Just do it!

Get on with your ‘social media’ interaction and get ‘your message’ out there! One of the #1 impediments to doing just that is getting hung up on the questions of ‘what medium should I use’ – ‘do I have the right camera’ – ‘is that picture “good enough”, etc.  Just getting your message out there is far more important than getting caught in the weeds of having just the right format ‘to start’.  Start now and all that stuff will work itself out along the way.

Starbucks! Quality v. Quanity

Starbucks announced today another round of huge layoffs:  the closing of 400 additional stores in 2009 culminating in a loss of 6000 store jobs and 345 corporate / Seattle jobs. 

A friend of mine who owns a prominent and multi unit restaurant in Seattle.Tacoma mentioned over a beer tonight:  “Why did Starbucks have to concentrate on such massive expansion?  Why couldn’t they have concentrated more on just becoming better – on improving what they already had?”

Good question.  I don’t think it’s hindsight 20/20 either.  I think this was a very real question when they were announcing ridiculously high store opening goal #’s that were, in hindsight, embarrasing.  And now they are left with a product that is ok but hasn’t quite evolved with the velocity requisite with Starbucks track record.

Hopefully they can get back on track but they will have to weather this economic storm first.  They will.  But in what fashion and with how much strength they ascend is the real question.  Maybe then they can conectrate more on quality vs. quanity.

Human in a Fray of “Information” Sticks Out

On Tuesday, July 8 a prominent blogger and web 2.0 “valley insider” – relative to most – by the name of Cyndy Aleo-Carreira posted an interesting article / blog post regarding her amazement and shock as to how much feedback, commentary and “coverage” she received for posting a blog post on how she put her 3 year old daughter to bed using a popular online video distribution system called Seesmic.

Carreira has distinguished herself in a variety of capacities online: “Cyndy Aleo-Carreira is a former web developer turned technology writer. In addition to contributing to The Industry Standard, she is also Editor at the Web 2.0 blog Profy, and discusses tech and start-up issues at Wife 2.0.”

You can read the two links posted above regarding the “story”, but she deemed the incident one of the most surreal days she has had online in over 15 years.
Why?  I’m betting human…

Among other things this was very human story in a fray of online media and information – “the fire hose” – fraught with an over abundance of technical and business information, making this post stand out from the norm. This was a very human story behind a piece of “technology” that has a very real world and human application: in this case, putting babies to bed! Talking to people, explaining stories, showing the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of life…or, I daresay…business.

She let us into her life with this story and it paid off huge dividends.

Work it!

The enclosed article from the San Francisco Chronicle reveals the danger of schilling on Yelp!  Yelp, in order to create the impression that their reviewers and reviews are legitimate (both a very real concern and a PR move) are removing entire accounts associated with what they deem ‘fake’ reviews:  reviews written to artificially inflate the public record and discourse on the business of record.

The comments section in this article is more interesting and pertinent than the actual article itself.  It provides insight into the public impression of Yelp and it’s users.

So what do you do as someone who owns or operates a retail business or is involved in “social media”?  Does one get better and more ‘sneaky’ and ‘authentic sounding’ when it comes to writing reviews for your friends or family, or your own business on Yelp or City Search?

The question misses the point entirely as I see it.  The way  to create a great reputation online is to be open, sincere and relevant.  Rather than “game” the system, “work” the system.  Engage users.  Write them back.  Respond.  Get involved in the discussions on Yelp as the business owner you are.  Use the tools available to you on Yelp.  Very few business owners do this for many good reasons, namely time and inclination.  Who has time to do this?   But at the end of the day, spending just 5 minutes a day not on your profile, but on your competitors profiles, on the “Talk” section of Yelp, in the “Events” section of Yelp, etc…the more time you spend on Yelp / online and get to know your customers there, the better you’ll do.

Participation Premium – The Golden Rule of Social Media

Robert Scoble, Shell Israel, Michael Arrington – figure heads in “social media” – have recently been referring to a premise that is just as important for businesses online as is it for individuals:  the more you participate the more successful you’ll become.

Sound familiar?  Give and you shall receive!  Listen and you shall learn.  We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much.  Do unto others as you would have them read and comment on your blog or website…

You’re a business who is jumping in online.  “What do I do?” you ask.  The most important first step, along with defining your goals and online identity, is to listen twice as much as you ‘participate’ and participate 10x’s more than you are now.

Find out the top 10, 50 or 100 bloggers in your field.  Read them consistently and multiple times a week, if not daily.  Read the sports section less or stay up 10 minutes longer and read what people are saying in and around your industry and business.  Visit websites associated with your products or service.  Read reviews first, read them again, think about it, absorb it…and then respond.  Read comments, watch videos, listen to podcasts.  Become an expert in what people are talking about in your field, and than start communicating, posting and interacting.

The more you get involved – the more you participate in responding, posting, interacting, and being a part of the dialogue online – the more it will pay dividends in terms of creating connection, loyalty, understanding and a swell of presence that was never there before

Social Media: Jump in…

I work with restaurants.  And small business, but primarily restaurants.  Some restaurant chains (+20 locations) but mostly I interact with 1 – 3 location businesses.  Average yearly revenues:  around $1 – $3 million, on average.

Most of these restaurant owners, for reasons well intentioned, are not sure they want to jump in with a blog or into ‘social media’ or ‘web 2.0′.  They aren’t quite sure what to do with a Facebook pages, nor are they quite sure what they think about them.  Whatever happened to the days where you just tried to run a good restaurant and you didn’t have to worr nor are they too keen on having a MySpace presence (that’s just not our demo). Restaurant owners tend to obsess over user reviews, namely, bad user reviews.

Forget about the bad user reviews, they’ll take care of themselves and washout. Pay attention to your business and start engaging online in a creative, “cool” manner. By cool I mean being more transparent, being more real, being more you! Be you. Do you!

Don’t tell me about your specials or sell me your happy hour. I want to hear what makes you tick, why your in the business, what is going on in the neighborhood, where you source your food and why, a bad or good experience from last nights dinner service.

And authentic responses to good and bad reviews posted! They mean something. Authentic yet yielding and professional, accommodating responses are critical, especially to good reviews.

Start to engage. Start to trust. Start to yield some of the control over to the social sphere that is your image, your story not quite under your control.

It will pay huge dividends to those who trust, and those who engage. Just be honest. Just be yourself. People see that, they sense it and they love it. Trust me. It works.