Category word-of-mouth marketing

Sometimes It’s What a Brand Doesn’t Do That Loses the Sale

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.In almost every instance where a business is trying to sell a product or service, it takes multiple positive interactions before a prospect becomes a paying customer.

The average number of positive interactions, or touches at various touchpoints, required typically varies by the type of product or service being sold.

Furthermore, while multiple positive interactions with a brand can lead to a sale, the reality is that negative interactions can also prevent a sale from taking place.

Sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that causes a prospect to choose the competitor’s product or service.

There are some things that can be done to combat this problem. However, it does require some effort.

To illustrate this point, I am once again going to use my recent smartphone purchase as an example.

The Incumbents: Motorola and Verizon Wireless

I have been a loyal Verizon Wireless customer since I moved to Louisiana back in 2006.

When I moved there, I asked some of the local residents what provider they recommended since U.S. Cellular wasn’t an option in the area, at least at that time.

Nearly everyone who I talked to suggested Verizon Wireless, because they felt that Verizon Wireless had done the best job getting service restored after hurricane’s Katrina and Rita.

I took the advice of the residents of Louisiana and 10 years and two states later, I am still a customer.

As for the device, I think that all the cellular phones that I have owned up until this year were Motorola phones. (Some of my earliest cellular phones might have been made by Nokia, but I am not sure.)

Something that I am absolutely sure of is that the phone that I purchased when I move to Louisiana was a Motorola, as were my first two smartphones. And, my satisfaction with the brand was extremely high.

That was, until Motorola and its parent company, Lenovo, announced that they plan to phase out Motorola and only offer the Moto phones.

The Choice: Motorola Droid Turbo 2 or Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

I was now faced with the option of getting one last Motorola phone or make the inevitable switch to Samsung.

During my initial visit to the Verizon Wireless store, the salespeople who I talked to spoke highly of both phones, but seemed to slightly favor the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

Needless to say, I left the store that day still undecided.

So, I did what many people do and asked for advice on Twitter.

As you can see, the only response that I received was from the Sprint Forward Twitter account.

They recommended the Samsung Galaxy S7.

I then got a promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless offering a free Samsung Gear VR headset with a purchase of a Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge. (At the time, Best Buy was offering a similar promotion.) (Note: I think that this was the promoted tweet from Verizon Wireless. If it wasn’t, it was very similar.)

That was it, I was almost certain that I would make the switch to Samsung.

I only needed to check out some product reviews from CNET and a few other sources. All of which confirmed that Samsung was the best option available at the time.

The Choice: Sprint or Verizon Wireless

Given my past experience with Verizon Wireless, it was going to take more than a contact on Twitter to get me to switch to Sprint.

That said, if my past experiences with Verizon Wireless hadn’t been so positive, I might have switched to Sprint or even went to Best Buy to purchase the smartphone.

And, Sprint definitely has my attention if for some reason I need to change wireless carriers in the future.

But, Verizon Wireless did offer a good data plan, had a great offer, and has provided excellent customer service—so I remained a customer.

Final Thoughts

Had Motorola reached out on Twitter or if someone would have recommended it, I might have purchased the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, if for no other reason than to get one last Motorola phone. But, nobody did.

And, Motorola already made the decision to phase out the brand that I was loyal to, so it made my decision to switch that much easier.

In this case, the brand lost a loyal customer because of what they did (plan to phase out Motorola phones), what they didn’t do (reach out on social media or anywhere else at right time), and what other people did (recommend the competition.)

In contrast, while Verizon Wireless didn’t reach out this time, they at least did use a promoted tweet to get my attention on Twitter and create awareness of a great offer. And, to their credit, they did reach out to me a few years ago when I wrote a post about how access to high speed wireless data can have an effect on a brand’s mobile marketing campaigns.

But, in reality, it was the fact that they have always provided great customer service in the past that kept me a customer. That, and the fact that their data plans are competitive with the other carriers.

What this example shows is that in the same transaction, one brand kept a loyal customer by providing competitive pricing combined with great customer service, while another lost my business because of what they did, what they didn’t do, and what other people did.

As pointed out, sometimes it is something that the brand has no control over that can have a negative effect on a sale.

With a little foresight, there are things that brands can do to combat this problem and bring in new customers and retain existing ones.

However, it does require some effort.

Photo credit: Ron Bennetts on Flickr.

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Luxury Shopping Bags: Status Symbols and Social Media Props

Photo credit: Sofy Marquez on Flickr.People love to shop and they love to let people know about it.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that for many years luxury retailers have given their customers the ability to let their friends, neighbors, and just about anyone else know that they have just spent some of their hard-earned money by providing trendy shopping bags to carry proudly as they walk through a busy mall or city street.

As Maggie Lange pointed out in a 2013 article on The Cut, “The shopping bag isn’t just utilitarian, it’s symbolic of taste, preferences, and pursuits. In his book Living It Up, author James Twitchell compares people holding shopping bags to “the powder on the heinies of migrating bees as they moved from hive to hive.” It’s a souvenir of where you went and a glossy declaration of conspicuous consumption.”

With the rise of image-driven social networking sites like Instagram and Pinterest, the design of these shopping bags might be more important than ever before.

The Shopping Bag Should Reflect the Brand’s Image

In a 2011 Luxury Daily post, Kayla Hutzler highlights the fact that luxury shopping bags are visible to many consumers and therefore should positively convey the image and feel of the brand.

As Chris Turbyfill, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Design Packaging, is quoted as saying, “That bag reminds consumers of the brand and [therefore] it should look like the store. It is all involved in what we call the customer experience.”

“That bag needs to reflect the imagery and feel of the brand,” says Turbyfill. “And when consumers go home and put the bag on the table, it is a subtle reminder of what happened in the store.”

The post goes on to point out that the shopping bag can be seen by many people as customers walk around in public, particularly in major metropolises.

However, the post doesn’t mention another role that the shopping bag can play.

Use the Shopping Bag to Get Included

As Juliet Carnoy, Marketing Manager at Pixlee, writes in a post on the Pixlee blog, “Customer photos of your products are the purest form of earned media. When a customer posts a post-purchase photo of your product on social media, it’s a 5-star visual review of your brand.

For the brands that make the products, this is great.

However, the retailer that sold the products might get left out if they don’t give the customer some way to visually represent the store in the photo. This is where a visually appealing shopping bag can play the role of photo prop and help get the retailer included in the story.

In some cases, if the shopping bag is really visually appealing or is a part of pop culture, customers will post photos of the shopping bag alone just to commemorate the shopping experience.

When a photo of the shopping bag is posted on social networking sites, it will not only be seen by all the people that that customer passes on the way home from the store, it could potentially be seen by thousands of people online.

A photo posted by Chad Thiele (@chadjthiele) on

Personal Case Study

One of the best ways to explain something is to give an example. And, what a better way than to give an example from my own personal experience.

About two weeks ago, I visited the local Verizon Wireless store with the intent of renewing my contract and purchasing a new smartphone.

The phone that I was looking for was actually sold out at the local store. Instead of waiting for the next shipment, I drove to the nearest store that had one available.

The customer service at both Verizon Wireless stores that I visited was excellent, and I walked out of the second store with a new Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.

In keeping with the current trend, I prepared to take a photo of my purchase so that I could post it on Instagram.

This could have just been a photo of my new smartphone.

However, Verizon Wireless had just given me this beautiful shopping bag with the purchase that just begged to be included in the photo. So, I did just that.

After posting the photo, the marketer in me realized that by giving me the shopping bag, Verizon Wireless had found a way get included in what would have been user-generated content that advertised Samsung. By adding the shopping bag, it made it a user-generated ad for both Verizon Wireless and Samsung, if not primarily Verizon Wireless.

In my opinion, that was brilliant.

If only they had included a hashtag on the shopping bag, it would have been perfect. This not only would have encouraged customers to take photos of the shopping bag, but it would have also helped customers connect with other customers, brand advocates, and the brand.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, it is the smallest details that can help get customers to mention and indirectly endorse brands on social networking sites.

And, as study after study has shown, consumers trust recommendations from people they know more than other traditional advertising methods that brands have relied on in the past.

By offering customers trendy shopping bags that properly reflect the brand’s image, retailers can now be included in the post-purchase photos that customers upload to social networking sites after a long day of shopping.

Photo credit: Sofy Marquez on Flickr and @chadjthiele on Instagram.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Five Basic Things Retailers Can Do to Integrate Social Media into the Offline Shopping Experience

Photo credit: Lisa @ Sierra Tierra on Flickr.A majority of consumers in the United States own a smartphone.

That means that they have the ability to research products, compare prices, and share their experiences on social networking sites while they shop in a retailer’s brick-and-mortar store.

While there are retailers out there that are doing some very cool things to take advantage of the fact that their customers are talking about their shopping experiences on social networking sites, many businesses are missing out on some of the most basic opportunities to leverage the power of social media.

And, by basic I’m not talking about using social media monitoring tools to engage with customers and meet their needs while they are in a store or even a competitor’s store. By the way, this is something that retailers should be doing.

What I am talking about are some of the even more basic things that retailers could be doing to encourage interactions and social sharing that would involve very little effort on the retailer’s part. That said, I have noticed that many retail stores just aren’t taking these basic steps.

Tell Customers Where They Can Connect on Social Media With Point-of-Sale Displays

No matter how efficient the retail store is, it is inevitable that customers are going to have to wait in line for a few minutes at the check-out counter.

Many of these customers are already using their smartphones while they wait.

This makes it the perfect time to mention the store’s social media presence, as they could instantly connect with the store online.

A simple way of doing this would be to have a sign located near the check-out counter that mentions where to find the store on social networking sites. This could also be a place where the store could encourage customers to leave a review on one of the online review sites. (I know waiting in line sounds like a bad time to ask for a review, but customers do expect to wait for a few minutes.) Retailers could also mention the store’s mobile app, if applicable.

It should be noted that if the retailer’s sales staff are providing horrible customer service or there are excessive wait times, this signage could encourage customers to vent their frustrations. However, even bad feedback can be considered a gift if it helps the store identify problem areas and allows them to make corrections.

On the other hand, if the store is providing great customer service, public praise on social networking sites can be some of the best advertising a business can get.

Mention Where to Connect Online in the Mobile App and Mobile Website

If the retailer’s customers have taken the time to download the store’s mobile app, they already have an interest in the store or the store has given them a good enough incentive to do so.

By using the store’s mobile app to let customers know how they can connect with the business on social networking sites, there is a good chance that the store will be able to build relationships with some of its most loyal customers, many of whom have the potential to become brand advocates online.

It is important that retailers test to make sure that their customers find this information useful.

That said, with the right design, the mobile app can be a great way to help increase awareness of the store’s social media presence.

And, given that customers are already using their smartphones makes it possible for them to connect to the store on social media with only one or two taps of a finger.

The same is true for customers who are visiting the retailer’s mobile website.

It is important to note that the mobile website is a great place to be able to connect with customers who might be visiting a store for the first time. By providing them with other ways to connect to the business online can help encourage repeat business and possibly help turn them into brand advocates in the future.

Furthermore, whether it is on the mobile app or the mobile website, if your business provides product information or the option to purchase items online, making it easy for customers to share this information with their network on social media by including social sharing buttons is highly recommended.

Mention the Social Media Presence in Brochures, Flyers, Print Ads, and Other In-Store Signage

If the business uses print advertising, there is a good chance that copies of it will find their way into the store and onto the sales floor.

Therefore, providing information about how to connect online is also a must for many of the same reasons mentioned above.

Encourage the Sales Team to Mention the Mobile App and How to Connect on Social Media

The sales team not only has the opportunity to sell the products the store has on its shelves, they also have the opportunity to create awareness of the store’s online presence, including the mobile website and mobile apps, as well as how to connect on social media.

While it might not be appropriate to talk about how to connect with the business online with every customer, there are definitely times when this knowledge could lead to positive mentions online. This is particularly true when the customer is really happy with their shopping experience.

Therefore, the sales team should be trained about the importance of the mobile website, mobile apps, and social media so that they can educate customers when appropriate.

Photo credit: Simon Yeo on Flickr.

Remember Hashtags are Important

As anyone who has spent any time using social media knows, people like to share photos and information with their network when they find something interesting or get a really good deal. This is particularly true when a customer is a huge fan of the business.

Because customers are probably already sharing photos and information about the products that the store sells, it would be a good idea for the retailer to create a hashtag that allows customers to connect with other like-minded individuals. This will help create a community and possibly increase the demand for the products that the store sells.

Final thoughts

Many consumers are already using social networking sites to share photos and information about the products that they find in their favorite stores.

Therefore, it is in a retailer’s best interest to help create awareness of the store’s online presence and to make it easier to share information about the store and the products it sells.

While there might be business reasons not to do all the things mentioned in this post, many would take very little effort and could help encourage customers to share the love of the store, create a community, and connect customers with brand advocates and other like-minded individuals.

Many retailers are already investing in social media marketing. By taking these small steps they could help increase awareness and get folks sharing the love of their store online.

Photo credits: Lisa @ Sierra Tierra and Simon Yeo on Flickr.

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Brands and Retailers Need to Integrate Social Media into the Offline Shopping Experience

Photo credit: Annie Mole on Flickr.Many brands and retailers are using social media to advertise and build relationships with customers online.

However, if these businesses fail to integrate social media into the shopping experience at brick-and-mortar stores, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.

A Majority of U.S. Consumers Have a Smartphone

According to comScore, “198.5 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones (79.1 percent mobile market penetration) during the three months ending in January.”

To put this into perspective, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 322.9 million people lived in the U.S. at the end of January of 2016. That means approximately 61.5% of the U.S. population owned a smartphone.

What this also means is that there is a good chance that many of your customers and prospects not only own a smartphone, but are using it to make purchase decisions.

In his book, titled “Mobile Influence: The New Power of the Consumer,” Chuck Martin, author and CEO of the Mobile Future Institute, points out that there are six influence points in the mobile shopping life cycle. These include: The Setup: The Pre-Buy, The Move: In Transit, The Push: On Location, The Play: Selection Process, The Wrap: Point of Purchase, and The Takeaway: Post-Purchase.

At each stage in the mobile shopping life cycle, brands and retailers are given the opportunity to convince a consumer to buy their product or service. In his book, Chuck Martin devotes a chapter to each of these points of influence.

As he points out, there are many tools in a marketer’s toolbox to help influence a sale by leveraging the power of the mobile phone.

This includes, but is not limited to, the use of social networking sites to connect with consumers as they research, buy, and share the love of a brand online.

Given that many online interactions can now happen when the consumer is physically located in a brick-and-mortar store, it only makes sense that brands and retailers should look for additional ways to interact with customers as they are making purchase decisions and influencing the purchase decisions of other consumers who they interact with online.

Consumers Are Using Social Networking Sites

As mentioned, a majority of U.S. consumers own a smartphone.

Furthermore, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 2014 75% of smartphone owners used their phones to access social networking sites.

And, this is just the percentage of people who used social media on a smartphone.

When you consider the fact that even people who don’t use social networking sites on a smartphone could be connected to someone who does, I would venture a guess that nearly everyone who uses social media could potentially be influenced by an interaction that a consumer has with a brand while the consumer is in a brick-and-mortar store.

Final Thoughts

The number of people who use social networking sites continues to increase, as does the number who own smartphones.

While many brands and retailers currently use social media to advertise and build relationships with customers and prospects online, if they don’t integrate social media into the offline shopping experience at brick-and-mortar stores they could be missing out on a huge opportunity to reach and engage with customers at each of the influence points in the mobile shopping life cycle that Chuck Martin describes in his book.

Photo credit: Annie Mole on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using #Hashtags to Connect to Consumers on Social Networking Sites

Photo credit: Alan Levine on Flickr.In the United States, there are a lot of consumers who use social networking sites, many of whom access them on a mobile device. And, these numbers continue to increase as time goes on.

Knowing how to connect to these consumers is a very important skill for all marketers to have.

While there are many tactics that marketers can use, having a basic understanding of hashtags is a must. Knowing how to effectively use hashtags can be an important way to reach consumers on social media.

A Brief History of the Hashtag

A 2014 post on the Adweek SocialTimes blog gives a brief history of the hashtag.

As the post points out, while Twitter popularized the hashtag, it didn’t invent it.

“Once more commonly referred to as the pound sign, online use of the hashtag began on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in the late 1990s, where it was used to categorise items into groups,” writes Shea Bennett. “In August 2007, designer Chris Messina asked his followers how they felt about using the pound sign to group conversations on the micro-blogging platform, and thus became the first person to use the hashtag on Twitter.”

“After that, Twitter never looked back, and the hashtag was eventually adopted by Instagram, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and seemingly every other major digital platform,” the article continues. “Today, hashtags are everywhere and an important part of every modern marketing strategy.”

What Hashtags Can Do for Business

In almost every social networking site, hashtags help users find content by linking posts with the same hashtag. In other words, users can search for similar content by clicking on the hashtag to get access to other posts that use that hashtag.

With this functionality in mind, it is important to research what hashtags your customers and prospects will find.

This includes finding out what hashtags your customers, prospects, and influencers are using to talk about your brand, your products or services, your competitors’ products or services, or anything else that relates to your products or services or the industry that you are in.

In Twitter, hashtags often show up in the trending topics if they are used by enough users. If the topic is relevant to the brand, you should consider using the hashtag. However, keep in mind that this tactic can backfire if your posts seem too self-promotional, off topic, or if joining the conversation is just generally in bad taste. (Note: There are also similar ways that trending hashtags will show up in other social networking sites, as well. The same things need to be considered on these social networking sites, too.)

Hashtags can also show up in a search engine results page (SERP) on Google or any of the other search engines. Furthermore, there are tools that can be used to find the most used hashtags on various social networking sites. This is another way that hashtags help increase the reach of your content.

If you create a hashtag with the intention of getting users to engage with your brand or share your content, be aware that just because you want users to use the hashtag, doesn’t guarantee that they will.

Furthermore, as several brands have found out, creating the wrong hashtag can backfire by encouraging people to share negative things about your brand. Therefore you need to proceed with caution.

Finally, it is important to realize that hashtags can also be used to convey a message to users even if they don’t use them for their ability to search for other content (e.g., #fail, #lol, #tgif, etc.) This is particularly important on social networking sites like Twitter, where brevity is often encouraged or even required. (If you haven’t seen it, you need to check out the YouTube video featuring Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake that parodies this concept.)

A Few Ways to Integrate Hashtags Into Your Other Marketing Campaigns

As already mentioned, hashtags help encourage customers to share their thoughts about your brand on social networking sites.

If done correctly, hashtags can help customers connect with the brand and other customers, thus building a community around the brand.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.By including a predetermined hashtag on your packaging, it can encourage customers to use it when they share the love of your products on social media.

Including hashtags on your advertising in other media (e.g., television ads, print ads, webpages, etc.) can help increase the reach of these campaigns and continue the conversation about the brand.

You can also run a contest on various social networking sites and offer a prize to users who share a specific type of content and use your predetermined hashtag.

Finally, if you are organizing an event or gathering where customers and prospects would benefit from hearing what other attendees are saying about the event or topic being covered, create a hashtag that allows them to connect and share with each other on various social networking sites. This content can then be displayed on a video screen so that people who do don’t use the specific social networking site can also see what other attendees are saying.

Last year, Ceci Dadisman, Consultant and President of Cardinal + Company, wrote an article on ArtsHacker.com that gives further examples of how to use hashtags for audience engagement. You might want to check it out.

Final Thoughts

Hashtags have become a part of the way that consumers communicate with each other on social networking sites. Using them can also be a way for customers and prospects to communicate with your business.

Given the fact that smartphones have given customers the ability to access social networking sites wherever they are, social media and the proper use of hashtags should be something that all marketers are aware of and trained on.

If used incorrectly, hashtags can backfire and encourage people to share negative comments about your brand. Therefore, it is important to monitor what people are saying on social networking sites and, if appropriate, respond accordingly.

When used correctly, hashtags can help increase the reach of your messages, create a community, and give customers a place to share the love of your products or services.

 

Photo credits: Alan Levine and Mike Mozart on Flickr.

Video credit: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using Search Engine Optimization for Online Reputation Management

Photo credit: Danny Sullivan on Flickr.As I post this, we are only a few hours from the start of a new year.

Although the new year brings with it hope of a new beginning, the past is not that easy to escape.

This is truer than ever before given the fact that people can find out about your past transgressions with only a few clicks of a mouse using Google or any of the other search engines.

This means that everyone from potential employers to potential mates can search the Internet to find out more about you.

This is why your online reputation is so important, as it can have an effect on all areas of your life.

The best way make sure that people find positive things about you when they do an online search is to make sure that you live a moral and ethical life and never make any mistakes.

It also helps to make sure that you don’t post things on social media sites that could eventually come back to haunt you in the future.

However, for people who do make mistakes or use bad judgement when posting on social media sites, there is good news.

In fact, there are some basic things that can be done to help make it more difficult for people to find those skeletons in your closet when they do an online search to find more information about you.

The Internet Changed Everything

In their book “Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust,” Chris Brogan and Julien Smith tell the story of a smalltime British con artist named Alan Conway who duped people into believing that he was the famous film director, Stanley Kubrick, in the early 1990s.

This was before the Internet gave people the power to search for almost anything and fact check a person’s story in minutes.

According to the authors of the book, “Conway was able to get away with anything—under Kubrick’s name, he cosigned a loan for a gay club in Soho, for example—and was long gone by the time his victims knew what was going on. Worse, no one wanted to testify against him, because they would expose themselves as having been duped by a con man. They would be ridiculed, they reasoned, so all declined.”

“Conway continued his Stanley Kubrick impersonation for many years,” the authors of the book continue. “Eventually, he dropped it and later joined Alcoholics Anonymous; yet even there he told everyone another whole set of tall tales, involving businesses in the Cayman Islands and an otherwise exciting life, recounted in a diary found after his death in 1998.”

“But by then the world was being transformed,” writes Brogan and Smith. “The Internet was expanding in full force, and Google had just been founded, changing the way we would all interact, and who we would trust, forever.”

Social Media Changed the Rules Again

While the Internet gave people the power to fact check a person’s story in a relatively short amount of time, it was social media that truly gave everyone a voice.

While this has created a way for people to expose con artists for their misdeeds, it also opened a whole new can of worms.

By its very nature, social media gave people the power to spread information quickly.

And, as anyone who has played the telephone game knows, when things spread via word of mouth, information is most likely going to get changed along the way.

What this means is that rumors are likely to spread even after the story is proven to be false.

In his book, “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” Jon Ronson gives examples of people whose lives were destroyed by the social media mob, often after making a relatively small error in judgement.

Although their actions were usually pretty stupid, they often did not deserve the public shaming that they received.

And, as Jon Ronson points out, their story tends to live on.

This is because Google and the other search engines help make it easily accessible for all to see long after the social media storm ends.

The Moral Bias Behind Your Search Results

In his Ted Talk, Andreas Ekström points out some of the biases that are found in the results we get when we search the web using any of the search engines.

In particular, he explains how they can be manipulated to destroy a person’s reputation using some of the same basic principles that businesses use when optimizing their web pages to be found on search engines.

In the talk he explains how people used search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to create a racist campaign designed to insult Michelle Obama in 2009.

He also gave another example of how social activists used the same tactics to insult a terrorist as a way to peacefully protest against terrorism and to prevent the terrorist rhetoric from spreading.

Ekström points out that Google manually cleaned the search results in 2009, thus ending the racist campaign against Michelle Obama. However, they didn’t do the same thing when people used the same tactics to destroy the reputation of a terrorist.

While Ekström does understand and seemingly agrees with Google’s decision, he uses these examples to show the power that Google has in the shaping of public opinion.

Using SEO to Restore Your Online Reputation

The example just discussed points out that the people who control the search engines have the power to influence search results. However, so do everyday users.

For people whose reputation was destroyed, the good news is that you can use SEO tactics to help fix your online reputation, thus making it easier for people to find the good things about you when they do an Internet search.

However, as Jon Ronson points out in his book, it can take a lot of time and effort to influence what shows up in a Google search engine results page (SERP.)

For people who don’t have the technical know-how or the time to do it, there are people out there who will help you. However, their services aren’t cheap.

And, because Google is always trying to get the most current information in its search results, using SEO for online reputation management is an ongoing process. Again, this translates into more time, effort and/or money.

Final Thoughts

While the new year brings with it the opportunity to start again, the past often influences our future.

Although we can’t control what people say about us online, we can help influence what others find out about us by using some of the basic principles of SEO to rebuild our online reputation.

The good news is that anyone can do it.

And, really it all starts with making sure that there is a lot of good things said about you on the Internet to help drown out the bad.

However, as anyone who has studied SEO knows, it takes a lot of effort to influence what shows up on a SERP.

What this means is that you are going to have to skillfully post things on the web to improve what shows up in a SERP or hire someone who knows how to do it.

It can be done.

However, like most things in life, it is going to take a lot of time, effort and/or money.

Photo credit: Danny Sullivan on Flickr.

Video credit: TED on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Reward Customers for Good Behavior to Generate Positive Word of Mouth

Photo credit: leyla.a on Flickr.The world would be a better place if we all treated each other a little nicer.

Maybe if good manners were assigned a monetary value, more people would be on their best behavior.

This is exactly what a few restaurants and coffee shops have done.

In the process, they have received positive coverage from bloggers and other online media outlets.

In the age of where news stories can be found on search engines for years and people can spread the message via social media and online review sites, this kind of coverage can definitely make a positive impact on the business’s bottom line.

Here is a list of some of restaurants and coffee shops that I have heard about lately that have used this tactic to get people talking about their businesses.

Rewarding Parents When Their Kids Are on Their Best Behavior

Back in 2013, a Washington eatery got mentioned on TODAY.com for giving Laura King and her family a $4 discount on their bill to cover a bowl of ice cream that the owners gave the family because their children were so well behaved.

As the article points out, “Rob Scott — who owns Sogno di Vino, the restaurant King visited — said he routinely offers complimentary desserts to customers with well-mannered children, but this was the first time he had actually typed the discount on the receipt.”

“An image of the receipt quickly went viral after one of King’s friends posted it online,” the article continues.

While not all the mentions that the restaurant received were positive, the discount got people to talk about the restaurant on social media sites, which led to some great coverage in the national news media. Furthermore, articles about the post still show up on a Google search engine results page (SERP) over two years after the post went viral.

No Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

As an article on The Huffington Post points out, several restaurants have tried to encourage better dining etiquette by offering a discount to customers when they put their smartphones away while they are at the dinner table.

Other restaurants have even gone so far as to ban the use of cell phones in their restaurants all together. As the Huffington Post article mentions, this policy has sometimes been met with outrage.

Whether people agree with this type of policy or not, it has generated some attention. Furthermore, it has gotten people to talk about whether or not cell phones should be used as much as they are at the dinner table.

Photo credit: Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

On the other hand, it also needs to be noted that this policy does prevent customers from taking photos of their food and sharing them on social media sites.

This, too, can be a great way to get people talking about the restaurant and possibly get them to visit the establishment in the future.

Hummus Diplomacy

In October of this year, NPR featured a story about an Israeli restaurant in Kfar Vitkin, north of Tel Aviv, that is giving a 50 percent discount to Jews and Arabs who eat together.

As reported in the NPR article, a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated, “Are you afraid of Arabs? Are you afraid of Jews? By us there are no Arabs, but also no Jews. We have human beings! And real excellent Arab hummus! And great Jewish falafel!”

According to NPR, “His post was shared more than 1,900 times, and news of the deal has made headlines around the world.”

At the time the article was written, the offer had only been redeemed by 10 tables. However, business has increased by 20 percent. The article mentions that a substantial part of the boost was from local and foreign journalists.

Please and Good Morning Saves You Money

Offering customers a discount for good manners can also generate good will and positive mentions online.

For example, a small coffee shop in Australia has a sign in front of the shop that says that the coffee is $5. If you say “please,” the coffee is $4.50 and it’s only $4 if you say, “Good morning, a coffee please.”

According to an article on the Daily Mail, the owners of the coffee shop don’t enforce the policy. However, they said it brings a smile to many of their customers’ faces and many customers go out of their way to be courteous.

Even if it isn’t enforced, the sign has created enough attention to be covered by online media outlets.

It is interesting to note that this idea was copied, with similar results, by a French café.

Free Meal to the Lonely on Thanksgiving

Okay, this one isn’t really about getting customers to change their actions.

In fact, it is actually the restaurant that is going out of its way to be courteous to its customers.

The buzz started when a customer posted a photo of a sign that was hung on the door of George’s Senate Coney Island Restaurant in Michigan that stated that anyone who would be home alone on Thanksgiving could come to the restaurant and get a free meal on November 26, 2015.

Not only did the story go viral on social media, it was covered by many of the traditional media outlets, as well.

And, while the restaurant will probably be giving out more meals than it originally planned, the free publicity that it received is priceless.

Final Thoughts

As I said at the beginning of this post, the world would be a better place if people chose to be nicer to each other.

Businesses often have an opportunity to remind customers of this.

As shown in this post, incentivizing good behavior is not always met with open arms. In fact, sometimes, it is met with outrage.

However, when done correctly, little things that remind us that we need to coexist peacefully and show respect for others can get people talking about the business online. Sometimes, this will lead to further coverage in more traditional media outlets.

Furthermore, social sharing is only part of story. When customers search for information about the restaurant on Google or any of the other search engines, a positive story like this is likely to appear on a SERP well into the future. That might be enough to get potential customers to visit the restaurant long after the deal ends.

And, if nothing else, the business might start a conversation that can make the world a better place.

Photo credits: leyla.a and Social Media Dinner on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Decrease in Social Sharing, Mobile Websites, and Dark Social

Photo credit: Pixel Addict on Flickr.Content marketing is a great way to generate leads for your business.

Smart businesses know this and have invested a lot of money into creating great content and optimizing it for search so that customers and prospects find their business when it is most important… when the customers and prospects need them.

But search engine optimization is only part of the equation. When it comes to content marketing, getting people to help share your message via social media is also important.

In fact, social sharing is one of four key social media metrics that Avinash Kaushik suggests businesses track. He refers to the social sharing metric as Amplification Rate. (The other three important social media metrics that he suggests that businesses track are: Conversation Rate, Applause Rate, and Economic Value.)

According to a post that Kaushik wrote in 2011, Amplification Rate is measured by tracking the number of times users share a piece of content per post.

In General, Amplification Rate Is Decreasing

In a recent post on the BuzzSumo blog, Steve Rayson points out that although some popular sites have increased the amount of content that they produce, the level of engagement with those posts has been trending downward.

In fact, after analyzing the shares and links of 1 million posts for a research project that BuzzSumo did in conjunction with Moz, they found that 75% of randomly selected posts received 39 shares or less. Furthermore, 50% of these randomly selected posts received 8 shares or less.

In the post, Rayson explains that while content supply has increased at an exponential rate, the fact that demand for content has remained relatively flat partially explains this decrease in content sharing. (Rayson cites Mark Schaeffer in the post. Schaeffer calls this “content shock.”)

In his post, Rayson also identifies three other factors that are compounding the content shock problem.

These three factors, or mistakes that content creators make, include: Lack of research, lack of amplification, and lack of monitoring.

I suggest reading the BuzzSumo post for further details.

Mobile Social Sharing Buttons

Recently, I have noticed that many businesses are not including social sharing buttons on their mobile websites and blogs. Is this by design or something that they have just overlooked? (In WordPress sites, a common social sharing plugin might be the issue, as I have noticed that many blog sites with the “floating” share buttons on their desktop version of their blog don’t have the social share buttons on their mobile sites.)

I wonder if this is another partial explanation for the overall downward trend in the rate of social sharing, given the fact that so many people are consuming content on mobile devices these days.

After doing a quick search on Google, I wasn’t able to find any hard numbers to verify my observation.

However, I was able to find an article on Marketing Land from 2013 that said that consumers were “nearly twice as likely to click and share content on social networks through mobile devices as opposed to desktop.”

This data might be outdated, as these numbers can change extremely quickly based on many different factors.

In fact, according to a post on their blog in May of 2015, Moovweb reported that “Only 0.2% of users ever click on a mobile sharing button. Mobile users click sharing buttons 35% less often that they do on the desktop.”

These numbers also need to be taken with a grain of salt because they based on a subsection of Moovweb customer data. (While Moovweb powers over 250 mobile experiences, these numbers might not reflect the state of social sharing on mobile websites, in general.)

That said, they may have uncovered some valuable insights that businesses can use.

According to the Moovweb blog post, “Just because sharing buttons have been popular on the desktop web does not mean they can be ported over with the same experience on the mobile web. And while 0.2% of mobile users clicking on a social sharing button is a minuscule figure, it does reflect the way social media usage on mobile has evolved: away from the web and toward apps.”

“Most mobile users access social networks via an app, so they are often not logged in to the corresponding social networks on the mobile web,” the blog post continues. “Pinterest, for example, gets 75% of its traffic from apps.”

Moovweb believes that the fact that users need to be logged in in order to share content is the reason for the low percentage of sharing on the mobile web. This creates extra steps that mobile users might not be willing to take.

“For starters you have to thumb type your username and password,” the author of the post writes. “If you’ve been saving your password in-app or in-browser, you might have forgotten it. Resetting a lost password is a huge hassle on mobile.”

Note: I have encountered social sharing buttons on mobile websites that require a user to log in to the mobile web and others that ask if I want to open the correct app, thus bypassing the need to type in a username and password again. This helps fix the problem that Moovweb identified. However, I am not sure if this option is available on every mobile device.

Sharing on Dark Social

To complicate things even further, there is the issue of users sharing links to content via email, SMS, instant messaging or some other way of electronic communication that does not fit neatly into what we usually classify as social media.

In an article for The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal classifies these types of referral sources as “dark social” because they are difficult to measure exactly which sources are driving users to a website.

At the time the article was written, Madrigal stated that dark social was nearly always the top referral source for The Atlantic.

This reflects the ever-changing way that people use social media and other electronic communication methods. And, again, mobile devices are helping drive this trend.

A recent post on the NeimanLab site helps illustrate the prevalence of “dark social” sharing.

As Joshua Benton explains in the post, when asked how often SMS and chat apps are used for sharing posts on BuzzFeed’s site, Stacy-Marie Ishmael stated that SMS was the most used way readers share BuzzFeed’s content, followed by Twitter, email, and Facebook. That means that two of the four most common ways that readers share BuzzFeed’s content on Android and iOS are not on standard social media sites. (It appears that this is only based on traffic received from mobile devices, but it is not clear based on the information provided in the article.)

If the way BuzzFeed’s readers share content is representative of the way all Internet users share content, businesses might need to find alternative ways to track what sources are driving traffic to their websites.

Note: Some of what might be classified as dark social sharing might, in fact, be a form of bookmarking posts so that users can read it later. For example, they might email an article that they find on their smartphone to themselves in order to read it later on a desktop computer.

Final Thoughts

There are many factors that play a role in whether content gets shared or not.

However, sometimes the problem is not the fact that users are not sharing the content, but that they are sharing it in ways that we can’t currently accurately track and measure.

Therefore, identifying the key issues that inhibit social sharing is not always easy to identify and might be even more difficult to fix.

Photo credit: Pixel Addict on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Green Is Good for Business

In his book, “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It,” Al Gore makes a strong case for addressing the issue of (human-caused) global warming before it is too late.

It should be noted that there are skeptics out there who say that the science that Gore uses to support his argument is biased.

That said, you need to look at the motives of all of the people involved before making the final decision as to what you believe to be true.

In a blog post, titled “Global warming consensus: Agreement among scientists confirmed, again,” Erik Conway explains that market research has shown that many people think that government should take action on controversial issues similar to this one only after the science is settled. Therefore, it is in the best interest of those entities that are adding to the problem to challenge the science to make it look like there isn’t a consensus about whether or not human-caused global warming is a reality, in order to prevent action.

There is a lot of evidence out there to support the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality. In addition to Gore’s book, a documentary hosted by Tom Brokaw, titled “Global Warming: What You Need to Know,” and a website that was created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provide some of this evidence.

What Do Your Customers Believe?

Although I do believe that there is definitely some validity to the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality, what I think is not really the point.

In fact, when you are making business decisions that relate to how your company handles this issue, what you think is also irrelevant.

When looking at human-caused global warming from a business perspective, the people who really matter the most are your customers and potential customers.

As Al Ries and Jack Trout point out in their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” what you tell consumers doesn’t really matter.  What really matters is what they believe about your product or service and your company or brand. This is what is going to influence whether or not they make a purchase.

If the people who could potentially buy your products and services believe that human-caused global warming is real and your company is heavily contributing to the problem, then there is a good chance that they will eventually take their business elsewhere, if they haven’t already.

Our Children Are the Future

Our children and their children are the ones who are going to be living here on Earth 50 to 100 years from now. Therefore, it is not surprising that whether or not a product or service is eco-friendly has become more important to young consumers.

A study that was mentioned in an Adweek article on October 24, 2012 highlights the fact that, in 2012, a greater percentage of young consumers thought that factors like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” were important to them when buying products than young consumers did just five years earlier.

Think About the Future Before It’s Too Late

Although it is not always possible, the long-term health of the company should be considered when making decisions in an effort to reach short-term goals.

With that in mind, what happens if the scientists who are predicting that human-caused global warming is a problem are actually correct?

What if in the year 2100 we experience effects of human-caused global warming that makes life unbearable for many consumers?

Who are they going to blame?

If your company didn’t do anything to prevent the problem when it had the chance, will consumers be forgiving?

What if these problems happen sooner?

Final Thoughts

Human-caused global warming is an issue that is often talked about on national news programs. However, the problem hasn’t reached a point where action is being demanded… yet.

That doesn’t mean that your business should ignore the issue.

As John Lindsay once said, “In politics, the perception is the reality.”

In their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” Ries and Trout point out that the same is true in advertising, business, and in life.

Therefore, even if you think that human-caused global warming is absolute nonsense, it still is a good idea to take steps to make your business green.

Making sure that your business has a minimal negative impact on the global and local environment not only helps keep existing customers happy, it can also be used as a selling point when trying to gain new customers.

Furthermore, as many thought leaders have pointed out, making your business green can actually increase the bottom line in other ways (e.g., lowering operating expenses, leading to new products or business partnerships, helping secure government contracts, etc.)

In the end, having a green business is good business and good for business.

Photo credits: Paladin Zhang and John LeGear on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Oreo Knows the Only Winning Move Is Not to Play the Game

After being challenged to a game of tic-tac-toe by Kit Kat, Oreo wisely declined in a way that would make fictional characters Dr. Stephen Falken and David Lightman proud.

As I explained in a recent post, movies often contain lessons mixed in with the car chases and beautiful people living extraordinary lives.

If you grew up in the 1980’s, you probably remember that in the 1983 movie “WarGames,” David Lightman, a young computer hacker played by Matthew Broderick, unwittingly accessed WOPR, a United States military supercomputer that was designed by Dr. Stephen Falken to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. In the process, Lightman unknowingly almost starts World War III.

At the climax of the movie, Dr. Falken and Lightman try to teach WOPR that nobody wins in a war. The first lesson begins with multiple games of tic-tac-toe before moving on to war simulations.

In the end, the computer ends the war simulations and writes, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”

Well said. Lesson learned. (Click here to watch that scene on YouTube.)

Competing for Laura Ellen’s Love

If you follow social media marketing news at all, you know that Oreo earned praise for the tweet they sent out after the power went out at the Superdome during this year’s Super Bowl. They also had success with this real-time marketing strategy during the airing of the 85th Academy Awards.

Other brands are taking note and are trying to replicate Oreo’s success.

Therefore, it is not surprising that when Laura Ellen, a Twitter user from Manchester, UK, tweeted that she was following both Kit Kat and Oreo on Twitter, Kit Kat jumped at the chance to challenge Oreo to a friendly game of tic-tac-toe in an effort to fight for Ms. Ellen’s affections.

As a post on Mashable.com points out, this scored huge points with Ms. Ellen. And, judging from the number of retweets and favorites, with the clever use of Kit Kats for Xs and (potentially) Oreos for Os, Kit Kat also scored points with the general public.

How About a Nice Game of Chess?

When faced with the option of playing Kit Kat in a public game of tic-tac-toe, Oreo decided to decline with style and grace. In my opinion, that was a brilliant move.

As Lauren Indvik points out in the article on Mashable.com, there are possible negative consequences of being the loser in a game that could get old real fast.

Furthermore, as the folks at ADVERVE point out, just because brands are rivals doesn’t mean they can’t have a little fun at the same time. As they ask, “Is it so unreasonable to think that there are Kit Kat lovers in the Oreo camp, or vice-versa?”

By declining to play the game by complimenting the taste of Kit Kats, Oreo found a way to create a win-win situation. Kit Kat gets a compliment, and Oreo gets some free advertising from Kit Kat, not to mention all the free publicity it received by the media covering the ad campaign.

As an added bonus, I would be willing to bet that this ad campaign made many people think of the movie WarGames. Knowing that this is a movie that is beloved by tech geeks around the world, this was a perfect move for Oreo to make in a social media ad campaign. Was it intended? Only the digital agencies involved could tell you that for sure.

Final Thoughts

With some things in life, nobody ever wins. In those cases, the best solution is not to play the game.

In the 1980’s movie WarGames, we learned that nobody wins in a nuclear war.

The same could often be said in head-to-head competition in the marketplace.

In the case of the Kit Kat tic-tac-toe challenge, Oreo proved wise enough to demonstrate that there is room enough for both brands in the marketplace, and that there is no need to show its skill in a game that often ends in a stalemate.

By declining the game in the way that they did, they created a win-win scenario for both brands.

Photo credit: Torben Bjørn Hansen on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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