Monday

Holiday Season Small Business Online Customer Service: Just Do It!

The holiday season is upon us. Here are some great trends and tips from Barry Moltz:
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  1. The time to react to your customer is shrinking. In this 24/7 instant gratification world, the time in which your customer expects you to be able to resolve their problem is getting smaller. Most customers expect to be able to reach you 24/7, and for you to resolve their concern on the very first call (or at least the same day). This is putting increasing stress on companies’ infrastructure and pressuring companies to ensure the profitability of each customer. Look for companies to begin to “fire” customers that don’t meet their profitability metric.
  2. Customer service has become the new marketing. Small business owners used to be afraid that a dissatisfied customer would tell 7 people. Now, through social media sites, they can tell 7 million people. On the flip side, “raving fans” can be your biggest source of new business as they tell everyone how great your company is. Consumers believe what their peers say about your company more than they believe any of your own paid advertising.
  3. You can find out exactly where your customers are talking about your company. Every business is being talked about on the Internet, but where? New customized software from companies like Flowtown allow the business owner to insert a contact’s name or e-mail address and identify the social networks in which that contact participates. Knowing where your prospects and customers congregate online is critical for engaging your customers where they are.
  4. The “social support” experience grows. Consumers now talk and bond directly with each other over using your products. Companies like Get Satisfaction and Feedback 2.0 are building online communities that facilitate conversations between companies and customers. Get Satisfaction states that 46,000 companies use its product to provide a social support experience to listen and talk to their loyal customers.
  5. Faster resolution of customer service issues through blog and social media site comments. Calling a company’s customer service number is no longer the fastest way for a customer to get an issue resolved. Since most brands are tracking what is being said about them on all the social media sites, tweeting your concern or posting it on Facebook will often yield quicker results. This has especially been effective for me with my vendors like Comcast, Vonage, American Airlines and Discover Card.
  6. Integration of Web customer service and traditional phone support.Customized software now allows integration of what prospects and customers are saying on the Web about your company. More solutions like Parature for Facebook are available to integrate that information with your website and customer service center. Software now enables Facebook users to search their knowledgebase, submit help tickets and chat with customer service agents. Look for online and offline customer input channels to continue to merge in the coming year.
  7. More self service: It started with ATMs 40 years ago and now we rarely go to the airport without using a self-service kiosk. This past year, more complicated transactions like renting a car are now being done via kiosks at companies like Hertz. Although it takes a bit longer, it is effective for impatient customers who do not want to wait in lines. Many stores have also implemented self checkout. Can buying a car or house via self serve be far behind?
  8. Faux personalization becomes an expectation. With many consumer interactions now happening online or through automated kiosks instead of live people, customers have come to expect the type of “personal service” they get at websites like Amazon. Easily being able to track your current, past and recommended future purchases has become an expectation that is not easily matched in a brick and mortar store. Amazon always remembers who you are, but does your local retail store? As a result, where would you rather shop?
  9. Retail stores are now an experience. Successful retail stores like Apple and Brookstone have become demo centers with a lot of service people around to help. On Black Friday, when other stores were struggling to keep up, I was in and out of an Apple store in 5 minutes with my iPad purchase. In order to compete with online shopping, successful stores are now fun places to come out and shop. Gone are the days when you couldn’t find someone to help you at Toys R Us (and I don’t miss it).
  10. You need to chat. Helping a customer on your website used to providing an e-mail address or listing the company phone number. Real-time chat is now becoming a requirement in order to help your clients. Can video chat be that far behind for an even more personal touch?
  11. Online inventory tracking from your customer’s phone. Your customer will no longer come into your store to see if you have a product. Companies like Milo.com can now tell the customer if a product is on your shelf. The company says it tracks real-time availability of 3 million products in 52,000 stores. Is this the end of “window shopping”?

Social Media is NOT a numbers game for small business! Find your customers and engage them!

Friday

Who do you think is the fastest growing segment joining Facebook?

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Who do you think make up the fastest growing segment of people in Washington state joining Facebook? The answer: people age 65 and older.

That's according to a new survey commissioned by the AARP. Author and social media expert Marsha Collier and AARP volunteer Sis Polan joined Margaret to talk more about social networking and baby boomers and to promote an AARP-sponsored event taking place tomorrow at Microsoft called "Get Connected."

The event is sold out, but the AARP has made it very easy to take part in their live stream and even ask questions via Twitter. Just check out their website by clicking here. You can also follow them on Twitter: @AARP - and ask questions by using the hashtag: #aarptech

Monday

How To Build A Great Twitter Reputation, Get More Followers & Retweets

The three steps to a great Twitter reputation are content, style and connections.

First—because this is what makes you really popular—we’ll cover making connections and building your account.
Second, we’ll work on creating tweets that will give people something to retweet, and help people get to know you and want to recommend you.
Your tweets are the core to your reputation. You’re going to need four  types: Popular, focused, conversational and retweets/thank-yous.
Third, we’ll work on your Twitter style. This mean understanding the social etiquette and rules of Twitter as they apply to you.
Ready? Let’s get started:
Your strategy is going to be to become influential by helping key people, one at a time, and building a circle of great connections.
Begin by searching for people to engage with by topics that interest you. You want to find the most engaged and influential users in the topics that you care about most. Here is a collection of resources that you can use to search for Twitter users by topic:
FollowerWonk WeFollow Directory Search HashTags.org
Topsy Expert Search TagWalk.com (shows related resources) Research.ly (allows limited free searches)
Listorious List Search Local Follow Social Mention
TweetLevel topic search PeekYou http://listatlas.com/
Faxo user search (allows several filters) Hashtweeps top users by hashtag Twibs
Twellow Directory Search HooSaid user search TweetFind
Super Dashboard at peoplebrowsr.com TweepFind Icerocket
Add users that you find and are considering to Twitter lists, so you can watch how they tweet for awhile.
You’ll want to follow very few key people at first, because you’ll want to have time to devote to them once you follow them.
When influential users begin to retweet you, a LOT of people will check you out.  You will gain followers if you have the right mix of tweets, and demonstrate an understanding of Twitter etiquette.
There are two key approaches to making influential connections who will recommend you and retweet you over time. Which you do most depends on your personal goals. And the approach doesn’t matter as much as how you engage. Your two options are:

1. Build A “Personal Learning Network" (PLN)
Essentially, you will seek out people who can teach you something, and people that you can teach something to.
You can focus on your business, career, hobby, or any interest. PLNs are very popular with educators. Twitter can be just one part of your PLN strategy. And Twitter chats can be a goldmine for PLNers. Browse through a few articles about Twitter PLNs to learn more.

2. Become A “Super Advocate” 

This is the most powerful way to build your reputation and get influential users to promote you. Read more here. Many influential users are very focused on one particular niche, so it helps if you are also very focused on the same niche. You will pick key users and do as much as you can to assist them.

3. Engage And Follow Through

Once you have found people worth connecting with, help them. Promote and retweet them. Engage them.
Strategies include FollowFriday, writing blog posts about top users hoping those users will tweet the post, creating lists of users, retweeting users, etc. Some people try to find various kinds of favors they can do for influential users.
As always, everything works best if you are genuinely interested in the people you connect with, and are ethical, sincere and learn from your mistakes.
Once you have spent a lot of time engaging with a user, put that relationship on listening mode, and select a new user to engage with.

Content That Gets You Followed And Retweeted

As you build your reputation people are going to be recommending you.
Having the right tweets means when people check you out they will follow you, and feel comfortable recommending you to others. 
 It’s important to have each of four kinds of tweets mixed together every day: Popular, focused, conversational and retweets. That’s because when people check you out, your tweets are what teach them about you.
If you have all of one kind of tweet, they won’t learn as much about you, and you’ll get fewer followers, and fewer recommendations.
And don’t forget to spread out your tweets! Don’t overwhelm people with a bunch of tweets all at once. Use Buffer to naturally space things out to times when most people are online.

1. Popular Tweets
These are simply the kinds of tweets that get retweeted the most. When you make the right kind of connections, people will want to retweet you. Having a popular tweet or two to makes it easy for people to find something of yours to retweet.
Because they will at first be your most retweeted tweets, be careful! Don’t always be tweeting things just to get retweets. It will give you the wrong kind of reputation in the long run, and you’ll have created a boring job for yourself: finding things to tweet.

Hot Topics 

Hot topics should be tweeted when you find them, or within a few hours.
There are many services you can check to find a hot topic that interests you whenever you are online and have a couple of minutes. Here are few to get you started:
  1. NewsWhip
  2. LinkedIn Today
  3. PopURLs
  4. BuzzFeed
  5. Digg

Quotes, Facts And Humor

Quotes, one-liners and fascinating factoids are very overdone on Twitter, but it’s okay to share a few each week. These can be scheduled in advance. Also: try to be funny yourself from time to time!
To be funny take what you are doing or what your friends are up to, or a current news or hot topic and combine it with a funny or famous line, such as quotes from movies or TV. Make a game of it!
Another way of creating funny tweets is to say something out-of-character (stupid, obvious, or as if you didn’t mean to say it), then follow that up with, “Oh wait…”.

2. Focused Tweets

These are things you know or care a lot about. These help people get to know your interests, and this can be how you help others.
For example, if you have a wealth of knowledge in some topic area, and a lot of links to useful information, you might schedule one of your informational links to go out each day. These can also be your comments on news or entertainment or causes that you care about.

3. Conversation Tweets

The first two kinds of tweets can be scheduled some of the time. Conversation tweets are where you reply to people, help people, or get help.
Begin by regularly searching for people who need help and helping them. Start by reading tweets about people asking questions about Twitter by doing a Twitter search like this. Use Google search or search Twitter’s help website to find answers. Also read a Twitter article or two each week to learn more. (A good place to start.)
Finally, after making sure you are replying to everyone who tweets to you (even if it takes you a few days), begin asking questions from time to time.

4. Retweets And Thank-You’s

People love being retweeted.
You need to show that you retweet others. Either your focused or popular tweets should be retweets from time to time. Start by checking @GuyKawasaki and @FlipBooks from time to time for popular things to retweet. Later, you’ll be mostly retweeting things from key connections as you make them.
Don’t automatically thank people for following you, but do thank them for retweets sometimes (“follow thanks” are so common as to be considered spam by many users). If you chat with someone right after they follow, it’s okay to thank them afterward though.
Above all, learn how to turn praise for others into public compliments on Twitter.

Developing Your Twitter Style

Make Your Own Rules

Be sure you’ve read a few Twitter etiquette articles. Realize that not everyone does things in the same way, so feel free to make your own rules over time. It’s important to make your own laws, and keep improving them.
The main thing is to be responsive. To build a great reputation your tweets need to show you are a real person who engages with others. Having conversation and retweet tweets in balance is a big help.

Your Mentors

Once you start making great connections on Twitter, pay attention to how they use Twitter. Emulate them and ask questions in order to build your own style.
The fastest way to begin using Twitter really well is to have great mentors, promote them, and ask for and listen to their advice.
What do you think? Have any questions or comments on building a great reputation? Leave a comment in the box below.
Dave

Saturday

AARP/Microsoft "Get Connected" Workshop on Social Media: Twitter & Facebook for Seniors

Are you tired of being the social media support for your parents (grandparents)? Want to get them up to speed on how to use Twitter and Facebook? Next week will be my first workshop for those "of a certain age" at the Microsoft campus in Redmond on October 20. The next workshop will be in Spokane at the end of November ... more cities to come - stay tuned!

Redmond is sold out, but the event wil be livestreamed on the AARP Facebook Live stream page. Have your parents stop by for the live stream or I'd love to meet them when I visit their city.

A special thank you to Diane Brogan from MomPopPow for reviewing my Facebook & Twitter for Seniors For Dummies on youtube (which is the intro for my presentation).

Aarpad

Friday

So excited! I have an iPhone / iPad App: "eBay Tips For Dummies" only 99¢

I couldn't be more excited. Here are your very own pocket money making eBay tips from my books. Only 99¢ at the iTunes App store:

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Description:
You love Marsha Collier’s expert eBay guidance from her bestselling eBay For Dummies book. Now take Marsha’s helpful advice with you everywhere you go! This fun and easy eBay app will help you bag big bargains, sell like a pro, turn a profit, and make the most of your eBay experience. Packed with tips on using eBay, making smart bids, conducting your own auctions, marketing and shipping your stuff, handling privacy issues, and keeping everything safe and legal, the eBay Tips For Dummies app is exactly what you need to become a savvy seller and brilliant buyer in no time at all.

App Features:

  • Basics section guides you through the eBay registration process, creating your eBay identity, navigating the site, keeping an eye on auctions and your own transactions, getting and giving feedback, and more 
  • Part of Tens section highlights ten (or so) golden rules for gaining a great reputation on eBay and enjoying your eBay adventures 
  • Buying section gives you the inside scoop on becoming the best buyer you can be – from marking items to watch to winning bidding battles, communicating with sellers, making prompt payments, and resolving issues, it’s all here 
  • Selling section shows you the ins and outs of making your items stand out in the eBay crowd and includes tips on deciding what to sell, adding photos and details to your listings, writing a terrific title, setting a price, getting in touch with bidders, and getting your merchandise out the door 
  • Privacy & Security section helps you understand eBay’s privacy policy, keep your account safe from hackers and spammers, create a powerful password, use feedback to make informed decisions, make secure transactions, and more 
  • Search feature lets you search the entire app by keyword or phrase to help you find the information you need anytime and anywhere you want it 
  • Share feature allows you to send your favorite tips and tricks to your friends and family via Facebook or e-mail

eBay Tips For Dummies is your on-the-go guide to cashing in on the eBay phenomenon and getting that great deal!

Wednesday

Why Social Commerce Now? Social Business is the Wave to Ride for Holiday Sales

We are leaning into the largest social commerce holiday season ever. Big brands are quietly placing their bets on social commerce and the time to put a social commerce plan in place is now. Brands that wait will miss a tremendous opportunity. Here’s why:

We have been watching online behavior change over the past several years as social networks have matured. As the aggregation of data becomes more convenient through sources like Facebook and Twitter, people are consuming more content from a central hub.

A recent report from Nielsen says:

Social Networks and Blog sites rule Americans’ Internet time, accounting for 23 percent of time spent online, more than twice the amount of time spent on the #2 category, Online Games. To further put this into context, time spent on the 75 “Other” online categories combined only accounts for 35 percent of Americans’ total Internet time.

Nearly ONE QUARTER of all time online is spent on social networks and blog sites…and the number continues to grow.

Gartner Research reports:

By 2015, companies will generate 50% of Web sales via their social presence and mobile applications.

That’s a big percentage that companies need to prepare for now by testing social commerce.

Gartner Research also points out that Social media ranks in the top four action points for retailers through 2013. This is in response to “empowered consumers” — which includes social media trends — and is their top concern.

Booz Allen forecasts that today the social commerce oppotunity is worth $5 Billion and by 2015 it will be worth $30 Billion (a 600% increase!). There is a lot of money to be made by brands who introduce social commerce to their communities now and grow with them over the next several years.

HOW TO DELIVER SOCIAL COMMERCE HO-HO-HO’S

We think this is a big, big deal.

This holiday season, train your online communities to expect to shop inside their social stream. Teach them how to share storefronts and tell their friends about it – social commerce drives community growth.

Here are some take-away tips for getting the most out of the holidays:

Plan ahead. If you haven’t, sit down now and create a calendar of offers and promotion dates.

Start to hint in your social media marketing that special offers are coming inside the social sites and your fans should keep an eye out for your updates.

Open shop November 1. Holiday shopping will be in full swing, so if you haven’t already started planning, set a goal to be selling by the end of the month.

Take a page from Marketing 101 and use creative promotions such as:
1. 30% off your best-selling items for 2 weeks
2. Free shipping for a day
3. Black Friday sale
4. Cyber Monday – discounts throughout the day
5. Shipping day count-downs

 

Sunday

WIN! Possibly the Best Android Phone Yet Samsung Galaxy SII #Epic4GTouch & I'm Giving one Away!

I'll admit that I am a fan of brands who consistantly pump out good products that don't disappoint. Samsung is one, and with the Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch for Sprint, they haven't missed the mark. Yes, it's a smartphone and does everything you expect one to do, but with incredible new features:

  • 4.52” Super AMOLED™ Plus Screen: The brightest, most colorful screen I've ever seen. You see the deeper, richer color with unmatched detail and contrast. Blacks are impenetrable and the colors pop out at you. Great view from any angle.
  • Camera: Samsung overrides the standard Gingerbread camera app with one with lots of options. Easily jump between the rear-facing 8 megapixel and front-facing 2 megapixel camera. It might replace your digital camera because you can set resolution, ISO, scene and shooting modes and adjustments like white balance, contrast and metering. There's auto focus, macro mode and face detection
  • Voice Talk: Tell your phone what to do. You can make calls, play music, send messages, launch apps, browse the web, get turn-by-turn directions, and more, using just by talking to your phone.
  • Motion Control: Just pan to organize your home screen, tilt to zoom, flip to silence. That's an amazing innovation.
  • Wirelessly Connect with Your PC: No USB cable. Built in app, Kies Air lets you wirelessly manage contacts, music, photos, video, and more—all from your computer's browser over wifi.
  • Super Fast with a 1.2 GHz dual core processor.

Now here's how YOU get a chance to win!

Epic
Visit and like (please) my Facebook Author page (you might even enjoy  the links I post and decide to stay). It will be more fun if you share with everyone with a short comment why a phone like this might help you at home or in your business.

If you are already a fan of the page,click the Sweepstakes tab on the left side of the page to enter!

Multiple Entries accepted! Contest runs October 1 through October 7

Other sites are participating in the giveaway over the next few weeks. They are listed below the rules.

Rules:

Sweepstakes is open to residents of the US and Canada over the age of 18.  Family members of Samsung and The Collier Company, Inc. are not permitted to enter. Competition entries are only accepted via the specified post; entries left in the comments section of any other post will not be recognized. Entries should be submitted before midnight pacific time on October 7, 2011.

The winners will be announced on Marsha Collier's Musings, Marsha Collier's Posterous and contacted via email; they will be expected to respond within 24 hours else their prize may be forfeit and another winner selected. Decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Winner agrees that their name and details of their entry may be used for promotional purposes by, but not limited to, Samsung and Marsha Collier.

Prize consists of one Samsung Galaxy SII Epic 4G Touch smartphone. There is no cash alternative.

Saturday

Free Video Calls from your Smartpnone to a PC! Great for Home or Small Business

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Free video and Voice calls from your iOS and Android devices to a Windows PC. Unlike Facetime (only mobile-mobile and requires wifi), it works over 3G and 4G so you can call the office or home. Very cool! Download the free app for the PC here.