Deleting Negative Reviews – Drive-By Marketing

In this podcast I address deleting negative reviews and comments about your company / product / service from review sites, Facebook pages and other locations.

I mention the reasons why you shouldn’t delete negative reviews, which include:

  • How it makes your profile looks fake or fixed, as if you were trying to game the system.
  • The missed opportunity to build dialogue and trust with your customers or community
  • The missed opportunity to learn from these reviews and improve your product or service.

If you have questions, comments or things that you’d like me to discuss of future episodes please leave me a message in the comments below.

Podcasting and Social Proof – A Missed Opportunity

Podcasting and Soaccial Proof - Paul OFlaherty

There’s a missed opportunity for podcast hosting companies such as Libsyn, Blubrry and now SoundCloud, to bring social proof to podcasting simply by opening up an API that allows plugins to poll download numbers and display them next to podcast players.

Blubrry already has the excellent PowerPress plugin, which I am sure the vast majority of WordPress based podcasters use regardless of where they host their media, so it should be really easy for them to add it. Libsyn and other providers could get involved simply by releasing a plugin that checks the filename in the enclosure custom field, polls an API every few hours (or once a day even) and allows podcasters to display a chiclet or some text- just like folks do for newsletter subscriber numbers, Facebook subscribers, Twitter followers and YouTube views. SoundCloud could start by making RSS downloads (a podcasters lifeblood) part of the reported public stats instead of hiding the numbers away privately and only showing the “on SoundCloud” plays.

Why would we want this? Because social proof works when building an audience. It’s easier to pick up more followers or downloads the more you already have – then it’s up to you to keep them.

iTunes and it’s frankly poor podcast search, should not be the only social proof that podcasters have.

Why Social Media Marketing? – Drive-By Marketing Podcast

“Why should we bother with social media marketing? We have a website and most of our business comes from Word of Mouth. We’re actually a profitable and very successful local company. Isn’t this just another expense?”

I hear questions like that a lot, and it’s easy to empathize with small business owners who can see social media as just another drain on their already tight time and financial resources.

In the video and audio below I cover 5 reasons why you’re small business needs to be engaged on social media.

Here’s the TL;DR (Too Long Didn’t Read) version for those of you can’t watch or listen right now:

Honestly, it’s not a matter if you should be engaged in social media marketing, it’s only about how  well you commit to doing it.

It Is A Very Silly Email Address…

Monty Python - Very Silly Email Address - Paul O'Flaherty

What’s your name? What’s your company name? What’s your email address? Ask those 3 questions fast enough and it almost sounds like a Monty Python sketch.

Just like the “Bridge of Death” scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” if you answer incorrectly then cast into the chasm you shall be.

If your email address ends is @yahoo, @gmail, @comcast, @aol or any other service other than @yourcompany then you’re inflicting a serious flesh wound to your reputation and deserve to be mauled by the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Reputable companies do not use disposable, throwaway email accounts.

Image: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Native Advertising on Forbes Magazine Cover – Right Or Wrong?

Forbes Cover Page

Image: Forbes

As a consumer I am not a fan of so-called “native” advertising, which are basically advertising pieces that are dressed up to look like editorial content. It’s become a relatively prevalent practice on the web, and in print you’re used to seeing them as advertorials.

Side note: I’m not discussing In-Feed units, recommendation widgets,  paid search units, or any of the other “looks almost like the real thing except for the disclosure” forms of “native” advertising in this post.

No matter how we gussy it up, we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that native advertising isn’t about creating a better experience for the reader (although we say it is) , it’s about creating more revenue streams (which we say it isn’t really) and creating adverts in the hopes that the reader doesn’t realize what they are consuming and takes it as a genuine editorial endorsement (no, no no nevah!).

You can put lipstick on a pig…

According to Ad Age, Forbes will run a cover on Monday includes native advertising, can you spot it in the image?

That’s right, it’s the black box on the right shilling for Fidelity, who purchased a two-page infographic in the publication and for what I can only assume is an obscene amount of money.

Forbes aren’t the first to do this. Time Inc., ran Verizon ads on the covers Time and Sports Illustrated last year, but they haven’t tried it again since. Despite this, undisclosed ads on the front of magazine covers remains a new phenomenon.

Mr. Mark Howard, Forbes Media’s chief revenue officer doesn’t see an issue with this:

The cover line doesn’t specifically state that it’s an advertisement. It does, however, include the term “FidelityVoice,” which is how Forbes marks its native ads — melding the advertiser’s name with the word “voice.”

Mr. Howard doesn’t think the cover line is misleading. “When you look at the color scheme and the box, it’s separated, it has a different background,” he said. “For readers of Forbes, they’ve known for four years that when you see FidelityVoice that that is content that’s coming from one of our partners.”

Mr. Howard might not see an issue with this but I do. Granted, the hardcore Forbes readers may recognize this as an advertisement, but the average person at an airport newsstand looking for something to read on their flight will not. Heck, Forbes gets delivered to my house every month and I wouldn’t immediately recognize it as an advert.

This brings to mind the FTCs 2009 guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials and how they affect bloggers. The entire point was to protect consumers (and I suppose search integrity) from fake reviews, essentially forcing bloggers to disclose their advertiser or product owner relationships so that consumers wouldn’t mistake advertorials from unscrupulous bloggers and advertisers with genuine reviews.

The FTC acknowledged in the document that traditional media doesn’t have to do the same thing for reviews because the expectation is different:

The Commission acknowledges that bloggers may be subject to different disclosure requirements than reviewers in traditional media. In general, under usual circumstances, the Commission does not consider reviews published in traditional media (i.e., where a newspaper, magazine, or television or radio station with independent editorial responsibility assigns an employee to review various products or services as part of his or her official duties, and then publishes those reviews) to be sponsored advertising messages. Accordingly, such reviews are not “endorsements” within the meaning of the Guides.Under these circumstances, the Commission believes, knowing whether the media entity that published the review paid for the item in question would not affect the weight consumers give to the reviewer’s statements.

Granted, this Fidelity advert is not a review, but it does fly in the face of the traditional expectations of magazine readers – which is NOT to find advertising on the front cover, especially advertising that is not marked as such.

What do you think? Did Forbes go a step too far?

LinkedIn’s Group Spam Problem Is Almost Unbearable

LinkedIn Spam

Not the first to complain about the spam problem that plagues LinkedIn groups, but I shall definitely jump on the bandwagon because it feels like it’s escalating lately.

I’ve been rather careful about the groups I’ve joined (a mere 20) and changed all my settings to receive only digest emails only for the groups I’m most interested in, weekly for others and turned them off altogether for others, yet it feels like the spam levels have increased. I may have to excuse myself from most of my groups just for the sake of email sanity.

I know that the vast membership of LinkedIn tend to be typically unengaged unless actively seeking new opportunities, but the successful groups are more engaged and with their high numbers are a tempting target for the less scrupulous of our profession.

Marketers. I guess they’re why we can’t have nice things.

Empower Your Community To Spread Your Word

Evangelism Marketing - Paul O'Flaherty

I was contacted by a fledgling religious oriented startup that wanted to get various celebrity ministers and church leaders to make a specific declaration during one of their sermons.

Their goal could not have been achieved given their budget and timeframe so I offered some free advice which also happens to apply to almost every business no matter it’s size:

Send forth your evangelists.

Every business, no matter what type, has its fans and believers – people who actually care about the business, its products or goals. These people, whether acolytes within or believers on the outside, are your best marketing tool.

Evangelism marketing is the next step up from Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM), but the goal is the same – to have passionate people talking about your product!

Evangelism marketing is … in which companies develop customers who believe so strongly in a particular product or service that they freely try to convince others to buy and use it. The customers become voluntary advocates, actively spreading the word on behalf of the company.

As they act independently, evangelist customers often become key influencers. The fact that evangelists are not paid or associated with any company make their beliefs perceived by others as credible and trustworthy.

It costs very little to enable customers to spread your message, but it will take time and effort to promote them from simple customers to passionate advocates for your business.

Listen to them. Share their stories and incentivize them to spread the word as your advocates. Enable them to share their experiences on social media and in real life.

Organize them into a community, and show them that you care about their opinion. Interact with them and let that interaction be part of a larger conversation.

In the case of the startup mentioned above, I recommended that they organize their friends and followers as volunteers. Explain their mission and what they want to achieve to their volunteers, and create fun community events around achieving that goal.

Have group events to make calls, tweet, share and send emails, while you provide food, snacks, fun distractions and the thrill of achieving a common goal. Get everyone t-shirts and share pictures and updates from these events on social media. Spread the word about what they are doing and not only give them something to talk about online, but give them the means to do it too.

Taking this approach the startup would get a lot more “bang for the buck” and a longer sustained campaign, while also building a community around their message.

How you empower your evangelists is up to you, but must do it and you must make them part of your community.

There are very few things that a passionate community cannot achieve.

You’re Not Ready For Me

The Path To Success?

“You’re not ready”. It can single most difficult and hardest thing to say to someone who pitches me about marketing their product or idea, but sometimes it can also be the easiest.

Some of the pitches I receive are for products which have already been developed, others are for vague notions with no clear concept or even a value proposition, but everyone is sure that theirs is the next million dollar idea.

I’ve turned away potential clients for myriad reasons – your idea is crap (sorry, but it’s true), to people thinking that I’m going to drop everything and devote one hundred percent of my time to an idea which they haven’t even begun conceptualizing. Oh, and I’m going to do it for free.. but hey it’s going to make a million dollars, who cares if I can’t feed my family for the next 18 months while you “explore the concept”?

When I tell you that “you’re not ready” it’s because you’re really not – I’m not just some crazy masochist that likes to turn down money – I have kids to feed (which may mean that I am a masochist, just not a crazy one).

Sure you’ve reached out to me (and no-doubt a bunch of other marketers) but the chances are that you have not taken basic steps that show that you are committed to your idea:

  • Basic product / idea validation
  • Start a blog or website
  • Have a twitter account and Facebook page for your product or idea which you are actively growing
  • Start a newsletter
  • Make some YouTube videos (if the product can be demonstrated)
  • Put together a basic press kit.

The vast majority of this can be done for little more than elbow grease and a time commitment, with the only real financial investment being $14 for a domain if you use a free service to host your blog (tumblr, blogger or WordPress.com).

Not having these things in place raises serious red flags leading me to think that:

  • Your idea or product hasn’t been well thought through
  • You haven’t done your research before reaching out to marketers
  • You are too lazy to market your own product
  • You’re not really committed and won’t stick with it
  • You are flat ass broke and can’t afford me (c’mon – fourteen bucks for a domain?)

Nobody is going to talk about your product unless you start the conversation, and coming hat in hand, asking for other people to do the work that you could have already started is the quickest way to get turned away and discouraged.

Show that you believe in your concept or project. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but putting in the effort will show that you are willing to put your best foot forward and make a positive impression.

I Botched My Email Newsletter

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So that you don’t have to…

There’s a hundred excuses I could make but the only truth that matters is that my lack of attention to my RSS driven email newsletter has resulted in the last few emails not being delivered – Oh the perils of automation!

Somewhere along the line some dodgy characters got introduced into a post (all hail copy & paste quoting) which failed to validate, so MailChimp failed to send and pretty much every RSS reader failed to pull my posts. Needless to say emails didn’t go out, I now feel like an ass, but at least I’ve learned a valuable lesson about trusting too much in automation – or at least about the merits of checking on said automation periodically to ensure that it’s working.

Every cock-up is an opportunity and this one is no different. Instead of sending you guys new posts every time they are published (although you can still get them that way if you want) I’m switching to a weekly format where I’ll not only send you links to what I’ve written in the past week but add some commentary about and highlight other cool marketing / podcasting / consulting / valuable content, tools and stuff from around the web. The point being to give as much value to my beloved newsletter subscribers (that would be you) as possible.

I want this newsletter to be a dialogue and not a megaphone, so feel free to hit the reply button  and tell me where you agree, disagree and just how awesome it all is…

Before I round out this post by asking you to subscribe to, let me just say a great big “Thank you” to everyone who is currently subscribing to the newsletter. I’m touched that you take a bit of time out of your week to read my stuff and I hope I continue to make it valuable and entertaining for you.

You guys are the best…

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