Get Social

Archive for February 2011

Which network’s check in feature offers the most value for your business?

Let’s keep it simple: you’re a burger joint and you want to increase social media traffic by offering a check in deal. You’ve decided to offer a free side of fries after 3 check-ins. So, a customer shows up, checks in, and repeats two times. On that third time, the offer is unlocked and can be redeemed with the next transaction. Great. So, we’ve engaged a customer, gotten him/her excited about a freebie, and encouraged two more visits. We’ve also got this person checking in at the location a minimum of three times. If s/he’s sharing those visits, let’s explore which network offers the best return for your business.

Facebook. Facebook rolled out the ‘Places’ feature for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and through their touch site. The complimentary business feature is Facebook Deals. Let’s consider for a minute: who are these users reaching when they use Places? These check ins post to their profiles as status updates– easily allowing a customizable commentary note alongside the location (“Best Burger in Boston!”) along with the option of adding photo content and tagging friends who are there too– whether or not they’re checking in or are even using a mobile application.

Pros here: customizable status updates allow users to interject some personality– inclining them to use this network for the check in and also to make the post a bit more ‘read-worthy’. Other location-based services push updates to Facebook anyway; they’re offering a way to contain it within their network. I’d assume even the “check in wary” are likely to try the Facebook option, since they’ve likely got a Facebook account already.

The reach: Rather than blacklist this as a con, I’ll just offer up the data: sharing a Place check in will reach only that user’s network. Facebook statistics state the average user has 130 friends. Additionally, I’m not convinced individuals have the ability to sway the purchasing decisions of their friends as much as they would be able to inspire their more anonymous networks (Twitter, for example. Followers accrue based on keywords, interests, and links shared, making that network the most “professional” in the consumer buying sense*).

Foursquare. Foursquare is entirely built around the concept of checking in. I’m inspired to check in when a business is offering something worthwhile (i.e. Live Nation’s $10 off a ticket purchase when I checked in at the House of Blues- done!), but since I don’t have an existing Foursquare network, I’m not super inclined to build one.

Pros here: For your business, I’d say Foursquare is the most buzzed-about check in service, since that’s what it was built for. Kind of works under the “keep it simple” principle– if you want to stick with a network that isn’t likely to offer other end-user components, go with this one.

The reach: It’s no secret that the maximum amount of connections/friends one can have is 6,000. So we’ll limit the reach there. Couldn’t dig up any good stats on the average user’s network size. My general bias is this is a new network (albeit with 6.5 million users and growing), and most people connect to friends they’re already linked with on Facebook. Foursquare will push to Facebook or Twitter, though. These updates are not user-customizable.

Yelp. Yelp added check ins to the canon of available functions on its mobile application last November. I wax poetic about it here. To summarize that post, Yelp check in offers work similarly to the other networks.

Pros here: Yelp offers an interesting package, since all content is tied to the main function of the site, which are user reviews of local businesses. The site prompts users to review businesses where they’ve checked in.

The reach: Similar to Foursquare, Yelp allows users to push check ins to Facebook and Twitter. Again, these posts can’t be customized– but I foresee that coming. Additionally, the mobile application gathers data on users checking in (and leaving Quick Tips)– users are ranked on a weekly basis for these contributions.

At the end of the day, we’re going to recommend Yelp to our clients, since they’re continuing to evolve their customer product and have moved into the check in space. Facebook has a similar strength going for it, but my concern is the limit of reach. Yelp connects users with other users through rankings, and also allows sharing with Facebook itself, and Twitter. They’ve established themselves as a “business conscious” network since 2005.

*I’ve opened a can of worms by implicitly championing Twitter as the right network for individuals to use persuasive buying power. More on that to come.

 

 

As a recent iPhone convert and avid Yelper, I typically check in at local businesses using Yelp’s mobile application. The app is free, and a nearly full-service version of the desktop site with some additional functionality– monocle anyone? Love how it commandeers your phone’s camera and local businesses and their ratings pop up to guide you to the nearest burrito joint, drugstore, etc. But that’s old news. What’s new that I’m seeing is a sub-community being built around the mobile application, specifically caused by check ins.

First, why check in? From a business perspective, managers can see their popularity in real time and can offer promotional offers, a la Foursquare. What I’ve been able to dig up on statistics are that Yelp claims check in use increases by 50% each month {source: Mashable’s Post here}. It’s a component of the “business owner package”– the company’s sales arm mails out window clings and encourages businesses to take control of their listing by including offers (now mobile) and responding to user reviews. Sure, being able to respond to a review complaining “Josie was rude” or lauding “Julie’s 6 am Abs and Butt Power Hour” is nice, but the real value for a business now is to connect with active Yelp users through the check in offer.

Think about it: Yelp offers a user experience directly tied to business reputation; avid users of the site have been writing “real” reviews– per Yelp.com’s official slogan– since 2005. 3 months ago, check ins roll out, and users with smart phones can now share their location/recent activity with the Yelp community, as well as push these updates to their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Oh, they can also add ‘quick tips’ on the go. Users are rewarded with rankings: classifications as a regular after multiple visits, badges unlocked based on types of businesses frequented, Dukedoms (sounds a lot like Foursquare’s mayor title), and a numeric positioning for number of check ins and quick tips, refreshed on a weekly basis. So, cool. I’ve got a new sense of worth as a Yelp member because I use the check in feature. (Side note: I’m also getting fans– anonymous followers of my profile–  at a rate of 3-4 per week lately, which appears to correlate directly with my check in activity.)

my mobile Yelp profile shows my key check in stats

How does this new, ‘real time’ subset of the Yelp community really create significance for your business? Simple. Check in offers make customers happy. Happy customers write good reviews. Sure, Foursquare users can become the mayor of your location, and Scvngr users can post pictures of your product for points, but the most basic useful content a user can generate for your business is a positive review. And, PS, the website automatically prompts users to write reviews when they log in after check ins. Tap into a community of (mostly) articulate, (hopefully) satisfied, (definitely) tech-savvy and tuned-in to trends individuals in your demographic by embracing Yelp as a major player in the check in space.

Happy Friday! Thought I’d share some insights today on key functions your business Twitter account can perform.

Blog and Newsletter Shorthand

Maybe you’ve got a blog and/or a newsletter. If you do, twitter’s a great tool to update fans on new posts and content. It’s a shareable, scalable way to drive traffic to your blog or website.

Quick example: @PopMatters posts links to articles. Saves me time, so I can click what sounds good rather than digging into their cluttered, busy website.

If you don’t manage blogs and newsletters, use twitter to share content with your fans without needing to elaborate on it. “Quick read” tidbits  like “we’re serving broccoli cheese soup today,” or “we dig ’em: check out Jennifer Garner’s highlights here” give you the opportunity to say something without needing to write 350 words on the subject. Most people don’t have time to read a full blog entry or can’t justify it at work. Can they scan their twitter feeds and click links that look interesting? Sure. Twitter’s your “no commitment” alternative to a blog.

Quick example: @FreePeople points you to catalogue must-haves, and industry-related sites. I like the brand, but wouldn’t scan their site daily for new items. Their twitter feed makes it easy for me to click through to pieces I might be interested in.

CRM: Answering Product Questions or Addressing Service Issues

This might be my favorite use of twitter while on the job. I love that I can make a difference in someone’s day by answering a simple product question. Tweeting for a local burger joint, a customer asked me why the meat couldn’t be cooked to order. Simple for me to respond and explain company policy– saved the customer a call to the restaurant or going on wondering– and all in about 3 minutes. As for service issues, twitter’s a great alternative to emailing a general “info@” email address at some companies. While I didn’t get the resolution I wanted when I tweeted to Buy With Me that I had a concern about a product refund, they got the message loud and clear when I posted a tweet asking for help.

As the fingers behind the social at a company, you’re kind of an anonymous but likely force of good– you’re not likely to be the gal that forgot my salad dressing during the lunch rush (so I won’t offend you by asking for some resolution) and you’re also not the busy CEO who won’t respond because you’re knee-deep in other tasks. Your job is to be there spreading the word of the brand, and what better way to build a great one than to respond courteously to customer inquiries?

Quick example: @Starbucks is awesome at quickly responding to everything, from my lamenting that I can’t get Sbux delivered through the internet to branding Qs about their new logo, to spreading the gospel of VIA. Wonder if this is the place to voice my concern that their retail tea bags don’t have as many leaves as the bags that are used commercially?

Generate some buzzzzz

It’s completely acceptable to tweet multiple times/day; our average for a given client is 3-4 “planned” (i.e. thought-out) tweets, plus any responses to inquiries and RTs that arise. So, get people excited and share some great content! Announce specials, seek advice on product development, share good things others are saying about you, and get people talking. Use contests to get people spreading your brand; the most obvious way is to create a contest that asks users to retweet your post as a way to win.

Quick example: @5NapkinBurger is hosting a build-the-next-Boston burger contest. They got me talking about them, and they don’t even open in Boston for another two weeks. (Shit, gotta get on making that burger!)

Get Chatty

Engaging in dialogue is what good brand marketing is all about! Get chatty with your followers– comment on what they’re up to, even if it’s not related to your business. Everyone thinks going for a walk without a jacket in 50-degree New England weather is a good idea– connect with that customer about it! Chances are, the users you interact with will be likely to, in turn, tweet about your brand– mentioning when they intend to visit, championing a new product, etc.

Don’t reveal too much in the dialogue– if you go back and forth with a customer 2-3 times, keep your answers short and sweet. Curious followers will click through to read the conversation chain– and may learn something new about your business in the meantime.

Quick example: @WholeFoodsRVR. The River St, Cambridge outpost of Whole Foods comments on my new username, plans for the weekend, and witty things I have to say. In turn, I find myself at their salad bar more frequently and telling my followers what great eats I snagged that day.

Keep on tweeting your way to a solid brand!

Not four days into managing a twitter page for a client, and I’m inundated with @ mentions  from Groupon, Living Social, and Gilt City (Buy with Me and Eversave, where’re ya hiding?) saying they’d love to feature my client. I politely ask for an email, and it’s interesting to see who brings out the professional guns and who doesn’t. With a background in group buying sales myself, I’m wary of claims of x-thousand followers, and the “higher profile” clientele on a certain company’s list.

While pleased these companies recognize my client and want to feature the business, I’ve taken a step back to consider both sides of the argument pro- and anti-group buying as a marketing strategy. So, in one corner:

What’s good:

  • “free” advertising: this is a 24-hour(sometimes longer), exclusive offer sent to the inboxes of anywhere from 90,000- 1,000,000 individuals. For the offer period, the company you’ve selected tweets the deal, posts to Facebook, and the like. It’s free for you as in you don’t pay the company to run the offer, but they take a cut of your profit to earn their take.
  • reach to new customers. Fans of the company follow the offers. They may not already be your fans. They may become your fans as a result of this offer.
  • inspires more brand loyalty: your existing customers may look favorably upon this offer. The owner of Central Square’s Four Burgers once told me he ran an offer as a reward to his customers. If I see a business at which I’m a regular show up with a deal in my inbox, I’m 100% likely to buy it. And I’m pleased that this spot opted to run a sweet deal to drum up some buzz
  • no major loss: if you’re smart (or have an honest, non-scumbag sales rep), you’ll be able to negotiate a deal that doesn’t really cost you. I loved the Chutney‘s CoupMe offer of $4 for $8 worth of food, but I bought it intending to snag a filling lunch alone, so I paid $4 ($2 of that went to the restaurant) and walked out with nearly $8 worth of eats. To avoid that kind of loss, a restaurant like Yak and Yeti in Somerville ran an offer of $10 for $25 worth of food. More of a dining destination serving sit-down meals, I brought a friend to dinner, and the bill for 2 of us came close to $45. So, Y and Y made likely $5 upfront and then another $20, so $25 to feed us $40 worth of food. Make sense?
  • you’re in control: building on the last point, as the business owner, you can set limitations. Cap your maximum at 100, 500, 1000…whatever makes sense for your business. Set an expiration time (usually 6 months or a year, but more difficult scheduling things like a hotel stay can be more flexible) that works for you. Black out services as needed upfront. If the company you’re working with is any good, they’ll honor all your limits and make the deal irresistible.

What’s Bad:

  • I’ve spoken to businesses fearing “brand tarnish.” Eastern Standard Kitchen, for example, does not discount their food. Period. Okay, I get it. There are very few (or no) businesses I’d be “embarassed” or disgusted to see feature a deal, however. I called Eastern Standard because I’ve wanted to go for years but haven’t had the right chance– and a discounted voucher would force me to go.
  • “coupon whore” syndrome (or, buzzword, “deal fatigue”): run with one deal site? Great! Run with two? Okay. Run every month: desperate! Sure, each company markets to a new audience, but that “one time exclusive offer” pitch just flew right out the window. Have some respect for your biz!
  • your offer isn’t profitable: read: you lose too much money. You get overwhelmed with interest. Does this article ring a bell?
  • you don’t need any new customers: I find this one hard to believe, but then I think of a shop like my South End Hair Studio, Revive. Through some savvy client retention and the gospel of Yelp, those ladies are booked weeks in advance. There’s truthfully no time in the day for them to accommodate a promotion.

The verdict? In my mind, proceed with caution. Getting your feet wet with a deal site isn’t the worst thing for your brand. It’s kind of like Christmas morning, waking up and seeing your offer in bright colors on a website for the world to see.

Hi. Local Social is Boston’s newest answer to the need of a small business to get involved in social media marketing. We’re the arms, legs, and typing hands businesses use to connect with customers in real time.

You can think of us as a boutique PR firm, a promotions team, a marketing consultant, a right-hand (wo)man, or all of the above. Armed with social media tools, we’re here to use them to help our clients find and retain new customers by engaging them in conversation. We like to chat, tweet, post, and write. Join us as we share a thought or two on social media marketing trends and best practices.