A hotel in Vegas failed to listen when a customer complained on Twitter about the hour-long wait to check in. (Ridiculous!) A competitor caught the complaint and responded. Rather than tweeting something like “Come to our hotel,” the competitor was empathetic and said, “Sorry about your bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your stay in Vegas goes well.”
The customer switched to the competitor’s hotel on his next visit. And upon hearing about his experience, a friend booked 20 guests for an event.
Clearly, companies can benefit from monitoring not only their brand online, but also their competitors.
Yes, people say negative things about companies in social media. But they also post compliments. So should you respond? Or should you just ignore it thinking it’ll die down?
When companies don’t address publicly posted complaints, they lose an opportunity to save a customer and perhaps gain a few more. Isn’t this worth monitoring online conversations?
What do I monitor?
Of course, you’ll watch for your company’s and competitors’ names. You’ll also want to look for mentions of your company’s executives, products, services and your company’s links.
Other keywords depend on your business. For example, you could use keywords containing geography and your type of business. Let’s say you run an Italian restaurant in Alexandria, Va. Monitor for “Italian restaurant Alexandria” and “Italian restaurant Washington DC” as you might find people asking, “Anyone know a good Italian restaurant in Alexandria Virginia?” When you do, you can ask a fan to respond or suggest your restaurant by sharing a few specialties. Better yet, offer a free dessert if they mention the conversation.
People may ask, “Where can I find good cannoli in Alexandria, Va?” So you can monitor Italian food items, such as “Alexandria Virginia cannoli” or “Alexandria Va spaghetti.” Adding “Va” or “Virginia” eliminates all the others as there are many, and not just in Egypt.
You can also use phrases and exclude terms to eliminate unrelated results. For example, the Italian restaurant wouldn’t want results for cannoli recipes. Use “cannoli -recipe” to have Google Alerts search for cannoli, but omit any that mention “recipe.”
How do I monitor conversations?
Many tools can help you monitor social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), blogs and comments, discussion boards and forums, videos, news, images and Wikipedia for mentions. It can be as simple as setting up a basic Google Alert where you enter search terms and the frequency of the emailed updates.
Some tools send you automated updates. Others require you to go in the tool and do the search.
Here are some free tools to get you started:
- Google Alert
- Google Blog Search
- Google Video
- Social Mention
- Twitter search
How should I respond to a problem?
First rule: respond quickly. You don’t need to have a solution when you respond. Just apologize and be polite and empathetic. Customers can be forgiving if a company admits its mistake. It’s how the company responds that matters. Accept there will be negative comments and reply to those comments as soon as possible.
Here are a few phrases for ideas of how a company can respond:
- Apologize: I’m so sorry for your experience. I apologize for keeping you waiting.
- Request follow up: Please follow us so we can DM. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 555-555-5555 and ask for Joe.
- Show appreciation: Thanks for letting us know. Thanks for telling us about it so we can fix it.
- Say what you’ll do next: We’re looking into it. We’re working to come up with a better way to prevent that from happening again.
- Follow up in public and private until issue is resolved: We’re upgrading our software to permanently fix the problem. We’re revising our policy to reflect the changes. Everything is back online again – thanks for your patience!
- Compensate the customer: We’ve given you a full refund. Please enjoy your next visit on the house.
The Vegas hotel is an excellent example of how to respond to a mistake a competitor makes. Rather than exploiting it, the hotel showed empathy and left it at that. Here’s an apology letter from Southwest Airlines to Kevin Smith – yes, that guy who’s a director – for kicking him off a flight.
Avoid deleting or requesting the removal of a comment. That adds salt to the wound and brings more attention to the negative comment.
Every situation is different. The key is to respond quickly and politely. It would help to create a plan with different situations and how you’d respond to each. A hotel could run into problems such as ventilation, housekeeping services, supplies, customer service desk wait times and the check out process to name a few.
Your brand stands a better chance of surviving and thriving when you monitor and respond. The complaining customer may turn around and write something positive. It means keeping customers, bringing in new ones, having an unhappy one turn into a happy one and maybe getting a few evangelists.
LinkedIn gives you two ways to provide references to others. One is recommendations where you write a paragraph explaining why that person would be a good hire, partner or connection. The other is endorsements. Here you endorse people’s skills with a quick click.
Although these take little time and effort than writing recommendations, they matter. When you collect enough endorsements, people can easily identify your strongest skills and expertise. Here are the top tips for taking advantage of endorsements.
1. Endorse others with care. The most effective way to receive endorsements is to endorse others because people like to return the favor and it reminds them to look you up. When they see you’ve endorsed them, they’ll visit your profile and endorse your skills. On every user’s page, LinkedIn lists the top skills for that person.
Also, LinkedIn sometimes displays four connections as the screenshot in Fig. 1 shows and asks if you want to endorse them for the skills listed. When you prefer not to endorse someone for any of the listed skills, go to that person’s profile and select the skills and expertise you are comfortable endorsing.
2. Reconnect with connections. Endorsements give you a good and easy excuse to check in with someone. You don’t have to write an email to reconnect. Just visit the person’s page, select the skills and endorse.
3. Manage your skills. You can control which endorsements appear in your profile with Manage Endorsements. It allows you to emphasize the skills you want to highlight and hide the ones that aren’t as important. Maybe you used to be a software developer in a previous career, but prefer to move away from that field. You can hide all endorsements mentioning software and app development. The next two screenshots show how you edit and manage endorsements. (Fig. 2 and Fig. 3)
4. Control your endorsements. Just like you can control which skills to display, you can also show or hide endorsements by connection. Some people abuse the endorsements feature endorsing others they barely know or for the wrong skills. If you’d rather not display an endorsement from someone for whatever reason, you can hide that person’s endorsement. Or, maybe you prefer to only show endorsements from notable people. It’s up to you.
Don’t feel obligated to endorse every skill or expertise that LinkedIn shows. You can remove some and add some. If you’ve never heard someone speak in public, then you shouldn’t feel obligated to endorse that person for public speaking.
Go visit LinkedIn and spend a few minutes endorsing others. You’ll be receiving more endorsements soon.
How do you make the most of the endorsements in LinkedIn? What tips do you have?
One of the great results from connections is finding that someone else has arrived at the same destination from a different direction. Nurture Marketing is the brainchild of Judy Schramm, CEO at ProResource. I work with a group of entrepreneurs that have developed a similar philosophy which we call Nurture Marketing 2.0. The main focus of both our concepts is how to personally connect in a digital world. The goal is to develop mutually satisfying relationships based on trust. Here is how our approach works…
First, you have to work at it everyday. Yes I know, the digital world wants instant accomplishment. With social media as the new source for connections we think that all we have to do is set up a profile and invite people to visit our websites and somehow, magically the products and services are sold. Nice try! Valuable relationships are still produced by consistent effort over time.
Imagine your approach as a set of stairs with enough room for two people on the same step. Building a trusting relationship looks like climbing the staircase together. Before you start to climb . . .
· Prepare and Research. Prepare an honest, professional representation of who you are and what you do, because your profile makes the very important first impression. Then, research. Get to know the person that you are contacting. Read their profile and get a sense of who they are and their interests. Decide whether both of you may benefit from the connection.
· Step One: Permission. Send a professional introduction and invitation to connect. Accompany the invite with a message commenting on their profile, something that caught your interest. Keep it short and positive. You are asking for permission to continue a conversation. If they accept the invite, picture the two of you occupying the first step on the staircase.
· Step Two: Beginning the Conversation. Your response is based on their response. Talk with the people that are interested in talking with you. Thank them for accepting your invitation and ask a question about what they do or an interest that they have listed on their profile. Make it open-ended and friendly, not personal.
· Step Three: Genuine Discussion. Continue the thread of the conversation and give them a concise piece of information about what you do or share a particular challenge that you have encountered. Look for a need, want, or desire, basically some part of their life that is a challenge. Are they looking for options? Begin to analyze whether you have a solution or does their expertise offer a solution for you. Remember, a genuine connection can work both ways.
· Step Four: Building Trust. Now you can ask questions based on the information that they have given you and you can begin to develop mutual solutions. Usually, this is the step where an appointment is made to chat. An invitation to connect on Skype or over coffee is appropriate. Be prepared to answer questions and allow the conversation to be about their needs and how you can help them. Be a good listener and provide honest solutions. Remember, effective marketing for the long term is still based on relationships of mutual trust.
The rest of the staircase involves time, patience, listening and providing the parts of the solution one at a time – in other words, Nurture Marketing. Regardless of the technology we use, we are still on this planet to make friends and to serve them. That marketing strategy never changes.
Laura Like is the owner of likemychoices.biz. Since 1999, she has been developing online communities for some large companies, and helping entrepreneur-minded individuals to transition from employment to ownership.
For Twitter to work means having followers. And having followers means creating tweets that compel people to follow. While some people automatically follow everyone back, some take the time to review your tweets before deciding. These could be the people you want to connect with because they care about having relevant connections.
Companies using Twitter as an announcement tool won’t find much success. Maybe a few will click the links. However, not many will follow the company when they see most or all of its tweets are self-serving.
Before following more people, work on posting tweets that your ideal followers want to see. Then when you’ve built a nice stream of tweets, they’ll more likely to follow back. So what works today in connecting and engaging people in Twitter? Although no single formula works for everyone, the following tips will start conversations that matter.
1. Monitor your business, competitors and industry. The most basic thing companies should do is listen for mentions of their brand, products and name. This ensures you respond whenever someone says something, good or bad.
A problem can turn into an opportunity when you swoop in and help solve the problem or acknowledge it. Watching for competitor mentions gives you intelligence you may be able to use. Industry-related tweets reveal what people think about your business in general. It may also help you find people who have questions that you can answer to present your company as experts.
2. Curate and share valuable resources. Dan Zarella, author and social media scientist at Hubspot, analyzed over 2 million tweets that contained links. He found that most people will retweet links without ever clicking it. Successful curators check every resource before tweeting them. With many companies diving into content marketing, there’s a lot of wasteful content. Curators don’t want to waste your time with those.
3. Be mindful about self-serving tweets. How many valuable tweets that have nothing to do with your business should you post before you share a self-serving tweet? No one rule stands out, but here are some suggestions: Chris Brogan suggests 12 useful to 1 self-serving, another says 1 self-serving for every 9 or 10 tweets, Pareto principal says 80/20 with 20 being self-serving and the 4-1-1 rule recommends sharing 4 resources, 1 relevant re-tweet and 1 self-serving tweet.
4. Tweet to individuals. Sharing resources, inspirational quotes and thoughts make great tweets. Engaging involves having a conversation, not just broadcasting useful information. If someone asks a question or shares something interesting, respond to that person and include the person’s Twitter ID. You can also be proactive in starting a conversation with an individual.
5. Help others. This Zig Ziglar quote says it best: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” People will remember you when you help them. So look for opportunities to help even if it isn’t related to your business.
What other ways can you connect with people in Twitter?
Marketing with email is an effective way to stay in touch with your customers, remind them of your brand and get repeat business from them.
When you’re first starting out, you may not have all the resources you need to make your emails look as slick as major national brands do. That’s okay. You don’t have to break the bank to get more out of your email campaign.
Here are 4 easy ways to make your emails better. Added bonus – most of the resources mentioned here are web-based, so you can use them anywhere you have an Internet connection. Whip out a tablet or laptop wherever you happen to be and improve your campaign on the go.
Improve Your Email Design
You don’t need to hire a graphic designer to make your emails look better. Stock photography and free image editing software can make a plain email template pop.
Photos make your emails more appealing. If you don’t have products to take pictures of, use a free stock image or two to illustrate your points or place in a banner as your email’s header.
Here are some places to find free stock images to use in your emails:
• stock.xchng. Users upload images that are free for all to use. Categories cover everything from background textures to business themes to holidays and more.
• Flickr. Check out the Creative Commons page for free stock images from Flickr users.
If you have some graphic design savvy but lack the funds for Photoshop, free image editors can help you jazz up your photos or design a new template:
• GIMP. GIMP is a free image editor for Mac and Windows that uses layers and other tools similar to Photoshop’s. There are also plenty of extra plugins and filters developed by other users that you can download for free to improve your images even more.
• Pixlr. Pixlr has a number of online photo editing tools, from a fun and fast enhancer that gives your photos an Instagram feel to an advanced editor that works like Photoshop, except it’s web-based and free.
Many email marketing services offer their own image hosting plans, but if you need to host your image somewhere else to use it in your message, there are free sites that do that, too!
Track Your Campaign’s Results
How do you know if your email campaign is actually working? You can wait to see if you notice an uptick in sales or more visitors to your site. Or you can track your results to see exactly what’s working and what’s not.
Your email service provider should offer analytics that show how many people open your emails, click on links or unsubscribe from your list. But you can use another free tool to enhance your tracking abilities.
Adding a tracking code from Google Analytics to links in your email messages gives you a clear picture of how much traffic your site is getting from your email campaign. You can see an individual message’s impact better with a unique tracking code added to each link.
Because tracking codes can make your links look long and cryptic, they work best in HTML emails where you can create a hyperlink with different text.
Important note: Don’t type out your URL and then create a hyperlink with your tracking code. This is similar to a practice online scammers or “phishers” use and can keep your email from getting delivered.
Send Downloads As Incentives
Incentives are a powerful way to grow your email list. People want assurance that they’re getting something valuable for giving you their email address, and sending them a free gift just for signing up feels like an instant payoff.
But you can’t attach large files – like a PDF – to your email messages. You’ll want to host the file somewhere instead and provide a download link in your email.
If your website host doesn’t offer enough free storage space for all your files, try one of these free file hosting services instead:
• File Dropper. Extra perk: You can upload files as large as 5 GB.
• Dropbox. Extra perk: It’s cloud storage for other important files that you want to access anywhere. Dropbox provides 2 GB of storage for free, and you can earn more free storage by referring other users.
• File Den. Extra perk: You can provide a direct download link to your file so your readers won’t be redirected from your email to a different download page.
Make Sure Your Email Displays Correctly
If you’re designing your own HTML emails, it’s important to make sure your messages display properly across different email clients.
It’s always a good idea to send a test copy of your message to yourself before sending it out to your whole list, but you might not catch all of your mistakes this way. Invalid HTML code in your emails can affect deliverability, so if you’re coding messages yourself, the extra security may be worth it.
Running your email’s HTML code through a validator is a good way to catch unclosed tags or invalid markup you may have missed. Try the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) free HTML validator to catch additional errors in your code.
With these free tools, you’re on your way to a better email campaign at no cost.
Rebekah Henson is a published playwright and SEO writer who blogs about building an online following through email marketing at AWeber, the leading email service provider for small-to-medium businesses. You can find more tips on marketing with email at the AWeber blog, or see how you can grow your own business with email at aweber.com.