The last few years I was employed at Rocketdyne, my job – which I essentially created – was to research social media for the purpose of bringing it inside the firewall for internal communication and collaboration.
As a result, I became both well educated in the use of numerous apps and platforms, and excited about the possibilities they represented. When the Space Shuttle program was nearing it’s end, everyone over sixty was offered an early severance package.
After some research I decided to accept the offer, which I characterized as a “gold-leafed handshake.” I was pretty excited about going out on my own and offering social media marketing services to local small businesses. Unfortunately, very few people knew what I was talking about and most businesses remained content to spend $200/month on a Yellow Pages ad that likely got thrown in a recycle bin the moment it arrived.
I’m not entirely certain, but it does seem like things have changed and many more businesses understand the value in promoting via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. As a result in finding it easier to get clients to help and supplement my retirement income.
I just wrote about my feelings regarding what I consider to be a truly overzealous display of the American flag I encounter practically everywhere I go. I received a comment mentioning how disconcerting it is to see so many people wear the flag, or disrespect it in some way, contrary to correct flag etiquette. I’m not necessarily a huge stickler on these matters, but it serves to point out the rank hypocrisy of many, especially those who complain that taking a knee during the anthem is disrespectful.
Also, in my previous post I suggested I would be sharing some of my Photoshop efforts as I see fit. So . . . here is another file I created regarding ways in which the flag should not be displayed. Every one of these, with the exception of Old Glory flying in the background, is wrong according to United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1. Especially relevant to this post is §8. Respect for flag. Here’s the appropriate language of that section:
The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.
Note that bunting does NOT include the stars, only the stripes and the colors red, white, and blue, with blue always being at the top and red at the bottom.
Don’t Do These Things. It’s Disrespectful. 😛
I truly don’t understand people who scream bloody murder about respect for the flag, yet have no clue as to the etiquette called for in its display. Keep in mind, however, although there are federal regulations involving respect for the flag, none of them are actually enforced . . . as should be clearly evident by the ways in which businesses and people use it to adorn just about everything, including napkins, tablecloths, socks, t-shirts, etc. So go ahead and disrespect our flag in whatever way you wish; just shut the fuck up when others do it in a manner they think appropriate . . . especially if it’s part of a protest designed to bring attention to injustice.
PS – Here are a couple of choice provisions I find interesting:
(c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. (How many football games have begun with the unfurling of a large U.S. flag, carried horizontally down the field?)
(i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. (What did you eat on last July 4th? Did you maybe casually wipe your mouth with our flag?)
I suggest reading the rules if it’s important to you and, if you have complained about how people show their respect, I suggest you make it important.
Haven’t had the time – or the inclination – to address it, but this past Tuesday marked my eight year anniversary as a blogger on WordPress. Since I had been blogging at The Cranky Curmudgeon on Blogger since July of 2004 prior to moving over here, I guess that means I’ve been blogging for over eleven and a half years.
While I’ve always attempted to be somewhat relevant, I’ve never even considered being commercial, which should be quite evident given the rank amateur effort I’ve stood up. I know WP tacks on advertisements to my blog, though that might have gone away now that I’ve purchased their premium pack. I never saw them, so I’m not sure if they’re still there or not.
At any rate, I begin my 70th orbit around the Sun a little later this year. I’m hopeful I’ve got at least another decade of blogging to do; maybe even some seriously focused writing as well. We’ll see how that goes.
It’s been nearly three years since I “retired” from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. I’ve been through several iterations of “What do I want to be when I grow up” and I think my latest incarnation is actually working! I’ve given myself until the end of this year for it to prove out to be a viable trajectory, at least for a few more years while I still have to tend closely to my children. You can read my most recent self-assessment/self-promotion at LinkedIn.
Additionally, some of the seeds I planted a while back may be sprouting, which would be really satisfying and might steer me comfortably toward another line of work I can enjoy.
It seems understanding Social Media’s role, both inside and outside the corporate firewall, wasn’t a terribly interesting subject for most organizations and, despite my zeal, I couldn’t get the traction I needed to do what I thought made sense. Equally, at least here in Simi Valley, small businesses have had a very hard time – as a whole – seeing how social can be used to promote their business or organize their work a little more effectively. I need to say . . . there were lots of opportunity for being a charlatan and raking in some dough or for doing something I didn’t really enjoy just to make money. I’ve chosen not to follow those paths, so the challenge has been finding – again – who and what I want to be or, more accurately, continue becoming. Being frugal’s been kind of important as well. 😀
It’s important to note there are lots of large organizations who recognize the value of social for reaching out to, and communicating with, their current and potential customers. There are fewer, in my estimation (disclosure: I have not researched the numbers. I have, however, been observing for a long time) that appreciate the value of social to build community inside the firewall, let alone in the space they share with their suppliers/vendors.
At any rate, I haven’t given up entirely and I was gratified to be contacted by someone who interviewed me on the subject nearly 2 years ago. He asked if the audio could be used in a couple other blogs and sent me a link to it. Frankly, I had completely forgottenI did the interview. Also, inasmuch as I am now doing some editing/proofreading professionally, I was a tad dismayed to read the copy that accompanied it, and I’ve asked for the opportunity to proofread these new publications prior to publication. I don’t believe I had that opportunity with the first publication, which can be found here. Below is the Vimeo audio file with my interview. I don’t think I made a fool of myself. I’m hoping I actually make more sense today than I did back then. I’m gratified Dustin felt it was worthy of being repeated.
PS – I may no longer be a Chief BooMillennial Officer, but I do think I’m still an Emergineer and definitely a Serendipity Wrangler.
The title of this post used to be the tag line I put on my business card. It’s still on the vehicle sign that covers the rear window of my Honda Pilot, and it’s still in my Facebook Fan Page’s “about” section. The first paragraph of that section continues, “Your company – your brand – is being discussed publicly. Don’t you think you should join the conversation?”
Information Week made it the cover story of their June 25, 2012 edition and I pointed out the similarity in a graphic I created and posted on my Facebook Fan Page. In some respects, we weren’t quite talking about the same thing, though, but they’re closely related. Their article focuses on sentiment analysis and my thoughts were more directed toward overall engagement, which includes sentiment analysis. They are also far more attuned to the needs of larger brands, whereas my concern is for small businesses and the value they can get from what I see as the proper use of social media.
Today I was pointed to an article by Brian Solis of the Altimeter Group, entitled “Why Digital Influence is So Important“. Brian discusses the value of shared experiences, the building of trust, and the spread of influential content, pointing out the value of online recommendations from people we know and trust. He concludes with the following questions: “Do you know what’s being said about your business? And who’s saying it? How are you getting closer to your customer by examining your digital influence?”
Now the reason I bring this up is there are a number of people here in Simi Valley who have created Facebook groups designed to help us communicate or promote local businesses or both. One of the activities that’s taking place is what some call “Cash Mobs“. We are trying to pick out small, independently owned businesses that we might be able to help out (at least with their cash flow) by patronizing them.
As a result of this, one of the members suggested a location that might be able to use a small infusion of business and, consequently, cash. Since I have been trying to get locals to realize the value of using mostly free platforms, services, and apps to market and publicize their businesses, I’m always wondering how well certain ones are doing this. So I decided to check out this particular business with respect to a few things I think it could (or should) be doing.
I didn’t do extensive research, but I did find out some things I think are interesting in light of what Brian has to say about digital influence, as well as what I know about it from my research and experience. What I found was the following:
They have a Facebook fan page but do very little with it. The page has 45 likes and 10 people have gone to the trouble of checking in there.
They haven’t bothered to claim their venue on Foursquare (a very simple process) and, even though 30 people have checked in a total of 106 times (that’s an average of 3 times per person; an indication of some loyalty), they cannot create specials to reward that loyalty and, perhaps, entice more people to try them out.
They also have two listings in Yelp but have yet to claim either of them. Were they to do so, they would be able to correct one of the listings, as well as provide accurate information on what it is they do. What they do have is four (two for each listing) high quality, five-star reviews for their establishment. I say high-quality because all of the reviewers have numerous friends and have posted multiple reviews in Yelp.
I also checked Yahoo Local (basic minimum listing), Bing Local (basic listing w/two of the Yelp reviews), and they don’t show up at all in Google+ Local.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Here’s another quote from Brian:
“In the end, people are at the center of your business. And connections are the ties that bind in social media. Your next step is to see what people are saying or what they’re not saying about your business to learn how you can become part of the conversation and ultimately part of the decision making process.”
My contention is that by not taking the small amount of time required to at least claim venues and ensure they are completely populated with information about your business, you are showing you don’t really care what people are saying about you. Your absence from Yelp means you lose the ability to both thank people who take the time to say something nice about you, and to respond to those who take the time to report a problem they may have had. Without Foursquare you lose the ability to create specials designed to reward loyalty from current customers who are using the service and to entice new customers to try you out.
Even if you’re reading the reviews on Yelp and the tips on Foursquare (and it’s highly likely you aren’t) you have no possibility of “becoming part of the conversation and ultimately part of the decision making process.”
There’s another factor as well, which Brian discusses in his article. When people check in to your business on Facebook or Foursquare or Yelp, which they can do with their smart phones, tablets, and laptops there is always the chance some of their friends will see where they are or where they’ve been. Since the most trusted method of referral is that received from a friend, either online or in person, every business that doesn’t take advantage of these tools is shortchanging themselves. There are other issues having to do with gamification, peer response, and virality but we’ll leave them alone for now. They are important to fully understanding how to use each of these applications, but they don’t matter one bit if your business isn’t using them at even their most basic level.
In this economy I’m of the opinion not taking advantage of free marketing seems almost criminal and, while the tools may change as time goes by, the concepts aren’t going anywhere. What are you doing about it?
There are several commercial “movements” gaining steam nowadays expressing the desire of smaller communities to get residents spending more of their money at local, usually small, businesses. Small Business Saturday’s Facebook page has almost 3 Million “Likes”. My city of Simi Valley has spent a fair amount of money promoting the concept. Locally it’s called “Shop Simi Valley First“. Unfortunately, the money that was used to create the website and other marketing efforts to support it has now dried up, possibly never to return. On the bright side, some of our citizens created a Facebook page for them and it’s approaching 1K “Likes”. It might increase now that the “official” effort is unfunded. I think this is a good thing and here’s why.
For the last year or so I have been gently pushing the city, and local small businesses, to recognize the power available to them in the use of social media to market themselves, as well as to create connections that just haven’t been possible in the past. I think, when it comes to marketing – especially in terms of encouraging local residents to patronize small businesses in our city – the connectivity and mutual support provided by services like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp may prove a decisive factor in reasonable, if not substantial, growth.
As I see it, local small businesses can use these services not merely to promote themselves individually but, as long as there’s no conflict of interest, they can also promote each other. Here’s what I imagine happening.
Let’s say you have a restaurant that serves a reasonably upscale clientele. You know there is a certain demographic that’s not terribly likely to frequent your business. Maybe they’ll patronize your place on special occasions, but not regularly. Would it be a bad thing to give props to other eating establishments more desirable or affordable to those people? Would it threaten your business or might it not actually result in your being recognized as more friendly and approachable? I’m betting the latter is more likely.
Perhaps you own a clothing store, a dry cleaners, or you’re a Dentist or other professional or service provider. I see no reason why you can’t agree with other businesses to post on each others’ Facebook pages once in a while, sharing what you have to offer or special deals you’re running at the time. Frankly, I haven’t worked out all the details in my head yet. I’ve tried to work with local businesses and the City to encourage this type of practice using social media but, much like my experience at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I’ve met a lot of inertia and resistance to change, even in the face of impending closure or bankruptcy. Part of it is a lack of understanding and part of it is a lack of resources, but the result is the same. Nothing much is happening.
What I envision happening is essentially two-fold. The first thing is that participating businesses benefit from the following of the other businesses on whose Facebook pages they promote themselves. This increases the likelihood of their being noticed by a larger group of residents. Secondly, it also increases the chances people in outlying areas will become aware of local businesses, thereby increasing the possibility people from neighboring cities may drive on over and patronize our local businesses a bit more frequently.
Does this make sense to you? What do you think about promoting local small business and how well do you think the use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp can increase awareness of certain types of businesses? I’d sure like to see a more coordinated, concerted effort at making it happen.
I’ve been concentrating on a couple of new clients and have neglected to post for a couple of weeks. During this time I’ve been thinking about some of the subjects I’d like to cover. One of those is the use of Foursquare for small, retail businesses. Actually, it can be used for virtually any type of business, but the usage model it presents is most applicable to businesses with lots of traffic and churn. I see them as being in somewhat of a pyramid. For instance, those businesses that will get the most value from Foursquare are restaurants, bars, and clubs. Next in line are retail outlets and, finally, service businesses with a brick and mortar location.
Other types of businesses can use the service to get some free advertising, but if your business isn’t amenable to friends sharing the location (primarily because they want to enjoy each others’ company), it’s not going to have the same kind of value for you. As an example, there are Dentist’s offices who use it to present teeth cleaning and whitening specials. I am pretty sure people don’t check in to their Dentist’s office because they’re having a bang-up time and want to share it with their friends. However, everyone who uses Foursquare on their phone is going to get an impression of the special the office has created. You never know and, after all, it’s currently free!
Thanks to a heads-up from one of my friends, @mor_trisha, I read an article at ClickZ (authored by Jeanne Jennings) making essentially the same points I wanted to make. I’d like give you my version of why I think Foursquare is an important channel for small business to use, with a bit of local flavor for examples. I’d also like to expand a bit on how to use the service if you are a business owner considering using it.
First, let me say a few things about Foursquare in case you aren’t aware of what it is and how it’s used. Foursquare is a location-based, check-in application that consumers with smart phones can download and use to find nearby locations their friends frequent, as well as check-in when they are there. In addition, those merchants who have taken the time to “claim” their venue using the website provided for their use can create specials to entice new customers and to reward the loyalty of their ongoing customers. More about that in a bit.
As a user, Foursquare provides you with the ability to “check in” at a restaurant, pub, retail outlet, or service provider’s location whenever you are there. Using your phone’s GPS system you are provided, through the app, with a list of those venues that are close by. You can also see if any of your friends (or anyone else for that matter) is at a particular location so you can join them if you wish. In a rural environment or in a small town with few users, this capability is probably not all that useful. In my hometown, which is relatively small, the usage is now growing to the point where enough people are checking in for it to be useful. I imagine in large, urban areas it’s very useful – and likely lots of fun for some. There is also a couple of gaming aspects (points, earned badges) to using the service, but I’ll save that for another post.
Think Global, Check-in Local
For business owners, Foursquare provides some interesting capabilities that are available for free. You cannot access them, however, until you take a little time to “claim” your venue. This is a relatively painless process that involves creating an account if you don’t already have one, finding your location on their website, and clicking on the link that appears on the right hand side of your screen. It says “Do you manage this venue? Claim here.” Once you click on the link you will have to answer a few more questions, then agree to receive a phone call where you will be given a four-digit code to enter on another screen. After that, you will have access to some useful tools, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Now, I said relatively painless for a reason. I have had several instances where a business that’s been around for a long time was unable to use their phone number because Foursquare said they couldn’t verify it belonged to them. Since they had the number for quite some time, I’m unclear why this happens. Nevertheless, it isn’t the end of the road. Foursquare will give you the opportunity to have them contact you by snail mail, in which case you’ll receive the code you need as well as a cling to put in your window to advertise your presence on the site.
Once you have claimed your venue you will have access to their “Manager Tools”. These include venue statistics, which will show you number of check-ins, social reach (whether or not the info was sent to Twitter or Facebook), time, gender, and age breakdowns (as available), and the profiles of your visitors. This information can be presented in numerous time slices, e.g. today, last week, last 30, 60, & 90 days, or all. All of this information is useful for understanding the penetration and coverage you’re getting with people who use Foursquare.
However, in my opinion the most useful tool of all (and the one that will really make the stats worthwhile) is the ability to create campaigns and specials. To start a campaign you simply add a special, of which there are five designed to attract new customers and two designed to reward the loyalty of existing customers. These specials (with my suggested ways they might be used) are as follows:
Attract new customers
Swarm Special (If 10 people check in at the same time you all get 20% off your meal, etc.)
Friends Special (Check in with 3 friends and dessert is free for the group)
Flash Special (The first 10 check-ins after 8pm get a free beverage)
Newbie Special (Get a free appetizer on your first check-in)
Check-in Special (Get a half-price beverage every time you check in)
Reward existing customers
Loyalty Special (Get a free appetizer every fourth time you check in)
Mayor Special (The Mayor gets 25% off their entire bill)
Foursquare also provides some nice, printable flyers to hand out to your customers and your employees, so everyone knows how it works and what an “opened” special looks like. Hint – if it’s in black and white, it hasn’t been unlocked. There’s also a lock icon that appears as unlocked when it is.
Ms. Jenning pointed out four good examples of how to (and not to) use Foursquare specials to get the results you’re looking for. I’d like to do the same for four locations in my neighborhood.
They offer a standard check-in special. Each check-in gets you $10 off a purchase of $50 or more. With a purchase of exactly $50 that works out to a 20% discount; large enough to entice new customers. Frankly, I would have used a straight 20% discount, perhaps with a min (maybe even a max), rather than a minimum purchase. As it stands, if you spend $100 (and who spends only $50 on clothing nowadays?) you’re only getting a 10% discount. Maybe not enough to bring in new business.
Cherry on Top
They also offer a check-in special of 10% off with every check-in. This isn’t a bad deal. Most people are going to go for ice cream or frozen yogurt after a meal, or as a summer-time treat, when they feel like it and, all things being equal, I would go to the place that offers a discount. Most don’t, so I suspect this is at least marginally helping them compete with the other venues in town.
Limon Latin Grill
This one is somewhat similar to the example given by Ms. Jennings of Bangkok Joe’s. It’s a bit puzzling to me why they think this would entice anyone. They actually offer three check-in specials presented as one. Your first check-in is worth $2.00 on a drink, the second is $5.00 off any entree after five check-ins, the third is a free drink after 10 check-ins. This is not an inexpensive restaurant and I believe a normal meal, especially if it includes a drink, will cost at least $20. This makes the second of the specials worth about 5%; not exactly something to write home about. The same goes for the other ones. None of them seem very enticing. I’d be curious to know if they’re getting much action at all. I actually used the first one, but only because I went there to see a friend’s band playing. The waitress was unfamiliar with the entire concept, which leads me to believe they aren’t getting much traction out of the campaign. I’m not surprised.
California Pizza Kitchen
This venue is using a Friends Special, stated so: “Show you phone to a manager and get 20% off when you and 3 friends check-in to the same CPK! Excludes alcohol, tax & gratuity, gift cards. Not valid w/other offers. Valid at participating locations.” What I get from this is the place is probably micromanaged, as I find it a bit mystifying they don’t trust their wait staff to validate the check-ins. It’s also a bit comical to me they feel the need to qualify the offer so carefully. Lighten up! Nevertheless, 20% off isn’t a bad deal for a mid-priced meal with 3 of your BFFs.
There are numerous other examples of specials being offered, many by venues you probably wouldn’t expect to find using them. I want to think about them a little more and maybe drop in to a couple to find out how they’re doing with them. The lesson here – if you’re running a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or a retail store with the potential for lots of foot traffic, your venue has probably already been entered into Foursquare’s database. Now you need to get out there, claim it, and start providing some specials to take advantage of what it has to offer. Remember, IT’S FREE, but that probably won’t last forever. Why not take advantage of it while you can? You’re welcome.
Now, I’m far from an expert in this field. I have no training in marketing, PR, or advertising, though I have pretty extensive experience in sales, having spent many years in the wholesale food business doing just that (lots of cold calling on people who were already buying from someone else, actually). However, since embarking on my new career as a social media marketing strategist and bottle-washer, I do have some thoughts about what “engagement” means to me.
I’m of the opinion the use of “engagement”, in today’s rapidly changing social media fueled world, means a shift away from broadcasting one’s message out through print media, email blasts, websites, etc. toward a model that invites dialogue and conversation. I believe the difference is fairly well expressed in the concepts of “outbound” and “inbound” marketing. As I said, though, I’m a bit of a novice at this, so maybe I’m just full of hot air myself.
Nevertheless, I do have a fair amount of experience with the restaurant business, having eaten at lots of them, as well as managed a couple, and sold lots of product to many. I learned all about service from the restaurant business. I learned how to make people not only comfortable, but happy they did business with me.
So . . . what do I mean by the title of this piece? I am doing some low-level reputation management and I have some Google alerts set up to let me know when some of the businesses I’m working with, or am interested in, are being discussed. Today I got one that led me to read a couple of reviews of a particular sports bar I would like to have as a client. One of the reviews mentioned how the owner walked around and talked to each of the tables where people were eating, drinking, and watching a game. The author of the review also suggested this was no longer the norm, which was why it stood out. Also mentioned was the author’s belief this wasn’t just a cursory walk-around, but a genuine conversation; an “engagement” with the people that pay his rent and his employee’s salaries.
It made me realize the best, most successful restaurants have always done something like this. They make their customers feel as though they are eating with friends, that they matter, and their comfort and satisfaction matter. It’s not something that goes on a checklist of things to do. It’s natural (at least with the best of owners and managers) and – which it always was for me – fun and fulfilling. It’s also a way to get immediate feedback and to address problems before they get out-of-hand.
Engagement is important, and social media provides ways for most anyone in business to participate as never before possible. However, as many also point out, it’s important to be genuine and it helps if you really care. Successful restauranteurs understand this in their bones. Their success proves its value as well. Have you figured out how to genuinely engage with your customers?
Let’s face(book) it, Facebook has been invading our privacy for years. The result, an ability to target ads like never before. Coupled with a model that makes it easy to experiment for very little money, there’s little reason not to give it a shot if you’ve got a Facebook Fan Page. Read this article from The Globe and Mail for more info. This is a winner for small businesses with small advertising budgets.
How much are you willing to pay to be liked? It was a fitting question for JP Davidson and Elah Feder, the creators of “I Like You,” a podcast about modern love, from friends-with-benefits to the ins and outs of queer Jewish speed-dating.
“We were looking for new ways to expand our listenership,” says Mr. Davidson. “Like everybody else, we saw the ads in the Facebook sidebar constantly, and looked into how much it would cost to run a campaign.”
What they found was a lot of “likes” for not a lot of money. Their value, however, remains to be seen.
I’m sorry . . . and I say that with the utmost sincerity (especially since I’m likely the only one I’m saying it to – which makes it all that much more pathetic) . . . but I really wanted to write about something, anything, today. So I thought I might write about my relationship with blogging. However, as the linked graphic clearly shows, I just missed the ideal time to do so today and, alas, it appears mostly downhill from here.
Nevertheless, thanks to Amplify, I can still fulfill my obligation to myself and get back to work so I can relax and watch some of the best commercials we’re likely to see all year. Incidentally, I think there’s a football game wrapped around those commercials. Don’t quote me on it, though.
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.