November 23, 2017

American Express and Foursquare on the path to justifying location based marketing

In June, AMEX announced it was going to partner with Foursquare nationwide to do some cool discount deals tied to check-ins at some national chains. Then they decided to help out small businesses with a Black Saturday deal. Consumers could:

  • Link their Foursquare account to their AMEX card
  • Go to a small business with the AMEX deal ($25 off if you purchase $25 or more with your linked card)
  • Checkin on Forsquare
  • Pay with their AMEX
  • Get a $25 credit on their AMEX bill

This was pretty clever and I used the deal at a local pub, Edgewood Tavern. I didn’t have to show my phone to the server or anything, it  just happened behind the scenes at AMEX.

However, last night I was at Pure Taqueria in Inman Park (Atlanta) and saw there was a $10 off deal from AMEX if I checked in on Foursquare. I’m in pretty tight with the folks over there, so I asked the GM how he set up the deal with AMEX – were they splitting the discount cost a la Groupon or what.

Here’s the thing. He had no idea the AMEX deal existed. Apparently, it was all on AMEX. What? (inflection should go from low note to high note)

I opened up Foursquare again and started scrolling through all of the local businesses around me. It was like an Oprah moment – everybody had an AMEX deal! After leaving Pure, I went to Savi Urban Market and got a $10 discount on a bottle of wine to celebrate (they had no idea the deal existed either).

What’s going on and why?

So, in it’s simplest form, I’m buying $10 worth of stuff, the business is getting $10 (minus AMEX transaction fees), and I get $10 back. Who’s paying for this and why?

Word on the street is that the program doesn’t drive any revenue to Foursquare, but it represents an initial foray into going “beyond checkins,” an effort that might soon roll in deals from Living Social and Groupon. That will be interesting, but who is paying for the AMEX deal? It seems like AMEX.

I found some insights here and there, but I thought I would add my own.

The arrangement in its current form doesn’t make sense. Foursquare doesn’t generate revenue and AMEX is having to cover the cost of all the discounts. Currently, it only would work for AMEX if the effort increased the number of AMEX users (driving revenue from annual membership fees), increased the frequency users chose their AMEX card over their Visa card (driving revenue from increased transaction fees), and/or dramatically increased the average transaction size for an AMEX user (again, increased transaction fees). Even if the deal included Foursquare sharing user check-in information with AMEX, what would it tell them that they couldn’t already get by tracking other card charges… except maybe if the user checked in at non-businesses like parks and transit stations.

Foursquare gets closer to being able to claim that its online marketing drives consumer behavior and leads to local business revenue. If they gain access to transaction amount data, they get some awesome insights on the value of this marketing. Of course, in my case, I was at two of the businesses uninfluenced by Foursquare… but my new bottle of wine was effective marketing. Also, Foursquare needs to generate some revenue from all of this.

The Future of Foursquare

Here is my prediction about where all of this is going. Foursquare is striving to be the clearinghouse of location based deals. It will remain focused on doing everything it can to gain adoption by users and then aggregate local business deals from whomever can make them – AMEX, Groupon, Living Social, local news papers, etc. Foursquare gets to focus on technology and lets all of these other guys field the sales force.

AMEX (and potentially other credit cards) will move away from eating the cost for their local deals and begin generating revenue from local businesses paying for these promotions – similar to the daily deals sites. This will be a marketing cost for the local business, but with Foursquare in the loop, they will gain more insight to user behavior, such as:

  • Was the deal redeemed by a new visitor or returning visitor (in Foursquare terms, a Newbie checkin) – works regardless of who sold the deal to the business
  • Did new customers redeeming the deal ever return (tracked through subsequent checkins) – works regardless of who sold the deal to the local business
  • Automated tracking of average customer spend, lifetime value, etc tied to the credit card (in AMEX’s case), regardless of what POS they use – only works if a credit card company sold the deal to the local business

That is pretty Rock and Roll!

The Hype of Location Based Services (LBS)

Ruud HeinA great article was posted by Ruud Hein about the second coming of LBS (Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp, ScoutMob, etc.). The underlying message is: don’t get too carried away with the hype, we’ve seen this before. You should read the article for yourself, but one of the striking metrics provided was that 96% of people in the US do not use location based services. This is not to say that there won’t be more adoption, possibly even rapid adoption, but businesses should not get swept away with overly exuberant enthusiasm. They should make sure to closely scrutinize any initiatives they plan on taking and especially consider their own patron-base.

Scoutmob ROI

I finally got around to it… the ScoutMob ROI calculator! For the purposes of this post, I’m going to stick to the numbers and post-pone analysis for another time.

ScoutMob ROI Calculator

I’ve provided a link to the Excel ScoutMob Calculator which also includes a tab for the GroupOn calculator for comparison. Because they have different business models, it’s not a one-to-one comparison, but it should give you an idea of how things shake out – one of the biggest conceptually changes is how I represent COGS, so pay special attention to that. Unlike my first post regarding GroupOn, I won’t bore everyone with the details, but just provide an explanation of what the parameters mean.

The calculator is divided into 4 sections. The top left section is where you put in your numbers – everything else is automated. The section at the bottom left cuts to the chase and summarizes what kind of profits – if any – you can expect based on your assumptions. The two sections on the right are scratch work related to the Cost of Goods Sold and the income (not profit) from the whole endeavor.

Calculation Variables

  • Discount (D) – What is the percent discount you are offering. Typically, this seems to be 50%.
  • Maximum Discount (X) – What is the maximum discount anyone can get when redeeming the offer.
  • Average Discount Ticket (A) – What is the face value of the average ticket before the discount is applied. Any amount above X/D is the happy place where you will make your normal margin.
  • Cost Of Goods Percentage (G) – What percent of the sell price represents your costs. If you are a restaurant and your costs represent 33.33% of your sell price (it costs $10 to sell something for $30), that is the number you use. Ideally, this includes overhead and labor costs as well, but use it as you see fit.
  • Number of Actions (T) – How many people take action on your offer. This is a combination of offers redeemed through smart phones, text messages and emails.
  • Printed/Texted Action (P) – What percent of people will request a printed/texted version of the offer instead of using a smart phone application? I have no idea what this is, but all the cool kids use smart phones, so I set it low at 10%.
  • Redeemed printed/texted certificates percentage (R) - What percent of the printed/texted certificates will actually be redeemed? I set this to 68% because that is the number from the one real-world case study I have from GroupOn. I actually think it is lower for ScoutMob because the consumer doesn’t pay for the offer so is less likely to use it, but there ya go.
  • Cost for Smart Phone Use (S) – How much does ScoutMob charge for each redemption through their smart phone app. The word on the street is that it is “a couple of dollars” so I used $2.
  • Cost for printed/texted coupon redemption (C) - the amount ScoutMob charges for each emailed or texted offer. Again, I’m not sure what this is, but $.50 seems in line with the word on the street.
  • New Patron % (N) – When it’s all said and done, what percent of the people that took advantage of a ScoutMob offer (through smart phone, text or email) will actually return to your business without a discount. This is one of the weakest parts of this model so be wary – I assumed 75%, although I completely made that number up and honestly think it is high, but it’s in line with the number I assumed for Groupon (which I also think is high).
  • New Patron Long Time income (L) – How much will the average returning customer calculated above spend over their “lifetime.” Lifetime is up for interpretation, but I think of it as being over the next year so the ROI has a nice, set length of time.
  • Brand Value (V) – Business owners have indicated a concern over how deep discounts might affect their brand because it could be seen as a sign of desperation. Others have said that there is a lot of value in the gained brand recognition. I have no idea how to determine this so I shifted the burden to the business… enter how you think the promotion will affect your business’ profits in real dollars – positively or negatively.

Results Section

This section is super easy to interpret, but keep in mind that it is based on all of the numbers you entered above and that Garbage In = Garbage Out.

  • Campaign Profits – What profit will you make from all of the people that use a ScoutMob offer
  • Total Long Term Profit - What profit will you make due to revenue generated because of the campaign beyond the special offer. Again, I think of this as over the course of a year.
  • ROI – a very simple ROI calculation that compares the profits you made to how much the promotion cost you.

Cost of Investment

What does all of this cost you?

  • Total number of redeemed offers - this is kind of important. It assumes that 100% of people that redeem through a Smart Phone are actually at your business and complete the transaction. Added to this are the people that had the offer either emailed or texted to them and applies the redemption rate parameter (R).
  • Discounted COGS – the cost to provide the goods or services within the discounted amount. For example, if you offer 50% off with a maximum discount of $10, this is the cost for the first $20 of the average ticket ($20*50%=$10 maximum discount).
  • GOGS for ticket beyond certificate amount - this is your cost in the case that the average ticket value exceeds the maximum discount limit (i.e. the $20 mentioned above). Building on the previous example, if the average ticket value is $35, the first $20 is within the discount window and the next $15 benefits from your normal margin … your costs for that $10 is shown here.
  • Amount Paid to Scoutmob – this is the amount you pay to Scoutmob for all of the redemptions
  • GOGS lifelong purchase costs – This is your costs for all of the people you hope will return without the discount incentive.
  • Brand Damage Cost – if you specified that you think the promotion will damage your brand (by entering a negative number for V), that number is represented here.

Income from Investment

This section is the scratch work for the other side of the equation – how much coin will flow into your bank account based on the promotion.

  • Initial Discount Offer Income – This is the amount of income that will be generated from offer redemption within the maximum discount range
  • Income from sells beyond Certificate Amount - If the average ticket exceeds the maximum discount range, that income is reflected here
  • New Patron Long Time income - The amount of income that will be generated from all of those returning customers you are counting on.
  • Brand Benefit Income - If you specified that you think there will be a brand benefit from the promotion (by entering a positive number for V), it is reflected here.

Summary

There is no clear-cut way to evaluate if you should do one of these promotions or not, but at least you now have some tools to assist in the decision. If you have any real world numbers from your promotion, I’d love to have them. Let me know what you think!

Getting noticed in the Facebook NewsFeed

The Daily Beast recently posted an interesting article about how they think the Facebook algorithm works to decide what information people see in their news feed. The article goes into a lot more detail, but there are a couple of guidelines that resonate with commone sense. The gist is:

  • Get lots of people to interact with your profile – view images and videos, post on your wall, and especially comment on your posts. How you do this is a science in itself.
  • Posting links is better than just posting text status updates
  • Posting photos and videos is better than posting links

Scoutmob, GroupOn and other Flash Mob Promotions

First, I want to make sure to emphasis that the term Flash Mob is not negative. My very loose definition for this post is “getting a large number of people to act in a certain way, usually through social media.”

There are a number of emerging (or emerged) solutions that follow a basic recipe for what I call Flash Mob Promotions:

  1. Offer a ridiculously amazing special offer for a local business
  2. Promote the crap out of it to people that love these deals
  3. (Optional) Require that a certain number of people take advantage of the offer before it becomes “active”

The motivation for local organizations is to get a boat load of people to visit them in the hopes of turning them into patrons and possibly spend money beyond the terms of the offer. To help you better understand what these solutions are all about, below is a description of a few companies active in this area. The hope is that it helps explain what they are offering so you’re better informed when they come a’knocking.

Restaurant.com

Restaurant.com is what I consider the predecessor of this movement and I don’t technically consider them to be Flash Mob Promotions, but they are worth understanding. From what I’ve heard, patrons love the deals, but restaurants aren’t the biggest fans.

  • Offer and Restrictions – Local restaurants sign up with Restaurant.com and configure their offer. This typically is in the form of a $25 gift certificate for $10, $50 gift certificate for $20, etc. They post the offer on their website and promote in various ways to get people to buy these certificates. Typical restrictions on these certificates are conditions like minimum purchase amounts, valid for dinner only, 18% gratuity automatically added to bill, excludes alcohol, expiration date, etc.
  • Taking Advantage of Offer - The process for patrons is pretty straightforward
    • Go to restaurant.com
    • Search for a restaurant
    • Buy a certificate
    • It gets emailed to you
  • Promotion Channels – mostly through their website and email promotions. They don’t seem to take much advantage of social media.
  • Revenue model - They keep all of the money paid for the certificates.

What they are selling is marketing. You give away $25 worth of food in exchange for new (hopefully) patrons and restaurant.com gets paid $10.

GroupOnGroup On Logo

Groupon has great buzz from both patrons and businesses. They have a video to explain it, too.

  • Offer and Restrictions - You create a “Deal of the Day” with GroupOn (they only have one per market). Typically, these are offers similar to the ones described in the Restaurants.com model, but they seem much more savvy at getting the word out. Also, the ability to buy the certificates only lasts for one day (although they can be redeemed anytime before the expiration date), which creates a sense of urgency. As a final condition, a minimum number of people have to take advantage of the deal before “The deal is on” – if you are offering a $25 gift certificate for $10, you can specify that 200 people must take advantage of it before any can be officially sold.
  • Taking advantage of Offer - The steps a patron follows to take advantage of an offer are:
    • They find out about the deal of the day through email, Facebook, twitter, mobile app,  etc.
    • They indicate how many they are interested in buying and provide credit card information
    • As soon as the minimum number of participants is reached, “the deal is on” and everyone’s credit cards are charged
    • Users can log in to their GroupOn account and print the offer.
    • At anytime before the expiration date, they can use the certificate – subject to the terms of use
  • Promotion Channels – GroupOn is much more savvy about using social media than Restaurant.com… they actually have a separate Twitter account and Facebook page for each city. They also use email alerts as well as their website and a mobile app.
    • Facebook – 7,600 for Atlanta (23,000 fans for Chicago)
    • Twitter – 3,000 for Atlanta (10,000 followers for Chicago)
  • Revenue model – Groupon keeps a portion of the purchase price and gives the rest to the business. I’ve heard this is typically 50%. Business receives their cut immediately after the Deal of the Day expires.

The big benefit I see for businesses is cash flow – you get paid up front for all of the purchased certificates. You also hope the deal will drive traffic, gain new patrons that have a significant life-long value, and that the average ticket price will exceed any offer’s limit.

The concerns I have are related to cost. How many new patrons will you get, what do your margins look like, what will be your average ticket amount? In short, does this make business sense? Unfortunately, you have to decide that. Also, some business have expressed concern about how offering such deep discounts may affect their brand image.

NOTE: There are a few other sites, like LivingSocial that use a similar model.

ScoutMobScoutMob Logo

Scoutmob is a newer entrant into the market and is based in Atlanta (yeah!).

  • Offer and Restrictions - ScoutMob doesn’t sell gift certificates/coupons, they market promotions of ridiculously great offers. You make a deal with ScoutMob to be their deal of the day (generally 40% to 60% discount) and tell them how many people have to subscribe to the offer before the “deal is on” (similar to GroupOn). They then promote the crap out of you and hope the minimum number of people sign up. Another difference compared to GroupOn is that GroupOn only makes the deal available for one day, but purchased certificates have an expiration date. ScoutMob makes their offers available over a period of time (seems like about 3 months), but promote you heavily on the day the deal is announced. On the day your deal launches, people can have the coupon texted or emailed to them, after that they can only redeem the offer through the mobile app and have to be at your location (determined through GPS) to access the coupon.
  • Taking Advantage of Offer – Scoutmob uses a slightly different model than GroupOn for deals. This is divided into how they handle Deals of the Day versus how they handle the offer through their mobile App.
    • Mobile App
      • A person launches the app and can browse all of the deals that are still active – including the deals close to them (determined by their GPS location)
      • If they find a deal they want, they go to the business and “Redeem” the offer.
      • ScoutMob checks their GPS location to see if they are actually at the business and, if so, displays the offer.
      • The offer is shown to the business and marked as “used”
      • Patron gets the discount
    • Deal of the Day – from the ScoutMob website. This only works for the deal of the day, not for deals that launched on previous days.
      • People find out about the deal of the day through email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
      • They specify they want the deal and receive a text message to their cell phone (you can have it emailed if you want a physical coupon)
      • The patron shows the offer at the business and gets the deal. Both the text message and email have an expiration date associated with them.
  • Promotion Channels – ScoutMob uses similar promotion methods to GroupOn, however, because patrons can opt into offers over a longer time, ScoutMob has added functionality on their mobile apps that allow people to redeem on the go…  based on where they are (this is called Location Based Service or LBS).
  • Revenue model – ScoutMob’s pricing model has 2 parts:
    • Deal of the Day texts and emails – they charge a small fee for each message sent
    • Mobile App Redemption – they charge a few dollars for each offer redeemed through their app. This is more because the business knows that the patron was actually at their location (GPS confirmed in order for the patron to gain access to the offer).

One of the benefits that I really like about ScoutMob is the mobile app redemption… you actually know the number of people that were in your business (or really close by). Similar to GroupOn, the big goal is trying to drive traffic and, since ScoutMob doesn’t require people to pay anything up front, there is an argument to be made that more patrons will take advantage of their offers.

The concern is still cost. Does ScoutMob actually drive traffic, gain new patrons, and lead to ticket amounts that exceed offer limits? Maybe. They might even do it better than GroupOn, but with GroupOn you get the up front cash benefit, although with ScoutMob it seems like you get to keep more of each transaction.

* Special thanks to David Payne from ScoutMob for giving me the 411!

Conclusion

All of this is really, really cool stuff and is only going to get cooler. The biggest problem I see is tying the business decision to ROI… I smell a future blog post!

I would love to hear about people’s experiences using these or similar offerings as well as from the providers themselves!

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.

How not to annoy people on Twitter

Here are some quick points about how not to annoy people while promoting your organization from Amber MacArthur (via Guy Kawasaki)…

http://www.openforum.com/idea-hub/topics/the-world/article/top-5-ways-not-to-be-annoying-on-twitter-amber-macarthur

Attracting Followers on Twitter

To this point, I’ve told you what Twitter is and how to get your account set up. Now what? You are ready to go, but there is little value unless you have people Following you. This post will tell you how to build an audience.

Twitter Culture

First, it’s important to understand the culture of people that use Twitter.

  1. People like people that like them. Twitterers receive an email notification when someone follows them and frequently will at least look at their new Follower’s profile to see if it is someone they might want to Follow in return. There is a lot of reciprocity on Twitter and that can be a huge benefit to your organization. NOTE: Your profile should have a clear one-line bio that explains who you are and what you are all about. If you are an Asian-fusion restaurant or American period furniture store or vintage clothing store, you should have included that in your one-line bio.
  2. Tweet something of value. If you are promoting on Twitter, make sure your tweets have value – do not post annoying messages.
  3. Recycled Tweets a.k.a. Retweets. People on Twitter are all about the information flow. If your posts truly have value, with an established Follower list, you increase the odds of being Retweeted (think of it as someone forwarding your tweet to all of their friends). For example, if you announce the event of the year then I definitely want to go, but want my friends to be there as well so you get a Retweet. This amplifies your message.
  4. Don’t be a freak with frequency. Advertising on Twitter is fine. Also, being pretty active with your tweets is good (it keeps your name in people’s minds if nothing else), but this can be abused. Tweeting a couple of times a week is fine. Tweeting daily is fine. Even tweeting multiple times a day can be fine if the tweets have different content, but be careful. If you are filling up a Followers stream with posts that are diluting their friends’ posts, you run the risk of losing Followers.

Adding Followers

With an understanding of Twitter culture, we can now get to the good stuff – getting Followers.

Add people from your online address books

If you have an address book on Gmail, Yahoo!, or AOL, you can have Twitter search their database to see if any of them are already members. Go to the Find People link at the top of Twitter, click on Find on Other Networks and enter in your login information for the specific network (selected on the left).

The first screen will tell you people that Twitter has found that have profiles and you can Follow them. This has the added benefit of telling these people you already know that you are on Twitter.

In the next step, Twitter allows you to specify the people that you want to invite to join Twitter. Select anyone you want to invite and encourage them to not only start tweeting, but to follow you. You don’t have to do this if you are uncomfortable about it, but it can build your Followers quickly.

Advertise your Twitter profile

Now that you have a Twitter profile, you need to make sure it is advertised everywhere you promote.

  • Put it on your: business cards
  • Add it to your emails (to the “sig”)
  • Include it on receipts (if you are a business)
  • Email it to all your friends
  • Add it to your website/blog/Facebook profile, etc.
  • Include it in your next direct mail campaign

Search for Twitter Followers

If you are steak house or antique store in Atlanta, then use Twitter’s search function (on your home page) to find people that are mentioning steak Atlanta or antique Atlanta. Check out the profiles of these posters and Follow them to 1) stay informed about what people are saying about your organization’s industry and 2) possibly gain a new Follower for yourself (see point 1 under Twitter Culture). Don’t be stingy with your Follows, they can pay off.

Direct Message Likely Patrons

If you come across someone that expresses a strong interest in what your organization does, send them a direct message. For instance, if you are a steak house and found someone that has a one-line bio that states “I love me some steak” or even if they posted a Tweet saying “I’m on a quest for the best steak in Atlanta,” they could be your next patron. Sending them a message along the lines of, “We would love it if you came in and tried our steak. It’s grass-fed and delicious. Good luck on your search!” Personalizing the message makes it that much more valuable.

  • What is a direct message? Basically, if you put an “@” in front of the person’s twitter name anywhere in a tweet, then you are direct messaging them and they will be notified. So if I posted a tweet that said “@mcrudele and @apfurniture use twitter” then that is a direct message to me and apfurniture. Easy.
  • Don’t be annoying. Personalizing a direct message to someone will most likely catch their attention and might gain you a Follower, but don’t be annoying. If they don’t respond and/or don’t Follow you, leave them alone.

Hunt for Patrons

Serious twitterers – even individuals – use the tips listed in Advertise your Twitter Profile. They promote their profile in emails, on their blog, etc. in hopes of gaining more Followers and this is great for you. If you are a restaurateur, you need to know all of the food bloggers and reviewers in your town and Follow them on Twitter. If you are a clothing store, the same goes for the fashion bloggers.

To give you an idea of how this works, I did a Google search for atlanta restaurant blog. This very quickly led me to:

… and that was just from page one of the search results.

If you Follow these influencers and direct message them a personal message, you are well on your way to gaining influence.

Tweet Content

I mentioned that your tweets should offer value to your followers, but I want to tidy up by giving you some examples. Some tweet ideas include:

  • Upcoming events
  • Daily specials
  • New shipments of inventory
  • Organizational news – a new chef, new hours of operation, your intention to attend at an upcoming seminar/convention, and new partnerships are all tweet-worthy
  • Web links to articles that are related to your industry
  • Other news related to your organization’s industry – a restaurant providing info on e-coli outbreak would be fine

Keep in mind that people are following your organization, not you, so posts about the terrible traffic downtown or your political thoughts (unrelated to your organization) are annoying. Stay on message.

I hope this helps get you started, but I’m really interested in anything I might have left out. Let me know any thoughts you have!

Getting Started with Twitter

For us that deal with social media on a daily basis – Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, RSS feeds, etc – there is a risk that we become disconnected with understanding where the rest of the country is in their understanding of the tools we take for granted. This point was emphasized to me last week through a conversation I had with Bob and Carol Marek – owners of American Period Furniture on Ponce in Atlanta.

Twitter

Twitter

Bob and Carol are great people that have run the store for years. As with any business owners, they want to reach their target audience – they have a high quality product with great service and know there are patrons that would love to find them, but the challenge remains how to reach them? They have heard all of the buzz about online promotions, but don’t know where to start – what is Twitter, what is Facebook, what are blogs, what are iPhone apps? More importantly, how does an organization use these technologies and which ones are best suited for changing needs? This conversation has inspired me to write some very basic posts about this new world… starting with Twitter.

What is Twitter?

To answer this question, I refer people to my post for a super basic introduction – http://www.o2p.org/twitter-super-basic-intro-for-organizations. This covers the topic in a very easy to understand way. My next post in this series will cover the topic of how to gain Followers on Twitter (http://www.o2p.org/attracting-followers-on-twitter).

What is the value of Twitter?

In my conversation last week, I emphasized that tools like blogs and mobile apps are more about delivering unique to people and not direct advertising. Twitter, however, seems like a good place to start for someone that is used to traditional promotions, but wants to move efforts online. It’s a place to start building a more intimate relationship with patrons, but can still be used to announce special offers and business-focused news without offending Followers. Twitter is a way for organizations to connect to patrons real-time (or close to it). Users choose the people and organizations they want to Follow – they want information from you!

Setting Expectations

  • Your Followers will not see every announcement you post (called tweets).
  • Your Followers are looking for short posts that tell them what is new with your organization – upcoming sells, new shipments, change of hours, special events, etc.
  • Your Followers will not respond to every tweet they read. They won’t come in for every sell, event, etc., but you will have a way to keep them informed.

Think of Twitter as a bulletin board that is full of short messages. Some posts get read and some don’t, but it’s a public way to connect with your target audience and every now and then your message gets to the right person at the right time, leading them them to take action (come in and buy something, attend your event, whatever). If this sounds ineffective, think about advertisements that you might have posted in newspapers or other print publications – there are lots of people that flip through the pages, but how many see your announcement much less take action? The advantage of Twitter is that people have indicated that they actually want to plug into you. Extending the analogy, imagine a newspaper where the classifieds are limited only to the organizations of interest to the reader – when they want to find information, they only see posts from organizations they like. Here’s how it works:

  • People discover you on Twitter (more information in later posts)
  • They choose to Follow you, which means all of your tweets will be sent to them in Twitter alongside everyone else they Follow. Sometimes they are paying attention and sometimes they aren’t.
  • By periodically looking at their stream of tweets (ordered chronologically) people are able to take the pulse of what’s going on with everyone they follow.

Creating your Twitter account

Twitter Sign up page

Twitter Sign up page (click for full size)

This is super easy. Go to https://twitter.com/signup and follow the directions to setup your profile. Make sure to select a username that identifies your organization. For example, American Period Furniture chose APFurniture, meaning that their profile can be viewed at www.twitter.com/APFurniture. This isn’t rocket science and creating your account is super simple, so don’t be intimidated!

Customizing your Twitter Profile

At any point after creating your Twitter account, you can customize it by logging in and going to Settings (http://twitter.com/account/settings). You can play around with the properties, but the most important are:

Twitter Settings (click for full view)

Twitter Settings (click for full size)

  • Name – this helps people find you on Twitter. American Period Furniture should be used for APFurniture, for example.
  • More Info URL – this provides people with a link to other places you might promote online, such as your organization’s website. You can also use a link to your Facebook page, profile on a local search solution like Yelp or Citysearch, etc.
  • One line bio – enter something descriptive here so that if people find your profile they can determine if they want to Follow you. Also, think about keywords – if you deal in antique furniture, include that in the bio.
  • Location – make sure to indicate what town or city you are. A big driving factor for people is local organizations.
Twitter Design (click for full size)

Twitter Design (click for full size)

You also want to make your profile stand out a little more by customizing your background.

Under settings, there is a link to Design where you can set this. At the very least, you should choose one of the pre-defined templates, but at the bottom you can also upload your own custom image.

Finally, make sure you click the link to Picture. This allows you to set an image for your profile that will show up to the left of any tweets you post as well as showing up on your profile. Try to choose a picture that represents your organization – for instance:

  • A DJ might show turntables
  • A restaurant might show pictures of entrees
  • Any physical location might choose a picture of their building

Congratulations, you are now a Twitter user! Watch for additional posts to see where to go from here.

Notes:

American Period Furniture is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/APFurniture and is located at:

1097 Ponce De Leon Avenue (map)
Atlanta, GA 30306
(404) 892-8576

Help them get their feet wet by Following them!