Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Enhancing Discoverability

6 Tactics for Increasing Your Business’ Online Presence in Local Reviews and Directories

By David Alpern and Greg Jordan

The role the Internet plays in having prospective customers locate and assess a business cannot be overstated. Smart Momma, a baby gear and gifts retailer, saw its site traffic increase 3X over one year due in large part to online reviews. The Internet can be gold for local businesses if they also have a plan in place for the disgruntled.

Being Found

Consumers don’t get their information from just one source. BIA/Kelsey’s User View Wave VII consumer tracking study found that consumers use 7.9 different media sources when shopping locally. Each media has an impact at every level of the purchase funnel: awareness, interest, desire along with consideration, and ultimately the most important stage – action, which is typically a purchase.

“Media sources” refers to search engines (90% reported using search), Internet Yellow Pages (48% usage), vertical industry sites (24%), and comparison shopping sites (42%).

Here are 6 tactics that harness the power of the Internet to help direct more people to a business’ front door.

Be Prolific

The BIA/Kelsey’s User View Wave VII consumer tracking study cited above also revealed that nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media to shop locally. Yet, online is a large place, and the use may be in the form of gathering product information, price comparison, reviews, coupons, look-up information. Generate content that is relevant and usable in each of these forums.

Reputation Management

As consumer-generated content proliferate, so do the problems and headaches they engender. Consumers are increasingly more likely to search online for reviews before making a purchase, and what they find may be misleading information. Be it intentional or not, it damages the perception of the brand and can quickly spread. Changing these perceptions necessitates successfully communicating accurate information to balance the viewpoint.

Have a Plan

Rather than avoid online forums, formulate an action plan to manage potential damage caused by negative conversations and reviews. A disgruntled customer is 4X more likely to convey their feelings to others than a customer that enjoyed a good experience. The ratio can rapidly multiply online and spell disaster for brands that don't have strategies in place to combat online negative chatter.

Google Profile

Creating a custom profile on Google is an easy and effective way to make sure you appear when people are "Googling" you. What's more, the profile information resides at Google which means it will get indexed almost immediately. Try filling out your profile, then do a vanity search and see if you pop up! http://www.google.com/profiles/me

Yelp

Yelp is a popular site that connects people with local businesses and allows consumers to share experiences. Business owners can join the conversation and put their best foot forward by posting pictures, menus, discounts, special events notifications, and proactively responding to reviewers as necessary.

Directories

The five steps that deliver the most significant positive effect on local rankings are:
1. Google/Yahoo! local business listings that include an address and business description
2. Citations from data providers, such as InfoUSA, Localeze, and Internet yellow pages sites
3. Associating your local business listing within the proper categories
4. Completing the verification steps offered for your local business listing on Google/Yahoo!
5. Including product/service keywords (i.e., “hair salon,” “attorney”) in the title of your listing
And for the ambitious, there is also Yahoo! SearchMonkey, which allows customization of the look and feel of your search result on Yahoo! This tool involves supplying Yahoo! with an XML feed and typically is prepared by an interactive vendor and not by the business itself.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

8 Obscure Interactive Social Tools

Is all the effort you put into your web presence paying off? Social media activation involves reaching beyond your immediate circle to a broader community online. You can measure the influence your actions have to see how big your brand is becoming. The Internet is littered with an innumerable roster of service offerings, so here is a compilation of 8 lesser known tools that are particularly valuable:

Keyword trends - Trendrr tracks and compares the trends of any keyword – brand names, executive officers, and can even compare them to other keywords. Trendrr produces pretty eye candy charts too.

Twitter account age Digimantra offers a free tool that displays when an account profile launched.

Twitter importanceTweetreach assesses how wide an impact an account has. The larger the influence an account has, the more valuable they are to have in your network.

Post to multiple accountsHootsuite is a web based app that is very similar to the popular TweetDeck but does not require the resource sucking Adobe Air. Hootsuite has a feature that allows posting of the same tweet to multiple Twitter accounts, which is especially useful if you facilitate multiple brand identities. Hootsuite also includes analytics that let’s you see who is clicking on your posts, who is retweeting your messages, etc.

Free conference callingCalliflower operates a convenient platform that integrates web and phone applications and offers both USA and other countries local numbers. The web app features live chat on the site. Calliflower can save the call recording as an MP3 file and post it to iTunes for free as a podcast. Other nice features include SMS text, e-mail reminders, and various administrator features.

International VoIP callingTruphone is a mobile VoIP service that is especially useful if your travels take you out of the country and you want to be able to call back to the USA using Wi-Fi rather than setting up your mobile phone with an international dialing plan.

Online ReputationOnline ID Calculator looks at the strength of your online Identity and reputation. When people perform a search by name for someone, they judge the results based on both volume and relevance. Quantity implies that you have something to say. Relevance is of greater important as it assesses what that quantity of posts say about you, do they back up your written and oral claims, and ultimately, are you compelling?

Online VisibilityAddictomatic instantly creates a custom page with the latest on any topic or person. It looks at how you show up across search and social media platforms such as Google, Twitter, Bing, FriendFeed (part of Facebook), Twingly YouTube, Digg, Flickr, Delicious, BlogLines, Truveo, Wikio, Yahoo, Technorati, etc.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Profiling and Understanding Users of Social Networks

If the social networking revolution has you scratching your head wondering about why people are investing time in all of this and how companies can actually benefit from this activity, there is a Harvard Business School study that relays surprising findings about the needs these networks fulfill, how people use these offerings differently, and how Twitter is holistically different.

Most obviously, social networks are an information hub about the activities of those you know. They also serve as a gateway to introductions to new resources and contacts. The HBS study also identified how they enable “under the radar” job searches without giving off the appearance of being proactively engaged in such activity, especially if presently employed.
Click to view large
What are people doing on social networks?
Since people spend lots of time on these sites; what are they actually doing? Answer: Pictures. The killer app of social networks. People love to look at pictures. 70% of observed actions were related to viewing pictures and other people's profiles. As related in the Robin Williams movie “One Hour Photo”, pictures typically show people at a moment when they are having fun and are happy, a sentiment that we as humans seek for ourselves. Pictures also provide a channel that is a form of voyeurism. While we would not pry into other people's lives physically, online it does not feel intrusive or objectionable. Many first encounters that happen in the flesh after social networking voyeurism include comments like “you're that guy that did that internship in (fill in the blank) last year."

Studying behavior by gender, the biggest grouping was of men looking at women they don't know, followed by men looking at women they do know. It turns out that women also look at other women they know. Overall, women receive two-thirds of all page views. A lot of guys in relationships are looking at women they don't know. Similar to how some people use social networks as a cover for subtly pursuing a new job, they also provide an easy channel to see if anyone might be a better relationship match.


How Twitter is Different

Did you know that Twitter is used mostly by adults, Facebook was originally the domain of college students exclusively, and LinkedIn is populated by executives and professionals? Twitter, was found to be quite different not just in terms of who uses it but also how it is used. Twitter restricts users to 140-character messages. The HBS study found that 90% of posts were created by just 10% of users. This was attributed to how the service uses just words not pictures, and writing is a difficult skill for many people, whereas pictures can simply be posted without commentary if desired on other social networks. Gender-wise, there are more women then men on Twitter, men imbed links in their tweets more often, whereas women actually say things.


Who’s Hot?

Twitter has the buzz and has grown to 20 million monthly U.S. users, Facebook has 90 million, and MySpace can boast 70 million. So why doesn't MySpace get the attention it deserves? It may be that it tends to be stronger in smaller cities and communities in the poorer south and central parts of the country like Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and parts of Florida. The authors commented how MySpace users “aren't in Dallas, but they are in Fort Worth. Not in Miami but in Tampa. They're in California, but in cities like Fresno…not near the media hubs (except Atlanta) and far away from those elite opinion-makers in coastal urban areas”.

Forming Your Social Strategy

Corporate marketers struggle with how to use social networking to reach potential customers. They treat it as another channel to get people to click through to a site rather than what it truly should be used for, which is to create awareness and to offer up a different perspective. Studies have found that people don't respond to advertising on social networks. It is analogous to hanging with friends, when an uninvited stranger joins your conversation and tries to sell you something.

That does not work in real life, nor is it a successful social strategy. A good corporate social strategy emulates the reason for social networks in general - solving social failures in the offline world. What could work is approaching that group of friends we discussed above and saying that your product is designed for them and will make them all better friends. This may necessitate product innovation to make them more social by leveraging group dynamics, which we agree is hard, but will be more effective than just using social media as but another channel to talk to people or advertise on. These are good first steps but they are not a social strategy.

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Foursquare For Sure in 2010

A survey this week from 24seven inquired about marketing trends I think will decline or go away in 2010. Among those I cited was phone-a-friend because viral activities are moving so rapidly toward online application domination. A similar question can be asked as to what will be this coming year’s new growth trends, and high on my list is location social, the process of combining location with interactivity and discovery of places, akin to being the Netflix of local recommendations.
 
Among the Internet's early adopter set, foursquare is the nearly unanimous designee for the social-media service that will become tech's next mainstream app. It’s a location-based mobile startup that lets users share locations with friends and also earn badges for checking in at various designated venues.

Others players who are competing in the location-based services market include Gowalla, Loopt, Brightkite, Google's Latitude, as well as Twitter, which has been this year’s poster boy for the new app with all the buzz. In fact, Twitter is actively working on building out its own location-based features.


In marketing it often asked about a new product if it serves a need. In the case of location social, the answer is yes. Here is an example/opportunity from my own recent experiences: I was at a charity function for a local school earlier this month. Several people I know are associated with that school, so I was casually looking around the crowded facility to see if any of them were, by chance, there. Imagine how much easier it would have been to be able to confer with a widely used app that could alert me if they were actually in attendance.


One more trend I expect to see more of in 2010 is app-to-app linkage, and indeed foursquare is already all over this, with Twitter integration already part of its offering.

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