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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!

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

Feeling Yelpless: Real Customer Service

Social Sonar - Saturday, August 27, 2011

So many of us seem to live in a virtual world. We rely on technology to tell us what to do, where to go, how to get there... We are lost if our iPhone dies and we have no access to our contact list, e-mails, texts, Facebook and Twitter. We hardly look up to see what's going on in the world because the entire world is in the palm of our hand.

When a company irritates us, many of us tell Yelp. It is easy to sit somewhat anonymously behind a computer and point fingers and talk about our horrible experience (although, hopefully, if you Yelp about bad experiences, you also Yelp about good ones). Putting aside the recent questions about Yelp's business practices, the concept of the website is actually pretty amazing. Allow people to go and talk about their own experiences so that others can make decisions based on those reviews.

Last year, I had a horrible experience with the service advisers at a local car dealership. After two particularly bad visits in a row (involving out-right lies trying to get me to spend money that I didn't need to spend), I decided to write a Yelp review. After some time passed, I did receive a response from the general manager asking me to return and give them another chance. Initially, I decided not to bother. I had found a new mechanic in the interim and I didn't feel like I needed to give a third, fourth or fifth chance to the dealership.

Fast forward a year. I received a recall notice for my truck. Recall notices mean you need to see a dealer. So I called up my local dealership again (you know, the one I said I would never return to) and made an appointment. The service advisers' desk were arranged differently and I thought to myself, "maybe they've made some changes!" Boy did they -- changes for the worse. This visit pretty much put the final nail in the coffin. The behavior of more than one employee was so out of line that I left almost in tears. I was charged a pretty large amount of money for something that I had no idea I would be paying with a list of many other items to be fixed -- all at a premium price, of course.

I updated my Yelp review to include the new experience and how I lowered my star rating from two to one -- with a note that I'd put zero if Yelp would have allowed me.

A friend suggested I call the dealership.

Huh?

No thanks. I'm Yelping! I don't want their pity, I want to warn other people from having to experience what I experienced!

No, really, maybe you should call.

I couldn't bring myself to call. I was still pretty upset about the whole situation and so I wrote an e-mail. I did not ask for a refund, and I did not ask for them to fix anything for me for free. I just factually stated what happened and how disappointing it was for a customer to be treated the way I was treated. I ended up receiving several e-mails from managers of this, that and the other. Everyone apologized all over themselves. Then the owner/general manager called and left me a message.

I debated awhile, then called him back and we spoke for probably 15 minutes. It was a great conversation. I explained that I just wanted him to know how his employees were acting when he wasn't looking. He seemed to genuinely appreciate the feedback. I did end up getting a full refund and some offers of freebies to come back. I haven't decided whether I'll return yet. But I do feel like taking my complaint outside of the virtual world and actually speaking to another human helped me get the closure that writing a Yelp review sometimes does not get you. (caveat: If you have a hot temper, this might not always work for you.)

I won't stop writing Yelp reviews. I like to review the good and the bad. But I now have a greater appreciation for human contact. Next time you have a bad experience with a company, maybe a call to the owner or manager will get you the results you were hoping for. This way you aren't sitting behind your computer with your negative Yelp review and nothing to show for it.

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!

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.

The Dish on Yelp

Alison Kawa - Saturday, June 25, 2011

For my entire life, I have always heard, "the customer is always right." This used to be a general saying meaning businesses would do what they could, within reason, to keep their customers happy and returning to their store. I don't know about you, but I have noticed lately that a lot of employees seem to know nothing about customer service. They are so far removed from the owners or management that the importance of customer loyalty means nothing.

Enter Yelp.

Yelp is a website that allows you, the consumer, to enter a review of a company. If Company A made you the happiest girl on earth, you can shout to the world that they made your day. If Company B gave you the worst service you've ever had, you can warn the masses to stay away from them. The hope is that enough honest reviews would be given so you could tell from the high number or good (or bad) reviews whether you should spend your money at that store.

Initially, Yelp did not allow store owners to respond to customer complaints on their site. Yelp would monitor postings to make sure that they were truly reviews, and not users fighting back and forth about whether a company actually was a good or bad place to shop. I did watch one of those fights go down once. My hair stylist's former landlord wrote some pretty nasty things on her personal Yelp listing once. A few users jumped in to defend the stylist. Yelp quickly removed all of the posts.

I have not had personal experience with what I am about to say, but I have had more than one person tell me a similar story so I believe it to be true. Some business owners claim that if they wanted to remove negative reviews from their listing, Yelp would tell them they had to pay a monthly fee. Business owners claimed it was extortion. A lawsuit seems to have changed how Yelp is doing business. Store owners are now more regularly responding to reviews. To most, it sounds like a great idea.

In my eyes, it opened up a whole new can of worms.

Last year, a group of friends and I went to a restaurant/bar for happy hour (we call ourselves the Mojito Girls). We usually meet up once a month for social hour after work. We often go to the same restaurant. They have 3-1/2 stars out of five on Yelp, with 462 reviews. To me, that's pretty good. They offer great specials, have delicious food and amazing drinks. This particular night, we had a terrible time. We started out on the wrong foot with the hostess and just continued downhill from there. I wrote them an email about our experience and did not receive a response (look here, businesses, if you're going to list an email address on your website, you really should monitor it and respond to emails). So I wrote a Yelp review -- a not so friendly one.

The owner responded pretty quickly and asked us to give them another chance. She offered a credit of $75 in food and drinks if we would return. So we did -- and we were treated like royalty. The chef sent out free samples of new recipes he was testing. The Bacardi girls were there and brought around free drinks to try. We received shirts and fun necklaces. It was a little over the top and we realized they were overcompensating because the entire staff knew we were "the complainers." But, by the end, we were happy campers. I thanked the owner for their hospitality and updated my review to let people know that we were again satisfied with their service.

A few months later, another restaurant gave us HORRIBLE service. I wrote a Yelp review and, within a week, I had $50 in gift certificates to that restaurant.

I realized I could be sitting on a GOLD MINE! If I wanted to go around writing bad reviews of restaurants, it looked like I could be eating free all the time! That kind of bothered me. I stopped writing bad reviews. I feel like Yelp is a great idea in theory, but I also recognize how easy it is for people to "buy" good reviews. I still read Yelp reviews, but I also take every review with a grain of salt. For most companies, you will find someone who loved them and someone who hated them. I usually scan the reviews, read a few one star reviews, read a few five star reviews, and then make my own choice. I recognize that you cannot make everyone happy all of the time. I also hope that companies are checking out the profiles of those customers writing bad reviews to make sure they are not serial complainers before they offer up freebies in exchange for a better review. Otherwise, some might be eating well for free every night of the week.

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