How Your Small Biz Can Benefit from This Week’s National Hashtags

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Hashtags can be found on Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. A social media strategist on your team would have suggested any number of crossover promotions to capitalize on these events to entice customers.

Hashtag of the day: #NationalHotFudgeSundaeDay 7/25/16

  • Car Dealership? “We know it’s hot outside. But we’ve got some really cool deals on the lot and to make it worth your while, just for coming out and speaking with one of our experienced auto specialists, we’ll give you 2 coupons for a Hot Fudge Sundae today”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalBagelfestDay 7/26/16Bagel

  • Custom tire accessory store? “Bagels and tires have a lot in common. They are roundish. They come in several different styles. They can be purchased individually or in a group. And just as you can put anything on a bagel, you can put an assortment of covers on a tire. Check us out today and get a free bagel while they last.”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalScotchDay 7/27/16

  • Investment firm? “Today is National Scotch Day. Did you know that all Scotch whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years? That is quite an investment of time & money. You can’t take it our early. Here at A & Z Investments we can advise you on short term investments with high yield…”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalChiliDogDay 7/28/16 (Last Thursday in July)

  • Dry Cleaner? “Today is National Chili Dog Day and someone in the office will push the idea to celebrate— at the office. But as careful as you try to be, somehow when lunch is over, there may well be stains on you shirt, pants, blouse or skirt. Not to worry. Bring in the tell-tale stain today or tomorrow and we’ll give you a 10% discount on cleaning.”

Hashtag of the day: #NationalLipstickDay 7/29/16lipstick1

  • Hairdresser? “Ladies we know that just as there is a lipstick shade to address our every mood, there is also a hairstyle to present our mood. In honor of National Lipstick Day, bring in a receipt for a lipstick you purchased this week, and we will give you 10% off a …”

Information is a commodity that is bought & sold — but it is also a tool that you can use to benefit your business. In skilled hands, information will make today a better business day for you & your customers.

( Anthony M. Scialis is an experienced print & broadcast writer who coordinates blog, Twitter & Facebook social media content to create a focused & powerful customer engagement effort which will bridge the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Why Your Small Business Needs Blogs— And Me

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BlogsB2C companies which feature blogs on their websites generate 88% more leads per month than those that do not. This is according to HubSpot, the world’s leading inbound marketing and sales platform. Let that settle in. Businesses which generate blogs about interesting things (along with their services or products) generate 88% more leads per month than competitors that don’t.

Well-thought-out, well-written blogs work because storytelling is a powerful way to attract readers, share information, open the lines of communication to foster engagement, build understanding of potential customer needs and convert these followers into loyal brand ambassadors.

More people looking at your store shelves. More people walking into your restaurant or bar. More potential income.

When I saw that 88% statistic I had a flashback to this line from Independence Day:

10 Years Social(Copyright © 1996 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Over the years, I’ve worked in print & broadcast media. People do not buy newspapers for the ads. They buy for the news. People do not listen to radio for the ads. They listen for the music.

In other words, people seek out something that will emotionally engage them.

And I have been saying for years that people are not on social media for the ads. They are there to share and engage, because they want to be emotionally connected. Repeatedly telling them what special you have for today is a disconnect— they may come in, but they are just as likely not to come back. You may have made a sale, but you didn’t convert them into loyal customers and certainly not created an emotional connection to recruit them as ambassadors for your business.

Granted, you want to keep using Twitter as a way of driving people to your website and Facebook pages. Equally so, you need to keep pace with competitors in the Facebook auction space for ads.

But, once you have funneled prospects to your website, then what? A few seconds of looking at ads or a contest. Maybe you hook them, maybe you don’t.

Consider generating two or three blogs a week to balance out your Facebook and Twitter self promotions. Give followers a reason to check back to your website several times a week. Provide some insight on how you do something. Recall a funny incident. Promote a survey. Give some free tips. Comment about something going on in the community.

Convinced, but you don’t have the time to write blogs? You don’t have the editorial skills to cultivate content? That’s where writers (such as myself— full disclosure) can assist you. Prices being charged on various websites range from as little as $5 for a simple blog up to and beyond $1000 for a complex blog.

As a veteran community writer, I’m on the more affordable side of that price bar. If you’re interested let’s talk. Let me help you SHARE information, so you can ENGAGE your readers, UNDERSTAND their needs and CONVERT them into customers.

It’s not about you anymore. It’s about them.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Selecting a Content Writer for Your Small Biz Blog

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If you don’t have the time or skill to write a twice weekly or even weekly blog to entertain & inform the customers who make use of your small business products or services, then you should find the time to select someone who does. There are at least seven steps involved.

As I have said (it’s over there on the left side of the page) “If you operate a small business in the 21st century, you need to ‘be’ on Social Media.”

So how do you select someone who shares your values, your voice, your interests?

But there’s more to it than that. Julia Peterson, a content marketing specialist and a private English language tutor who currently writes reviews at her educational blog AskPetersen.com, and is a contributor to such websites as CollectiveEvolution, FreelanceWrite.About, and Business.com, recently offered some advice.

Providing guest content on Susanna Gebauer’s The Social MS blog, Peterson presented a step by step game plan on how to flesh out a writing “partner”:

  • Experience and Education
  • Availability
  • Price vs. Quality
  • Turnaround Time
  • Interest In Your Topic
  • Diversity of Portfolio
  • Reviews or References

Price is the biggest stumbling block, in my opinion. Whereas many small businesses may “get” that they need to be on social media, they just don’t want to pay for it. Writers can charge $25, $75, $100+ per blog. This is where some small biz fall into the “relative, staffer, college intern” trap.

A word or two of caution; if you decide to give control/responsibility of your small business blogging and tweeting to a staff member or college intern, consider this. While they may excel as self-taught consumers of social media, they are not trained as marketers or customer service strategists.

This is critical, as a small biz operating a brick & mortar store on Main Street America, you need to decide the purpose of your blog. Is it a sales tool? Is it a customer service link? Is it a community public relations effort?

Only then can you determine how you want to rate the return on investment. Increased sales. Increased followers. Increased word of mouth about your business in the community.

Peterson very usefully closes out the article with sources for free lance writers, once you’ve made all your decisions.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Do You Know What “Social Care” Is?

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Social care, simply put, is the combined efforts employers & employees make through social media to care for customers. I would venture to say many small businesses do not practice it. And as such, most of them let opportunities to attract, engage and convert slip by.

social careHootSuite had an insightful article by Dara Fontein, How to Deliver Exceptional Social Media Customer Service  filled with very interesting facts and suggestions relating to social care.

  • 51 percent of consumers said they would give up on a purchase after trying to reach customer service only once. In other words, customer service has become a no phone zone
  • On average, consumers only tell 9 people about a good experience, but they will tell 16 about a negative one. Ouch!
  • And, this is a wake up & smell the coffee item: 50 % of consumers now use social media when seeking/expecting an actual response from a company about a service issue.

Fontein writes “Social care is not only being used by young digital natives, but is consistently utilized across all ages, languages, genders, and income levels.”

So, whether you are on social media or not, customers are and they are talking about you. Social care is a way of measuring how well you are listening and how quickly you are responding to them.

To that end Fontein includes a very informative instructional video on how to monitor multiple search streams involving your brand on HootSuite.

Easy to do you say, for a big operation able to hire a social media team, but what if you are a small business like the one mentioned in a reader comment:

“How would you best manage responding in a timely manner if you don’t have the resources to do so? Many businesses seem to be a 1 person operation.”

My response is that there are social media strategists (gurus, wizards, etc, etc) who provide affordable free lance service, operating in niche areas. For example, as a writer I can contribute with blogs & Twitter engagement. My friend John is a photographer and could assist with Pinterest & Instagram.

As a small business owner you can design & develop your social care plan with such affordable free lance input. Select the social media platforms in which you feel comfortable to handle, and delegate the others.

Learn how to listen; determine when to join the conversations and when not to. It will show that your small business is social and that you care about customers.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Small Biz 2016 Resolution: Improving Customer Communications

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“As 2015 comes to a close, small businesses look to 2016 as a new year for growth and opportunity. Budgets and plans are in the process of being finalized. Communicating and connecting with customers are paramount. And small businesses should always be looking for ways to improve those lines of communications and customer service.”

Customer profile

Wow! Ann Marie Van Den Hurk, Contributing Columnist at Kentucky.com phrased that so succinctly (“In the new year, small businesses should focus on the customer”) that I won’t even bother with rewriting or paraphrasing. Read the article, it may have appeared in the Lexington KY Herald-Leader but it is applicable to Salem, the North Shore and anywhere.

She writes, “Organizations need to use all tools and channels available to customize the customer experience based on what the customer needs as well as wants and not just what the organization wants.”

Key areas she focuses upon are Millennials (an oft-reported upon topic here, because, well, they are important to small biz) and mobile.

For example, did you know that the oldest segment of the Millennial group will be 34 in 2016? They are not just kids. And they are not just making entry-level income. Spending power is theirs now. Just as the Baby Boomers were the elephant in the room during the 70s and 80s, the Millennials — with the added aid of social media — control the commerce conversation.

Blab, Meerkat, Periscope could very well be the wave of future methods of conversation with customers. As is mobile now. Your websites need to be mobilized! Over 50 percent of searches are now from mobile devices.

Van Den Hurk also discusses how “culture” has come into play in trying to reach your customers.

As I’ve stated often enough, if you operate a small business in the 21st century, you need to not only ‘be’ on Social Media, but also provide ‘value’ through well-written content. That value could be in how you appeal to the cultural needs of your customers.

Content on blogs and Twitter need to be well-researched and well written — and not left to a family member, intern or an employee whose only qualification is that he/she has a Facebook page. You can hire a professional social media strategist full time, on a part time basis, or on an as-needed basis (but you’ll find you need it more and more as the lines of communication with customers successfully — and profitably — begin to open wider).

Social media is THE way to not only reach customers but is the new way to provide immediate customer service, if you take the time and effort to do it the right way.

Resolve to make 2016 your year of the customer.

(Anthony M Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied.)

Making Small Business Saturday Work For You

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Small BizLJust hanging a sign in front of your store, announcing to the world that you are a small business, will not automatically encourage a flock of shoppers to swarm your shelves and counters this weekend on Small Business Saturday. But it will let customers know that you are part of a movement that is looking to alter the “business as usual” Business to Consumer model.

The “conversation” has moved away from the merchant putting a product or service up for sale with the consumer having to take it or leave it. Through social media, customers can share what they like or don’t like about not only what you sell but also how you sell it.

Small Business Saturday affords you the special opportunity to be available that day to chat, mingle, interact and yes, sell to YOUR current AND potential customers.

As Connie Certusi reported in a recent www.entrepreneur.com article “88 million people have shown up to ‘shop small’ since 2010.”

That represents a lot of shopping power to tap into. More than enough reason to make yourself available that day.

Therefore, I see Small Biz Saturday as not just a day of bargains and fun. It’s also a serious day to cement long term relationships. Use social media to not only invite the public, use it during and afterward to gauge their reactions to you & your business. Use social media, don’t be used by it.

In fact Certusi mentions social media in her suggestions of “10 Ways to Prepare for Small Business Saturday.”Key among them are:

  1. Prepare your website
  2. Prioritize customer service
  3. Make your website mobile-friendly
  4. Don’t ignore social media
  5. Advertise online

Certusi hits the mark with her comment that “Small Business Saturday is a great opportunity for small retailers to gain exposure, capitalize on increased sales potential, and foster a sense of community.”

If all you do on Small Business Saturday is hang a promotional poster, it’s no different than filling your Twitter & Facebook posts with self-indulgent sales content with no effort to interact or give value to readers. It’s not a day to stand behind the counter. Mingle with customers, give them a reason to emotionally invest themselves in your vision for your products or services.

Use Small Business Saturday as a launching pad to show how your business can better serve customers than the big ones. And then let your customers spread the word all year long.

 

Millennials Said They’d Rather Do What Than Call Your Customer Service Dept.?

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Millennials would rather get their teeth cleaned than call a customer service line.

So says Rachel Burger in her Customer Think.com article Don’t Talk, Chat: 4 Ways to Tailor Your Customer Service to Millennials. (CustomerThink is a “global online community of business leaders striving to create profitable customer-centric enterprises.”)

There are 80 million millennials in America alone, with an estimated total $200 billion in annual buying power. Wouldn’t you like to know what they are saying about your small business?

Consider this a customer service wake-up call — or rather a non-call — as a recent survey by Kelton Global for Salesforce’s Desk.com also indicates that when millenials have a problem with your product or service, they WILL NOT call. Twitter, Facebook, and on-line chat are pathways they will use to contact you.

Salesforce’s Desk.com is a platform that helps companies organize their customer service channels.

Yes, there are channels. Not just a 1-800 number. Or your store line. Social media channels.

This is a follow-up to my last blog Company Social Media Response Times to Customers Are Unsocial. 

As further proof, Lauren Brousell, who writes for CIO website, refers to that Kelton survey in her article Millennials Skip Traditional Customer Service for Online Troubleshooting. (CIO serves Chief Information Officers other IT leaders).

Brousell reports “81 percent say they would contact brands through social channels. And again, the other generations are also getting in on the action; 63 percent of Gen X-ers and 44 percent of Boomers would use social media for customer service.”

man phone1I found this interesting; most people to date would want to walk through a technical problem with a live person. But if millenials will go to great lengths to avoid a live CSR on the phone for a tech question, why would they bother for a simpler question?

In Burger’s article she points out that in terms of using the phone “32 percent of millennials say that their biggest gripe with customer service is that they cannot reach a live person when they want to.” And that “Millennials prefer live chat because there are no hold times, it’s convenient, and it automatically provides a record of the conversation.”

That preference applies to conversations on Twitter, Facebook and on-line chat.

All this to say that whether your biz is a corporate monolith with fingers stretching across the globe or a single brick/mortar on Main Street USA, customers control how they want to express their needs & frustrations. You can’t force them to talk to you only on the phone and only during your customer service hours.

Again from Burger’s article “Research shows that 78 percent of millennials prefer to receive customer support on Facebook, 43 percent on Twitter, 25 percent on Instagram, and 13 percent on LinkedIn. ”

You might want to listen when they speak. But you better have your Facebook, Twitter and other customer service channels monitored regularly by staff or a social media strategist to hear them.

(Photo courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)