There’s a new way of getting the last word in on Facebook. Two-thirds of funeral directors have embraced social networking services such as Facebook and LinkedIn over the past 18 months, a new national survey shows.
And it appears the “deathcare” industry, as it calls itself, has hit paydirt. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of funeral directors responding to a survey conducted by the Expressing Sympathy Advisory Council reported seeing an increase in the number of people reaching out to them as a result of opening a Facebook page.
Facebook was viewed as the most popular social networking service and the one having the greatest impact, said 44 percent of the more than 6,000 funeral directors who responded to the survey. Other sites such as YouTube and LinkedIn were ranked highest by 13 percent of the respondents while Twitter and MySpace were named by only 3 percent of directors.
“When you lose a loved one, you are at your most vulnerable and many people are using the Internet to research their options,” said Anthony Kaniuk, associate publisher at Kates-Boylston Publications, a publisher serving the funeral and cemetery industry. “It absolutely makes sense for funeral directors to get online and let people know they are there for them.”
“More and more funeral professionals are recognizing the importance of building an online presence for themselves,” Kaniuk added.
Interesting insight into social media use in a particular industry.
The use of social media raises risk management issues, and education is the key to overcoming the common misperception that “you can say anything you want on social media and not have any consequences,” says compliance specialist Roy Snell.
“People are treating social media as a unique form of communication. But it’s not terribly different,” Snell stresses in an interview with HealthcareInfoSecurity’s Howard Anderson (transcript below). Thus, all staff members need to be trained about rules that apply to all forms of communication. For example, in healthcare, clinicians need to know it’s a violation of HIPAA to use social media to discuss patients, he notes.
A recent survey showed that 42 percent of organizations in various industries had disciplined an employee for their behavior on social media, up from 24 percent three years earlier, Snell notes.
The survey of nearly 500 compliance and ethics professionals was conducted by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics and its subgroup, the Health Care Compliance Association. Snell is CEO of both.
In the interview, Snell:
- Notes that the survey found only about a third of organizations have a policy addressing employee use of social media outside the workplace.
- Calls for having the social media policy clearly endorsed by the CEO, executive committee or other senior leadership group. “Then, when you have a problem and somebody says, ‘Who says I can’t do this? Who made this policy?’ … you can cite the leadership of the organization as being behind it,” he says.
- Endorses instructing compliance officers to find a way to regularly update all staff members about infractions of social media policy and disciplinary action taken.
As CEO of the Health Care Compliance Association and the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics, which together have more than 9,000 members, Snell has developed numerous partnerships with government, industry and other professional associations. He has facilitated collaboration between the compliance and ethics profession and the enforcement community. He is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional. Snell formerly was an administrator at Mayo Clinic, a consultant and a compliance officer.
HOWARD ANDERSON: You recently conducted a survey of nearly 500 compliance and ethics professionals across all industries regarding social media issues. In that survey, only about a third reported their organization has policies addressing employees use of social media outside of the workplace. Did that result surprise you? And why is such a policy important, especially as it pertains to protecting privacy?
ROY SNELL: It doesn’t surprise me too much at all. I found this whole thing to be pretty fascinating. Let’s look at this in a different light. Let’s look at this like if we were talking about people giving speeches, going to conferences, writing articles or even sending e-mails. Nobody wants employees to give away trade secrets when they write, speak or e-mail. Nobody should be surprised at this philosophy and that it should be applicable to social media.
People are treating social media as a unique form of communication, but it’s not terribly different. It’s communication. It’s just another form of communication. And … what amazes me is that people think it should be treated differently.
Every company expects every employee not to write or speak publicly about how terrible their company is. The fact that some people believe that they can trash their company on social media is just flawed thinking. Every employee of a defense contractor knows that the information they have cannot be shared in any form. Healthcare employees are extremely well trained about the need for privacy of patient data. And they, for the most part, are doing an excellent job of translating old policies about articles, speaking or e-mails. Most of them are making a leap to social media. Some, because it’s a new form of communication, don’t connect it as the same as writing an article. They’re making some comment about a patient that they think is innocuous and it turns out creating a HIPAA violation and causes great difficulty for them.
What’s happening is people are doing a little better of a job in healthcare organizations of training and making clear policy for these sorts of things. It’s going to take us a little while to get over the hump here in terms of learning a little bit more, despite many people thinking that social media is somehow different than other forms of communication for all intents and purposes. …
ANDERSON: The survey said 42 percent reported their organization had disciplined an employee for their behavior on social media sites. That’s up from 24 percent in a similar survey just three years earlier. Why do you think we’re seeing a rise in disciplinary action?
SNELL: I think it took some companies a little [time] to realize this is no different than a speech or an article … People are publicly making announcements, in this case a written format, and some of it is okay. Some of it isn’t okay and they’re starting to rise to the occasion and saying, “Holy cow. This is really no different than writing an article. We’ve got to stop it.” It’s also, of course, [due to] a rise in the use of social media and this … flawed thinking that you can say anything you want on social media and not have any consequences. It’s the increase in the number of young graduates who think that trashing your company or talking about patients is going to work for them.
It boils down to the flawed idea that many people have that you should be able to say anything you want in social media. These people who do this intentionally, thinking that because it’s social media they should have some privacy rights, need to understand it’s no different than speaking or writing. Just because it’s a unique form of communication doesn’t mean it’s okay to do this.
Social Media Monitoring
ANDERSON: The survey also showed most organizations do not have a formal method in place for monitoring employees’ use of social media. Should social media activity both during work hours and after work be monitored? And what’s the best way to do that without violating employee’s rights?
SNELL: This is an excellent question. There really are two separate questions here. One is at work and the other is in their private lives, if you will. Let me just take it this way: e-mail versus social media. Obviously, and it depends on the laws in each state and that sort of thing, there are certain expectations about the use of e-mail. Companies have policies about … if you should be spending personal time on the Internet while at work. Those policies are pretty much established and just need to be applied in each of these companies to social media. The monitoring of social media shouldn’t be a whole lot different than what they’ve been doing in e-mail or other sorts of communication that we’ve had in the past.
I think the interesting one is monitoring the use of social media after hours. … Each company has to have a policy and a set of expectations of their employees with regard to what they say and do. Obviously, a company that has a lot of intellectual property needs to make it clear that just because you’re on social media in your own private little space at night doesn’t mean you can give up intellectual property. A release there is just like releasing it to people talking to them. You’re likely to get into a fair amount of trouble.
What we’ve got to try and understand is that we already have rules in place for legal restrictions with regard to what we can do as employees. The real tricky part is this idea of people going on social media at night on their own private account and saying or doing inappropriate things – whatever that company defines as inappropriate. …
If somebody goes on social media and does something that someone with common sense would say is inappropriate, I’m going to hear about it very soon. Someone will see it. If they don’t share it with me, they’ll tell others because it’s so outrageous. Eventually it’ll get to me. I would bet you that in 90 percent of any kind of inappropriate actions in someone’s private social media session, I’m going to hear about it faster than I would had I audited it.
I’m very comfortable personally with just dealing with it on an exception basis when I hear about it. I’ll address it, and obviously if you’re a good manager you’re going to check with legal counsel or HR before you act and make sure that what you’re doing … with regard to the accusation of inappropriate behavior is handled professionally and legally.
Social Media Policy
ANDERSON: Please describe the key elements of a social media policy that govern employee activity at the workplace, especially in a healthcare setting. And what role should compliance officers play in carrying out that policy?
SNELL: Compliance officers should develop the policy, and my advice to anybody would be to go get copies of other policies. Ironically, one of the best ways to get this is on social media. For example, we offer social media for compliance officers in all industries, something called SCCEnet. There is a library of documents you can search. If you don’t find what you want, you can type in a question and say to all the people in the group, “Please send me a copy of your social media policy.”
We have another [social media] site for healthcare called HCCAnet. There is a library. There is an opportunity to post questions. People can respond with an e-mail and an attachment of their social media policy. It’s really great to get other people’s policies because, collectively, everybody tends to think of everything. Those who have the most comprehensive policy will have looked at the most samples. Then it’s always important to have legal counsel [review policy]. I would try and find a specialist in this area because it’s new and there are few of them. Generalists might have a difficult time with this. …
You asked how the policy will help prevent violations. It will do so because of a couple of things. It will be clearer to those who might break the policy what the expectations are. It also helps those who are enforcing the policy to know what it is they can and cannot allow. I think this is a perfect role for compliance officers because that’s what the job is all about. Compliance officers help organizations develop systems and procedures to prevent, find and fix problems just like this.
Social Media Education
ANDERSON: Finally, what’s the best way to educate staff about the social media policy as well as the risks involved in using social media?
SNELL: Unfortunately our list gets longer and longer every year with things people need to know to stay out of trouble with the regulations. But I would make social media part of the annual compliance training. Every organization should have at least an hour or so [of training offered], depending on the number of risk areas. I would also teach it to all new employees during employee orientation. It’s particularly important because this is something new. A lot of things people already know not to do because they come from some other company that has taught them not to do that. Because this is new, nobody is really coming from anywhere that did this very well. We’re starting from scratch.
I’d take a little more time on this than some of the other stuff they probably already know pretty well. I would also put something in the code of conduct that summarizes some of the more important, bigger and higher risks … that they should be paying attention to. And then, something that only the finest compliance and ethics officers do, find a way to share the infractions that occur throughout the course of the year. There is a woman who works in the ethics department of Best Buy that lists a number of examples of real infractions – the names have been left out of it – to let employees know a couple of things. One is, here’s an example of something that shouldn’t be done. The other thing is that we’re not looking the other way on these things. If you do this and we find out about it, this is what’s going to happen. It shares what discipline was taken.
Interesting stuff – the world continues to change so rapidly it’s hard to keep up sometimes.
Social Networking is not new, or at least it’s not as new as we think. Back in 2005 MySpace was the ruler of social networks and when News Corporation bought it for $580 million it looked like Rupert Murdoch’s empire had added a powerful string to its bow.
Fast forward six years later and Justin Timberlake is able to snap it up for just $35 million. The question is ‘what went wrong?’ but really it should be ‘what can we learn from it?’. As social media marketers we should be able to focus past the numbers (spectacular as the disparity between buying and selling prices may be) and look at the underlying causes because that’s where the lessons really lie.
In many ways MySpace was the pioneer of large-scale social networking, and back in 2005 its position seemed unassailable. Less than five years later Facebook had taken off and wiped out its value not dissimilar to the way AOL, in 2008, paid $850 million for Bebo (the UK equivalent of MySpace) only to sell it on for less than $10 million just a couple of years on.
So, what can be learnt? At a microlevel analysts tall about functionality, brand identity and critical mass but although these make interesting reading, at the end of the day they are just technical details in the large footnote of the web’s ever evolving technologies.
What made Facebook take off and MySpace fail is the fact that the former managed to latch onto something which the latter failed to even realize in time and that is the holy trinity of personalisation, socialisation and commercialism. Irrespective of functionality, privacy issues, design appeal or apparent popularity, a social network succeeds or fails based upon three hard criteria:
- Does it allow you to establish an identity and project your personality?
- Is it the kind of place you can turn into the digital equivalent of your local watering hole?
- Can you turn your time there into a money making opportunity of you want to?
Facebook answered all three in a convincing enough fashion to establish itself as the pre-eminent social network to be in. From then on, everything else followed.
The criteria is important enough because now Google has also put in place the tools necessary to socialise the web. Google’s approach is always more user-centric than the autocratic Facebook whose DNA harks back to the days when College Sophomores were happy to be dictated to. Google’s reach, potentially, can deliver greater value and more flexibility than Facebook, which might well lead to the MySpace lessons being re-learnt all over again.
MySpace’s failure also points out exactly what social marketers should be focusing on. If social marketing on the web does not: 1. Deliver personality (in terms of a product, brand or real person), 2. Provide value in terms of information or entertainment or 3. Offer some way of profiting, either by solving a problem, offering a deal or enabling a profitable partnership, then it fails to engage, and when engagement is poor, social media marketing is an empty exercise designed to tick all the right boxes rather than provide a healthy return on the time, effort and money invested in it.
About David Amerland David Amerland is the author of the best-selling ‘SEO Help: 20 steps to get your website to Google’s #1 page’. His books on online marketing and promotion have helped thousands become more successful. He helps guide business and individuals from all over Europe and the US on the best online strategy to use in order to achieve specific goals. He runs his own blog on SEO and Online Marketing at http://helpmyseo.com.
MySpace certainly came and went in a very short space of time.
Facebook matches advertisers to users based on users’ interests, activities, favorites, their job titles, as well as the names of the groups they belong to and the pages they are fans of. That’s a lot of information, and Facebook is still a place where more often than not people are willing to share an unbelievable wealth of personal stuff with their Friends and the Facebook Corporation. From a marketer’s perspective, Facebook can offer profound insights into the personalities and circumstances of one’s target audience. As a gathering place on the Internet, Facebook’s communities and the community demographics developed therein can give marketers surgical precision as they find an arena for their ads.
To begin his talk at SES Toronto, Marty Weintraub identified three classes of Facebook targeting tactics that every Facebook marketer ought to have at their disposal. Literal, competitive and inferred targeting should all inform a Facebook ad strategy. Let’s take a look at these three and summarize Weintraub’s discussion of them in more detail:
These are the most obvious connections a marketer can make. Selling lacrosse sticks to people who like “playing lacrosse” on Facebook would be an obvious starting point. Literal targeting aims to match ads that are semantically related to the interests of users on Facebook. Often a keyword appears both in the interests listed by users and in the ad itself. Literal targeting allows marketers a way into Facebook that is parallel to SEM efforts on search engines. The downside is that these clear relationships sometimes don’t exist and that they unlock only a fraction of community demographics’ potential. As a marketer, Facebook allows you to go deeper into the lives your audience than ever before. The question according to Mr. Weintraub is “how deep are you willing to go?”
Competitive targeting focuses on both the positive and negative Facebook presence of a brand’s competitors on Facebook. A competing brand’s fans on Facebook might be an effective place to market your superior goods. Explain the added value of your product in your ad, offer a deal, try to win people over to your side. Fans of brands that are vulnerable, either because of an inferior product, negative press coverage, a recall of some sort, whatever the vulnerability may be, present fertile ground for converts. Essentially, marketers should try to find ways to leverage competitor investments in organizing their followers on Facebook both for their own Facebook presence and against the competitors themselves.
There are also plenty of opportunities to market to dissatisfied customers of competing brands. People who like “windows seven sucks” would be a good group to market the newest Apple products to. Take a look – there’s plenty of negative sentiment on Facebook to mine. Start by searching for groups with a word like “hate” or “sucks” or “awful” and see if you can find people with strong negative sentiment for something related to your product and write ads that present yours as a useful alternative.
Marty Weintraub sees inferred targeting as the place for a marketer to “go deeper.” Facebook can help marketers identify people who are insecure, people with violent tendencies, people with idealistic passions. Facebook is filled with users who “self-identify” at social extremes. Would somebody who likes “stopping genocide” also like to buy tee shirts where ten percent of the profits go to feed the hungry in Sub-Saharan Africa? Probably.
There are tons of opportunities to market to people based on their circumstance. Medical conditions are a goldmine. Someone who likes “i am pregnant” will soon be buying a predictable range of products. Family roles and occupations that people list can help marketers as well. Single dads are different from grandparents and so are the products they buy.
What do pot smokers buy (beyond illicit substances)? An incredible number of people will identify illegal activities as a part of their interests. Find these extreme individuals and offer them related discounts on cookies, ice-cream and slurpies. Offer them self-help guides or eye drops. Once you begin to think laterally, the end seemingly has no end.
It’s the golden age of marketing according to Mr. Weintraub, because we have newer and more precise insights into our audiences. Admittedly, to hear him talk about it, one can’t help but imagine Facebook marketing as a frontier — one that is getting richer and deeper.
What do you think? What is the craziest association you’ve ever made between your product and a demographic with your Facebook ads?
Lots of good ideas to think about in this post.
The numbers behind the social networking surge are startling: Facebook has more than 600 million active monthly users that the Web site reports spend close to 22 billion minutes daily on the site. While those numbers sound mind-numbingly high, small businesses should see them as dollar signs.Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era and the founder of social media company Hearsay Social, said Facebook has given rise to a new consumer psychology and businesses need to embrace the new-found accessibility by making sure their social media practices work in their favor rather than an uncontrolled liability.
Shih offered the following tips for small businesses on how to embrace social media to generate business and boost their bottom lines:
A: Companies need to be aware of who their customers are and with over 700 million active users across these three sites alone, it’s becoming increasing tough to ignore. I think the No.1 rule is businesses need to find out where their customers and target audience are spending time and make sure they invest their presence there.
Q: You also say listen to your audience so when they’re talking about you online you need to figure out what they are saying. And you say often times a small business doesn’t even know they’re being talked about online.
A: That’s exactly right. I think before a business of any size goes on a social network it really behooves them to do a quick search on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. They may be surprised to learn that people are already talking about their brand and certainly their products and their market and potentially their competitors.
Q: Everyone talks about how social media is so great for businesses but it can also be a liability to businesses if you don’t control it in the right way. You’ve mentioned consistency, but what are other ways to control the image online?
A. The majority of pages that are created by businesses often get neglected because there was no clear strategy at the beginning when the business created the presence and I think companies just need to recognize it’s an ongoing commitment and it’s about what you tweet and say on an ongoing basis versus just having created the page in the first place.
Q: If for instance, you’re a coffee shop. How do you keep your company relevant when there doesn’t seem to be new news to tweet or Facebook about every day?
A: In the coffee shop example, there are ways to share what’s going on in the store, whether it’s an in store event, what customers are liking or preferring that day specials. Deals go a long way in retail.
Q: So every day have a daily deal?
A: That’s a great idea.
A: Daily deals, focusing on customers. If you look at what Dunkin’ Donuts does, they actually have a fan of the week photo contest where they’ve engaged millions of fans to submit pictures of themselves and their pets and their children engaging somehow in the Dunkin’ brand. It’s been a great way to involve the community and extend brand region engagement.
Q: Do you think in the future, businesses that don’t have social media pages are going to die out?
A: It’s like where we were with the Internet and e-mail 15 years ago. There were a lot of businesses that were slow to adapt and yet, can you imagine not having Internet or e-mail? So I think that’s where we are with social media and it’s not that the businesses will die out, but certainly they will be at less of an advantage than those who fully grasp the new technology.
Q: What is the new consumer psychology and how do you think consumers have changed the way they look at businesses?
A: Well there are a few different elements of this new consumer psychology were seeing as a result of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. One is more sharing; really pushing the envelope in terms of privacy norms and what people are willing to share both with their friends as well as with brands. The second aspect of it is transparency. In an age where anyone can tweet and take a picture of anything, and I can also see who your friends are and what brands you like, the amount of sharing and the way that information is spread is unprecedented.
Q: There are ads on Facebook that small businesses can take out, can you talk to me a little about that?
A: Advertising on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is very much tied to the added sharing that most consumers are doing with their profile information. Businesses of any size can take advantage of what’s called hyper-targeting to basically take any profile information and target ads at very specific audience profiles. For example, if you sell golf clubs instead of advertizing to everyone on Facebook, you could narrow your universe to just people who say on their profile in interests say that they enjoy golfing.
Q: How do you do social media well?
A: I think the most important thing about social media in addition to listening to what’s being said is just to be authentic. It’s all about showcasing who you are as a person and even as a brand, it can really be an opportunity to show a humanizing face to your customer.
I think for a large majority of businesses that want to build their brand and want to reach new audiences and engage their existing audiences, social media can be tremendously powerful, but it’s not the kind of thing you can let run wild because that’s when it becomes a liability and that’s where we see a lot of the fear coming right now. I think companies can take steps which is a combination of technology policy and training their people to really transform that liability into an asset for the brand
Q: And any other good tips from The Facebook Era?
A: I think the most important thing for companies too is to use these sites as an individual consumer because then you can understand what the etiquette is like, what is the experience as one of the recipients of this advertising and marketing.
The avalanche is well underway…
Facebook is trying to promote local business as well as complete the data of their listings with two new features on Places Pages: Recommend This Place and Community Edits.
The Recommend This Place sidebar module on the Pages of local businesses lets users write a short recommendations which are published to the news feed and shown on the Page to friends. Meanwhile, Cities now display a native tab called Community Edits that asks users to fill information such as address and category of popular Places in that city. These new features open an important new viral channel for local businesses and franchises, and allow Facebook to crowdsource improvements to its Places database.
For background, Facebook introduced Places and check-ins in August 2010, originally sourcing its local business database from Localeze. Changes to Localeze profiles are not necessarily synced with Places, though, leaving listings of new and evolving business out of date. After some scrapped attempts at allowing merges of Places and Pages for the same location, Facebook appears to have settled on adding Places functionality in the form of check-ins and maps to Pages listing a street address.
Recommend This Place
The site recently changed the Suggest to Friends feature for Pages so that only a Page’s admins could use it, and so the recommendations would appear in a sidebar module instead of the more prominent Requests channel. While fighting Page spam, it may have reduced the virality of Pages. But now with the launch of Recommend This Place, Pages with Places functionality have been given powerful new viral channel.
Appearing in the top right corner of Pages with a street address to users who live nearby, the module reads “Help your friends discover great places to visit by recommending [Page Name]” above a text field. Users can write a short recommendation, set its new feed visibility privacy setting, and submit it. The recommendation is then published to the news feed and displayed to friends browsing that Page in a “Recommendations From Friends” module in the right sidebar.
Recommend This Place will draw users to the Pages their friends prefer, and give users a social recommendation to Like the Page once they’re there. If Pages push their fans to complete the recommendations via Page updates and their info section, they could get viral exposure and grow their Like count for free.
In March Facebook began showing a small link on Places allowing users to “Suggest Edits”, or fill out missing data fields and submit them for approval. Now Facebook is looking to ensure that the most frequently checked in to locations provide useful information and are properly categorized. To do this, it has added a Community Edits tab the the left navigation menu of Pages for cities.
When clicked, the tab displays incomplete listing for five Places that receive a lot of check-ins in that city, and a header explains that “The Community Edits tab lets you share your knowledge about places in [city] and makes Facebook Places more useful. Add details about places, report duplicates, and more”. Users can then complete empty data fields such as ‘website’ and choose the proper category from a typeahead.
If users need help finding the data, a “Find on Bing” link beneath each entry brings up a Bing Maps search for the location, which sometimes includes the missing zip code or street address. It appears that Facebook’s maps deal with Bing does not cover automatically importing this data, so the social network is using this tab to task users with the chore. Unceremoniously, users are simply presented a new set of Places listings to complete when they finish a first, with no ‘thank you’ or ‘edits received’ message to inspire further assistance.
Users who explore the Community Edits tab and feel a deep loyalty to their city or to Facebook may be willing to perform data entry on their behalf. However, the feature doesn’t offer a clear reward such as authorship for a user’s contribution, nor does it properly applaud them. Facebook could improve the design and messaging of the feature to increase the potential volume of user generated edits the tab could drive.
Free Virality For Now
Recommend This Place and Community Edits may be a sign that Facebook knows helping small businesses get their Pages off the ground is in its own interest. As it did with games developers, offering early free viral exposure for Places could make return on investment cheap enough to lure businesses to market on the social network. Then by weening them off free virality, it could earn money switching them onto Facebook Ads to grow their fan base.
Strategies for using Facebook Places to market your business can be found in the Facebook Marketing Blible.
Wow – this is definitely of interest to local businesses. With the huge popularity of Facebook, it’s really important to have a presence there.
It’s not enough these days to open a business and advertise the old-fashioned way. To stay competitive, you have to use all platforms of social media.
On “The Early Show” Monday, CBS News Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis took a look at one business that’s using social media in interesting ways to expand.
Back in 2009, entrepreneur Luke Holden wanted to bring high-quality lobster to New York, but at reasonable prices. So, near the height of the recession, he took a risk: He opened his first restaurant — Luke’s Lobster — in the East Village.
Holden said, “We are a young, hard working team who’ve never had a whole lot of resources. (FourSquare) has enabled us to grow during hard times, and efficiently, more than (other) small businesses are able to.”
To make it work, Holden held onto his day job at a bank and spent nights and weekends serving $14 lobster rolls from a less than 300-square-foot storefront.
A few months later, he took another risk: Shunning traditional forms of advertising, he put Luke’s Lobster’s campaign online. Holden teamed up with a tech start-up called FourSquare.
Holden explained FourSquare is an easy way to get discounts when you’re on the go.
“Forget about loyalty cards, coupons; (this) makes it so it’s more digital and virtual,” he said. “(I’ts) a digital wallet that you can carry around and its constantly rewarding you.”
FourSquare is a mobile application that enables its 10 million users to virtually “check in” from their smartphones when they visit a local business like Luke’s. The information is then shared with everyone in the individual’s social network
Holden said, “Word-of-mouth from your friends is stronger than any other form of advertising in my opinion.”
The information is also shared with the business where someone’s checking in, so a company knows exactly who its customers are.
Dennis Crowley, chief executive officer and co-founder of FourSquare, explained, “We are also helping local merchants connect with the people that are most likely to become really great customers. And through that, allowing businesses to offer specials and discounts to a lot of these local merchants.”
Luke’s Lobster has capitalized on this by offering specials and discounts to those who “check in” through FourSquare. The most frequent customer is rewarded with an extra discount and the title of “mayor.”
Christopher-Ian Reichel, the current Luke’s Lobster “mayor,” said he’s been there twice in a recent week, but about 107 times this year – according to the count FourSquare provides.
Jarvis noted it’s virtual customer loyalty with a very real impact on businesses.
Holden said it it’s not smart to do business today without these social media tools.
He said, “If someone takes the time to do some type of action outside or inside of your restaurant that doesn’t involve buying food at the counter, then that action should be recognized.”
Jarvis added on “The Early Show” about 250,000 businesses use FourSquare. They range from mom and pop shops like Luke’s to larger companies, such as Sports Authority. Of FourSquare’s 10 million users, 40 percent are based outside of the U.S.
Jarvis said services like these are more common in bigger cities. She said business owners can learn basically for free who their frequent customers are, what time they come an establishment and the types of products and services they’re interested in.
Social Media is spreading – business needs to get on board before they miss out completely.
Combining social media with location services and mobile phones represents the next generation of online marketing, according to speakers at the Search Marketing Expo in Seattle on Tuesday.
Combining the three tools is simply an evolution of how they are being used individually, said Mac Ling, director of mobile at digital marketing company iCrossing. “We’re just now starting to see, as with the Internet, a new medium, a new way of talking to customers. That’s happening now because of this beautiful little device in our hands,” he said, referring to a mobile phone.
Jennifer Grappone, a partner with Gravity Search Marketing, offered an example of a small company using social media for marketing. Cool Haus, which operates ice cream trucks in a few cities, uses what she called “geotargeted flattery.”
Cool Haus knows a few days in advance where it will park its truck in Los Angeles. It looks for a “social influencer,” or someone with a big presence in social networks, who lives near where the truck will be located. It then offers that person a coupon for its ice cream and asks them to tell their audience that the truck will be in the neighborhood.
Several ways to combine social and location-based tools are seen from Foursquare, which offers a host of promotions for merchants to use with people who “check in” to Foursquare, including coupons and loyalty programs.
Small business are in the best position to experiment with these methods to see what works, said Michael Martin, senior SEO strategist for Covario.
“A large retailer may struggle to do a simple test because it’s complex for them to [train] retail staff on how to handle a redemption,” he said. A smaller business can simply tell its 10 cashiers that a customer may walk in and ask to redeem a coupon on their mobile phone.
Businesses should keep an eye out for new types of services that are continually emerging in mobile and location-aware contexts, said Nicola Smith, vice president of business development for Performics. For instance, she’s been seeing services that let users “check in” to conversations about brands or products, rather than physical locations. “We’re seeing this phenomena evolve and expand to other places beyond location-specific check-ins,” she said.
With so many new services emerging, it can be hard for companies to keep up with what’s available. “You need to look at services that will help aggregate them,” Smith said. For instance, Local Response is a service that aggregates check-ins across different services.
One way that companies might combine social with local in the future is by offering targeted coupons to individuals who are part of a group, Ling said. For example, a person who just completed a running race might post a message to other runners suggesting they meet in a restaurant. A company could see that message and respond by offering a coupon to anyone from the race who comes to its restaurant.
That scenario could represent the evolution of group messaging, beyond how current services like Yahoo Groups are used, for example, he said.
All the speakers on a panel here agreed that the first step to integrating social, local and mobile is to have a mobile-optimized Web site. Nearly 80 percent of the top advertising brands don’t have a Web site optimized for mobile phones, Ling said. “That is absolutely tactic number one,” he said.
The speakers also encouraged companies to experiment. “If you look at this as a massive [undertaking], it’s going to be. But, especially if you’re a small company, just try it,” Martin said.
This is exactly what I’ve been telling clients – it’s not enough to just start up a business and expect customers to show up. You have to make it happen, and instead of being scared of new technology, embrace it. The marketing message hasn’t changed – but the media available to distribute that message has broadened. Even better, many of these new methods are cheaper!
As a small business owner, we’re consistently encouraged to set up a Facebook and Twitter profile, and given these social media sites are two of the most widely used social media networks, we don’t disagree. With 61% of respondents from a PEW Research Center 2010 study confirming they conduct some form of social networking online, business owners are wise to incorporate social media, a relatively cost-effective marketing tool, into their arsenal. However, ‘some form of social networking’ is a key phrase when looking at this stat as it implies there are different forms of social networking to choose from beyond Facebook and Twitter.
It’s easy to get caught up in the term ‘social media’ and link it primarily to sites such as FaceBook and Twitter. However, as a business owner, it’s important to realize there’s a lot more to social media than just these two interfaces. In fact, a June 2010 study by Leadforce1 showed that LinkedIn drives the most referrals to B2B sites with 17,618 leads. Many likely haven’t even heard of the #2 and #3 rankings with Reddit driving 11,968 and Dzone 8478 leads respectively. Twitter and Facebook came in a distant #4 and #5 with 6170 and 4465 B2B leads respectively. Stubleupon, Squidoo and Delicious (in order of ranking) were also included in the survey with a total B2B lead generation of 5,328.
In addition to leading the way with inbound leads, LinkedIn was also found to generate the most conversions for B2Bs at 61% in the Hub Spot State of Inbound Marketing 2011 Report, with the company blog coming in at 55%, Facebook at 41% and Twitter at 39%.
What can be deducted from these statistics? It proves a business should consider the best social media networks that will have the most impact for their business based on results vs. general audience popularity, which means it might not be Facebook or Twitter. That’s not to say sites such as Facebook and Twitter shouldn’t be used to generate B2B leads and conversions, because, after all, they do still bring in a fair number of both (and Facebook is a leader in B2C lead conversions), but they’re not the only, nor necessarily the best, social media networks to use across the board for all businesses.
Wow, I hadn’t realised that other social media sites could be so effective for business – I’ve at least heard of most of the ones in this article, but I admit Dzone had me scratching my head!
Article Author: Chris Marentis
Chris Marentis is the founder and CEO of GenNext Media LLC, and creator of the SureFire Social lead generation marketing system. With over 25 years experience leading traditional and interactive marketing businesses, Chris is a recognized leader helping …