July 22, 2017

Groupon Case Study

I have real world numbers from a GroupOn campaign to share with the world! This in combination with my very sexy equation from a previous post and my newly added, downloadable GroupOn Excel calculator allows us to get all kinds of insight.

The businesses I know that have participated in these campaigns have seemed pretty happy with the results, but none of them tracked their numbers. That meant I had to make some assumptions, but no longer.

Case Study

Here are the metrics from a real GroupOn campaign. I would expect that results will vary from business to businesss and especially between different industries. If you need to better understand these numbers, read the previous post.

  • Business Type: Very Casual Dining
  • Business Age: Fairly new business
  • GroupOn offer: $20 certificate for $10
  • GroupOn’s commission: 50%
  • Total Sold: 1,225
  • Redemption Rate: 68% (32% were never cashed in)
  • Average Ticket Amount (with certificate use): $20 (people spent pretty close to the face value amount)
  • Estimated number of new, recurring customers: 75%. This is expressed as a % of the total number of certificates sold. These are people that will come back even without a certificate.
  • Estimated Long term, recurring customer income: $20. Without a certificate, the average ticket is about $10. This means that it is assumed the new, recurring customers mentioned are expected to come in about 4 times over the “long term”
  • Normal Margin on sales: I did a loose calculation because I knew the net result… 230% margin or COGS is about 30% ticket price.
  • Brand Value: $0. This is such a fuzzy number, that I left it as zero.

The real world result is that this business owner was paid $6,000 with costs around $5,000. According to the super-awesome spreadsheet – using the numbers above – the analysis shows:

  • Campaign Profit: $1,076.52
  • Total Long Term Profit: $13,883.33
  • ROI over the “Long Term”: 130.77%

Not too shabby.

Footnotes

There are some notes worth mentioning:

  • The business was paid by GroupOn in three, equal payments over 1-2 months. They were happy with this.
  • Purchases with certificates with Tickets less than $20 don’t get change. Typically, they would order something else to get over the $20 level.
  • Redemption volume was heavy in the first and last month, the numbers were:
    • Month 1 – 225
    • Month 2 – 150
    • Month 3 – 100
    • Month 4 – 50
    • Month 5 – 50
    • Month 6 – 250
  • The number of new, recurring customers is very difficult to determine and is basically a gut-check. Unfortunately, it is largely responsible for the determination of the Long Term Profit… so be careful how you use it.
  • I assumed “Long Term” meant over the course of a year when determining some of the more “magical” numbers. You can assume whatever you want, but make sure you understand what it all means.
  • The calculator is intended to be functional, not fancy. It’s pretty basic, but still very, very sexy.

Is Your Audience Listening?

This is a topic I’ve struggled with over the past few years. There are so many people that measure success based on the number of followers/fans they have, but I question how valuable these numbers are. Those companies that do email blasts to a billion people see success as a 2% click through rate…. they’re playing the numbers.

I’m currently in the camp that believes quality is better than quantity. I actually read the profiles and posts of people I follow on Twitter and I don’t automatically follow people that follow me. If I get a friend request on Facebook, I check to see if I know the person and, if not, I check to see what friends we have in common. The justification I have for both myself and the organizations I work with is, having an engaged audience is more valuable than the raw numbers. I equate people that blindly follow others on social media to someone grabbing one of those business card fishbowls you see in restaurants – you can add all of these people to your contact list, but will most likely never do business with any of them. What’s the point?

The counter argument is that the more people you can reach, the more likely it is that your message will fall on friendly ears. If 2% of those fishbowl contacts is actually interested in what you are doing, then that is one successful connection for every 50 cards you filch.

I like analytics quite a bit, but I think that the real measurements that have value are in absolute numbers, not ratios. How many people are actually interacting with you through retweets, mentions, direct messages, comments, likes and wall posts? If you can push these numbers up that show engagement (without annoying people) by following every single person, then your ratio is shot, but so what? If you can do it by exerting more energy to vet your audience – fantastic.

Here are what I believe are the secrets:

  1. Add value to the conversation instead of just acting as a shill for your interests. So many organizations create accounts and turn on the traditional broadcast tower … “buy my product, visit my business, enroll in my self help program, etc.” What information are you providing that help people pursue their interests versus just another advertisement?
  2. Go deep on the conversations your audience wants to have. Social Media is a two way street and your opportunity to have an ongoing conversation, build relationships, and turn bystanders into passionate patrons.
  3. Focus on the real metrics that measure if people are interested in what you have to say versus how many people are within earshot.

I’d love to know what strategies others are using. Let me know what you think.

GroupOn ROI – the Math

UPDATE 7/16/10: I’ve added an Excel calculator to make it easier to determine how GroupOn might work for you. It’s very simple, but uses all the logic described in this post.

UPDATE 7/16/2010 – I’ve also added a new post with real world numbers with a Groupon Case Study.

How do you know if GroupOn is right for you? I like numbers quite a bit and became obsessed with this, so I’ve put together an ROI calculation to try to answer this question. This post includes the calculation I came up with towards the beginning and the detailed breakdown of what everything means for any masochists that like that sort of thing.

At a very high level, the GroupOn pitch seems questionable. They want you to sell a certificate through GroupOn (say $30) for a deep discount (say $15) and they are going to take a percent of the income (say 50% or $7.50). In this example, you are getting 25% of what you would normally. Why would anyone do this?

  • New Patrons – This is the biggest reason. If you can get new patrons into your organization with a deep discount and they keep coming back and spending big bucks, there is a lifelong value.
  • Cash flow - You get paid the day after the promotion which can help out if you need to buy that new oven or make payroll. Since the certificate is valid until the expiration date, you can expect the loss to be spread out over a period of time – although most of it will probably be pretty soon.
  • Unredeemed certificates - there will be some people that pay for the deal, but never actually use the certificate. That’s just free money.
  • Average ticket value exceeds offer -If you limit the offer to one certificate per table (for example),  what if they bring friends and buy a boat load of food – only getting a deal on the first $30? Nice.

There is one additional cost to also consider, though.

  • Brand value. How do you think offering this type of outrageous deal will affect your image? You might decide this is positive, negative or not a concern.

Define your numbers

So should you do it? Let’s ignore the immediate Cash Flow benefit and make some assumptions.

  • Offer Amount (O) – you are going to offer a $30 certificate and only allow one  to be redeemed per table
  • Sell Amount (S) – the purchase price for these certificates will be $15
  • GroupOn’s Cut (G) – GroupOn’s cut will be 50% of the sell price… for every $15 certificate, they get $7.50 and you get $7.50
  • Margin (M) – your margin is 50%, i.e., if it costs you $20 to make something, you are going to sell it for $30.
  • Average Ticket (A) – the average ticket of people using the offer will be $50
  • Redeemed Certificates (R) – only 80% of certificates will be redeemed
  • Total sold (T) - you expect to sell 500 of these
  • New patron percentage (N) – you expect 40% of the people taking advantage of the offer to be new patrons (the remainder are people that are already patrons). This is a number that you pretty much have to make up, but 40% seems pretty good.
  • New Patron Lifetime Value (L) – We’ll say the average patron will spend $150 with you (beyond the offer) over a period of 1 year (if you choose 2 years, 3 years, etc, your ROI will be spread over that period). Determining this value is a science on its own so good luck coming up with the right number.  Taken in conjunction with your Margin, this can be used to determine profit from your average patron.
  • Brand Value (V) – Some organizations worry that offering such deep discounts will damage their brand and make them look “desperate.” Others might think there is an overall brand benefit that is not captured in the lifetime patron value. This variable is intended to capture this “fuzzy” influence and represents how the promotion will affect revenue over a period of 1 year (if you choose 2 years, 3 years, etc, your ROI will be spread over that period) SEPARATE FROM INCOME RELATED TO NEW PATRONS. If you think it will increase revenue over time, choose a positive number, but since I have heard concerns about the negative effects, I will choose a negative number and that I am making up – -$4,500.

GroupOn ROI Calculation

Here it is… the total long term profit you can expect from this promotion is:

Total initial income … + … Loss from certificate redemption … + … New patron Benefit … + … Brand Damage

T*(S-G*S) …. + …. R*T*[(A-O)-(A-O)/(1+M) - O/(1+M)] … + … T*N*(L-L/(1+M) … + … (V-V/(1+M)) = PROFIT

or ….

500 * ($15 – .5*$15) … + … .8*500*[($50-$30)-($50-$30)/(1+.5)] … + … 500*.4*($150-$150/(1+.5) … + … (-$4,500-(-$4,500)/(1+.5)) = $3,750 … – … $5,332 … + … $10,000 … – … $1,500  = $6,918

For the purists out there, this is not technically ROI, which is defined as (gain from investment – cost of investment) / (cost of investment). Fine.

Cost of Investment

The cost of investment is:

What it costs you to redeem certificates … + … what it costs you to fulfill purchases beyond the limits of the offering … + … your cost of fulfilling lifelong purchases … + … brand value

R*T*(O/1+M) … + … R*T*(A-O)/(1+M) … + … T*N*(L/(1+M) … + … V

or …

.8*500*($30/(1+.5) … + … .8*500*($50-$30)/(1+.5) … + … 500*.4*($150/(1+.5)) … + … $4,500 = $37,833

NOTE: You should move the brand value to Gain calculation if you think it will be positive.

Gain from Investment

The gain can be determined as:

Initial revenue from offer … + …. income from sells beyond the limits of the offering … + … income from life long purchases

T*(S-G*S) … + … R*T*(A-O) … + … T*N*L

or …

500*($15-.5*$15) … + … + .8*500*($50-$30) … + … 500*.4*$150 = $41,750

Official ROI

ROI = ($41,750 – $37,833)/($37,833) = 10.35%

KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS ROI IS FOR THE PERIOD YOUR CONSIDERING FOR BRAND VALUE AND PATRON LIFETIME (if you’ve entered a value assuming 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, etc, this is the ROI for that period).

Also keep in mind that these are hypothetical numbers. Your numbers will most likely be different.

Calculation details for Masochists

TOTAL INITIAL INCOME

How much money do you receive from GroupOn the day after the sell? This is the total number of certificates sold minus GroupOn’s cut, or:

T*(S-G*S) = 500 * ($15 – $15*.5) = $3,750

AMOUNT OF LOSS BASED ON REDEMPTION OF CERTIFICATES

For every certificate redeemed, you are going to have to give away a certain amount of inventory, service, etc (O=$30), but the cost to you will be less than the certificate amount because of your margin:

O/(1+M) => $30/(1.5)=> $20 (what it costs you to redeem a certificate)

You also will be able to make a profit on the average ticket amount above the offer amount, or the total income above this amount minus the cost:

(A-O) – (A-O)/(1+M) => ($50-$30) – ($50-$30)/(1.5) => $20-$13.33 = $6.67 (additional profit per redeemed certificate based on assumed Average Ticket)

So for each certificate redeemed, your profit is most likely negative:

(A-O)-(A-O)/(1+M) – O/(1+M) = $6.67 – $20 =  – $13.33

But some people will not redeem their certificates, which means free money for you! Taking into account the total number of certificates sold (T=500) and the redemption rate (R=.8) leads to an updated equation of:

R*T*[(A-O)-(A-O)/(1+M) - O/(1+M)] => .8*500*[($50-$30) - ($50-$30)/(1+.5) - $30/(1+.5)] = -$5,332.

So at this point, you have gained initial income of $3,750 and, over the course of several months, it is forecasted to cost you $5,332 leading to a net loss of $1,582… but there are some additional potential benefits.

NEW PATRON BENEFIT

We’ve talked about the obvious income and costs, but there are other benefits. The idea of paying for a print ad seems pretty reasonable because it might attract new patrons and you’re willing to pay money for it, so why not GroupOn? It is advertising and seems pretty effective at getting people to show up.

You’ve made an assumption about how much the average new patron will spend at your organization over their lifetime (L=$100). So the amount of profit you expect to make from the average new patron, after you take into account the costs associated with the transactions is:

L-L/(1+M) => $150 – $150/(1+.5) = $50

When taking into account the promotion by GroupOn, people sharing the information with friends, buyers bringing friends with them to redeem certificates, etc., you expect a certain number of new patrons tied to the number of certificates sold (T=500) and a New Patron Percentage (N=.4). This results in an expected increase of profit of:

T*N*(L-L/(1+M) => 500*.4*($150-$150/(1+.5)) = $10,000

There are 3 major things that should be noted:

  1. The lifelong value of a customer is hard to determine and we kind of made up the actual number. We also made up how we calculated the number of new patrons your promotions will generate.
  2. It might or might not take into account the viral nature of new patrons bringing along friends and introducing them to your organization. This is potentially a chain reaction that can greatly amplify this number.
  3. Lifelong value is something that can build up over a very long time. This is not a quick income event and will likely be spread over a period of years.

With that being said, the running tally of the GroupOn benefit is now at a Net Profit (over time) of $10,000 – $1,582 = $8,418 in profits.

BRAND DAMAGE

Do these deep discounts damage a brand’s image and lead to reduced sales? I don’t know, but we’ve assumed it does and have pulled out of thin air a number to represent the decreased regular income from running this promotion (V=$4,500). Since this is “top line revenue,” to understand the impact on the bottom line, we need to consider your Margin.

(V-V/(1+M))=> (-$4,500 – (-$4,500)/(1.5))=-$1,500

Additional Comments

This was a lot of work so please let me know if I made any mistakes. Also, if anyone wants to build a calculator to run these numbers, let me know!

Twitterville – Book review

I just finished Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods by Shel Israel that describes the growth of Twitter with numerous stories about how it has been adopted and used by numerous people and organizations. For local organizations, this might not be the best book, although for a more general understanding of Twitter I would recommend it.

Summary

Twitterville has a boat-load of stories about how Twitter is being used to reach target audiences. This includes heavy hitters like Dell, H&R Block, Comcast, American Airlines, and Zappo’s. There are also accounts of how government, hospitals, and individuals are discovering innovative ways to build communities.

Unfortunately, the stories related to small, local organizations using Twitter – outside of politicians – is limited to about 8 pages (156-164). Because of this, I would recommend this to local organizations if you are looking more for a resource that can explain the Twitter phenomena on a large scale than a strategy guide (there are 4 pages on getting started with Twitter in the Afterward, though).

This book is great for:

  • Learning about the history and growth of Twitter
  • Learning about the tons of creative ways people are using this seemingly basic technology
  • Learning about the Twitter culture and how to behave

Twitter Ads – coming soon

Twitter has released some preliminary information about it’s upcoming ad platform. Here’s what local organizations need to know.

Ads will be in Search Results

Ads will not appear on the right or left side of the page (like Google), they will appear in search stream results. So if you go to twitter and see all of the tweets from everyone you follow, you won’t see any ads. If you search for something (your organization name for example), you will see ads in the results. So if someone searches for “Italian Restaurant Atlanta” and you are an Italian restaurant in Atlanta, you’re ad might appear.

It’s unclear whether ads will appear in any Twitter lists you have created.

Ad size

Ads will fit within the 140-character size of tweets, so make sure you get your message honed.

Self Serve Ad model

The goal is for ads to be self serve, similar to Google or Facebook. That should mean that you will be able to go in and configure your own campaign, but details are fuzzy.

Success Obstacles

First, I hardly ever use Twitter to find information. In my opinion, Twitter.com is mostly unusable. I use tools like Tweetdeck and HootSuite and it is unclear how/if ads will propagate to these tools, although it sounds like there will be incentives for them to include them (revenue share?).

Also, Twitter is striving to mimic Google’s ad model, but Google knows a lot more about users that Twitter does, which allows them to direct ads based not only on search terms, but an understanding of who the searcher is. Twitter could overcome this by having cheaper rates, but it is going to be key to measure ROI!

Launch Date

Who knows.

Summary

It’s yet another place to allocate your marketing budget. We’ll see how it goes and I will keep you informed. Where do you spend advertising money now and how are your results?

Class action lawsuit against Yelp

Over the past year or so, there have been a lot of complaints about Yelp using questionable business tactics when soliciting businesses for advertising dollars. It looks like some businesses have decided that these tactics go to far. TechCrunch announced that two law firms – Beck Lee from Miami and The Westin Firm in San Diego have filed a class action lawsuit against Yelp for unfair business practices.

Quick Yelp Overview

For people that don’t know, Yelp is a “local search” site that allows users to review businesses. Kinda like a yellow pages where people post comments on their experiences. Users can search for a business – like an Italian restaurant in Atlanta – find results and see the business’ profile along with all of the reviews that business has received. Each review is tied to a registered user with their picture and a little bit of personal information about them, which gives business owners a way to better understand who the reviewers are. Users of Yelp build credibility in the system through these reviews that are rated by other users as funny, cool, useful, etc.

Why businesses like Yelp

Businesses seem to like Yelp because there are a ton of people using it, it provides them with feedback, but mostly Yelp lets them advertise. In that search for Italian restaurants mentioned above, at the top of the list will appear a restaurant that is paying Yelp for sponsored ads. As a user browses the site, additional sponsored ads appear on the right side of the page. Yelp provides businesses with information on the number of people that visit their Yelp profile which presumably translates into “butts in seats.”

Why businesses don’t like Yelp

The biggest reason businesses don’t like Yelp is because they sometimes get bad reviews and these are visible to anyone that visits the site. One can convincingly argue that people are entitled to their opinion and Yelp is simply providing a venue for those opinions to be expressed so that other people might make better informed decisions.

For a long time, businesses just had to take the negative reviews. Then Yelp allowed businesses to respond directly to a reviewer to try to address complaints in private. This led to some abuses as users posted negative comments in hopes that business owners would bribe them into changing the review. Last summer, however, Yelp started letting business owners respond in public to reviews. This was a little better, but businesses still don’t like negative comments (obviously). Rooz Cafe in Oakland even created a “No Yelper” policies.

Why are businesses accusing Yelp of “Extortion”?

There are a couple of reasons for this. A minor one that is frequently mentioned is that Yelp will show ads from your competitor’s business (who are paying) on your non-paying business’ profile. This practice isn’t that egregious, though and I think is up for debate.

The biggest reason stems from complaints from multiple businesses, the accusation that Yelp offers to squash bad reviews if they pay for ads (see the comments section on the TechCrunch article to get a feel for this). The business story generally goes something like this:

I had some negative reviews on Yelp and was contacted by a Yelp sales person that said if I paid $300 per month for advertising, those reviews would disappear.

That’s what all of the hullabaloo is about … these alleged sales calls.

Is all of this just business owners that are so upset about bad reviews they are making wild accusations or errant sales people within Yelp offering benefits off script? Maybe, but a quick search of Yelp extortion turns up a lot of results, dating back to 2008:

http://www.switched.com/2010/02/25/yelp-embroiled-in-bribery-extortion-and-defamation-dispute/

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/eastbay/yelp-extortion-allegations-stack-up/Content?oid=1176984

http://consumerist.com/2009/03/more-business-owners-accuse-yelp-of-review-extortion.html

http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2008/11/is_yelp_extorting_san_fran_bus.php

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/13/yelp_sales_pitch/

There is even a website dedicated to the topic:

http://www.yelpscam.com/press.html

Community Question

Yelp tries hard to present itself as a place to get quality reviews – their tagline is “Real People. Real Reviews.” Although, I guess that is still true, even if some of those reviews are removed. But the community question is: If these allegations are true, even if Yelp is not what we might want it to be, are they guilty of extortion?

Let me know what you think and tell me about your experiences with Yelp – good, bad or neutral.

New Facebook email versus Gmail

Apparently I’m over a week late on this, but Facebook has announced they are working on a revamping of their messaging platform to implement a full on email platform that will rival gmail (Yahoo Mail, AOL, etc.). This is to include POP3 and IMAP support (that means you can use it outside of Facebook).

Why is this such big news? In 2009, the time spent on personal email was surpassed by time spent on social media sites. Email is becoming more and more for business purposes while social media is the venue for personal messaging (even business use is shifting to some degree).

Is Facebook up for the challenge? Keep in mind that Google launched their social media platform – Orkut – one month before Facebook saw the light of day. If you’ve never heard of Orkut, it’s because it failed to gain adoption in the U.S… although it is huge in India and Brazil the same way David Hasselhoff is huge in Germany. One of the lessons to be learned is that huge companies – even Google – don’t always win.

But Facebook already has adoption and knows who your friends are. Plus, people are already using it for some messaging needs. It’s a crazy world.

Are you ready to rumble

So here’s the run down:

Google is doing everything including mobile phones and a new Operating System (Chrome) to rival Microsoft, Apple and even Linux. Plus they continue to try to push deeper into local search as evidenced by their failed attempt to buy Yelp.

Apple is trying to do everything, too. Recently, they have been in talks with Microsoft to use Bing as the default iPhone search engine instead of Google (what?!?!?!). To add insult to injury, Apple refused to accept Google’s Voice app into their App Store. All of this, of course, comes after Eric Schmidt (Google’s CEO) resigned his position as a Director at Apple based on a conflict of interest. Oh yeah, Apple also wants to be your cable TV provider.

Microsoft still has huge market share, but seems to be muddling by on its laurels. Although one of the reasons that Google’s $550 million bid for Yelp fell through was that Microsoft counter offered $700 million.

And Facebook continues it’s march to try to dominate how people interact online.

This is going to be a huge battle akin to the battle for delivering data to homes that pitted phone, cable, and satellite providers at odds when they all realized that fundamentally they were trying to do the same thing – deliver information.

Summation

So… how does this affect local organizations trying to reach their target audience and build patron relationships? Dunno, but unfortunately, I think this is going to get more muddled for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, hang in there and good luck trying to figure out where to put your time and money.

Let me know what you think!

The New Rules of Marketing & PR – Book review

Summary

I recommend David Meerman Scott’s book for people in the PR and Marketing profession as well as individuals that have an interest in taking control of their PR or have a desire to be able to ask more informed questions of the people that do manage these efforts. While the book makes an effort to speak to beginners, I think you have to be very interested in informing yourself on the practices he describes and have some free time to execute the ideas. Scott discusses how there has been a shift from interruption marketing (commercials and the like) towards delivering value to potential customers in order to build a relationship with them and turn them into more passionate patrons – something we love at Community Cultivator. Topics cover blogs, podcasts, news releases and plugging into PR distribution channels, forums and wikis, viral videos, web site design philosophy, RSS, social networks and more.

Review

The foundation of The New Rules of Marketing & PR is built on the idea that consumers are less and less swayed by glitzy magazine ads and Super Bowl commercials – it is easier for them to better inform themselves about options and the organizations that provide those options. Scott presents case studies and thought experiments for today’s consumer. If you are going to buy a car and go to an auto manufacturer’s website, you are more likely to be interested in tangible information about their offering rather than being informed of a “72-hour sale.” You most likely want to know details about their product (example from page 1 of the book).

With so much information easily available nowadays, people are more interested in providers that make it easy to determine if their offering meets the consumer’s needs. I personally hope this is true since I have never been good at the soft sell :D . That idea leads into a discussion of what your website should be … essentially a source of relevant information that educates potential customers and treats them as an intelligent audience. This is the first step in building the relationship.

The book continues to discuss what I refer to as the theory of “be everywhere your patrons are.” Some people read blogs, some subscribe to RSS, some are on social networks and, in an ideal world, your message is available in all of the relevant channels. Scott refers to this idea as Thinking like a Publisher:

It is about delivering content when and where it is needed and, in the process, branding your organization as a leader…. What works is a focus on your buyers and their problems. What fails is an egocentric display of your products and service.

The book does a good job at covering the various tools available (I have the Publishing News Releases Through a Distribution Service section bookmarked for follow up) and includes key concepts about how and when to use these resources as well as a framework for designing your PR strategy. Scott recognizes the fact that his readers may only use a fraction of the suggestions he recommends and emphasizes you should take advantage of what makes sense for you.

My summary is that I think The New Rules of Marketing & PR is good for 1) existing PR and Marketing professionals or 2) individuals that are aware that the world has changed regarding how to reach target audiences, but are a little overwhelmed and struggling with how to make sense of it all.

NOTE: David Meerman Scott’s blog can be found at http://www.webinknow.com/

The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging – Book Review

Summary

Very good book for the beginner blogger written without any political slant (although there are references to specific political articles from the Huffington Post).

Review

Over the past few months, a number of organization leaders (including businesses) have asked me questions about blogging. What exactly is it? How do you do it? How does it help build a patron base? When you deal with technology every day, there is a tendency to forget where the rest of the world is in their understanding. In all of these cases, I recommended the person should read this book.

The Huffington Post was started by Arianna Huffington in 2005 and has grown to be a powerhouse in the blogosphere. This book, written by Arianna and various editors of the blog – is a very easy read and helps to explain what a blog is as well as how to get started.

Most books on blogging fall into one of two categories: 1) highly technical that discuss the mechanics of blogging or 2) grand discussions of how to do PR online (“it’s a new world of unparalleled opportunity, blah, blah, blah). This book strikes a happy medium and covers topics such as:

  • An overview of what a blog is and why they are valuable (in general terms)
  • Determining the subject area you will focus on
  • Determining your writing style. Blogs aren’t college papers and yours should match your personality
  • Gaining traffic to your blog
  • Building a community
  • Some of the technology options that are available

This book is not a highly technical book that tells you how to setup and configure your blog, but is a strategic guidebook that helps you determine if you want to blog in the first place. You can always go by WordPress for Dummies if you are inspired.

Trackur – Reputation Monitor Overview

Trackur is yet another social listening / reputation monitoring tool and this video provides a brief overview of what it’s all about. Overall, it’s not too bad, but I don’t think it is the great, low-cost solution I would still like to find.

What I like about Trackur:

  • It seems to do a good job of pulling tweets, which other free solutions seem to struggle with (for some odd reason).
  • The overall layout is easily navigable and easy to understand.
  • Trackur includes search of “media” sites, most notably YouTube.
  • It also includes search of blogs and online new articles… seems to do a decent job of that as well.
  • You can save searches for quick launch.
  • It automatically refreshes results every 30 minutes.
  • You can subscribe to saved search results through RSS … and email, but the RSS is super cool.
  • It indicates that sentiment is automatically determined, although my experience showed that all results came through as neutral. Maybe this is something they are still working on. I was corrected on this point. Sentiment is NOT automatically determined, but Trackur does allow the user to manually determine and specify this. Based on the effectiveness of other sentiment tools I’ve seen, this is probably better anyway.
  • The user can update the sentiment setting. This allows the user to override any automated calculation.
  • The basic package cost is inexpensive – about $18/month – and there is a 14 day free trial so you know what you are getting.
  • You can exclude specific records so they don’t show up going forward. (one of the bullet points in my next section was inaccurate on this point and has been corrected).

What I don’t like about Trackur:

  • The search filters are very basic. It doesn’t look like you can use more advanced search strings like “multiple words” OR “other words” What’s up with that.
  • Because of the limitations of the search criteria, there is a lot of garbage in the result set and no obvious way to remove irrelevant records. This shortcoming is compounded when you consider these results are sent to users subscribing to RSS and email notifications. I was corrected by the CEO… there is a red “x” the the right of the “Source” of each post that allows you to filter on a record by record basis. However, it looks like if you delete a record from a saved search, that record will be exclude from all future searches other than the saved search. From a practical standpoint about how this tool might be used, that probably isn’t a big deal, but it might be an issue in some cases.
  • There are some basic usability issues that are frustrating. If you play around with it, you’ll see what I mean.

What I’m on the fence about:

  • In order to be able to export results, the package price jumps to $88/month.

Trackur claims you can set up your first search within 60 seconds and I think that is actually pretty reasonable. If you are looking for a low cost solution, I would recommend you at least check it out and see what you think.