You’re a business owner, and you are working harder than ever to succeed in this challenging economy. And while the overwhelming majority of your customers swear by your product/service/tuna salad sandwiches, someone out there in the darkest recesses of the internet is trying to make your company and its brand sleep with the fishes.
So they use a flaw in the Google Places service to list your business as “closed” even though you just celebrated your third anniversary. Or they trash-talk your business on TripAdvisor, Yelp or other consumer review website, all while wearing the coward’s cloak of anonymity. Or they jump on your company’s Facebook page and rip you and your sandwiches to shreds.
Two recent news items highlight the need for businesses to keep close tabs on what’s being said about them online. And unfortunately, both also underscore just how nasty the business world has become in 2011, since unscrupulous competitors are suspected of being behind both developments.
A New York Times story dated Sept. 5 discovered what tech bloggers like Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan have known about for some time: it’s easy to list a company as “closed” on Google Places – even if you don’t have anything to do with that company. Thanks to the story, Google now says it’s working on a fix, but it brings up how low some people will go to damage a company’s online reputation.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority says it is investigating reports of faked hotel reviews on travel-based website TripAdvisor. The investigation was begun because of complaints from KwikChex, a British reputation management service that has accused TripAdvisor of not verifying the reviews posted on its website. TripAdvisor has denied that, saying it relies on technological tools, its team of experts and its customers to make sure its reviews are real.
As of right now, there are no smoking guns revealing competitors as the source for this mischief. Yet it would be naive not to keep them in mind as the business equivalent of “persons of interest.” And it would be just as naive for companies concerned about their reputation not to do their own monitoring, or hire an outside firm for that service. Yes, companies like Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Amazon and others need to do what is within their power to ensure abuse-free services. But rapid responses in the new world of what social media consultant and author David Meerman Scott has dubbed “real-time marketing” are also the responsibility of businesses, and take on more importance than ever.
The business world is a tough enough arena these days without unethical types trying to rig the game in their favor. Companies shouldn’t enable them by closing their eyes to potential problems.
If you’re a Facebook user, consider the content that’s on your News Feed right now: news headlines, politically-twisted blog posts sent from politically-twisted friends, videos starring the eTrade baby, new friends/profile picture notifications, check-ins from restaurants, bars and busy Starbucks locations, various requests for help or information, birthday greetings.
I’m guessing that there are also one or two songs and/or music videos stashed in your feed by friends who share your tastes, past concert experiences and presumed ability to hit all the high notes in “Don’t Stop Believin’” after several beers. The massive recommendation and discovery engine that is Facebook -and what that means for businesses – may be taken to the same level as Steve Perry’s vocals if recent published reports that the largest social network is getting ready to dip its toes into iTunes-land turn out to be true.
Facebook’s not confirming anything, but several news agencies have been saying the company will be announcing deals with Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, Slacker and other music services that the social network will start integrating into user pages. It could be a streaming service, which is what red-hot Spotify seems to do very well. At the very least, the integration should make it easy to share musical finds as well as provide a real-time soundtrack for everything you do on Facebook, thereby getting people to stick around longer on the social network.
Says Splash Media social media manager Holly Rountree: “By deciding to incorporate a music feature like Spotify or Rhapsody, Facebook will be adding another element to their social platform, connecting dots both personally and socially, and encouraging communities by giving Facebookers exactly what they want – a more sophisticated, smarter and better functioning playground.”
Ambitious marketers and savvy businesses should find a way to take advantage of that playground so that it ends up being sweet music to everyone’s ears. We’re talking smart content that plays on customer’s desires to find everything from “Lady Marmalade” to Lady Gaga while exposing said customers to brands in an organic, user-friendly way.
Now it’s your turn at the karaoke machine. Tell us what you think about Facebook possibly getting deeper into music services and the potential for social media marketing in the Comments section. And while you’re at it, consider these selections from this week’s social media news Top Ten:
The Only Company That Can Say Its Social Media ROI is Finger Lickin’ Good
With the conversation in social media marketing circles still focusing on how to measure return on investment, business of all sizes can learn from KFC’s experiences. Rebecca Pollack Scherr of Smart Blog on Social Media gets the scoop.
Throwing Daily Deals, Apps Into The Consumer Goods Marketing Shopping Cart
Alex Palmer of Direct Marketing News does a deep, well-reported dive into how consumer packaged goods brands are incorporating digital technologies into their marketing efforts.
Which Comes First: Social Engagement or Customer Loyalty?
The answer might surprise you, according to Blaise James and Jim Asplund of Gallup Management Journal, who blow up three myths about social media thanks to a recent survey of 17,000 users.
That blur that just flew over your heads? That was the summer saying bye-bye. Labor Day is here; have yourself a safe and happy holiday weekend and we will see you back here with fresh content on Tuesday!
Recently a picture of the Earth and moon was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from 6 million miles away. In a brief article regarding the picture, Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute said, “This view of our planet shows how Earth looks from the outside, illustrating a special perspective of our role and place in the universe. We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves.”
This picture not only made me think about our Earth’s place in our giant universe, but also about my place on this Earth. As in: what I do with my life that actually makes a difference.
I work in social media. I’m no NASA Astronaut, but I enjoy what I do, have good relationships with my clients and colleagues, and get to participate in Best Tasting Guacamole contests (in case you were wondering, guacamole prepared with strawberry chunks won the top prize). But when I take a moment and sit back, I ask myself, “Am I making a difference in this world? Is anyone other than my family and friends actually going to care when I’m gone? Is MTV going to have a weekend marathon in my honor showcasing all my best work ranging from Thriller to Beat It to Billie Jean?”
What do I spend a lot of my day doing? Facebook… LinkedIn… Twitter… wait a minute, Twitter!? I’m 25 years old! I only have 75 years left to live! Given that it takes me 2 minutes to come up with a good tweet and that I tweet roughly 20 times a day for my clients – 250 days per year – that means I’m spending 10,000 minutes on Twitter! That’s 167 hours! That’s one week! That’s seven entire days! I SPEND A WEEK PER YEAR TWEETING! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??
Who cares what I’m doing!? Who cares what other people are doing? I’m about to have 12 million (more) girls hate me by saying this, but why are there 12 million people following Justin Bieber!? What is wrong with our society?? What happened to the privacy in our world? Why do people want other people to know what they’re doing every single, solitary, waking moment of their lives?
Recent Justin Bieber tweet: Got love for everybody today. #MUCHLOVE.
Wow. My life is now complete. I can rest assured tonight knowing that the Biebs loves me. Guess what? 12 million people just spent 30 seconds each reading that. I’ll do the math for you – that’s over four thousand days’ worth of time. That’s just sick.
Now don’t get me wrong. Twitter can be very useful in a variety of ways. Helping hurricane and natural disaster victims, raising money for a needy family or cause, finding missing children and animals, and any other tweets that can help those in need are exactly the kind of tweets that everyone should be trying to contribute to on a regular basis. But it just doesn’t seem like we have enough of that.
I wish I had an extra week in my life to donate my time to something that I care about. Maybe I could help build houses with Habitat for Humanity for orphans in Mexico. Maybe I could be the Big Brother for a sorrowful boy who recently lost his father to a drunk driver. Maybe I could help foster animals who were left in a box on the steps of a local firehouse. Maybe I could do anything that could help anybody in need. Maybe I could actually have other people besides my family and friends that are going to care when I’m gone.
Facebook runs the world. Twitter runs the world. Google runs the world. They’re all amazing in their own respective ways for knowledge, resources, businesses, clients, family, friends, and anything you can imagine, but in my opinion, they do not run the world. You run the world. I run the world. People run the world. Take an hour a day, turn off your computer, turn off your phone, and do something.
Editor’s Note: Splash Media works closely with The Samaritan Inn, a comprehensive homeless program that helps willing people gain dignity and independence. Please feel free to visit http://thesamaritaninn.org/ and find out how you can help today.
Social Snap Tags – Are they the next phase of mobile marketing?
No doubt you’ve heard of QR codes, those squares with the maze-like designs that are showing up on all manner of products these days. Users snap a picture of one with a smartphone equipped with a QR code-reading application, and they get sent to websites or platforms with special content from a business or brand.
SpyderLynk CEO Nicole Skogg talks to SplashCast host Renay San Miguel about the big differences between Social SnapTags and QR codes, the data they provide to businesses, and the future of mobile marketing.
To watch more interviews with leaders in the social media industry, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/splashmedialp.
The summit session topics ranged from strategies to lay the foundation for your blog and its readership, to more advanced tactics, such as how to best utilize relationships with other related bloggers, and how to collaborate to spread your message into new online communities through guest blogging opportunities. One of the largest conversations, though, and one that we found very insightful for businesses embracing the social media and “Web 2.0” concepts, focused on getting the most out of the community that surrounds your brand online.
Facebook “Likes,” Twitter “Followers,” and blog readers are often the first thing that someone views when evaluating a social media marketing campaign, but the more pertinent information for businesses in the blogging and social media space is how are your “Fans,” “Followers,” and readers interacting with the content that you are sharing with them? Are they engaged? Are they sharing, reposting, commenting, and enjoying your message? A true evaluation of success in this type of marketing is found not simply in the volume of your community, but in the level of engagement with your audiences. Many companies are employing “Brand Ambassadors” to help spread the word and become the face of their organization online and at events, but the idea of a “Brand Ambassador” doesn’t need to be quite so formal.
If you are creating remarkable content, and truly engaging with your audience on a personal level, you can often find customers within your online community who are already acting as ambassadors for your brand. Each time they share your content, write a review, leave a comment, or “Like” your posts on Facebook, they are publicly endorsing your message to be seen by their own group of friends and followers. Over time, you will even discover individuals within your community who have become somewhat of a fanatic for your brand, and have become a leader within your community . These are the individuals who can truly help share your brand’s message with the world. Include them in contests, connect with them on your page or through Twitter, and let them know that you appreciate their support, and even ask them for feedback.
It’s not often that a brand can obtain honest feedback and interaction from one of their real-world customers in an environment that is comfortable for everyone. Use this to your advantage! Instead of simply broadcasting your message to your followers, take the opportunity to find out what they want to see. If you take what you learn from your community, and adapt your outlook based upon what your customers want, the overall health and activity within your online community will be the true indicator of a successful social marketing strategy.
If you have yet to take the “leap” into social media for your business, I will leave you with a final thought that stemmed from Jenny Blake, one of the keynote speakers at the 20Something Bloggers Summit. Think about where your brand is now. How would you feel if your business hadn’t made any changes by this time next year? Would you be happy, or would you feel like you’ve missed some major growth opportunities? Most traditional marketing tactics haven’t changed much over the years, and many businesses sticking to those tactics are either finding themselves in just about the same spot as they were last year, or they are finding that their strategies are falling behind the times. Social media is changing on nearly a weekly, if not daily basis, opening up new pathways of connecting with customers on a level never seen before in traditional marketing. Start thinking about how you can use these pathways to help your business grow, and join in the conversations that are already happening with your customers online.
Rory Ellis is a Social Media Manager at Splash Media.