When we first caught a glimpse of Facebook’s Timeline layout for business pages, we were immediately excited about the new opportunities this layout would bring for brands and businesses of all sizes. While there are some big changes in terms of functionality, there is no reason to worry. Be one of the first businesses to embrace Timeline by becoming familiar with new features and how best to leverage them for success.
The Cover Photo
Previously, profile photos were a standard 180×540 and while they have now become smaller, they are supported by a much stronger visual area (851×315) designated to the cover photo. The fun part about this new layout is that the images overlap so there’s the possibility to create some seriously fun and creative designs that flow from one photo to the other.
Facebook has made it clear that there are some serious restrictions when it comes to cover photos so be sure you’re not in violation of any terms before you get too attached to a certain concept or idea. Use this space to promote who you are and what you do. Keep in mind this image is public and as a business using Timeline, you no longer have the option to send new visitors to a unique tab to share information. When new users visit your page, this cover photo is the first thing they’ll see so make it count!
Cover photos must be at least 399 pixels wide and may not contain:
-Price or purchase information such as “50% off sale” or “download this on our website”
-Contact information such as web address, email, mailing address or other information that is intended for your page’s about section
-References to user interface elements such as the “Like” button or any other Facebook site feature
-Calls to action such as “tell your friends” or “get this giveaway now”
Views and Apps
All the tabs that once appeared on the left hand side of your brand page under your profile photo now have a new home. Each tab is also accompanied by a featured photo allowing for further customization. This is the area where all your custom tabs have been dropped and before you go live with Timeline, you’ll need to sort through your options and decide which you want to feature and if there are any that need to be added or removed. Is that custom landing page still something you want to have available for visitors to see? What do you want to feature that you can’t include on your cover photo? These are a few of the questions you’ll need to ask yourself before you know how to move forward.
Pinned, Highlighted and Hidden Posts
If you post something important that you want visitors to see first and foremost, you can use the pinned posts function to “pin” this update at the very top of your Timeline for up to seven days. This feature can come in real handy for event listings or time sensitive material!
As a business, you can highlight important stories so they are featured on your Timeline and in the same respect, you can hide less important or less-engaging posts from visitors. Often times dull or stagnant posts can take away from the overall vibe of a page so don’t be afraid to hide certain content to improve the overall feel.
Gone are the days when all posts look identical. A new feature allows you to make posts on your Timeline look larger than the typical size. Enlarging posts can be very beneficial when bright visuals are involved or when you really want to make something stand out. Keep in mind that it’s important to use this feature wisely! A timeline full of larger posts will be annoying to navigate and unpleasing to view so be sure to choose wisely when it comes to which posts deserve to be made larger.
Since Facebook’s new layout is designed to resemble a literal timeline, milestones play an key role in highlighting important events and accomplishments throughout the life cycle of a business. Some businesses that have been around for a long time finally have an ability to boast about their rich history and share it with visitors. Highlighting when your business started, when you got your first office, your first employee, won your first award etc is a great way to show people how far you’ve come. In the same respect, let’s keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Find a balance when it comes to creating milestones and know what is best left as a milestone celebrated in your own mind.
Your visitors may be customers or potential customers so offering them the ability to contact you directly without leaving your business page is essential. This is the first time brands will be able to speak directly and privately to their networks on Facebook and it’s sure to have a positive effect on their customer service. Be sure to keep an eye on your private messages. It may be an excellent new feature but if messages are being ignored, it can just as quickly turn into a burden or a catalyst for negative feedback.
Opinions and perspectives can be mixed, but generally, many restaurants have jumped on the daily deal site bandwagon to provide their current and potential new clientele with meal deals. Deal sites such as Groupon, Living Social, Kijiji Daily Deals and locally based businesses like Swarm Jam and Smart Betty, allow businesses to provide daily offers to the public. These bargains are available to subscribers based on their location and they change on a daily basis. These deals can be anything from 50% off an entire meal purchase to discounted two-can-dine options. These sites operate through the power of group buying. Each daily deal will become active as long as the number of purchases reaches a certain pre-determined quota. Various methods of promotion such as email, website, social media platforms (Facebook & Twitter) and even mobile apps, provide subscribers with daily deal notifications. Each day these sites offer a new featured deal that is purchased online directly through their websites or mobile apps. Once you have purchased the deal, your voucher/coupon can either be printed or presented via your mobile device at the time of use.
These group buying sites are mutually beneficial to all parties involved in the sense that both the business and customer reap the advantages from the daily deal. It’s an especially unique opportunity for new, small or unadvertised businesses because it allows them to promote their restaurants and persuade new clientele to try their offerings by providing them with a deal that’s hard to turn down. Not all businesses are marketing or social media savvy, so these sites are able to do all of the promoting and advertising, as well as create the media ‘buzz’ needed to sell your deals. Additionally, when you decide to work with daily deal sites, you gain access to their mailing list and members in your particular local market that you could not otherwise obtain on your own. Any restaurant knows that they are only as strong as their customer base. Obtaining new patrons, as well as showing appreciation to their existing ones, is extremely vital to their existence.
Considering that working with these sites is commission based, you want to be certain that you make a positive return on your investment. In order to do so, there are some things to be aware of before you decide to pursue. You must be able to:
1. Turn as many new customers into return patrons.
2. Create a positive experience for customers so it can elicit the spread of positive reviews to others (word of mouth).
3. Handle the increased volume of customers while continually providing the same high level of superior service.
4. Continue to provide your regular and loyal customers with the same level of service they are used to.
Keeping in mind the combination of today’s consumer who frequents restaurants and the low recession-induced spending power, these deals meet the needs of the general public. Individuals and families on a budget or those simply looking to save on their frequent dining habits are given an opportunity to save significantly. Deal sites also make committing to trying a new establishment a lot less risky and therefore reduces the amount of post-purchase dissonance. There is no doubt that a demand for these deal site offerings exists so the response and traffic that a restaurant will receive through participating is promising.
Whether you are a new or established business in need of advertising and a new audience, deal sites might be the answer for you as long as you take into consideration the risks involved and be prepared to overcome them.
Customer retention is a top priority for most businesses as acquiring new customers is significantly more expensive than retaining the ones you already have. With advancements in social media, customer loyalty programs are adopting new concepts. Here are some of the ways social media can help your business build customer loyalty:
Creating A Personal Bond
Customers enjoy knowing that they can create a direct relationship with your business. Being able to directly communicate and “bond” with customers through platforms such as Facebook or Twitter can provide them with a feeling of closeness. The customer will feel personally connected, thus forming a loyal business relationship for the future.
Feedback And Responses
Customers love to leave feedback, both good and bad, in relation to their experiences with businesses. Social media has made it possible for businesses to connect with their customers and not only receive feedback, but provide direct responses. Not only is it great to receive a response, but thanks to social media, you can now expect a response in a much more timely manner. The customer will receive a sense of appreciation when a response is elicited and will enjoy further conducting business with you.
Usage of social media platforms such as Groupon, Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook has been on the rise. These platforms provide customers a direct link with benefits to using a businesses’ services or connecting with a business online. Customers enjoy receiving a “little something extra” in addition to conducting regular business with you. It acts as an incentive to remain loyal rather and deters them from exploring the competition.
Social media provides new venues for customers to access your business. The more convenient it is, the better. Increased accessibility equals increased reach and exposure. If your business is available on various social media platforms, it increases the number of ways your customers can form an attachment with you. The more ways that a customer can connect with you, the more likely the exposure will create a long lasting relationship with your business.
Businesses are now better able to track the behaviours, likes and dislikes of their customers through the use of social media. If businesses are better able to track this valuable information, they can then better provide their customers with what they want. By providing them with current, popular and desired products and services, the customer will feel understood and want to continually conduct business with a company who directly suits and adapts to their evolving needs.
As described in McClelland’s Theory of Needs, ‘need for affiliation’ is “the need for open and sociable interpersonal relationships.” Instinctively, people want to feel included. If the customer feels included as part of your business (i.e a follower on Twitter), they will likely remain loyal to your business based on the attachment. The feeling of being included in a group or having membership with your business will solidify the relationship and result in a long term sense of belonging for customers.
Businesses often find themselves bombarded with comments in reference to their business, services and products. Most fear the dreaded negative comments or remarks that customers post on the internet for all to see. There are two ways to go about dealing with these comments, the right way and the wrong way. It would be easy to simply ignore, delete or lash out at the comment or customer, but the repercussions of these actions would be far more damaging than the negative comment itself. Here are some steps to help you properly and effectively manage negative comments.
Stop And Think
It may be instinct to react quickly, but it’s important to remember to stop, think about the comment and absorb what’s being said. This is when you should take a moment to understand where the comment is coming from and what the intent of the poster is.
Determine the type of criticism. Not all negative comments are the same, so it’s important to determine what type of criticism you are dealing with. Is the comment a legitimate complaint, a suggestion for improvement or an attack on your business for no valid reason? Does the customer just want to be heard or are they maliciously criticising? Identify what the comment’s target is before you decide on the appropriate plan of action.
Respond In A Timely Manner
When a customer takes the time out to express how they feel about your business, it’s only fair that you should return the favour. Not only should you always respond to comments, but you should do so promptly. Responding within an appropriate time frame lets the customer know that you care about their input and want to address the situation. This demonstrates that the customer’s feedback is important to your business. The only exception to the rule is when a comment is made without reason or solely made to be damaging (known as trolling or spam); these should be removed to avoid further confrontation.
Be Approachable For Further Conversation
It is important to reply to comments made on the platform they were originally posted on. This not only provides a direct connection, but looks good in the eyes of other customers who can see that you have addressed a fellow customer’s comments. An important lesson here is to always leave additional contact information so the customer can contact you personally to further discuss an issue. This way, if necessary, you can handle the issue in a more private and personal manner; away from the eyes of other online viewers.
Be Both Helpful And Apologetic
We have all heard the saying “the customer is always right” and at times like these, they are words to live by. You will gain respect and maintain a good reputation by apologizing for the situation or issue which ignited the negative comment. A sincere “We’re sorry” will not only defuse the situation, but will put the customer at ease knowing that you understand where they are coming from. Additionally, advise them that you will address the issue mentioned and will do your very best to find a solution (within reason) that suits both sides. They want to know that action is being taken.
Maintain Your Composure
Do not damage your reputation by lashing out at the customer who made the negative comment. Although these types of comments can be frustrating to deal with, always maintain control of your emotions and deal with the comment or customer accordingly. Inappropriate responses or actions will be much more damaging in the long run and will result in a loss of respect for the way in which you handle business. You do not want your tactless actions to reflect poorly on your business.
Value what customers have to say about you and your business. Even though negative comments can be hard to swallow, take it as a lesson learned or view it as constructive criticism. Don’t be quick to go on the defensive or react negatively; there is always something to be learned, and you should see it as an opportunity to work towards fixing any flaws. Always investigate what the customer has to say and try to improve upon the issue. Reassure the customer that you are doing everything in your power to address and fix the issue.
Not only should you address the negative comments posted by customers, but also show appreciation to those who have taken the time to leave you positive remarks or compliments. These types of comments are just as important to respond to as the bad ones so show some acknowledgment and gratitude towards them as well!
From my own personal observation and experience, I have noticed that there are many people and business within Windsor-Essex that just aren’t ready to explore the endless opportunities that social media has to offer them. I’m debating whether they fear the unknown, hold preconceived notions or just haven’t discovered the worthwhile benefits yet. The top reasons people/businesses repel social media are:
• “It’s too time consuming”
• “I have no use for it” or “it’s not for me”
• “I don’t know how to use it”
• “It doesn’t benefit me (no ROI)”
• “I don’t know what it is”
I have come to realize that many still don’t understand what social media is or the extent of its abilities; it much deeper than most people are aware of. It goes far beyond simply having a Facebook account to ‘creep’ friends or viewing Youtube videos of a giggling baby; social media is a tool that can unleash endless personal and business opportunities. Non-users need to stop being so resistant to the unknown and instead, open up their minds to this valuable and easily accessible resource.
Businesses especially, put themselves at a severe disadvantage when they do not use social media because they aren’t accessing the resources and tools that other businesses are taking advantage of. The top reasons that businesses are currently using social media are:
• To keep up with industry trends
• To monitor what is being said about their business
• To improve customer experience
• For recruitment research
• To gain competitive intelligence
• For marketing and promotional purposes
What business wouldn’t want to tap into these valuable resources? Many in fact! Roughly 65% of Canadian businesses are currently not using any form of social media. The main reason why businesses are not taking advantage of social media is a lack of education. Education is the key to helping non-users, non-believers and avoiders discover the extensive and beneficial functions that social media has to offer them. As we can see above, the top reasons why people do not take part in social media are mainly the result of a misconception or lack of knowledge.
If more people and businesses in our community were educated about what social media is, how to effectively use it and what its benefits are, we would all be able to mutually benefit from the abundance of new and diverse material and activity available. We, as users, need to recruit and educate others to discover the wonderful world of social media. Its sharing, educating and networking abilities, to name a few, should not be kept secret…let’s work together to spread the word in Windsor-Essex!
Social media platforms will be a major source of information and persuasion for this year’s holiday shoppers, and many consumers will turn to their social networks to help them navigate through the online crowds. Online shopping is the key retail trend to follow, as more are turning to their devices in order to help them make informed purchase decisions. With the stress, time-constraints, and strict budgets associated with the holidays, it’s no surprise that social media will play a huge role in businesses hoping to maximize their profits during the last quarter of the 2011 fiscal year.
Whether they’re comparing prices, reading reviews, or actively making purchases, the average holiday shopper plans to do 46% of their holiday shopping online, according to the latest research conducted by the National Retail Institute.
The same survey also found that 29.2% of consumers (that’s nearly 3 in 10) will check out a company’s Facebook page for more information about products, consumer reviews, or holiday promotions, while 65.1% plan on reading customer reviews on a company’s website. A similar survey conducted by the marketing research firm, SymphonyIRI, breaks down exactly how consumers plan on using the Internet during the 2011 holiday season. 61% of consumers will use more coupons from group couponing websites (as opposed to only 33% in 2010), 48% will take advantage of promotions learned online, and 43% plan on comparing products online via blogs, forums, and other social platforms.
According to Deloitte’s 2011 Holiday Survey, 44% of consumers will use social media as part of their holiday shopping process. Below is a breakdown of how consumers plan on using social media:
As a business, how can you use social media to help you maximize your success during the 2011 holiday season?
Update Is The New “Up Sell”
It is extremely important to keep consumers up to date on all the latest promotions, discounts, one-time deals, and exciting new product linesas holiday shoppers are in hot pursuit of deals, reviews and coupons. By continuously pushing new updates across your social platforms you can easily increase your business’ presence by staying relevant with key search words. In addition, a frenzy of updates will filter through the viral tunnel which will ultimately send more people in your business’ direction.
Integrate your social posts with your other online advertising communications (such as emails, banners etc). This allows for instant feedback and analytics that can help optimize conversation and response rates by responding to your customer’s needs and preferences in real time.
Don’t Just Entice Customers With Your Promotions, Engage Them
Spread the news about your unique promotions (Clickz suggests activities such as: gift registries, holiday countdowns, and price altering) through your social networks. By adding opt-in and registration opportunities, like Facebook tabs, you can easily drive value and add engagement while at the same time growing your databases for more effective conversations even after the holidays.
Respond With Rewards
Incorporate incentives such as exclusive offers and loyalty events for social community members. Make a reward available for those consumers who engage with your holiday campaigns and who help to spread the word.
Integrate The Ability To Make Purchases
46.7% of holiday shoppers will buy online this year, so why not use those online purchases to leverage your social media platforms? Use your Facebook page to offer purchasing opportunities (this is known as F-commerce). Clickz also suggests using your social platforms to create social events around big commerce events, like “Chat With The Designer”.
So, get to where your consumers are this holiday season. Respond to the latest trends and shifts in holiday shopping behaviors, and leverage your social media presence in order to maximize your profits in the fourth quarter and beyond. Remember, you need to keep your consumers up-to-date with fresh, exciting content, and compelling, unique promotions, as this year’s holiday shoppers are all about price discounts, product reviews, and comparative shopping. There are also a number of many creative ways to extend your success and capitalize on conversions by incorporating your existing social platforms. If you’re overwhelmed by these tasks, or are in unsure of how your business fits in with this new holiday shopping model, turn to the experts here at Blab! For suggestions, strategies and executions.
This weekend Hurricane Irene managed to cause some serious damage along the east coast. After having it’s own Twitter account and seeing millions of American’s updating on social networks about the storm’s damage, it got us thinking about how social media has changed the way the world reacts to emergency situations. When there’s a storm in our home town, Windsor Ontario, discussions begin on Twitter, residents update each other on conditions and damage, and the community comes together online. We’ve found an infographic that illustrates how American’s use social media tools in emergencies.
Just this week we started using Google+ to see what all the hype was about. At first we were unimpressed with the simple profiles and the lack of customization options but soon after we remembered a time when Facebook was the same way. There is no doubt that over time Google+ will grow and develop into a more diversified and detailed social network but in the meantime, it’s a nice reminder that sometimes less is more. Whether you haven’t been able to wrangle up an invite yet, you have no interest in trying it out, you hate Google, love Google or are obsessed with Facebook, this post will give you some insight into Google+ features and help you make that tough decision; to use or not to use?
Google+ places a strong emphasis on privacy features and tends to shy away from universal openness exhibited by other social networks like Twitter. Everything you do and share on Google+ revolves around your circles. These circles represent different acquaintances in your life. They are personalized and organized by you into groups such as friends, family, professional etc. Whenever you upload new content or update your status on Google+, you have the option to specify which circles can see your content.
We all like certain things and it’s no surprise that we want to follow topics online, share information and start a conversation with people who share the same interests. Sparks is a feature offered by Google+ that allows users to do just that. Just enter your interests in the Sparks search bar and Google immediately delivers a feed of content from across the internet on any topic you want in over 40 languages. You can even bookmark topics for quick future access. Sparks is well organized, visually appealing and easy to navigate making it a must-use feature that’s bound to take up a lot of your time!
Everyone loves to socialize so it’s no surprise that Google+ has managed to incorporate Hangouts as a unique feature on it’s network. Hangouts allows up to ten people to participate in a group video chat. The best part about this feature is that anyone can launch it and when you do so, it shows up in your activity stream so any of your circle contacts that are online can join in at any time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes a Google+ favourite!
Almost everyone has a smartphone these days so mobile applications are growing in popularity. Instant Upload is a photo sharing app that lets you add photos directly from your phone into a private album that you can share with anyone in just one click. As of yet, there is no limit on the file size, the number of albums or the number of photos. When it comes to video uploading, Google+ has restrictions that limit each video to 15 minutes but they allow up to 1080p resolution.
Have you ever tried texting four of your friends at once to try and plan a movie date? With Huddle, a group messaging app, you can let all your friends within a certain circle know what’s going on and you can all chat together in one place at the same time. It’s essentially like Blackberry messenger for Android devices.
Unfortunately these mobile apps are geared towards Android devices for the time being and there’s no telling if mobile apps will ever be available for Blackberry or iPhone users. Based on Google’s relationship with Apple, I doubt the apps will ever be compatible with Apple products but only time will tell.
Google+ is definitely a work in progress. There are no doubt bugs that need to be fixed and kinks that need to be worked out but it seems like the foundation has been set and from what we can tell, it’s solid this time. Long gone are the days of Orkut, Wave and Buzz. Hopefully this time Google hits a home run and gives Facebook a run for their money. With a sleek user-interface that makes excellent use of white space, new innovative features and simple functionality, Google+ is positioned to make it’s mark on social networking. Have you tried it yet? Let us know what you think!
Coupons are not a new concept. Chances are your family has been saving money for years by cutting out coupons from flyers and as the times changed, printing them from the internet. The truth is, everyone loves to save money and Groupon’s business is built around the public’s desire for a good deal. Group buying has recently become a growing phenomenon. As consumers begin to realize the benefits, businesses are jumping on the bandwagon to offer whatever deals they can.
Each day, Groupon offers a new deal on food, retail merchandise, or experiences in your city. As a user you can purchase these deals online or through their mobile app. Each deal requires a certain number of users to purchase before it “tips” and becomes active. This ensures that businesses participating get the desired minimum amount of users to purchase. Businesses can also set limits in terms of how many coupons are available for purchase, when they expire, how they can be used etc.
The important thing to remember is that while Groupon is a great business with a great concept, it may not be the best fit for you. There are many factors that come into play when organizing a deal through Groupon and as a business, it’s vital that you’re prepared in advanced.
Can You Afford To Offer The Discount?
The first step in determining if Groupon will work for your business is to start crunching some numbers and learning more about how the process works. Upon investigation, businesses will learn that Groupon typically takes 50% of sales. If your business sells 1000 Groupons for $15 each that’s $15,000 in total so Groupon gets $7,500 and you get the other $7,500. If those 1000 people all come into your business and spend exactly $15, you’re left with no other profit whereas those who come in and spend more than the allotted $15, put that money directly into your pocket. It’s very important to figure out how much your business can sacrifice financially in order to really leverage a group buying deal.
How Will You Handle The Traffic?
Are You Prepared To Track Redemptions?
Once your business has made its appearance on Groupon and customers have purchased the deal, it’s your turn to take over the reins. Each Groupon is only redeemable once, so when the barcode is scanned, the customer forfeits the coupon to the business. The process of tracking redemptions can prove very useful. As a business owner it ensures that you’re aware of how many Groupons have been redeemed so you can plan ahead. Tracking Groupon redemptions helps you stay on top of things and ensure the process runs smoothly. What many businesses fail to realize is that tracking these coupons can provide them with loads of interesting information in terms of buying habits. How much did these Groupon customers spend? When did they redeem the coupons? Did they buy any additional as gifts?
Have You Educated Your Staff and Created a Game Plan?
You’re potentially bringing in new customers with Groupon and you want their first impression to be amazing so they’re enticed to return without a coupon in the future. Ensuring that your staff is educated and prepared to handle Groupons can make all the difference. Do you know how the staff will ring up the deal on the cash register? Do your employees know how to properly track the incoming Groupons? There are many bases that beed to be covered to provide the best user experience possible but preparing things in advance and staying organized can help the process run smoothly.
Have You Done Your Research?
Researching Groupon’s services and reading business case studies can really help steer you in the right direction. It’s important to remember that there are many responsibilities and risks involved with group buying deals, as there are with almost any aspect of marketing. At the end of the day, it all comes down to making an informed decision so you can ensure that your business will be prepared to take advantage of everything Groupon has to offer.