images she shared from her personal Twitter account provide some insight into her personal life, they’re also disconnected from the rest of her brand. That’s the kind of dissonance that fans and followers will readily point out on social media because, let’s face it, it’s kind of funny. People love to take down celebrities, especially if a big part of their persona is built around an image of staunch perfectionism. 

What else can we learn from Martha’s mishap? The interest around her food pics reveals how far a consumer’s impressions of a brand can extend into the realm of social media. Why did so many people balk at her tweets? They’re expecting the same kind of content that they see on television or in cookbooks. Martha’s case also shows that when a person is their brand, as is the case with Martha Stewart, a personal Twitter feed reads as officially as anything else her company might produce.  

What would you do differently if you were in Martha’s shoes? Is this a case of curating content more wisely? Or taking the time to explore what goes into creating great food photography through mobile devices? Share your ideas in the comments below.

World's Oldest Yelp Review

Alison Kawa - Thursday, January 31, 2013

Yelp Review from 1945I was recently at a second hand bookstore looking through a complete collection of Mark Twain's works when I came across a yellowed article from The New York Sun dated Saturday, April 21, 1945. It was a letter to the editor from an aggravated job hunter in Brooklyn describing, in excruciating detail, his attempts to "obtain a release from the USES [United States Employment Service] of the WMC [War Manpower Commission]", which had been created only three days prior.

I noticed a few similarities with some current Yelp reviews:

  • Someone felt the need to voice their opinion, whether to vent or to warn other job seekers about the challenges they would face.
  • The letter was written anonymously, and no names were named, so it was less about a specific person and more about a specific problem. 
  • This reprint had obviously struck a chord with the person who tucked it away in a book. Maybe it helped him or her make a decision or influenced their own job hunt.
These days it's a lot easier to voice an opinion due to review sites, and hopefully that makes customer feedback more accessible to business owners. However, there are still some steps you can follow to make to encourage people to provide constructive criticism:

1. Show You're Listening.

Ask people for feedback by creating an online survey or creating a simple poll on Facebook. If you have a physical location, provide comment cards people can fill out, and post the Yelp logo in a prominent place.

2. Respond to Reviews.

Whether positive or negative, someone took the time to provide you with feedback. Publicly thank the person for taking the time to write a review and address some of the issues or compliments they mentioned. Whether or not you are building a relationship with that reviewer, future visitors will see a responsive business owner.

3. Thank your Critics.

When you make a big change due to client feedback, let all your clients know their opinion was the driving decision. Even if they weren't the person who made the suggestion, they will appreciate feeling like you are willing to take their needs into consideration.

Have any other suggestions on how to receive and use feedback? Let us know below.

Methods and Resources to Promote Social Media

Social Sonar - Friday, December 07, 2012

The best way to get more "likes" on Facebook and followers on Twitter is to let your customers know about your sites. Below are some business cards and flyers with default text you can edit and order or print out. We recommend ordering from OvernightPrints.com. They are very reasonably-priced and high quality. We actually use them for our own business cards.

To promote Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Google Places:

  • Add Facebook and Twitter icons to your website in a prominent place, usually the top right.
  • Add your Facebook and Twitter links on business cards, invoices, flyers, ads, and email signatures.
  • Create a business card (like the one below) with your profile addresses. 
  • Post a small flyer in your window and on your counter. We made ours a double. Just print it on glossy paper and cut it into two halves.

To encourage signups for your email newsletter:

  • Keep an iPad or laptop at the front so people can sign up for your email newsletter.
  • If you don't have an extra laptop, but your database allows you to enter email addresses, your staff should ask customers as they are paying if they would like to be added to your email list in order to receive discounts and the latest news. This is the safest method and saves the most time, since you will be able to export these emails to your email newsletter software later. 
  • If your current database does not allow you to enter email addresses and export them, print out a form (like the one below) you can put on your front counter in order to collect email addresses. To better protect your clients' personal information, your staff should keep the form on a clipboard behind the front desk and only present it to a client after they have agreed to sign up.
Business Card FrontBusiness Card Front
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Business Card BackBusiness Card Back
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Half Sheet Flyer Promoting Facebook and TwitterHalf Sheet Flyer Promoting Facebook and Twitter
Adobe Illustrator CS4
Newsletter Signup SheetNewsletter Signup Sheet
Microsoft Word 2008

Learning from Negative Yelp Reviews: Keep Calm and Carry On

Social Sonar - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

surveyEveryone has an opinion, and people certainly aren't afraid to express them, especially on sites like Yelp. In fact, Yelp rewards some reviewers with elite status, which gives yelpers access to private parties and events. Yelp encourages reviews and highlights small business on their 78-million-monthly-unique-visitors site, however, negative feedback can affect potential consumers.

How can a small business turn negative Yelp feedback into something positive? Well let's start by suggesting you take a moment and walk away from your computer. After all, this is your business, and you've worked hard to create excellent relationships with your consumers. It would be unrealistic for anyone to say that you shouldn't get a bit angry or upset.

Once you've taken a few moments begin to read the reviews, ask yourself, "Do I see a pattern?" Are consumers upset about how quickly service was provided? Are they upset that a purchased item did not meet their expectations? Did the consumer feel they were met with rude behavior?

This is a perfect time to examine how you can improve as a business. If service is the consistent issue, think about hiring a few more employees to ensure your team isn't overwhelmed. Why not take this opportunity to talk to your team about the issues that have been brought up?

  1. Ask staff if they feel this has been a consistent problem.
    It's likely your customers aren't the only ones frustrated with a recurring issue.
  2. Start to troubleshoot.
    What are some reasons this issue is occurring?
  3. Ask for staff feedback.
    They work there too, and want the business to succeed. Many large companies like Google rely on people directly in contact with the customer in order to come up with ideas.
  4. Remain objective.
    Remember, objectivity is key in turning a negative into a positive. Seeing the issue from an outsider's perspective will enable you to come up with a solution.

Now that you've addressed the issues internally, and hopefully found solutions, it's time to reach out to the Yelp reviewer. Addressing the negative talking points the reviewer has indicated on their post is the best way to respond. Be courteous and thank them for their feedback. The consumer will be happy to know that you listened to them and will hopefully end up with a more positive opinion of your business.

Remember that negative feedback can be a good thing when taken constructively. It will improve your business and allow you to connect with consumers.

7 Reasons to Outsource Your Social Media Management

Social Sonar - Friday, October 12, 2012

1. It's Cheaper.

Using a low cost solution is far cheaper than an agency and frees up employee time to grow your business in other ways.

2. It's Safer.

There is always going to be a flow of feedback, and whether it's positive or negative, it's nice to have someone respond who is one step removed and skilled in damage control.

Business Owner Relaxing with Coffee

Relax. A trained professional has your social media under control.

3. It's Always on.

Your employees will love you if someone else is watching Facebook and Twitter 24/7, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.

4. It Allows Focus.

Paying someone to cover the basics of writing and responding frees up your time and expertise to do bigger marketing pushes, like sweepstakes and videos.

5. It's More Effective.

People who craft content for social media know how to word posts to increase engagement and maximize responses, something that takes time and experience to learn.

6. It's Up to Date.

Facebook and Twitter are constantly changing. Someone who spends all day every day in those channels is on top of the latest trends and will adjust your program accordingly.

7. It Buys Peace of Mind.

You can sleep well at night knowing someone has Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp under control.

Ménage à Trois: A Marketing Love Story

Social Sonar - Monday, October 08, 2012

Ménage à Trois translates to "Household of three". Here at Social Sonar, we often talk about the Virtuous Cycle, the three services that complement and feed each other seamlessly to create a cohesive marketing program and serve as the basis for all other efforts. Combining services does more than triple your reach; it has a multiplying effect.

Virtuous Cycle of Marketing

1. Blogging

Maintaining a blog is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business. Not only does a blog educate your customers and demonstrate your expertise, it also greatly improves your search engine ranking. Every blog post increases the number of keywords and pages on your site, so search engines will rank your url more highly than other websites with less information.

Having a more highly-ranked site ensures more traffic to your blog, which leads to more people signing up for email newsletters, and more people liking your Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you run any Google AdWords campaigns, you can actually pay less and be ranked higher than less informative sites.

Blog posts also provide you with unique content to promote in your Facebook and Twitter messages, as well as your email newsletter. You can even run targeted marketing campaigns linking to specific blog posts, which are easier to set up than landing pages.

2. Social Media

Updating Facebook and Twitter pages shows customers your business is healthy, and you are keeping up with the times. Rather than expecting people to visit your website, you are meeting them where they already hang out and making it easy for them to interact with your business or check your hours.

Social media is an ideal tool to drive customers to your website when you need them to take an action. For example, you can promote your recent blog post on Facebook and Twitter. People click the link to visit your blog and spend time on your site, where you can convince them to make an appointment or call with questions.

You can even run specials on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Post a unique coupon code and send people to your website to make the purchase. You get to keep more money than if you partnered with a deal site like Groupon or Living Social.

Tell other fans on your Facebook and Twitter pages about your positive Yelp reviews, and encourage them to review you. You can even link directly to the positive review!

3. Email Marketing

Gaining the trust to receive an email address is one of the most powerful marketing relationships you can build. Make sure you always send relevant content so recipients are less likely to unsubscribe.

Blog posts are ideal for ensuring your emails are always interesting and informative. They enable you to take a "Something for Everyone" approach, as we mentioned in our blog post What Saturday Night Live Teaches Us About Email Marketing.

Facebook and Twitter are great tools to promote signing up for your email newsletters. People who sign up to receive your emails are more likely to make a purchase than someone who has only liked you on Facebook or followed you on Twitter.

This recent article from TIME states, "Forty-eight percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends, or retailers, but less than 1% of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links... For repeat shoppers, 30% of online purchases begin with an e-mail from the retailer."

Our complete package offers everything you need for the basis of a healthy marketing program: Blogging, Social Media, and Email Marketing. Give us a call at 1-866-843-4490 or send an email to service@socialsonar.com to find out how our customized automated solution can work for your business.

Responding Publicly to Negative Yelp Reviews as a Dentist, Chiropractor, Therapist, or Doctor

Social Sonar - Thursday, September 27, 2012
Getting a negative Yelp review is a true source of frustration for any business owner. There are two ways to deal with negative reviews: one is to message the person privately apologizing for their bad experience and hoping to come to a positive resolution. However, if there are outright lies in the review, or you don’t feel like sending a private message is going to help the situation, you can respond publicly to correct the errors for the sake of future patients or customers reading the review.

Unhappy SmokerYour advice to quit smoking may not have been well-received...
Responding publicly is only recommended for situations where there is no way to salvage the relationship privately first.

Here’s Yelp’s official take on it:
... we always recommend trying to resolve issues through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.
Responding publicly to negative Yelp reviews is particularly tricky for anyone who needs to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which provides federal protections for personal health information. There is nothing in Yelp’s guidelines which prevents patients from revealing their own personal health information. However, in order to comply with HIPAA and maintain privacy, it’s best to respond in generalities rather than talk about a patient’s specific visit.

Stating your policies is generally a safe tactic. For example, if someone is complaining the final bill from their insurance more than they expected, or their insurance didn’t cover what they thought it would, you could respond with something like the following:
We’re sorry you ended up paying more out of pocket. We check the insurance policy of each patient when we estimate the bill. However, we can’t guarantee the insurance company will pay what they state on their website. We also can’t guarantee the information they provided us is up-to-date. This is why the total bill sometimes differs from the original estimate. You can learn more about our insurance policies on our website: [link to Insurance Information on your website].
One of the most common types of reviews we see are complaints from deal seekers who purchased a Groupon or LivingSocial deal, and then expected the business owner to honor it after it expired. Some businesses still accept expired deals, and some don’t, but if someone is complaining about it on your Yelp page, future discount shoppers are going to see it. Therefore, it’s a good idea to respond with your official policy, which may sound like this:
We're sorry you were dissatisfied with your booking. Our deal ran for six months. The promotional value is valid for services rendered on or before the expiration date. Deal site vouchers to be redeemed after the expiration date and without prior exception granted by the company will be for the amount the customer paid; the balance of the payment for the service performed is due at the time of service.
Responding with facts and policies should help anyone reading the review in the future figure out the truth for themselves. The worst that can happen is another one star review from the same angry patient, which doesn’t count as an additional review in your rating.

In conclusion, when replying publicly on Yelp, it’s best to be completely factual and general in your reply. This ensures you comply with HIPAA and protect yourself from lawsuits.

Do you have more questions about Yelp or review sites? Have a Yelp horror story? Send us an email at service@socialsonar.com or call us at (866) 843-4490.

Social Media: Secret Sales Department

Social Sonar - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Benjamin in DisguiseThe #1 thing every business wants from Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and blogs is money, either from current customers or returning ones. Measuring the effect of your blog, email newsletter, and Facebook and Twitter accounts without coupon codes is a nearly impossible task.

There is compelling evidence social media helped you make sales, whether you realized it or not.

Influence Purchases

When someone searches for your company on Google, some of the links that normally show up in the search results are your blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp pages. The searcher may decide to make a purchase based on what they see on these sites, whether your realize it or not.

One of our customers is a chiropractor who used to rely heavily on Yellow Pages. He had a new client come in and cite Yellow Pages as her source for finding the business. During the course of her appointment, however, she admitted to reading his recent blog posts, and they helped her make the final decision to use his services.

Add Legitimacy

A few years ago, it wasn't guaranteed every business had a website. Almost all business owners now realize the importance of having a website to allow customers to find them. A Facebook page and Twitter account are just as important now as a website was then. Having these pages shows your business is up-to-the times, and thus thriving.

Expand Your Presence

People love to share what they are doing, where they are going, and the coolest new things they found. People often tag businesses in posts. If you don't have a Facebook page or Twitter handle, you're missing out on free word-of-mouth advertising. On the converse, the ability to be tagged in posts allows your current customers to easily introduce new, potential customers to your business.

One of our customers owns a loose leaf tea store. His customers often mention his Twitter handle in their tweets and tag his Facebook fan page in their posts as a way to brag about going to his store or post a picture of themselves enjoying his tea.

Raise Your Rank and Reduce Paid Marketing Costs

Having a higher search engine ranking naturally leads to more sales and cheaper Cost Per Click. The higher your natural search rank is on Google, the less you pay for AdWords bids. Thankfully, your blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account all raise the ranking of your website for better visibility and more sales.

The simple truth is customers now increasingly expect you to have a social media presence. Whether your efforts on these platforms yield sales all depends on how active you are and how often you engage your customers.

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. 


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.