Google+ Local: It Really is a Game Changer

Google's Canary In a Coal MineThe conversion of Google Places pages to Google+ Local pages earlier this month was a game changer. Yes, it seems like Google comes out with something shiny and new every other day that can be termed a “game changer,” but this one actually is. Especially for small business owners whose profitability depends on the prominence of their position in a local Google search conducted by potential customers. And more changes are on the way. Big changes.

The Story

In short, what happened on June 1 was Google began the process of converting the business places pages that used to serve as a company’s primary presence in the Google search universe. Those Places pages, when verified by the owner and properly optimized with accurate information about the company, began to dominate many search results about two summers ago.

Google + Local

Now, instead of a Google Places page, companies will have a new Google+ Local page. Much of the same information will be included, but the presentation will be cleaner and – in theory – provide more social functionality for consumers. The five-star rating system Google used for customer comments has been replaced by a 1 through 30 Zagat rating system (think restaurant reviews, only for all types of businesses).

ZagatWhy You Should Care?

Why is it important for business owners to know this? Because this is more than a simple renaming of a product by Google. This is the proverbial canary in the social coal mine, and what happens next could very well shift our whole way of thinking about how we use the Internet for commerce. Google’s commitment to all things social kicked into full gear last year, with the introduction of the Google+ social network. Google+ for business followed, and now comes Google+ Local.

Google+ was greeted with relative indifference. Compared to the nearly 1 billion users on Facebook and 500 million on Twitter, the 90 million Google+ users barely register as a ripple. Business hasn’t ignored it as a way to interact with consumers, certainly, but any social media strategy inevitably begins with Facebook and Twitter (and, increasingly, Path, Pinterest and Instagram).

So, how might the introduction of Google+ Local change that for companies that rely on search position to create conversions and sales (in other words, just about every small business in existence)?

Unlike Google Places pages, Google+ Local pages will be indexed by search engines. This means a well-optimized Google+ Local page is now critical. You might have gotten away with setting up your Google Places page and then ignoring it, as long as your company’s website was optimized and filled with fresh, engaging content on a regular basis. You won’t be able to do that with a Google+ Local page, because this thing is going to show up in the search result. Although no one can predict just how prominent they will become in search results, especially in the ever-shifting world of mobile search, there’s every reason to believe a Google+ Local page might take precedence over your company’s own website. And even if that doesn’t become the case, it would still be foolhardy to ignore your Google+ Local page, because there’s another factor that is steaming our way.

The Longer Term Impact

That factor goes right back to Google’s very public commitment to social. Soon – Google isn’t saying when, exactly – the Google+ Local page will be directly tied to your company’s Google+ business page. As of now, the back end dashboard for the Google+ Local page will be the same as you used for your Google Places page. But that will change when the two become integrated, and there’s another social-related reason for that, as well.

Google Sign InGoogle wants people to sign in under their Google user names when they conduct Internet searches. The most important corporate asset Google has is the user data it collects as people use its products. In the past, people used to be able to interact with businesses on Google Places pages without being signed into a Google+ account. Now, if someone wants to make a comment on a business on a Google+ Local page, they must be signed into their Google+ account. This will eliminate the dreaded anonymous review, which seems great. But that cuts both ways, because people in their Google+ network will immediately know exactly what they think of the business, and potentially make buying decisions based on that opinion. A bad review written with an actual name attached carries much more weight than an anonymous shot that could have been written by a malicious competitor or disgruntled former employee.

The Facebook Threat

The tie-in between Google+ and Google+ Local reveals the real crux of it – Google isn’t trying to become the next Facebook. By tying Google+ personal accounts to Google+ Local reviews, and by tying Google+ Local to your company’s Google+ business page, Google is trying to become all things to all people.

And since Google is still the 800-pound gorilla of search, you need to pay attention to this inexorable shift to social. It matters to the bottom line now, and it’s going to matter a great deal more in the future.

Do you have a different take on this move by Google? Let me hear from you.

Tim Moore Interview

Tim Moore from Maximum joined me for an interview.


Your Background

Tim Moore

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as Social Media Director at Maximum Design.

Tim Moore: Digital Biography: http://TimMoore.tumblr.com/about and Digital Business Architect at Maximum (http://maximumrocks.com) Erupts 4.22.11

Mark Regan: With the constant arrival of emerging techniques, products and companies, how do you decide which ones are worth testing out for your clients?
Tim Moore: Easy, for production advertising, established channels with large demographic base that meets client needs and has an ad platform that is trackable.  For emerging platforms, most need maturing before you would use client ad spend on them. We have to report monthly ROI, so efficient and strategic A/B testing is critical, before a recommendation is proposed.  We are not in the hype business, we are in the conversion business.

Mark Regan: Do you approach developing a personal brand differently than you do a corporate brand?
Tim Moore: Yes, completely. Also, each brand will have different goals, expectations and definitions of ‘success’, so listen, listen, listen, before talking.

Mark Regan: How has your experience in the business world helped you master your own personal brand marketing?
Tim Moore: I haven’t mastered it, I am learning everyday. The more I listen, the more I learn. I don’t see that changing.

Mark Regan: Bonus: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?
Tim Moore: Hitpad (new release – http://hitpad.com) and Poweri (new startup – dropping 5.1.11)

Mark Regan: Thanks Tim! How can people find out more about you and connect with you?
Tim Moore: Twitter: @TimMoore; Facebook: /TimMoore; Email: TimMoore (at) Facebook (dot) com; Tumblr: http://TimMoore.tumblr.com

Ty Downing Interview

Ty Downing is one guy who walks the walk when it comes to nearly every aspect of social media.  That’s because he runs a business that manages it all.  With that in his back pocket, his involvement in Social Fresh Tampa will be one of the highlights for me.


Your Background

Ty Dowing
Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as CEO of SayItSocial.

Ty Downing: Well, I have been involved with internet marketing, and digital advertising going on 8 years now. I cut my teeth on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) obsessing over Google’s algorithms by sitting at the feet of Matt Cutts, and Danny Sullivan (Creator of SMX), thus slowly developing my other company “Perspective Internet Marketing” into a full-service internet marketing agency focusing on SEO, PPC,
local search, analytics & measuring site behaviors.

You could say I was an early adopter of social media in a field that mostly despised, or didn’t believe in social media (SEO’s), but I forged ahead, and in 2009 I co-founded SayItSocial, a social media consulting firm focused on corporate social media education & training, Facebook applications, social media strategy, conversation monitoring, and reputation management.

Early Adopter

Mark Regan: Your time at events/conferences must expose you to ideas and trends long before they hit the mainstream. How have you taken advantage of that?

Ty Downing: I utilize what I gain at these events by implementing them with our clients.  The only way I can keep my clients as well as SayItSocial’s reputation as a leader, we must act fast with implementation. Our field and client needs change rapidly as well as, so we take full advantage of these events.

Additionally, our team are thought leaders in social media, so we also bring new ideas to these events, for example in advance of Social Fresh, we are unveiling version 1.2 of Epicenter, a Facebook marketing CMS designed to create engaging custom Facebook landing pages with contests, lead generation, viral marketing, and loyalty programs. It’s a complete Facebook application with cutting edge technology and simplicity. We want to totally get this into mainstream quickly, it’s such an awesome tool that can help business leverage social media so much better, and measure ROI much easier.

Mark Regan: What new topic has become more frequent over the past 2-3 months?

Ty Downing: Facebook custom applications and Facebook consulting.

Personal Brand

Mark Regan: How has your experience in the business world helped you master your own personal brand marketing?

Ty Downing: That’s a good question. I think for me it’s been opposite? I say this because social media has empowered personal brands exponentially. Because of being an early adopter in social media, I mean one of the first subscribers to Twitter even, I was extremely active in marketing my personal brand with social networks, and personal videos that enabled people to “see the CEO”.

When people think of “Ty Downing” they think of SayItSocial & SEO. Obviously this is my own opinion, but I do feel this has been my personal experience.

Break It Down

Mark Regan: How do respond to clients who are jazzed about setting up their social media presence, but haven’t done some of the basics in online marketing well or at all?

Ty Downing: It’s like a golf swing. I tell them we will be “re-training” their swing, but not let them worry, that’s why they came to us in the first place. I (we) teach them simple basics before a strategy and profile building. Which tools should I use? Do I have staff & resources to have an active social media presence? So basically I ask a lot of questions, and then listen a lot!

Bonus Questions

Mark Regan: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?

Ty Downing: Epicenter custom Facebook applications tool!

Mark Regan: Bonus: Any fun plans while you’re here in Tampa?

Ty Downing: Mark, please…please tell me the good places to eat? Any of your readers, please tell me what to see in Tampa!

UPDATE: OK Ty, here you go.

Don’t forget to invite me.

Contact

Mark Regan: Thanks Ty! I’m excited to welcome you to Tampa on February 22nd as part of Social Fresh Tampa. How can people find out more you and connect with you?

Ty Downing: You bet, lets connect on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!

Loyalty Programs Can Now Be Social

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=19760319&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Note: This video was shot using a Flip video MinoHD 8GB camcorder (Amazon affiliate link) and a Fat Gecko Double Knuckle Camera Mount (Amazon affiliate link). Boo-Yah!

My Flip is awesome! Though I wish I had the 3rd generation version which includes image stabilization. The Fat Gecko is wicked. Use it in or out of your car, snowboards, mountain bikes, bike helmets. I love it!


Transcription

I’ve had this video transcribed below for those who prefer to read rather than listen or watch. The transcription provided by me.

Hey everybody! Mark Regan here.

You may know that I am a big user of Foursquare. And one of the cool potentials that Foursquare has is as it’s growing into, evolving into a loyalty rewards-type, offering—expanding that empty check-in that they have today and turning it into a loyalty rewards. And they’re doing it today by businesses offerings, specials for acquiring mayorship or they’re allowing every three or four check-ins allowing access to a certain special on the menu. And that’s cool but it really is only a novelty at this point.

And what I saw today and heard about this company through Mashable called SNAP (www.SNAPForBusiness.com) takes that and does a really good integration of the offline and online event. They’ll take your traditional loyalty rewards card program and as you swipe it at the retailer they will check you in to your Foursquare account. So by connecting your loyalty rewards account to your Foursquare account. They will do an automatic check-in for you and that will obviously, then, allow you to attempt to acquire mayorships and update your friends about your status.

But what they done is that they have taken it one step further, and this is what Foursquare cant do, is that they can also do an auto-post status update for your Facebook account and do a tweet to your Twitter followers – all of that, automatically happening, is part of their loyalty reward program, which is something Foursquare cant do.

And what that does is the business gets their name out, so every time you swipe that card and allow them to do this auto-notification through your various  social networks, they are getting a lot  of brand exposure and educating all of those people and having you say that you recommend them and that you endorse them to some extent and in return for that, the customer will get points faster on the rewards system and get the return and the rewards that they’re seeking and that the business owners are looking to give.

So, tell me what you think about that. I think it is a really good play. I haven’t implemented it yet, but the concept is really cool in terms of integrating the online and offline world, and loyalty rewards, which are understood and accepted by many people would be the perfect way to do that.  So let me know what you think.

Thanks a lot! Take care!

Nadia Aly Interview

One of the speakers I am most excited to hear from at Social Fresh Tampa is Nadia Aly.  This is someone who has so many personas online and just still manages to make them all work together without competing that I’m a bit envious.  She brings a strong social media presence to this year’s lineup!


Your Background

Nadia Aly

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as Online Community Manager at Microsoft.

Nadia Aly: I started dabbling in social media in 2003 when I was attending University of Victoria. . It really took off for me when I started my Masters in Digital Media., and it became a clear focus as I progressed through my Masters. I started building niche communities and my passion just exploded from there.

Microsoft Tag

Mark Regan: Tell me a little bit more about Microsoft Tag and how you would love to see it adopted?

Nadia Aly: Microsoft Tag is a type of customizable 2D barcode that can be displayed anywhere and connects almost anything in the real world to information, entertainment, and interactive experiences on your mobile phone. They can be black and white or color, and customized with a logo, product image or other design. Tags are scanned using the free downloadable Microsoft Tag Reader on your smartphone, available at www.gettag.mobi.

Microsoft Tag technology is far superior to many other solutions out there, especially for those in the marketing and advertising world. Tag offers robust analytics, heat maps and many other features that help marketers execute and adjust campaigns. We’re seeing great adoption across a variety of industries including magazine publishing, retail, advertising and entertainment and expect to see the technology really take off as brands continue to experiment.

New Ideas

Mark Regan: You’ve seen a lot of your ideas see the light of day and be implemented. I’m sure there are more in various stages of creation in your head. How do you decide which ones to pursue?

Nadia Aly: Usually when I come up with ideas, I circulate them to selected friends and colleagues. I am very open minded , and getting a sense of what they think and getting their feedback helps me shape my thoughts. The process is the same for both personal and work campaigns. Making sure that I see value in any campaign that we move forward with.

Visuals

Mark Regan: Personally, you incorporate visuals (images, photos, videos) quite a bit into your online brand. Do you also take that same approach towards your business initiatives?

Nadia Aly: Definitely! Media is a great way to engage people online. That not new news! The more visual assets you can showcase for a business or product the more attention you will get. That’s why these days you will see many companies/brands with a Flickr and YouTube as part of their circle of social networks.

Bonus Questions

Mark Regan: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?

Nadia Aly: To this day I still stand by Tweet Adder. Some see this a spammy tool – but it really is a great way to find targeted Twitter users online. Even if only for the search functions it provides. You are able to search profile data, location, followers of a user, users followed by a user and much more. For example I am able to find people who have the word Microsoft in their profile bio who live in Redmond. I don’t know many other tools that can do that. On top of that you are able to automate many different things. I tend to stay away from those tools. To each their own!

Mark Regan: Any fun plans while you’re here in Tampa?

Nadia Aly: Yes! I run ScubaDiverLife.com – and one of the things I have been dying to do is Scuba Dive at Epcot! Also get some dives done in or around Tampa.

Contact

Mark Regan: Thanks Nadia! I’m excited to welcome you to Tampa on February 22nd as part of Social Fresh Tampa. How can people find out more about you and connect with you?

Nadia Aly: People are able to connect with me on Twitter: @DigitalkVan or Facebook : facebook.com/NadiaAly or good old fashion email : nadia@digitalklabs.com

Corey Creed Interview

Corey’s going to be laying it all out in a few weeks at Social Fresh Tampa talking about Facebook, social media and tons more. I had a chance to talk to him about his background and the work-life balance of the social web.


Your Background

Corey Creed
Mark Regan: Tell me a little about yourself and your background.

Corey Creed: For most my life, I’ve done public speaking and training. I’ve also done a lot of project management and instructional design. But more recently, I’ve been using those skills with Internet marketing and social media. Here’s how it all came about…

I grew up outside of Boston and then moved to New York for ten years. In 2002, I moved back to Massachusetts for one year. I had a hard time finding work, so ended up helping a friend with his e-commerce business. In three months, we tripled his sales. But it was way too cold in Massachusetts, especially for my wife who is originally from Daytona, FL!

So in 2003, my wife and I moved to North Carolina and started HIPPO which has two parts to it. HIPPO Inc sells products via e-commerce to the hospitality industry. Hippo Internet Marketing did SEO, AdWords, and more for clients. In 2007, we stopped taking clients and started teaching Internet marketing seminars. In 2010, we stopped teaching seminars and started moving our content online instead.

In 2011, I also started working with Social Fresh as the Training Director.

Time Management

Mark Regan: You seem to have your time spread out a lot from clients, training, speaking and your own personal brand.  How do you manage the sometimes competing obligations?

Corey Creed: I’m all about time management.  Over the years, I’ve fired almost all of my clients.  The few remaining are the best ones.  I enjoy working with them and we each respect each other’s time.  I regularly prioritize and keep my inbox down to zero several times per week.  I move things to my to do list and work on one thing at a time in priority order.

Oh, and I have three monitors.  That helps.  I only work 40 hours per week or less.  I spend time with my wife and on other non-profit activities outside of work.

Fads

Mark Regan: What social media tactic do you see people jumping into too quickly?  and what should they do more of in advance?

Corey Creed: I see people jumping into the “shiny new things” way too quick.  We all need to get better at Facebook.  It’s good to stay somewhat informed of new things and to know what’s out there.  But we’ve got to get better at what we have now.  Focus on the opportunities that exist today and do them better.

Content is King

Mark Regan: Regarding social media, if you could make a business owner/stakeholder do one thing that they always don’t want to do, what would it be?

Corey Creed: They almost always need to become better writers.  Content is king, but that’s just the beginning.  The better we get at writing in all its various forms, the more success we’ll have.  Good writing is not easy, but all marketers and business owners should work at it and stop trying to outsource it.  It’s that important.

LBSNs

Mark Regan: How should small businesses take advantage of location-based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places? How can they gain a competitive edge with them?

Corey Creed: This one is tricky.  The adoption rate of these services is not that impressive yet.  Small businesses have a lot to do.  It may not be worth their time to put a lot of effort into this.  At the same time, being an early adopter can get you extra business.  Give it a shot and see what happens.  But don’t waste too much time on it.

Bonus Questions

Mark Regan: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?

Corey Creed: For seeing what others do when they visit my site, my favorite cool new tool is Mouseflow.  My every day tools are Microsoft Outlook, Google Chrome, BlogJet, Digsby & Hootsuite.

Mark Regan: Bonus: Any fun plans while you’re here in Tampa?

Corey Creed: Not really, Jason Keath has me working the entire first day of Facebook training.  Also, I’ve got to keep up on my own business at the same time.  But I do hope it’s warm that week.  I hate the cold!  🙂

Contact

Mark Regan: Thanks Corey!  I’m excited to welcome you to Tampa on February 22nd as part of Social Fresh Tampa.  How can people find out more about Hippo Internet Marketing and connect with you?

Corey Creed: You can find most everything I do at www.CoreyCreed.com and www.HippoIMT.com.

Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed.  It’s nice meeting you and I’m really excited to meet the various social media and Internet marketing people in sunny Tampa!  See you at Social Fresh!

Chris Penn Interview

Social Fresh Tampa Interview Series Kickoff

Who better to kickoff my Social Fresh Tampa interview series than Chris Penn. You may know him better as Christopher S Penn from reading Chris Brogan’s work. Chris Penn co-founded PodCamp and also made a name for himself as the Chief Technology Officer of the Student Loan Network. He’s now over at Blue Sky Factory doing great work. He’ll be joining many other great speakers on February 22, 2011 at Social Fresh Tampa.


Your Background


Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current role as VP of Strategy and Innovation at Blue Sky Factory (BSF).

Chris Penn: It’s a rather funny short story. Fundamentally, there’s a concept that my friend Chris Brogan hammers on constantly: be there before the sale. Provide value, build your network and your platform, be helpful, and establish your foundation, your base. When it comes time for you to draw on that network, people tend to pay you back if you’ve done a good enough job giving first. I managed to be unemployed for exactly 37 minutes because the moment I was out of a job, I asked my network, and Greg Cangialosi, our founder and CEO, grabbed me as quickly as he could.

Marketing and Technology

Mark Regan: You’ve said you live in that uncomfortable world between marketing and IT/technology (a space I personally love!).  How do you exploit your ability to bridge that gap?

Chris Penn: I’m a marketing technologist, a word coined by Scott Brinker and subsequently promoted by Mitch Joel. It’s a highly unusual practice because it requires you to be competent in two different worlds that typically require very different mindsets in order to be successful. I wouldn’t characterize it as uncomfortable as much as I would call it rare. What makes it possible to bridge that gap between worlds is an understanding I get from the martial arts about finding similarities.  A  market segmentation can be expressed as a SQL query, and a sorting algorithm can be turned into a marketing funnel. You have to be able to port concepts back and forth into the language that the world you’re working in speaks.

Personal and Professional Brands

Mark Regan: How do you balance the goals of your personal brand with the goals of your professional personas (VP, professor, host)?  Are they ever in competition?

Chris Penn: There is always strong potential for personal and professional brands to be in conflict. What it takes to make that not happen is to work for a company and a team that recognizes the synergy between personal and professional brand on the corporate front, and the maturity and responsibility of the person to align their brand with the company goals. Blue Sky Factory’s stated mission and goal in the world is to help you become a better marketer, and thus being a professor of Internet marketing and a marketing podcast co-host is perfectly aligned with that. Work I do in one area benefits work in other areas.  Lessons I learn in one area get ported to other areas and all benefit.

For example, I write and send out a monthly personal newsletter. As part of that, I get to use the BSF product, Publicaster, as an end user. I know what its like to be a customer, to have the customer experience on a regular basis, and I can give feedback to the team about what works and what doesn’t. Another example – I blog a lot personally. My personal web site uses the same platform and theme as the BSF one. I test out things on my blog and break it all the time, and the stuff that works well in the end gets pushed to the BSF web site. Some of the stuff I try would be deeply irresponsible to do on the corporate web site, so my personal space benefits the company.

Consistency

Mark Regan: On the social web, you appear in so many places.  How do you manage to maintain a consistent engagement everywhere?

Chris Penn: I’m not everywhere, not by a long shot. I pick very carefully where I can bet use my time, and each place has a defined role. Linked in is all about groups for me. Twitter is about finding new people and staying in touch. Facebook on my fan page is all about tools and ideas I have that I share. I don’t have to be everywhere, and I set expectations carefully about what each place means to me.

Email and Social Media

Mark Regan: Pundits love to say email is dead.  But I continue to see it being better integrated as a marketing tool.  Do you expect the same to happen with social media and its various tools?

Chris Penn: For those that survive, yes. That said, one of the largest flaws in thinking in social media is the assumption that social media tools are public utilities. They are not. Email is, because no one organization
controls email, by design. Facebook? Twitter? Linked in? Quora? These are not public utilities and thus they have the potential to go away overnight.

Bonus Questions

Mark Regan: What is your favorite online marketing/social media toy of the day?

Chris Penn: Toy of the day? My iPad, unquestionably. Greatest productivity tool I have besides the laptop itself.

Mark Regan: Any fun plans while you’re here in Tampa?

Chris Penn: Nope. I am surprisingly unfun in person because I’m such a nerd.

Contact

Mark Regan: Thanks Chris!  I’m excited to welcome you to Tampa on February 22nd as part of Social Fresh Tampa.  How can people find out more about Blue Sky Factory and connect with you?

Chris Penn: You can find out more about Blue Sky Factory and grab our newest eBook here.

You can find out more about me at: http://www.christopherspenn.com

Dr. Nate Interview

Social media in a conservative industry?

In this week’s interview of Online Marketing experts here in the Tampa Bay area, I had the chance to hook up with Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford (Dr. Nate), owner of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in the Westchase area of Tampa.  He sprang onto the Tampa scene early this year with…

I’ll just let him tell the story.


Your Background

Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford Interview

Mark Regan: Tell me a little about your background and how you came into your current incarnation of optometrist and social media evangelist..

Dr. Nate: I’ve always been a little bit techy when thinking about a career, I considered basic science, but was concerned about not having enough person-to-person interaction. After considering lots of fields that would be science/tech based yet involve daily working with people, I settled on Optometry. I have been extremely happy with my choice.

I have also been interested in “social media” from the early 1990s in the form IRC, usenet, and MUDs and even without video, audio, or graphics beyond ASCII art, I was impressed with how well the internet could unite people independent of geography. I worked for AOL for awhile after college and before optometry school. Once I became a business owner, it was a no-brainer to use these tools to make connections and market my “real” skill of eye and vision care.

Foursquare Day – April 16th

Mark Regan: We came to know each other through your fame in naming April 16th (4/16) as Foursquare Day.  How has this international level of fame changed your Westchase business?  Were there any downsides?

Dr. Nate: Well, Foursquare Day was great. I basically just got lucky – I had a simple idea and ran with it. Lots of other people got excited about it and because of that I was on TV, in the paper, and mentioned in lots of blogs and websites around the world. I met lots of great folks.

People now find out about my practice via foursquare, but even more importantly it opened doors that lead to speaking appearances at national meetings and a paying gig blogging about social media and the eye care industry. The only real downside was that I basically didn’t sleep for three weeks while not cutting back on my day job. Working during the day, blogging at night. It was brutal.

Local Online Marketing

Mark Regan: With respect to local online marketing, what should more owners use to drive their business?  I’m thinking, review sites, directories, SEO, social media, location-based marketing, etc.  But you may have others.

Dr. Nate: Small business owners are busy people and they can’t simply tell “marketing” to do things. I’m not saying they have to do everything themselves, but they should educate themselves enough about social media so that they can intelligently make choices about what to do, what to delegate and what to outsource.

I think we are at the point now where every local business should have a Facebook page, even if it is updated less frequently. A blog really matters, both for the customer education and the SEO value, but it requires more time and attention. Claiming and monitoring review sites are important, but I think that the demographics of Tampa Bay are such that a business should limit the amount of time put in.

Mark Regan: I’m guessing the typical optometrist considers their market potential to be a 25-mile radius around their office.  What would you say to these folks to open their eyes beyond that limitation?

Dr. Nate: I think that the average optometrists actually thinks it is smaller than 25-mile, maybe more like 10. It is interesting, though, because I have patients that come from Gainesville, Bradenton, Sebring, etc. They come because I have special skills such as computer vision syndrome and children’s vision and they find me via the internet.

So when I talk to other eye doctors, I encourage them to think about what sets them apart and then totally own that niche. Claim that area and dominate it. For example, I want to be the THE EYE GUY to the Tampa Bay tech scene. The fact that I just got published in Mashable is huge, even though obviously most readers aren’t in my neighborhood.

Healthcare Industry

Mark Regan: Do you feel businesses in the healthcare space have a disadvantage over others due to legal issues, liability, regulations when it comes to exploiting the latest and greatest in online marketing strategies?

Dr. Nate: I do a podcast called Peripheral Vision with a friend about social media for eye care professionals. We talk about this all the time. Yes, health care does have few disadvantages. Some of these are state and federal laws that limit what can be said and what kind of information can be released.

But that isn’t really the biggest hurdle. Most health care professionals are very conservative and are used to have a lot of control over everything. Social media is new and it feels like giving up control of information and image to others. What many don’t realize is that they’ve already lost control – they just don’t know it yet – and embracing social media is a way to regain control.

Location-Based Social Networks

Mark Regan: Bonus question: What are your thoughts on location-based social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla and Facebook Places? How do you see them helping businesses?

Dr. Nate: Well, I remember when I was being interviewed a year ago and was asked what I thought was going to be big in 2010. I said location-based services, but I had no idea how white-hot it was going to get – for me personally or the the concept. However, a very small percentage of people, I think hovering around 5% use these networks.

Facebook has the opportunity to explode that number, but from a business owner perspective they’ve totally botched the roll out in a really disappointing way.

Nevertheless, I think businesses should take advantage of the LBS networks, because even if a small percentage of people use them, it gives businesses one more way generate content and interest. It remains to be seen if LBS ever becomes standard.

Contacting You

Mark Regan: Thanks Dr. Nate!  How can people find out more about how you use social media in your optometry office and connect with you?

Dr. Nate: You are totally welcome. Thanks for being a Patient Spotlight for me. I love to spread the word about social media. First, I host a regular social media chat for the Westchase Area Business Association at my office. People can find out more on the Facebook page. They can also read more on my blog, Bright Eyes News, or find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Get Paid to Drink Beer

31 Days of WOBtoberfestHERE’S AN IDEA!

Create a project where you get to drink beer every day, write it off as a company expense and have everyone think you are some smart internet guy.

Well I did just that.

In mid-September I came up with the idea to embark on a social media experiment during October.

World of Beer - WestchaseUsing a local bar, World of Beer – Westchase, and its annual beer and music festival, WOBtoberfest, as my target I created my version of a flash mob, the 31 Days of WOBtoberfest.

I went to it every day in October, sampling two different beers and blogging about it.

And no I have/had no affiliation with the bar.  I paid full price for everyone one of my beers!

THE EXPERIMENT

But the experiment was more than 2 beer reviews a day.  I extended the website with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Vimeo, allowing me to reach different audiences in whatever manner they preferred.

The highlights were interesting and contrary to what I thought they would have been:

  • Very few people found out about it through organic search.  Those that did, quickly bounced off of the site.
  • Business Cards

    Business Cards

  • It appears the offline activities played the biggest role.  Things like talking it up, leaving business cards everywhere and working the bar and its staff played the biggest role in attracting new visitors.
  • David Meerman Scott Tweet

    David Meerman Scott Tweet

  • Even with mentions by David Meerman Scott [PHOTO] and ads on Facebook, [PHOTO] they provided little in terms of repeat visitors, email subscriptions or RSS subscriptions.
  • 31WOB Facebook Ad

    31WOB Facebook Ad

  • The two online bumps we had were tied directly to WOB’s rabid fan base.  Early on they put out a Facebook status update that spiked visitors and subscribers.  Also there were two articles in their weekly email newsletter that drove new traffic.
  • 31WOB Email Preview

    31WOB Email Preview

  • The repeat visitors were largely due to a daily email update.  With an open rate of over 54% and a click-through rate of over 30%, I would consider that a major success.

They always say “the money’s in the list”.  This was no different.  Email played the most significant role is connecting with the fans of 31 WOB!

WHAT ELSE?

  • What else should I pick apart and expose to you?
  • How do you think I should measure success?
  • Would the results have been different if there was more time in advance to build up anticipation?
  • Was the experiment just too short to achieve anything greater?

Check out some of the hard numbers from the experiments Day 31 post for a more humorous look at its success.