August 2015 Archives

Recently I was helping some friends get their social media accounts set up for their new coffee shop.

A local business like a coffee shop is not going to get a lot of value from many techniques used by content and inbound marketers.

Their new coffee shop, Café Love in Olympia, Washington, is not going to generate customers with a blog. (Well, they could generate customers with a blog but it would need to be special and that would not be the first thing I would suggest.)

Café Love will benefit from a social media presence and getting found on internet searches.

As I was working with Vanessa and Marty I thought it would be good to have a quick list of the accounts that should be set up.

This list would be great for any business but especially for location based businesses that depend on local traffic and people actually coming into their business.

This could include any type of restaurant, or business in the food and beverage industry; services such as barbers and beauty solons; automobile services, pet services, grooming and supplies; dancing schools and music stores; any type of brick and mortar stores; private businesses; franchise businesses; government offices and services; charity and non-profit services; and medical and health services.

The exact mix of accounts and what works best for you and your customers may vary a bit but this is where I would start.

Remember to experiment, see what works best and to try new things.

1. Facebook

With Facebook practically ubiquitous in North America it would be silly to ignore this. Remember to set up a personal account first then set up a business page. Once that is done you can invite others to help you administer the page. A few things to be sure to do:

  • Pick the correct category for your business
  • Set up your address so you show up on the map location
  • Put in your contact information
  • Learn about setting up Check-in Deals
  • Create and promote events
  • Adds can be targeted to your locations and to your customer profile
  • Update with photos of your space, products and events

2. Twitter

You can set up a Twitter account for your business and use it to promote your business, sales and events and connect with your customers and fans. Twitter may not be for every local business but there are a number of things you can do to make it more effective:

  • Follow and promote other local businesses
  • In Twitter Search use the Advanced Search to find people and business in "places" near you
  • Act like a person people would want to do business with, not an advertising broadcaster
  • Tweet about specials and coupons featured on your other accounts like Facebook and Foursqure
  • Send photos of events, regular customers and products

3. Foursquare

It is easy and free to set up Foursqure for business and Foursqure keeps track of your fans and check-ins for you.

  • Make sure the address is correct so you show up on maps and searches
  • Reward the mayor and frequent customers
  • Set up check-in specials
  • Post new images and photos
  • Connect to your other social media accounts
  • Foursqure Badges are connected to certain activities and businesses and are half the fun. What badges can your customers earn and how you can you make it fun?

4. Myspace

The obituaries for myspace have been written but I wouldn't nail the coffin shut yet because it is reinventing itself as the social media location for bands and entertainers. If your location business features live bands and entertainers then set up a Myspace account and connect and promote the bands, singers, comedians and dancers who will perform at your business.

5. Google+ and Google Locations

I've written that Google Places is now Google+ Local and published an eBook on the importance of Claiming Your Google Places. Google is such a big player now that it is important for any location based business to set up a Google+ Business Page and to claim their Google Places. Not only will this help you get found on Google searches you will show up on searches for Google Maps. This is essential especially when people do searches on their smart phones and that is exactly where you want to show up, when people are out looking for your services or product. A few things you should be sure to do:

  • Put in your contact information
  • List your hours of operation
  • Put a link to your menu or web site
  • Follow statistics about views for your listing
  • Use offers and coupons
  • Share updates about events, specials and more

6. Google Express Ads

In a recent blog I wrote that Google AdWords Express was a great solution for small business marketing. If you have thought about Pay-Per-Click ads but were intimidated by setting up Google AdWords or you do not have a website then this may be a great solution. This is specifically designed for small, location based businesses and is aimed at walk-in customers. It is worth checking out. If you need help we have a free Google Adwords consultation.

7. Yelp

Yelp is the other big location search engine and it is defiantly worth setting up an account and putting in your business' location and information. Yelp is famous for its reviews and this is something you want to be aware of and to follow.

8. Punchcard

I do not often push paid solutions but punchard is one that I have recently looked into that I like. It is a loyalty punch card system optimized for mobile applications. Your customers take a photo of their receipt and can redeem coupons and specials from you along the lines of buy 10 lattes and get the 11th latte free. As the business you get an amazing amount of information from your customers who check in so that you can tailor specials, coupons and promotions directly to the customer. For example set up specials for the customer who loves muffins, only comes in on Friday or never seems to spend more the $5. It is worth a look if rewarding loyal customers is important to you.

Another paid solution that I do not have a lot of experience with but I know others who swear by it is Groupon and similar coupon services.

9. Local Listings

There are a number of other places your business can be listed depending upon your location. Check out the local Chamber of Commerce, local newspapers or your city's official website. There is often a place to list local businesses. Depending on what is going on locally there may be a website devoted to local businesses or certain types of business such as restaurants or nightclubs. Search for businesses similar to yours and see where they are listed. Most of these sites will at least have a free listing and many will have enhanced services for a fee. What is important to you will determine what will be the best option.

10. Keep Track and Reward

Remember to keep track of what is bringing customers in. With Foursqure and Facebook you will be able to see who checks in but ask your customers what they are doing and how they found out about you. Run different specials and coupons on different sites and see what generates business. Remember to reward your customers who connect with you on social media and promote your business. If a customer is telling others about you, that is free advertising so thank them from time to time.

What have I left off the list that you think is good for local advertising and social media promotion? Tell us what you are doing in the comments below. If you are a small or local business we can give you a free social media marketing evaluation. Let us know how we can help.

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As gift cards continue to rise in popularity among consumers, the regulations and laws that companies must follow in issuing and accepting them continue to increase as well.

Beyond the extensive requirements of the new federal gift card law - Regulation E - one of the issues just starting to gain traction with state legislatures is the idea of requiring retailers to give customers "cash back" on a gift card once the balance falls below a particular level.

New Jersey recently became the second state to formally join the movement when on July 29, 2012, Governor Chris Christie signed Senate Bill 1928 into law.

As of September 1, 2012, all retailers in New Jersey must allow any customer holding a gift card with a balance below $5.00 to redeem the gift card for cash upon request.

A violation can result in a statutory penalty of up to $500 per violation, so the failure to comply can get costly pretty quickly.

Notably, there are a few exceptions, such as the fact that retailers do not have to provide cash back if the initial value of the card was below $5.00, or if the card is redeemable at multiple unaffiliated merchants (such as a mall gift card). Otherwise, however, retailers in New Jersey must provide cash back to any customer who asks once the value of the card has dropped below $5.00.

Oregon is the only other state that currently requires retailers to provide cash back to customers on gift cards where the value has decreased to below $5.00, but similar legislation is also currently pending in Illinois, and has been considered in various other states during the past two years.

So, you can likely expect similar laws to continue to crop up elsewhere in the country. Until then, if you are not operating in Oregon or New Jersey, you are not required to provide customers cash back on your gift cards.

If you have question about this or any of the Federal Gift Card Regulations, please contact me for quick and practical advice.

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My oldest child recently started high school, and I've been amazed by the use of social media techniques in the classroom. The teachers have really embraced some aspects of this and incorporate it nicely into the classroom. However, she has one teacher in particular that has impressed me in this area.

I knew I would like him when I attended the open house night. As parents took their seats, we were handed an informational sheet about his classroom, along with his contact information and other pertinent "need to know" items.

What I immediately noticed was that, next to his email address and the parent access site's URL, he provided a QR code that links to the information.

While many parents weren't familiar with QR codes, he took a moment to explain how they work and went on to say that he did this because he knows parents are busy and he thought that scanning a QR code to send an email would be more efficient.

As he explained how his classroom was run, I was intrigued by his methodology, which I later learned was referred to as 'flipping' the classroom.

Traditionally, teachers spend class time lecturing and then assigning homework to be turned in the following day.

This teacher does it quite the opposite. He has a YouTube channel dedicated to his class, and students are assigned to listen to a lecture (or screen cast, as he calls it), and then the following day in class he will give the "homework", allowing students to do it during class.

He also gives pop quizzes on the screen cast from the night before to ensure students are watching. He uses class time to answer questions, offer clarification on points students are having difficulty with, and so forth.

At first I wasn't so sure about this "new" methodology, but as the quarter has progressed both me and my daughter have come to love it.

First, it gives her time to pause the lecture to take notes more efficiently, rewind parts she doesn't understand, and make a list of questions to ask the teacher the following day. She also saw the value in this right before the first big exam - she was able to re-listen to any of the screen casts that she needed to, at her convenience and pace.

Second, they're also dedicated an area of the website where a chat session opens up the night before a big exam so students can ask questions, help each other, and offer support if they choose to. When I peeked in the chat session the night before my daughter's first exam, I noted that it was quite active, with many students involved.

I love all things social media, and now I am seeing the effects of it in the school environment.

Teachers are finding new and unique ways to incorporate social media elements into the learning process, and for children who have grown up with technology, I think it is largely beneficial. My youngest is nine years old - I will be interested to see what his high school experience will look like.

Even though it's only five years away, I think it will look quite different from my oldest child's.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2015 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2015 is the previous archive.

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