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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What Facebook’s Graph Search Announcement Means to Your Small Business Page

Search within Facebook with Search Graph

Search within Facebook with Search Graph

Remember those long lost ‘Likes’? Y’know, the ones from people who Edgerank decided really didn’t want to receive your message? Well, Facebook’s newest announcement of Graph Search could help get back their attention.

Chances are, a person has clicked ‘Like’ on your page because they had a good experience, they saw that a friend did, you had a giveaway, or ran an ad. Graph Search will allow users to search all content in Facebook (that’s public or would have been viewable to them under normal circumstances) and use specific keywords to find information they need. So let’s say, for example, that you own an auto mechanic shop. If someone’s car breaks down, word of mouth is king. They hop on Facebook Graph Search, type in “Auto Mechanics near me that my friends like” and will find places that their friends have had good experiences with. This means a few things:

  1. It’s all the more important to keep people from unliking your page, even if they don’t necessarily interact with it (in other words, create quality content and don’t spam your page by posting so often that people get fed up and unclick ‘Like’)
  2. You need to reevaluate your page’s description, industry setting and relevant keywords to make sure everything is labeled properly for what will likely be called Facebook Graph SEO.

This announcement arriving in the first month of the New Year is a perfect opportunity for you to take another look at your page. See if you need to revamp your social media presence on Facebook. Look at your category, your keywords and your business description to make sure they all say what you need them to say in order to be found. Here’a an article from Forbes to further read up on Facebook’s announcement.

Facebook, announcement, search, graph, SEO, social media

Click to read full Forbes article

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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Twitter Spammers Are Stealing Your Tweets

Twitter, followers, tweets, spam, fake, accounts

Never tastes as good as you hope it will…

With each technology that advances our culture, there is the inevitable down side. With the telephone came bad telemarketing and phone scams, with the television came crappy infomercials (and in my opinion, reality TV), and with the internet came spam. Each of these has advanced in their own way, and the typical scheme has been to sell you something. Twitter spam is becoming it’s own beast and seems to serve multiple functions. Some are pretty obvious, like the:

“Hey @robzie81, how would you like 1,000 followers in 5 minutes? Click here —> http://bit.ly/clickforgarbage”

Or one of my recent favorites:

“@robzie81 Someone is spreading vicious rumors about you http://bit.ly/clickitstupid”

These ones get the delete pretty quickly, but there are some that I’ve seen becoming pervasive in the Twittersphere that are a different breed. They’re Twitter accounts, obviously made by people who’s first language is not English, with stock images as their avatar and occasionally very poorly written bios. These accounts typically have a handful of followers, likely from their own circle, pretty legit sounding names, and the content of the tweets is typically flush with keywords. Some are copy/pasted from other users’ tweets, with any @ references removed and thus making them make no sense, like:

“Can’t wait for my training session with #itsbeentoolong”

Something seems out of place there, doesn’t it? I also come across some other copy/pasted versions that seem legit at first, until you see them show up 30 times in a search, word for word. Examples:

“Dear shaving commercials, stop shaving hairless legs. If you want impress us, please shave a gorilla.”
“I’m so hungry! “Didn’t you just eat?” “Yeah… So?””
“My poor school :( I have lost everything in my classroom. Floods up to my waist took over everything. God help us. :(“
“I wasn’t that drunk ‘Dude, you were in my closet yelling “where the heck is narnia”‘

There are some tweets that are poorly written, but are obviously targeted to show up in business searches. Keywords for everything from spas and salons, gyms and restaurants are planted in tweets like the below:

“It’s my lucky day..I buy new bikini with 50% off :)”
“hello friends…,is there anyone ever try acai berry, i heard it’s good for diet and health”
“I am thinking about getting a 1971 Ford Pinto for a new car”
“Oh no, my dog pee on my pillow again…twice this week grrr…”
“On early call out for a military exercise, one of my colleagues used this excuse: I had to round up a group of Giraffes on the motorway (…”

Twitter, tweet, business, keywords, spam

Hm. Do we see a trend developing in this search stream?

My guess is that these accounts directly relate to the first example I mentioned: Paid Twitter followers. This then leads me to my final point, and please excuse my use of all caps, but: NEVER PAY FOR TWITTER FOLLOWERS. The likelihood that your account will be followed by the garbage accounts above is pretty high, and they will do nothing for you. Organically building your Twitter presence will get you real followers (and the occasional bot that will follow you, but what can you do?) and will create a community of conversation that will actually be useful to you. Take the time to put out interesting, relevant content, follow other people and businesses that you find interesting and they will often return the favor if they find your content worthwhile.

What other kind of Twitter spam have you seen, besides the notorious bikini-clad porn accounts? Any other creative things you’ve seen? Have any of you bought into the ‘pay for followers’ scheme already, and if so, what kind of followers did you see?

Let me know below with your comments. Also, be sure to check out some of the best/worst REAL Twitter users have to offer by checking out my weekly post, Found Tweet Friday.

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.

LinkedIn’s Profile Facelift, and a Feature You May Not Know About

As many of you have probably heard or seen, LinkedIn announced that it is giving profiles a facelift and working on making the site better equipped for social interaction. This surely is in part due to the split from Twitter. If you haven’t seen the changes on your profile and mobile apps already, you will soon. It’s cleaner, clearer and an undeniable upgrade. Here is a great article outlining some of the major changes and discussing how they may effect you. Perhaps it’s time to spruce things up a bit on your profile.

While checking out my shiny new page, I noticed that LinkedIn is focusing even more on the important stuff. As you scroll down my page, you see my summary, experience, publications, and projects. In that order. This means that as people are viewing your previous experience, they are likely to see your Projects too. Are you using this great, but highly undervalued feature on LinkedIn? I’ve included a video below explaining how to add one, and the great benefits that come along with creating Projects (like strengthening and increasing your connections). I guest posted about this on Entrepreneur Magazine columnist Starr Hall’s blog a couple months ago, but I feel it bears mentioning again.


What are your thoughts on this feature? What do you think of LinkedIn’s new profile pages? Do you have any speculation as to what’s coming next for the professional network? Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Brand Your Instagram Photos Using Over App

Over App

Taken with Instagram, text added with Over

A couple weeks ago, Chris Brogan tweeted about an app he was digging and shared a Google Hangout he had with a guy named Aaron Marshall. The app was called Over, and it allows you to add text over pictures on your iPhone (for the time being) using a really slick interface. You can then post your edited photos to Facebook (profile not page, yet), Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr (having issues getting mine to show up though) or send the image via email. I’ve yet to have Chris Brogan steer me wrong, so I checked out the app myself. Seemed like a fun way to spice up photos and I really enjoy the use of a scrolling wheel to go through all of your options. Later, I read a blog post shared by Valerie Deveza reminding bloggers that you can (and should) easily use your own, royalty-free images in your blog posts. This saves time scouring for usable images (and potential distractions of perusing the internet) and any concern of copyright infringement. Then. It hit me.

Over App

Taken with Instagram, text added with Over

A fantastic use for Over is to “brand” your photos that you take on your iPhone. If you already use Instagram or Facebook Camera, take your pictures and add your filters as normal. Open Over and load the picture in, add your company name, website, your name, message, etc, choose a font (more are available for individual purchase) and suddenly, the photo is officially yours. Also, if you’re a fan of Paper by 53 for the iPad (of which I am a raving fan), you can doodle your image, email it to yourself or screen capture it, add your text with Over, and suddenly it becomes branded as well. (Conversely, you could write out your company’s name/info in Paper if you have a steady hand, but I know many professionals whose handwriting is pretty atrocious.) Either way, you’ll get to show off your creative side and never worry if you’re going to receive a cease and desist letter for an image you’re using. Even with proper credit, you just can’t be too sure when using others’ intellectual property.

Fifty-Three, Yelp, Over App

Drawn with Paper by 53, text added with Over

The best part about using Over with the apps I’ve discussed is that you don’t have to go and buy (or illegally download) any expensive software. Over and Paper may cost you a few bucks, then you’re off to writing your blog safely, further engaging your creativity and artistic side. Just think. You could even create your own memes!

What are your thoughts on this approach? Are you using any other text-overlay apps that you’re hooked on? Are you already using your own images in your blog posts?

Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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Why the Olympics could be bad for your business

Olympics London 2012

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The 2012 Summer Olympics are approaching quickly. Soon status updates and tweets will be flooding timelines and feeds with the latest stories, winners, broken records, upsets and national pride. What could possibly be wrong with that, you ask? Well, if you’re trying to still garner any attention during the Olympics, you may find your attempts getting buried and ignored by distracted potential customers (y’know, even more than they already are.) I read an article in Inc. Magazine about a company called Elemental that will be providing the technology to live stream the Olympics events to mobile devices. What could possibly be more distracting than that? It has also been said that this Olympics will be remembered as the first truly Social Olympics, Facebook has partnered with NBC to promote coverage, and athletes are being held to strict regulations. So what are you to do?

You’re going to have to get involved. That’s right, you need to do a couple things to keep yourself relevant while those Olympians are fighting for the gold, and the attention of your customers:

  1. Inject yourself into the conversation –  Let’s be honest. McDonald’s unhealthy double quarter pounder and large fries have nothing to do with the rigorous healthy regimen that Olympic athletes must hold themselves to. But will McDonald’s find a way to remain relevant and advertise using the Olympics as a backdrop? You better believe it. Find a story and run with it. Keep up on athletes (maybe some from a relatively local area) and support them, report on their victories or upsets, engage your customers in what is important to them in the moment. Find ways to subtly but interestingly insert your product or service. Do you sell sports equipment? Talk about those pro goggles or amazing new running shoes an athlete is wearing. Do you specialize in childcare? Get the kids involved in the stories of athletes rise to glory and the importance of staying fit. Do you sell electronics? Um, guys, they’re streaming the Olympics live on mobile devices. We have those mobile devices. Don’t be overbearing, just be relevant. If you can be clever without coming across as a slimy salesperson, even better.Twitter hashtags trending topics
  2. Follow the hashtags – Honestly, I hate trending topics. I find that they’re either things I could care less about or just outright stupid. However, when huge things happen, they trend. (For example, at the time of typing this, two trending topics are #SongsThatGiveYouGoosebumps and Is Pregnant. Insert long Napoleon Dynamite sigh here.) Being someone who is on Twitter for good parts of the day reaching out to customers, I can tell you that general Twitter users love easily shareable hashtags (especially the 10ThingsYadaYadaYada kind). The Olympics has an official hashtag (#London2012), so watching that is important. Maybe even create your own, just be sure to check that it doesn’t already exist. Again, use these to find out what conversations are going on and join them. Are people tweeting about that hometown favorite who lost by 5 tenths of a second? Lament right along with them. Is an up and coming swimmer talking about that speedo that Tyler McGill is wearing? If you’re a sports shop, do you sell those? Be creative and be interesting so you won’t be forgotten.

I know it’s not a simple as it sounds. You’re busy and this is another thing on your plate. As a small or local business, community is everything, and national pride is a unifier not to be scoffed at. It really could pay off for you to do these two things.

What do you think? Do you already have any plans to compete with the increased social traffic of the Olympics? Are you the type of person who gets excited about the games? Do you plan to try to live stream it to your mobile device and keep up on the results?

Let me know below with your comments.

Thanks for reading. Now go get your social on!

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