Local Business and The Video Opportunity: Why Local Business Should Use Video

June 2, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

Here is a great article – or should I say ‘an article’ – regarding the virtues of using video to engage customers here at Conversation Agent.

Now, I should definitely be doing a video blog post here, but it’s early in the morning, I’ve yet to shower (the virtues of having a home office) and I need to bang this blog post out before getting onto more serious matters of the day, like client and account work, including editing their videos.

Now onto the point:  if you’re a local business, consdider buying a small video camera and start doing videos of everything.  By everything I mean respond to user reviews, introduce you and your team, show your kitchen and how you make your favorite dishes, talk about the products you source or the services you provide – and do it over video, post it to YouTube and your blog, talk about those video responses to your customers in person and online via Yelp, Citysearch etc and start to engage a wider array of customers and “potential customers” using your real you – a real you that can only come out via video.

A surprising number of businesses don’t use this.  The barrier to entry is so, so low now you really should consider it a part of your “mix” from here on out.

What do you think?  Have you seen any cool examples of local business using videos to engage their customers?

User Review Management:

May 30, 2009 by  
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It’s amazing to me that so many restaurant owners get crazy mad at user reviews online yet do so little about them.

I can understand.  Restaurant owners (and all local business owners) work so hard, day in and day out, on so many aspects of their business.  One thing they do know is food and to hear some ‘guy’ talk about their restaurant who clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about is frustrating.  Worse yet, when you see insanely off base reviews with a one star rating, what else are you going to think than “competitor”?  It’s a tough field of play – publicly displayed user reviews that is.

But to not pay attention and manage and address these reviews is insane.  Some people writing reviews about your business may be idiots, but actually most of these people are sincere.  Most of the reviews are 3+ out of 5 stars i.e. positive.  And most aren’t written by competitors or recently ‘released’ employees.

Here are some tips on managing your user reviews online:

1.  Respond.  Pure and simple.  There are a ton of ways to respond, but overall be authentic, have a backbone and set the record straight when necessary, apologize if necessary, own it if you came up short or don’t know exactly what happened, and overall, just be professional.  Have some fun.  Have a bit of a sense of humor and just reach out a bit – make a connection.  These people just want to be heard and recognized for the most part.  You have no idea how many people will change their horrendous reviews or give you another chance.  You’ll be amazed.  And if not “amazed” at least pleasantly surprised.

2.  Say thanks!  So many people miss the importance of responding to 4 and 5 star user reviews.  They figure they’ll just get back to the 1 and 2 star reviews.  If you had to choose, and you don’t (respond to all), respond to your fans.  This takes someone from a fan to an ambassador of your brand and restaurant offline.  This gets  the word of mouth from the ephemeral “online” world to the offline, very real, on the street word of mouth world we all so love and understand.  This translates into conversations that happen all the time:  “so and so got back to me at such and such restaurant and was so nice to me about writing a great review.  It was great – I’ll definitely be going back – it is a great restaurant.”  See, they had a great experience in the first place – make it an even better experience with a nice follow up reply and they’ll talk about you – that is for certain!

3.  Rate the positive reviews about your business as helpful “yes” on Google Maps or “funny” or “useful” on Yelp.  This helps ascend your good reviews into various searches.  It’s online PR.  It can only help and it takes close to no time.  Yes, it’s a bit “schilly” but you know, if it’s helpful, it’s helpful and if it’s not, it’s not.  Who knows better than you?

4.  Read the user review guidelines on Yelp, Citysearch, Trip Advisor, Zagat, Google Local Maps, Live MSN and Yahoo.  If your reviews tend to be close, or clearly break these guidelines, stick up for yourself and send an email to these properties requeseting a review of the user review.  Most of them will take these considerations very seriously.  You not agreeing with the review does not suffice.  It has to infringe on the rules set forth by these sites (racial comments, language, pesonal attacks, etc).

5.  Start your own blog and respond to these user reviews on your blog.

These are just a few suggestions.  What have you done to manage your user reviews?  What success stories can you share?

Twitter Tips: @replies…Include a Piece of the Previous Conversation

May 30, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

Twitter Tips abound, some more obvious than others.

One thing that I don’t really get:  doing @replies with no indication of the previous or relevant aspect of the original “conversation” or comment.

Be courteous and polite – be useful – include a brief summary or indication of what you are @replying to in your “tweet”.  This makes you more useful and it makes everyone a part of the “conversation”

Example Tweet:  @jamesatbuzz tweets “Love @pagliaccipizza and looking forward to their free comedy night – Pagliacci Pizza:  http://www.pagliacci.com/events/index.html

A terrible @reply:  none at all.  Just not replying, especially as a business, is a no no, but more than that, it’s a lost opportunity.  It’s like going to a social gathering or cocktail party and not socializing.  What’s the point?

A not so good @reply.  @pagliaccipizza replies “Thanks @jamesatbuzz – see you there!”

Your timeline / followers only see your reply and undless their following both of you (rare) and see in their timeline both posts and make the connection over a period of time (very rare) it’s not as relevant as it could be.  They don’t know what you’re talking about.

Recommended:  Either RT (Re-tweet) the original tweet and say “thanks” or reply with something like:

@pagliaccipizza:  “Thanks @jamesatbuzz for recommending our free comedy night every first Monday of the month at our Capitol Hill location:  http://bit.ly/TvMyU

The recommended reply 1.  has a link (always recommended) and 2. insights your readers as to what you’re replying to and 3. results in all of your followers, or at least the ones that see your tweet, knowing details about an event or feature of your business they otherwise didn’t know about.

What do you think?  Have you been off put by all the @replies that flood your stream, not knowing what they entail?

(new feature of Twitter:  unless your following both people, the settings automatically pre populate that you won’t see the @reply to people you aren’t following.)

Google Ad Words for Local Business

May 29, 2009 by  
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It is my opinion that Google Ad Words is a tremendously under utilized weapon in the “war on” great positioning on Google.  I’m not sure it’s a “war on” but you understand what I’m saying, and if you don’t…let me know in the comments.  Restaurants, bars, salons, hotels, shops, etc in Seattle, the Pacific Northwest, New York and LA (where our current clients reside) – and Columbus, OH – often ask:  how do we get better positioning on “key” keyword terms we don’t currently show up for?  BTW:  100% of our clients show up page 1 of their respective category and cuisine types, but there are ‘tail’ terms and ‘tangential’ terms these clients also want to show up under.  GOOGLE AD WORDS is the answer (sorry for shouting).  There are many keywords that are ‘tail’ terms that have zero competition (no bids) and start off at $0.05.  You can get your feet wet with a $100 – $200 cap per month and really make an impression, pun intended.

Here is a great video that serves as an introduction to Google Ad Words auction.  You bid on the keywords, so there is no arbitrary set price and your only competition is the previous high bid.  You can set amazingly targeted ramifications and track it through Google Analtyics.

Check out this video from Google’s “Chief Economist”:

Google Ad Words Explained

What type of success have you had with your local business using Google Ad Words?

Twitter for Local Business: Buzz Online Media updates

May 27, 2009 by  
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We have some exciting new features starting to unfold at Buzz Online Media…

Twitter, twitter, twitter, tweet!  That’s all we’re hearing about these days, both internally at “the company” and externally in the news:  national news, local news, blog news, you name it.  It’s all about Twitter.

Previously we had – at buzz online media – concentrated on setting up accounts and administering best practices for clients.  Filling an advisory role if you will.  Some clients we actually run Twitter accounts for.  It’s not ideal for the client, as the most successful Twitter accounts are run from the inside out, not the other way around, but it’s better than nothing and those companies are still of the ilk:  “we just don’t have the time”!  More on that later…

Our main focus has and always will be – never say “always” – the spirit and ‘mechanics’ behind a good Twitter presence.  There is a growing number of “tools” and peripheral units that aid in the various aspects of using Twitter.  We embrace some of these tools, disdain others, but still our main focus is on the fundamentals:  great tweets, responding to your users in a warm and authentic manner, having fun, not “selling”, employing and ingraining the adage:  “its not about you, it’s about them!” theory.  Those are our tenets and we’re sticking by them.
With that said there are a series of great and innovative tools out there, some better than others.  In that spirit we will be running successive and upcoming blog posts regarding the best Twitter tools (and Facebook tools…AND social media tools) for local businesses.

With that said – and in acknowledging that there are great “Twitter Tools” out there – and not so great ‘Twitter tools’ (pun and double meaning intended) – we hope that business focus more on the fundamentals and basics of Twitter than on the “tools”:  responding to users, engaging your followers, providing great content, thinking about what your posting, taking risks, sharing your personality and personalizing your presence, tipping your hat to great things competitors are doing, talking about your city, and updating people on the cool things your doing!  Running a promotion or two is definitely not a bad idea either.  In either case, we hope businesses keep the focus not only on the great Twitter tools that are out there, but on the content and spirit behind their “twittering” as well…

We look forward to these posts and your feedback.
What are the best Twitter tools you’ve found lately?  Why?  What has been working for you?  Seesmic Desktop or Tweet Deck?  What are your favorite iPhone applications?  Let us know…drop us a line!  (or a comment:)

Twitter for Breaking News

May 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

I was just driving down the freeway – I-5 southbound on my way to Ikea – another story. Anyway, as I was driving I looked to my right, catching glances of massive, huge plumes of black, sooty smoke breaking in the distance, growing taller and taller. Something was definitely on fire. My trusty iphone yielded nothing on West Seattle Blog. The radio airwaves were filled with sports and talk, but nothing on the fire. A few minutes later, I thought: ‘Let’s search Twitter’. I searched “west seattle”. Immediately two posts on the subject

@AlmostHandy posted: Meth House on fire in West Seattle – Listen Live http://bit.ly/SeaFire

@myscottydont RT @komonews: Seattle firefighters are responding to a building fire in West Seattle. Listen live online: http://bit.ly/KJt5T

So, definitely not a complete story, but it was more than anywhere else. I wouldn’t enter a conversation and say “In West Seattle there was a huge meth house that caught fire” because I’m not sure – factually and hard evidence speaking – exactly what is going on – but at least I have something!

Wow…Twitter really is cool.

Make your business the one stop (search twitter) stop for the most up to date, breaking news in your category!

When Considering Twitter: Don’t Take Yourselves Too Seriously…

May 25, 2009 by  
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I didn’t know how to break it up i.e. “Part 1″ or a more specific title, (I went with the more specific title) but I figure there are a few prominent notions to consider when jumping into Twitter / Facebook as a local or more “regional” medium size business.

One: jump in and don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Seriously! I have a lot of clients who think for days about how to phrase things for Twitter, how to “position” it, wording, what they should talk about, etc. At the end of the day, careful consideration is great, but just do it – it’s not that big of a deal. You can repost a similar response or ‘tweet’ later – most of your followers may not even see any given ‘tweet’ anyway, so don’t fuddle to much with specifics.

It’s about them, not you. Re-tweet, but not too much. Respond with @’s, but again, not too much. Provide useful links. Talk about things in your neighborhood or city, ingredients your using, purveyors you work with, who’s going to win: The Cavs or The Magic?, sports in your town – be real, be authentic and don’t take yourself too seriously. Have some fun!

Google Local Search Spam

May 24, 2009 by  
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Google local search results have been hacked again…

Tonight I search “Seattle Restaurants” and woila, our good friend “24 Hour Emergency Locksmith” @ seattlelock.4×2.net is page #1. Congrats. I’m curious how the keyed pot pie is.


I’m curious how a business like this can “hack away” and not simply ‘be caught’ or penalized by Google. It’s not as if we don’t know who they are.

What do you think? What should / can Google do?

Tom Douglas – Where Are You?

May 22, 2009 by  
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Tom Douglas – where are you in the social media landscape? I’d love to see Tom Douglas go beyond his blog, which is good, and get involved with not only Twitter and Facebook, but also video blogging. Seeing Tom respond to user reviews via video, to see him talk about his next events, why his catering business is special, what he thought about hanging with the Fortune 50 wives during their cooking classes last summer, why he thinks organic is better than conventional food, etc, etc…this would be fantastic and he’d have a huge following:

And yet he sits on the sidelines. Why? Maybe it’s because he thinks he doesn’t have the time.

Tom Douglas, the most prominent restauranteur in Seattle, who has a huge personality, would do very, very well in this landscape and he’d have a huge audience, probably bigger than he realizes. And all it would take is some time and a simple camera / HD Flip. He has access to a mass amount of high quality content, primarily himself, his friends and his goings on that would generate a huge amount of traffic and truly be a game changer for him and his company.



Tom, where are you?

Small Business Social Media: Get Going – You’ll Get “Good” as you Practice…

May 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

Small & local business owners – heck, Fortune 500 companies, etc – hesitate to start social media campaigns in part because they aren’t good at it yet. Or once they start they ‘go slow’ because it’s not quite up to their standards.

There are a myriad of reasons for this, one of which is the inability for people to realize that hey, this is going to take some time. We’re not going to be ‘great’ or even ‘good’ at this for awhile. We need to practice and contribute and build and learn – and than you’ll see…eventually you’ll get good at using Twitter, using Facebook and contributing to a blog, but it takes time. You just need to get started.

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