Friday, December 30, 2011

foursquare: New Burnsville, MN Restaurant Doing it Right

It’s not often that I take the time to promote a particular business because of something that has impressed me… however, in this case, I have to.  Not because of the food… because I haven’t had a chance to try it yet… not to mention I’m not a professional food critic.
What DOES impress me is something I’ve seen them do online as it applies to the use of social media.  As I work with businesses and organizations, I find that most business owners and non-profit executives overlook an important social media tool.  Most often it’s because they’re unaware.  Sometimes it’s because they minimize the significance or feel that, for some reason, the tool just isn’t for them.  In ALL cases… it’s simply a lack of understanding and education.  This business gets it.  The social media tool?  foursquare.  The business?  Ernies Pub & Grille in Burnsville, MN.
Ernie's Pub & Grille in Burnsville, MNA recent article in the Burnsville Patch announced the opening of this new dining establishment… so, as a Social Media Coach and Speaker, the first thing I was compelled to do was take a look at their online presence.  Needless to say… I was immediately impressed.  I don’t often see new businesses start off with their “i’s” already dotted and their “t’s” already crossed.  Not only does their website clearly, yet subtly make visitors aware that they have a “Facebook Page” and a “Twitter” presence… but what surprised me the most was seeing their“foursquare” icon… and THAT was what prompted me to write this article.
First order of business… just WHAT is “foursquare”?  It’s easiest just to use foursquare’s own words.  “Foursquare makes the real world easier to use. We build tools that help you keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, save money and unlock deals. Whether you’re setting off on a trip around the world, coordinating a night out with friends, or trying to pick out the best dish at your local restaurant, foursquare is the perfect companion.”
“foursquare” was established in 2007 and officially launched in 2009.  There are currently 15 million users worldwide and over 500,000 businesses actively using this platform to promote their businesses, organizations, and events.
WHY should you, as a business owner, be using foursquare?  Simply put… it’s yet another way to promote your business or organization to an audience who otherwise wouldn’t know that your business or organization exists.
HOW you should be using foursquare depends on the type of business you have or the type of organization you represent.  ”foursquare” gives you the ability to create a variety of special “check-in” offers which can be used to entice people to do business with you, come into your establishment and shop, or take advantage of whatever services you have to offer.  Don’t have something tangible to give those who “check-in”?  Use it as an opportunity to build relationships with businesses around you who DO have something to offer.  The opportunities are endless.
Using my “foursquare” iPhone app… I performed a simple search for “restaurants”.  Look at the screen shot.  Which establishment catches your eye?  Seasoned “foursquare” users will immediately notice the orange “SPECIAL” next to “Ernie’s Pub & Grille”.  The user will instinctively be curious and tap it to see what the offer is.  If the offer is enticing enough, “Ernie’s Pub & Grille” will soon be serving that person and whoever he/she happens to be bringing along!
I can’t tell you exactly how many customers “Ernie’s Pub & Grille” has served since opening two months ago on Oct. 24th.  I CAN tell you that as of the writing of this article, at least 78 of those individual customers have “checked-in”.  I can also tell you that they’ve had a total of 109 “check-ins”… which indicates that they’ve had a number of repeat customers just from those 78 “foursquare” users.  This isn’t secret or confidential information.  You don’t need a “foursquare” account to see it.  Click on the photo and see for yourself.
Here’s the thing.  Depending on the type of business you have, there’s a strong possibility it’s already listed in “foursquare”.  If it is, there a good chance that, unbeknownst to you, people have been “checking-in” all along!  If you’re not using “foursquare” you’re missing out on some golden opportunities for your business.
Might I have some observations and recommendations?  Of course I might… wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t.  However, I’d encourage business owners to take note.  ”Ernie’s Pub & Grill” serves as an excellent example of the type of thinking that business owners need to start embracing.  Social media is here to stay.  It’s not just a fad.  It’s going to grow and will continue to play an integral part of doing business today and in the future.  If, as a business owner, you refuse to embrace it and grow with it, you’ll only be hurting yourself… AND your business.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Media: Can’t Be a Pilot Without Education

I’ve always had a passion for flying.  Years ago I even began pursuing a “Private Pilot’s License”… although certain circumstances required me to adjust my priorities and I was unable to continue with that dream.  Perhaps someday.  I did, however, learn quite a bit and recently found myself recognizing a correlation between piloting a plane and watching small business owners try to use social media.

Even without aviation training, we’ve watched enough movies… perhaps even played a “Flight Simulator” or two… so we know some of the basic terms and the names of a few gauges, buttons, switches, and levers.  Altimeter, Airspeed Indicator, Vertical Speed Indicator, Attitude, Transponder, Ceiling, Yaw, Vector, VOR, Flaps, Rudder, to name a few.  There are probably some things mentioned that you haven’t heard of.

So… you’re sitting in the cockpit now.  You see all the gauges, buttons, switches and levers.  Go ahead… fly!  Hmm… not feeling quite ready yet?  It’s understandable.  There’s quite a bit of education necessary before you’re ready to take that step.

The same holds true when it comes to social media.  We’ve heard the names and some of the basic terminology.  Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Blog, LinkedIn, Like, Follow, Engage, Status, Post, Share, Circle, Check-In, Hashtag, Mention, Trend, Klout, to name a few.  There are probably some things mentioned that you haven’t heard of.

So… you’re sitting in the cockpit now.  You think you see all the platforms.  You may even have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn profile.  Go ahead… fly!  Hmm… not feeling quite ready yet?  It’s understandable.  There’s quite a bit of education necessary before you’re ready to take that step.

Answer the following questions:
  • Do you know the difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook Profile?
  • Do you know when to “Use Facebook As…”?
  • Do you know who you should “Like” or “Follow” to get the best exposure for your business or organization?
  • Do you know the most effective way for YOU to link social media accounts?
  • Do you know when you should be “Tweeting” rather than “Posting”?  Or “Sharing” rather than “Commenting”?
  • Do you use “Mentions” when you “Check-In” to Foursquare?
  • Did you know you can claim your “Foursquare” venue?  Do you know WHY you should do that?
  • Do you know how to make effective use of “LinkedIn Groups”?
These are just a very few of the many questions you should know the answers to before you start piloting your social media plane.

It’s OK to admit that you don’t understand social media.  Nowhere is it written that you’re supposed to know it all.  It’s NOT OK to start using social media without an understanding of the “What”, “Why”, and “How” as it applies to you, your business or organization, and your potential customers, clients, and donors.    Not only will you waste your valuable time and energy… you could potentially do irreversible damage to your brand and your reputation.  These are things I KNOW you can’t afford.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three Keys to Social Media Success

I see it every day.  Real Estate Agents and Brokers, Chamber of Commerce organizations, restaurants, diners, craft shops, spas, health clubs, you name it.  They’ll be so excited because they just started a Facebook page, activated a Twitter account, put their profile up on LinkedIn, etc…  They’ll post a few spam type advertising or sales messages, they’ll beg people to “Like” their Facebook page, to follow them on Twitter, only to be disappointed in a very short time and conclude that social media is not effective for them.  And they’re right.  It certainly wasn’t effective.  Why?  Because of a lack of education, limited understanding, and no planning.
Although there are many elements associated with the successful use of social media in your business or organization… there are three key elements which, when understood and exercised, will go a long way in contributing to that success.
  1. Strategy: You CAN’T just start using social media tools without a plan!  Winston Churchill said (during World War II), “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”.  If there’s ever been an element of business where this holds true… it’s with the use of social media!  Countless business owners, Chamber Presidents, and Non-Profit Organization Executives recognize the fact that social media is a critical part of doing business today… so the next thing they do is “just start”.  This will only lead to frustration and guaranteed failure.

    Developing and implementing a successful strategy involves:
    - Defining goals and objectives.
    - Determining the purpose for your use of social media.
    - Understanding the social media tools available to you.
    - Understanding, and in some cases, modifying your habits.
    - Integrating elements of your strategy into your offline and online efforts.
  2. Consistency: Your efforts are doomed to fail without this!  The worst thing you can do is set up your various social media accounts and “get to them when you have time”.  You’ll get out of it what you put in.  How often you “post”, “tweet”, “comment”, “share”, introduce an article into your blog, involve yourself with a LinkedIn group, etc… should be determined while developing your strategy.   The time you devote to your social media efforts will be based on:
    - The purpose for your use of social media.
    - The tools you’ve chosen to use.
    - How you’ve chosen to connect the tools you’re using.
    - Your habits.This will change over time… however, without a starting point, you won’t know what changes and modifications you’ll need to make in order to fine tune your efforts and become more efficient and effective.
  3. PATIENCE!  I CAN NOT emphasize this enough!  We live in a fast paced society.
    - Fast Food.
    - Fast Coffee.
    - Fast Information.
    - Fast Delivery.
    - Fast Customer Service.
    - Fast Checkout.
    - Fast Banking.

    I think you get it.Let me remind you.  The use of “Social Media” is NOT about selling your products or services online!  It’s about “Social Networking”.  It’s about building relationships.  It’s about establishing “trust”.  We all know that networking takes time… strong, solid relationships aren’t built overnight and trust isn’t built in a week, month, or even a year!   The same holds true when it comes to social media.  You’re not going to see immediate results for your efforts.  An effective and successful social media presence takes time.  There’s no way around it.
Sure… the social media tools may be free… to sign up for.  However, as the saying goes… you get what you pay for.  If you’re anticipating getting something from your social media efforts in exchange for little or nothing, your results will be the same… little or nothing.
Did you know…
  • …that the times when you SHOULD be posting information, sharing, and engaging may differ from the times you THINK are best for you?
  • …that the primary platform you THINK you should be using may not be the best one for you?  You may THINK it’s Facebook… however, it might be LinkedIn… it could be Twitter.  It might even be a platform you’re not currently aware of.
  • …that part of the relationship building process includes engaging with those who may never be become a customer, client, or donor themselves however, they may be able to play a key role in helping you find connect with future customers, clients, or donors.  Do you know who these people are?
  • …that the most critical element to a successful social media presence revolves around “listening”?  Do you know how to do that?
It’s time to stop treating social media like a “toy” or a “hobby”.  Not only will you waste your valuable time… but it can also result in serious damage to your brand and reputation… neither of which you can afford.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Facebook Business Pages: 7 Signs That You Don’t “Get It”
I see it every day. Business owners and non-profit executives KNOW they need to use social media. So they do… and they start with the obvious first choice… Facebook. Good decision… but then it goes downhill from there.

I regularly review and analyze “Facebook Business Pages” and see the same common mistakes made over and over again. That old adage “If you’re going to do something, do it right… or don’t do it at all” is SO applicable to the use of social media. If you’re using social media and you’re not using it right, you can be doing more harm than good to your business, organization, brand, and reputation.

It’s prompted me to put together a list of seven telltale signs that you don’t understand the “What”, “Why”, and “How” when it comes to your “Facebook Business Page”. Don’t get me wrong… there are certainly more than just seven… however, these seven are the most obvious.

  1. Incorrect or Inappropriate “Name” or Title
    The “Name” or title of your Facebook business page is one of the most critical elements of a successful Facebook business page. Naming your page correctly involves understanding people’s search habits and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others analyze Facebook business pages in order to rank them in search results.
    So… now for some “Bad News/Worse News”. The bad news? An incorrect “Name” or title will do irreversible damage making it impossible for your Facebook business page to ever be found in the search engines. The worse news? After 100 people have chosen to “Like” your Facebook Business Page you can no longer change the “Name”.
  1. No “Username” (also referred to as a “Vanity URL) or the “Username” you’ve chosen is incorrect or inappropriate

    Facebook allows you to create a “Username” otherwise known as a “Vanity URL”. This means you have an opportunity to change your Facebook URL from a complex “” to a simpler “".
    It’s important to note that you can only create your “Vanity URL” after 25 people have chosen to “Like” your page. Facebook did this intentionally to prevent name squatting as was done with domain names in the early days. It’s even MORE IMPORTANT to note that once you choose your “Vanity URL” you CAN’T change it again… so getting it right the first time is critical!
    For the same reasons as mentioned in the first point, selecting the right “Vanity URL” is critical. Again… an understanding of people’s search habits and SEO is important in selecting the right “Vanity URL”.
  1. Not filling out all of the fields available in the “Info” section

    You’ll find a variety of additional fields under the “Basic Information” section of your Facebook business page. Depending on the type of page you’ve selected, along with the category, your “Basic Information” fields will vary. How you fill these out can help provide your followers and new visitors with critical pieces of information about you and your business. Again… an understanding of people’s search habits and SEO will help you select the proper verbiage to place in some of these fields.
  1. Posts and Interactions are few and far between

    The last thing anyone wants to see is a Facebook business page where the last post was five days ago… and the one before that was two weeks ago… and the next one on the list was a month before that. This can give followers and new visitors the impression that you’re inconstant and that you don’t “follow through”.
  1. Automating your posts 
    I get it. Efficiency in business is important… however, using social media automation tools such as “”, “SocialOomph”, “TweetDeck”, “Hootsuite” to post for you can send the wrong message to followers and visitors to your page. It’s cold, impersonal, and can say “I’m lazy” or “I like to take shortcuts”. Finding the right balance can be challenging. You need to be “personal” and engaging. Think about those oh-so-personal automated phone calls you get from political candidates when there’s an upcoming election. It’s the same thing.
  1. Posts are nothing more than advertising and promotion
    Let me as a question. Are you going to go home after a hard day at work… sit in your favorite chair… grab the remote control and look for the “All Commercials! All Day! 24×7 Commercials!” channel? I’m guessing not. The same goes with social media. Using Facebook to do nothing but advertise will help you lose followers quickly.
    Social Media is about “networking”… building relationships and trust. Social media is about being “engaging”. Share news stories… sports stories… human interest stories… interesting photos… funny things… sad things… etc… Get people to interact with you via your posts.
  1. Not using “Apps” and creating additional “Tabs”

    There are an abundance of “Apps” which allow you to do some pretty incredible things with your Facebook business page. The absence of these on your Facebook Business Page is a sure sign that you don’t “get it”. ”Apps” can be used for “Landing Pages”, to integrate your YouTube channel, Twitter account, Blogs, RSS feeds and more. There are apps for contests, sweepstakes, polls, and any number of things which can help in creating an engaging Facebook business page.

    Which ones are good? Which ones aren’t? A little guidance can go a long way in making sure you spin your wheels and waste your valuable time trying to determine that yourself.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article… there are plenty more signs. People are becoming more and more savvy every day. First impressions will make or break you, your business, or your organization… and as we all know… negative first impressions are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.

What do people see when they visit your Facebook business page? What level of professionalism, comfort, and trust do they come away with after visiting your page? It’ll mean the difference between success and failure where your social media efforts are concerned.

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