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LL Bean has about 3,600 people answering its phones, and 10 “wading boot-deep into social media,” according to the New York Times. They further report: the retailer typically fields about 100,000 phone calls a day, but records only about “50,000 social-media mentions on Twitter, blogs, Facebook and YouTube” a month.

Social Media is not easily “slotted” into existing company organizations, limiting impact and effectiveness. It is more than simply “outbound” marketing. It’s also customer service. It’s media relations. It’s a branding vehicle. In short, social media can be a tool for several departments. This cross-organizational function is the primary reason many companies are not pro-active in social media.

Guest Relations Marketing can help establish a work plan and training that allows correct implementation inside your company. We also consult on best social media practices for your business and resources. Of course, we handle social media in a turn-key manner for clients as well.

Regardless of whether you engage us or another firm, we highly recommend an internal strategic plan that identifies where and how you plan to engage in social media. As the New York Times article pointed out, “in many ways, these digital conversations are not all that different from those by phone, which can be chats about favorite Bean products, and speak to the company’s 99-year tradition of warm-and-fuzzy customer service.”

With all the changes going on in the world of social media, including the recent changes Facebook has made, it can be hard to keep your brand’s Page current and compliant with the latest technologies.

Through two of their upcoming platform updates, Facebook is focused on further engaging its users with the site, thus increasing time on site and integrated experience levels. New rollouts of updates such as Facebook “Verbs” and “Timeline” will change the way in which users interact, providing new opportunities for brands to be creative and be a part of the conversation too.

With Verbs, instead of simply giving something a “Like,” Facebook users will have more options on actions to enjoy. Imagine a button where someone clicks because they “Want” your product. With the Timeline, Facebook intends for your profile to become more “the story of your life.” Determining how your brand plays into someone’s story is up to you.

If you’re looking for a better way to manage your brand online, give us a call to discuss further how we may be of service and to hear more about what we’re doing with other clients.

Found this awesome new app on Mashable on how to turn your Facebook profile photo into a video.  This was an inevitable evolution. Are you going to try it?  Let us know if you do!

Here is the how to:

Enter FlipYourProfile, a new Facebook app slash browser plugin that allows you to replace your profile photo with a video. That’s right. You no longer have to have a boring still image in your profile photo box. You can have a moving, breathing, sound-generating profile video on loop.

The app was built by Cisco and DDB Singapore as a way of promoting the former’s line of Flip video cameras.

The application has two catches: First, only those who have the plugin installed will be able to see your video, otherwise they’ll just see your regular Facebook profile photo. Thus, if you want your friends to see your new profile video, you’ll need to persuade them to install it (and perhaps upload a video to their own profiles as well). Secondly, an ad saying, “Amazing! You can post videos on your Facebook profile. Get the app to view my profile vid,” will be automatically posted to your wall should you decide to upload a video.

Still interested? Follow these four steps to upload your own Facebook profile video.

  1. Go to facebook.com/FlipSG and download the browser plugin for Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE.
  2. Restart your browser.
  3. Connect your profile with the app.
  4. Shoot and send video by e-mailing a video from your Flip Video cam to me@flipyourprofile.com, or by using the Profile Maker to shoot a video using your webcam or to upload an existing video (less than 10MB, .flv, .mp4, h.264 only).*

*Note: If you’re using, for example, your iPhone to shoot video, you’ll need to use a free file converter like Get Miro to convert your .mov file to one of the compatible formats. You should also shoot your video in horizontal mode; otherwise, it will appear sideways on your profile.

Interesting post today from Mashable.  According to the Red Cross more than half of folks would use Facebook to notify their friends and loved ones that they were ok during a natural emergency.  Is Facebook your go-to notification device? Let us know what you think.

Here is the article:

The use of social media during national and international crises, both natural and political, is something that Mashable has followed with great interest over the past few years.

As a culture, we started becoming more aware of the power of social media during times of crisis, like when the Iran election in 2009 caused a furor, both on the ground and on Twitter. More recently, the Internet and social media played an important role in spreading news about the earthquake in Haiti and political revolution in Egypt.

But what about other kinds of natural disasters or crime? Can social media be used to good effect then?

In 2009, two girls trapped in a storm water drain used Facebook to ask for help rather than calling emergency services from their mobile phones. At the time, authorities were concerned about the girls’ seemingly counterintuitive action.

However, according to new research from the American Red Cross, the Congressional Management Foundation and other organizations, social media could stand to play a larger and more formal role in emergency response. In fact, almost half the respondents in a recent survey said they would use social media in the event of a disaster to let relatives and friends know they were safe.

Take a look at the data presented below, courtesy of CreditLoan, and in the comments section, let us know how — or if — you would want to use social media during an emergency.


I stopped into Swoozie’s this afternoon for our weekly meeting and couldn’t resist snapping a shot of these oh-so-social cocktail napkins! Rest assured you will see these at our next tweet up …


In full disclosure, Swoozie’s is a client of Guest Relations Marketing; the opinions I express are my own.

Making social media work for you as an independent retailer, when you have just one location, don’t sell online and have the need to move inventory off your shelves – what’s the secret?

Here are a few tips we learned along the way to make your program work harder for you.

We were tasked recently on a four-month project for a local, independent retailer Rocky Mountain Ski & Board. Building and executing a Social Media program for their seasonally driven business provided a few great take-aways for similar businesses.

Give online guests the same experience as in-store guests.
Tell your story online to give the same impression of someone walking through your front door. Share pictures of your products, give people a reason to come visit you. Introduce your employees, tell their story and how it relates to your business.

Provide customer service.

Use your Social Communities to better assist your customers. Encourage them to ask questions, and when they do, respond back to them personally. When are you open? Do you have this in stock? Do you offer this service? Provide value and service to your community.

Welcome in your current customers.

While some customers will find you online, they may not necessarily think to seek you out. Notify your current customers that you are now on Facebook, Twitter and the likes via in-store signage, e-communications and by training your employees to mention it with the customers they are serving.

Leverage the Zealots for your brand.
Target the most passionate & loyal supporters of your store. Educate them, engage them in your online communities as well as in-store and encourage them to share your brand with their like-minded network of friends!

Giving your brick-and-mortar storefront an online presence instantly opens up a whole new audience, filled with both current and potential customers.

If you’re interested in learning more about a Social Media Program for your business, visit us online at www.guestrelationsmarketing.com.

Like many companies, gourmet food brand Bella Cucina realized the importance of Social Media within their marketing mix but felt their program wasn’t working as hard as it could for their business.

Research has shown that of all companies participating in Social Media, only 27% of brands are doing it successfully. Bella Cucina had the luxury (and sweat equity) of having a well-defined brand and content that is both well-written and engaging. Content was not the issue.

The challenge they brought to the team at Guest Relations Marketing was a very focused one – to grow their social media community numbers. Despite well-written posts and a very engaging subject (Italian cooking), Bella Cucina’s social media sites had failed to grow in Followers and Fans.

Thus, the challenge was on. The goal? To grow Facebook Fans by 50% and Twitter Followers by 70% – in one month. Take a look at how we did it.

A Snapshot

To accomplish the goals established for Bella Cucina’s Social Media Program, we wanted to not only grow the communities, but to fill the communities with a targeted consumer who could be a potential long-term customer of the brand. We defined these targets in both demographic and psychographic terms. Quality and quantity were important factors.

We implemented such tactics as online listening, targeted following and using our current community base filled with Supporters and Zealots as a base for generating more like-minded friends to join via word-of-mouth and referral.

We built two promotions that played a part in generating increased readership, participation in discussions and further referral:

The “Artful Entertainer” promotion centered around people writing on the Facebook Wall their secret to artfully entertaining their guests. Winning participants received a gourmet gift basket filled with Bella Cucina products, enabling us to showcase the product as a benefit.

The “Grazie Gifting” promotion was purposely an unpublicized tactic that interacted with one Fan or Follower each day of the month and thanked them for being a community member. Winners received a complimentary product, beautifully packaged and delivered to their home with a thank you note. This promotion led to positive word-of-mouth and referral among people who wanted to share their gift, as well as those who wanted to get in the action for a chance to be selected.

Facebook advertising was the only paid media outlet used to promote the Social Media channels and promotions.

Results

By identifying and activating the Zealots for Bella Cucina and lifestyle interests, we were able to encourage community growth by way of targeting, engagement, word-of-mouth and referral. Engaging the existing community and giving them reason to share information with their peers was key to the success of this campaign.

The results exceeded our original goals:

Facebook Fan growth of 105% (exceeding goal of 50% growth)

Twitter Followers growth of 117% (exceeding goal of 70% growth)

Single-market  (Atlanta) Fan growth of 21%  (market of flagship retail store)

Visits to Facebook Page increased by 60%

Engagement increased by 21% within the communities

Referral on Twitter was 8.5 times greater

We know that targeting Zealots is the surest practice of marketing – whether you are trying to build your customer base or affect sales. Following this holiday promotion, Bella Cucina has committed to an ongoing social media program with Guest Relations.

Visit us online at Guest Relations Marketing to find out more about how we can build more Zealots for your brand.

From Media Post:

To help marketers boost their reach on Facebook, the company has added an option that lets companies advertise to friends of their brand fans on the social network.

The new “Friends of Connections” targeting feature allows you to “expand your audience reach by delivering your ads to the friends of people already connected with your Page, Application, Group or Event,” according to a a post on the Facebook Ads Page. So when someone sees the ad, they will see which of their friends is a fan.

Previously, advertisers could only target people who “fanned” their pages, used their applications, or signed up to any company groups or events via the site.

The new targeting capability “should lead to increased conversion on Facebook Ads (Facebook’s performance advertising system), because users will find the social context and implied endorsement more interesting,” according to the Inside Facebook blog. That’s the idea, anyway.

While the company has allowed marketers to include social actions in ads before, this is the first time they can specifically target just friends of connections. If users don’t want their Facebook actions in the ads that friends see, they can use the site’s ad privacy setting to turn off that feature.

Small businesses find it hard to compete with larger competitors particularly in media.   And marketing dollars are at an even greater premium.  Then, why are more than three-quarters of small businesses not taking advantage of social media – the exploding frontier of consumer engagement AND relatively cost free?

Small-business owners are not making the trek to social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, but are slowly dipping their toes into Internet waters, according to a new Citibank/GfK Roper survey.

The study found 76 percent of small-business owners polled were not using social media or finding it helpful in generating business leads during the last year, and 86 percent said the did not use such sites to get advice or information.

“Our survey suggests that small-business owners are still feeling their way into social media, particularly when it comes to using these tools to grow their businesses,” said Maria Veltre, executive vice president of Citi’s Small Business Segment. “While social media can provide additional channels to network and help grow a business, many small businesses may not have the manpower or the time required take advantage of them.”

Many businesses have already recognized their best manner of review, referral and activating their zealots is through social media platforms.   Because business owners do not have time to engage in these sites does not mean their best customers and prospects are not doing so.   Small businesses need to rethink their attitude to this new media or run the risk of becoming less competitive from a marketing standpoint.”

 

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Some ways, behind basic analytics, including website visits, brand perception, customer engagement and profitability, why social media enhances the overall marketing program, from Econsultancy:

Search marketing:
Social media can be far more powerful in improving SEO than you might initially imagine. For example, a well-placed story / video / image on a site like Digg will generate a lot of traffic and a nice link from Digg itself, but the real win here is that it will generate a lot more interest beyond Digg.  The long tail, in action. 100 links means that your page might well wind up being placed highly on Google, resulting in lots of ongoing traffic. Remember too that you can use sites like Twitter and YouTube to claim valuable search rankings on your brand search terms.

Brand metrics:
Word of mouth and the viral factor (inherent in sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg) can help shift the key brand metrics, both negatively and positively. These include brand favorability, brand awareness, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. Traditional advertising is measured in this way, so it makes sense to apply these measures to social media applications. Positive brand associations via social media campaigns can help drive clicks on paid search ads and responses to other forms of advertising.

PR:
The nature of public relations has changed, forever. The distinct worlds of PR, customer service, and marketing are fusing.  Twitter means everybody has a blog these days and somewhere to shout about things to their friends (and beyond). Social media sites are the biggest echo chambers in the world! In any event, if you can measure PR (beyond adding up column inches and applying a random multiple to the equivalent size on the rate card!), then you can measure social media.

Customer engagement:
Given the prevalence of choice, and the ease with which consumers can switch from one brand to another, customer engagement is one of the most important of all metrics in today’s business environment. Engagement can take place offline and online, both on your website and on other sites, particularly social media sites. Customer engagement is key to improving satisfaction and loyalty rates, and revenue. By listening to customers, and letting them know that you are listening, you can improve your business, your products, and your levels of service. The alternative is to ignore customers, which sends out a terrible message. Our research found that an engaged customer will recommend your brand, convert more readily and purchase more often.

Retention:
A positive side effect of increased customer engagement – assuming certain other factors in play work in your favor – is an increase in customer retention. This is going to be a crucial factor in the success of your business in the years to come. Make no bones about it: we are moving into an age of optimization and retention. Watch your retention rates as you start participating in social media. Over time, all things remaining equal, they should rise. Zappos, which is a case study in how-to-do-Twitter (and active on MySpace, Facebook and Youtube), is closing in on $1bn of sales this year, and “75% of its orders are from repeat customers.”

Profits:
If you can reduce customer churn, and engage customers more often, the result will surely be that you’ll generate more business from your existing customer base (who in turn will recommend your business to their network of friends, family, and social media contacts). This reduces your reliance on vast customer acquisition budgets to maintain or grow profits. It makes for a far more profitable and more efficient organization. I really hope that more businesses will find a better balance between acquisition and retention, sooner rather than later, from a resourcing standpoint. Too many acquisition strategies appear to be ill-conceived, are not joined up (both in terms of marketing and also operations), and as such are ripe for optimization. Plug the leaky bucket and you won’t need to turn the tap so hard to top it up. And remember that old adage about it being cheaper to keep existing customers than to seek out new ones.

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Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots

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