People Just Doing Twitter Right

Robzie Social

We often get caught up on the “How You Need to do blah blah blah” and the “100 Things You’re Doing Wrong” or “Biggest Social Media Fails of the Week” type posts. Eh, it’s the internet. We thrive on the wrongdoings of others. I’d like to take a moment, though, to spotlight some people that I think are just doing things damn right.

Joel and the team at Buffer

ImageNot only are these guys super quick to apologize and address any concerns you bring up, they always give off the feeling that they’re genuinely good people. For example, I recently posted a tweet, simultaneously hailing their success with the recent update, while also lamenting that I was seeing posts in LinkedIn groups beginning with RT. My concern was that people weren’t editing posts to properly reflect each platform Buffer posts to, and that Buffer would get a bad rep for helping create spam in groups. I quickly received a response from the @Buffer handle, signed off by Carolyn, their Chief Happiness Office (love that they do that, I’ve also seen other folks chime in with that account, too.). Moments later, Joel Gascoigne, Founder and CEO of Buffer also reached out to me to discuss how we they could improve the product. With over 20k followers, he’s still jumping into conversations, and graciously listening to people in order to make the product better for their customers. Not too shabby. Over a million users and the CEO is still involved hands-on, startup style. Does that make me happier that I use their product? You bet it does. I also recommend checking out their blog for lots of great information, if you haven’t already.

Warby Parker

WarbyParkerI just recently had my first experience with Warby Parker when I was informed that they let you have pairs of glasses sent to your home to try on. The magical revelation blew my mind (I haven’t replaced my glasses in 10 years, ok?).  I’d often peruse the selection at my optometrist when getting my contact prescription, but never really found anything I liked. This, though. This was awesome. When my glasses arrived, I was geeked. I tried them all on (and was glad I did, because some came out very different looking than the “upload your photo” option online), and followed WP’s instructions. They actually encourage you to post a photo online to get your friends to vote. It doesn’t stop there, though. Since I tagged them on Twitter, they jumped right on the conversation. More than that, they took the time to narrow down the pairs I ordered and gave me a vote of their own. That’s really taking customer service to the next level, with a side of flattery to sweeten the deal. I’m typically a supporter of small, local optometrists, but this kind service definitely has me eyeing this new pair of frames from Warby Parker.

Coolhaus ATX

CoolhausThese guys are just so much fun to talk to, and their style is a perfect fit for Austin. First off, I discovered their ice cream sammie goodness a few months after I moved to Austin. We didn’t have such glorious food truckage where I lived previously. I must say, it was love at first bite. Unique ice cream flavors wedged between two large, fresh-baked cookies, wrapped in an edible wrapper. It doesn’t get much better than that. When you tweet about it to @CoolhausATX, they’re on it to ask what you had and if you loved it. If you mention a craving, they’re quick to tell you that they’d love to see you stop by, wherever they happen to be. If you follow them on Twitter, they even offer an ever changing #HAUSpwrd to get yourself $1 off. The sandwiches are $5, but they’re a welcome cool treat in the Austin sun. Couple great treats with great treatment, and you’ve got a combination that will keep me coming back.

These are, of course, just a few examples, but I’m a sucker for good customer service. In the current climate of faceless social media automation and lackluster customer service skills, it’s always refreshing to see someone doing it right. I recommend all three of the above.

Who would you add to this list? Share your customer service superstars in the comments below.

Now go get your social on!

Conversation Economy and the Increased Value of Word of Mouth

I recently read an article on Fast Company, in which angel Investor Peter Shankman laid down a $5,000 donation bet that Yelp’s business model will fail by next year. He asks why, in the “conversation economy” that we live in, would he rely on the reviews of complete strangers when the feedback from his friends on Facebook and Google+ is so readily available. This term―conversation economy―really got me thinking. Though we’ve always placed a high value on word of mouth, social media has exponentially increased that, not only online, but in the real world. I’ll give you an example.

You can't beat these tacos.

You can’t beat these tacos.

A newer coworker at Main Street Hub recently became friends with me on Foursquare. She then began the obligatory creeping my check-ins to see what’s good (her words), when she came across a check-in at one of my favorite local Austin spots―Elaine’s Pork and Pie, and the accompanying photo. She asked me about it as we were getting coffee one morning, and I began the effusive raving that this little spot deserves. Amazing food, sweet service, and cheap prices. While we were discussing this, another coworker overheard the words “Pulled Pork Tacos,” and became interested in our conversation. Another was passing by and asked if we were talking about Elaine’s Pork and Pie, and also began talking about how much he loved the place. Remember those anti-tobacco Truth commercials, where the little asterisk appears above everyone’s head? Yeah, it’s something like that.

More than ever, now that Facebook’s Graph Search and Google+ Local search have incorporated your friends into what you’re searching for online, word of mouth is king. Positive experiences, check-ins, and good reviews from friends of potential customers (with Facebook allowing a star-rating and has teamed up with OpenTable, as well) can turn into real world dollars and ROI for a business’s bottom line. Just the opposite can happen if those experiences aren’t ideal or if poor experiences go ignored. Businesses simply cannot allow themselves to remain deaf and blind to the conversations that are going on about them. Participation is mandatory.

How has this change to the conversation economy affected your business? Have you had a similar experience like the one I describe above? Have you been to Elaine’s Pork and Pie? (If you’re in Austin, ever, GO. THERE.) Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Now go get your social on!

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What Yelp’s New Mobile Reviews Capability Means

Yelp-logoWith their latest 7.0 app update, Yelp asks you to sit down, because this one’s a biggie. In their words you can now “visit any business page, tap “add review” and go bananas.” That’s right―Yelp has added the ability for your customers to write a review in the moment, on their mobile device, via the Yelp app. Please, ladies and gentlemen, don’t go bananas. Yelp responsibly.

A few things that this could mean:

  1. Optimist – More happy Yelpers will more readily share their opinions with local businesses due to the easy nature of typing up a short but sweet review on their mobile device. (bring on the Autocorrect typos.)
  2. Pessimist – Open the flood gates of angry people. Hell hath no fury like a mobile Yelper. Now that people can easily leave reviews in the heat of the moment, without first cooling down and hopefully rationally approaching a situation (or forgetting about it entirely), 1-star review hell will break loose.
  3. Realist – There will likely be some occasional anecdotal instances of both the above, but largely things will remain the same. Elite and consistent Yelpers will continue writing their reviews, possibly more often since they can do so immediately. You may see more people hanging around the table or salon, tip tapping away their experience into their phone, but I don’t expect to see a massive influx of changes to reviews.

Here’s what it should not mean, however. All business owners should not encourage their employees to download the app and write bogus reviews for their business. I have no doubt that Yelp has thought this through, being that it’s taken this long for them to add such functionality to their app, and have put some sort of safeguards in place (geo-tagging or GPS functionality, perhaps?). Don’t be that business. It always turns out badly.

What do you think of this new, obviously overdue addition to the Yelp app? Good, bad, ugly? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Now go get your social on!

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How Converse Won My Love During SXSW

I absolutely love the opportunities that social media can provide us. A mere twenty years ago, it would have been a rare occurrence to connect with anyone internally at a major company. With social, communication lines are more engaging, and often times more human, than ever before. Nothing could be more evident than my experience at SXSW last week.

Converse shoes free from SXSW

This is what free swag can look like!

My girlfriend and I were waiting in line for a Fader Fort show, presented by Converse. She was very excited to catch Solange Knowles (very talented younger sister of Beyonce, who put on a great show). I biked to meet her directly after I got off work, and we joined the forever long line after picking up wristbands. As is my standard, I checked in to the venue. Upon checking in on Foursquare, I was provided with the information of a sponsored hashtag for the event that would allow me the possibility to win some swag. As we social media nerds do, I immediately tweeted using the hashtag to announce my presence at the event, expecting nothing more than perhaps a retweet later or a thanks for enjoying the event. What happened next made my entire week.

Not only did Converse tweet me, they offered me a free pair of Converse shoes. I’m not one who wins things often, so this alone made me geek out. I was instructed to DM them with information so they could provide me a contact. This is where thing reached the level of super awesome. I was given a number to text message, allowing me to find the person who would get me free shoes after we got in. I did, however, I noted that we were in a line that was moving at the pace a snail could have easily topped.

Twitter conversation with Converse

How it all went down.

Rather than giving me a blase “Well, we hope to see you if and when you get in,” Converse obliterated my expectations. They told me to get out of line and meet a guy at the entrance. They were going to let us in, simply because I tweeted their hashtag. There was a strong possibility that we were going to miss Solange’s performance (see a clip below) with the look of the line, and an increasing number of badge holders showing up, but we were able to get in, get settled on a spot, and enjoy her whole performance. My girlfriend was thrilled with the show, and I was thrilled that I got some new kicks. All this thanks to the direct line of communication that social media provides. Guess who could be labeled a brand advocate for Converse now―this kid. Way to go Converse.

Have you had a similar experience, whether at SXSW or otherwise? What kind of awesome interactions have you had with a brand via social media? Share your story in the comments below!

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Preparing for Small Business Saturday Shoppers

small business, local business, black friday, shopping, holiday, Small Business Saturday, Amex

‘Tis the season…to shop local!

Whether you’re excited about it or begrudgingly accepting it, the holiday season is in full swing. Thanksgiving is next week and the bell is about to ring for full-on holiday shopping. Hopefully, Black Friday will bring you some business during the big-box store madness, but what I personally get really excited about is Small Business Saturday. It’s the small and local business-focused shopping day between Black Friday and Cyber Monday where your business gets a chance to shine and show customers why it still pays to shop local. The question is, are you prepared for it?

You want to get the word out, you want to make sure people are excited about taking time to support their local economy and find the unique products and services you provide, but where do you begin? If you haven’t previously started hyping this up, you’re at a disadvantage already, but it’s not hopeless.

  1. The first thing you need to do is start creating excitement and get the word out. Small Business Saturday has only been around for a few years, so some of your customers may simply not know that it exists. Mention it to your customers in the store, put some messages out on your social sites and get people talking. ‘Like’ the Small Business Saturday Facebook page (link at the end of this post) and start mentioning it on Facebook (tag the page so people can check it out, too). Also, just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you can’t take a page out of the big guys’ books. Start offering ‘sneak peaks’ this week of specials you’ll be having, or plans you’re anticipating to make the day fun and different than any other shopping day. Make sure you mention any adjusted hours so people know they can hit your store earlier or later than usual.
  2. Feel out your customers. What are they most excited about this shopping season? What items are on their wish list that they should buy from you? What do they hate about holiday shopping that you can potentially make easier on them? These are the kinds of things you should be asking to get a temperature of your customers’ feelings at this hectic time of year, and try to provide the more personalized service and experience that makes shopping local so great.
  3. Not a small retail business? That doesn’t mean you have to be left out. Cater your specials to weary holiday shoppers! If you’re a restaurant, have a Small Business Saturday shopper menu with items at a discounted price. A coffee shop: Provide a discounted cup of coffee or free flavor shot to fuel up those people who are shopping locally. Spa or salon? Offer specials to local shoppers to unwind after a busy and stressful shopping day. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure to remind them that participating in “local” is what got the them their special treatment. It’s about community here, folks.

Now, the review responder in me must add this last point. This is your opportunity to shine and remind people that you exist right down the street from them. Make sure you’re properly staffed, everyone has a smile and is excited to be part of the experience. Remember that many of these customers may have already dealt with ludicrous and potentially dangerous crowds elsewhere and may be on edge. You don’t want all of your hard work to unravel in the form of a slew of unhappy customer reviews.

For more information and tips, here are a couple more resources:

  • Small Business Saturday Facebook page
  • Small Business Trends article on preparing for Small Business Saturday
  • Forbes article with some tips and ideas
  • If you find the holiday season too overwhelming to handle your social media presence, the company I work for, Main Street Hub, can alleviate the stress of handling and monitoring your online presence. Check us out!

What kind of things are you planning to make this year the best for your small business? If you’re not a business owner, do you plan to participate in all three “shopping holidays”? (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday) What are some crazy or unique specials, gimmicks or tactics that you’ve already seen?

Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Keeping Customers In a Short Attention Economy

Facebook, addiction, Internet Addiction Disorder, attention span, case study

“Attention span of a goldfish” just became a compliment…

Customer attention spans are becoming shorter and and more thinly spread as each new gadget, network and mobile device hits the market. You cannot simply hope that a customer will get over a bad experience and continue doing business with you because it’s too much hassle to search out other options. It’s so easy now for people to find your competitors’ presence online and seek them out, quickly forgetting that you ever existed. Let’s be honest, they can and will do it from their mobile device, while they’re still inside your business. If you’re especially unlucky, they’ll leave you with the parting gift of an awful online review. I’ve discussed tips on diffusing that kind of situation here.

The answer is moderately simple, but is never easy. There’s an age-old remedy to keeping your customers’ attention, maintaining their loyalty, and adding value to your product or service. Two words: Customer Service.

As social media ROI is becoming more evident (thus getting more SMBs to begrudgingly establish an online presence) it’s even MORE important to maintain focus on face-to-face customer service. As potential customers find you online and give your business a try, you’ll need to make sure their experiences keep them coming back. If the service isn’t there, all your digital efforts are for naught. So very often, in the reviews that I work on for clients, I’ve seen people say something to the effect of “the food/product/work wasn’t that great, but the service was fantastic. That’s the only reason I’d give this place another try.” I also often see, “The food/product/work was great, but I can find that somewhere else. It’s not worth putting up with the awful service I received.” Rarely do I see people state that they’d come back because the product is so good, even though they felt mistreated or received poor service. We intrinsically hold high value on how we’re treated at a business, even though the product is likely what brought us there in the first place.

If your business is providing fantastic customer service, this gives you a bartering tool with an unhappy customer, and may help you keep them from never returning. You can try to fix the product that they didn’t like. You can ensure them that it will be better next time, and they may take your word for it. It will likely be a lot tougher to convince someone that they’ll receive better service next time. Poor service really sticks with people.

A great product can bring people through your front door, but great service is what’s going to keep them there and create loyalty. It even adds an intangible value to your product. It’s important. If you can’t provide great service to your customers, hire someone to do it for you. It’s worth every bit you invest into it.

Do you have any customer service success stories, on either side of the experience? Have you experienced a missed opportunity by a business that led to you seek out their competitor(s)?

Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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3 Tips for Doing Twitter Outreach Without Being a Creep

By now you’ve probably heard that social media does not follow the Field of Dreams mantra: “If you build it, they will come.” (I know, for all you die hard Field of Dreams fans, that’s not the factually accurate quote. But that’s what it has become in pop culture so bear with me.) Simply setting up your social media profiles and waiting for people to come swarming to them will just not happen. You have to give them a reason to come to your page. You have to seek them out by knowing your business, knowing your customers, and knowing your community. One great way to seek out potential customers is by doing Twitter outreach. I’m not going to go through the use of Twitter’s search features here. Those articles have already been written by much more knowledgeable bloggers to varying degrees. I did recently write a guest post for Main Street Hub, a social media management company that focuses on local businesses, in which I discuss three tips for doing Twitter outreach without coming across as a creep or spambot. Twitter is fraught with both, so differentiating yourself from them is critical. You can read the post here:

What are your thoughts on Twitter outreach? Have you been reached out to or poached successfully? What did the person do that worked, or didn’t? Do you have any more tips to add? Let me know below with your comments. Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on! Follow this blog on Google Currents! Download the app in your app store or marketplace and click here to subscribe.

The Social Gnome’s Hoard – 4 New Reasons to Monitor Online Reviews

This week we’re discussing the recently increased importance of monitoring and maintaining your presence on review sites, particularly Yelp and Google Places (now called Google+ Local).

June 13, 2012:

Social Gnome hoard image

Yelp rating system

The slow, painful decline from red to yellow

  • Siri uses Yelp to search locally – When your potential customers hit that button on their iPhone and tell Siri asks what she can help them with, Siri then asks her friend Yelp for the highest rated results in that category in your geographic area. This is applicable whether you’re a restaurant, doctor, lawyer, plumber, auto repair shop, anything. You need to make sure you’re looking as clean as you can on Yelp, or Siri may not recommend you. Yes, you are now catering your hard work on your company’s image to a digital assistant. Get used to it and move forward, because this stuff is only getting more complicated.
Google+ Local Austin recommendation

I agree, Mandola’s is delicious.

  • Google loves Google+ – Google has integrated it’s search even more fully into its social network, last week unveiling Google+ Local. Companies’ reviews on Zagat and Google Places are now merged, using the Zagat scoring system, out of 30 points, and allowing rating of multiple facets of a business. Companies can no longer have an abandoned Google Places page. They will now have to create a Google+ business page, or spruce up their Google Places page now that it has ported over and become a Google+ business page. This gives you some great options, visually, but a more social search for customer equals a more complicated job for businesses.
Screenshot from Apple.com

Apple.com explains iOS6 features

  • Apple just rocked your world – The unveiling of new iOS6 features from Apple announced the dropping of Google Maps and the addition of Apple Maps. Once again, Apple is lending preference to Yelp to assist users in navigating the best spots in the very slick looking, and exceedingly functional, Apple maps. Local restaurants, take note that Apple in also utilizing Open Table to allow users to make reservations with Siri. Let the confusion begin.
Visual.Ly infographic on food critiquing

Visual.Ly shows you how much we’re all critics

  • Everybody’s a criticVisual.Ly makes a great infographic that culminates our innate needs to have our opinions heard. From quick shout outs, epic tales of a dinner gone wrong, or outright rude chastising of a business owner for not caring enough, we love to have our opinions heard. Although there are numerous platforms out there that cater to this desire to be heard, Yelp furthers the addiction even more by rewarding those who share their opinions the most (awarding them a coveted Elite status) and Google just made it super easy for Google+ users to share their experiences very, very publicly.
UPDATE As an addendum, Bing is also pushing the local search functionality. Guess what resource Bing will be utilizing for finding local businesses. Yelp. Bing has been making major strides in order to compete with Google and the social nature of Google+ Local. It seems Bing is bringing Yelp along with it.
The push to make the local experience completely interactive has grown so exponentially in the last couple of years, it’s difficult to imagine where we’ll be in a couple more. Social search has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short amount of time. One thing is clear, the phrase “Evolve or die” could not be written any clearer. Local business owners simply can not ignore the growing need to be involved in the social digital sphere. Word of mouth is still king, but that king sits on the throne made of Yelp and Google+ Local.

I recommend you give at least a moment’s look at Main Street Hub. We handle your online reviews for you. We make sure your customers are heard, acknowledged, appeased and thanked. The time is now. Take your reviews by the horns and lead them in a direction that helps your business grow in this ever changing climate of fickle customers who have been handed megaphones to share their experiences. Tell Main Street Hub that Rob Z sent you. Thanks for reading.

Now go get your social on!

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