‘Tis The Season To Get Groupon

In this year of brandicides, there was one company who did nothing wrong from a public relations standpoint, but has still lost a lot of sway.  While there are still thousands of businesses and millions of customers using it, I have hard from many social media savvy business owners that they don’t much see the point of Groupon. Many see the service as a loss of revenue and nothing more.

But, despite some claims I’ve seen to the contrary, Groupon is not going away.  And, chances are, if you’re not using it as a small business, you’re missing out on customers.

What it comes down to is that Groupon is  lot like any other social media.  The ROI isn’t going to suddenly appear.  A small business is not going to make money on the Groupon itself. Where the money comes from is when the *new* customers return. That is, if they return. One big complaint that I hear from businesses on Twitter is that people use the Groupon and never come back.

While there are some people who are cheap (to be blunt) and will never return to an establishment, these are the same people who would only use a paper coupon to frequent a business. The key thing to look at where ROI is concerned is that you placed your name in front of a bunch of eyeballs. Even people who don’t purchase the Groupon saw the name of a business they might never have physically passed.

Secondly, while the Groupon customers are in your store, it’s a chance to get them on your e-mail list. My brother and I recently went to a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C., we were given a card to fill out for a chance to win a free meal – which of course appealed to the money-saving aspect of a Groupon user – and, of course, in return, we gave up our contact information. Which is, of course, the life blood of a social media small business.

Here are some more tips on using Groupon up to its best practices:

1) Groupon is not for businesses that do not get repeat customers. If you’re a hotel that’s not in a touristed area (and working through Groupon’s special travel section), for example, you’re getting all of the costs of running a Groupon with none of the benefits. However, Groupon does give the options for blackout dates where you can help fill unfilled rooms at usual slow times. And these rooms would have gone unsold.

2) Consider using Groupon Now instead of a full fledged Groupon. In larger markets, Groupon Now is a great way to cut through the clutter. What this underused service consists of is companies choosing to run short-term, same day deals. They are localized by GPS so a person can look at who is offering a deal at any given time nearby. If someone is eating a late lunch, for example, they can see who is offering a deal at that moment. This drives tech savvy customers (who studies have show are opinion makers) to your business as opposed to dozens of others. And increases the likeliness of them telling their friends. These can even be set to only include certain things on the menu so it’s like a speechless suggestive sell.

3) Upsell customers if this is an option. A mistake that a lot of small businesses make when they offer a Groupon is offer their top of their line service at discount prices. A better thing to do is offer a low or midline product and make higher level services available to customers for an upgrade (at the usual price differential). Or a business can have signage for the top of the line services in eyesight of the customer while they’re enjoying their reduced cost service. People might return just to try to the top of the line service they’re now curious about.

4) Treat Groupon customer as well (or even better) than other customers. The worst Groupon experience I ever has was having to order off a special Groupon menu (which was not advertised in advance). This left a bad taste in my and a lot of other people’s mouths (and it showed in the Yelp reviews). If you give anyone lesser service because they have a Groupon and are not paying full place, they are not going to come back. That’s a guarantee.

Groupon can’t be seen as the be-all, end-all of a marketing campaign in itself and I fear that some business owners do just that. But it can definitely be a valuable piece of an integrated marketing campaign if used correctly.

Does Klout Have Any Clout Left?

For the longest time, I was an evangelist for Klout. If there’s an opposite of seeing the light, however, it happened to me when they changed their formula. I’m usually one of the most patient people in the world when it comes to user interfaces. Most of the time they’re cosmetic and there’s a rhyme or reason to them. But Klout’s change struck a deeper chord in me. And it wasn’t sour grapes because my score decreased. It was a genuine disgust because their new formula for determining a score was so flawed that I wasn’t even sure what they were measuring anymore.

Whatever it is they’re measuring now, however, I’ve determined that it’s not internet influence.

To me, Klout went from a neutral arbiter of one’s ability to amplify a message on Web 2.0 platforms to a popularity contest. And it did this in a few ways:

1) Choosing to make Facebook content count as much as Twitter content. While Facebook has the biggest internet presence, and therefore a strong place in any measurement of the ability to amplify a message, the message that is being amplified makes it questionable as to how valuable Facebook really is. Twitter best practices among power users has them posting news story (and blog) links. Facebook’s power users post photos of their friends and family. The natures of the second group of postings make them more likely to be liked since they have a built-in audience.  Furthermore, photos in themselves have more of an emotional response rate. Basically, to be successful on Facebook, a user asks their friends to “like” photos of them  having fun or, barring that, supporting them in times of need.

By spreading these messages, what is being added to the internet conversation as a whole.

I understand Klout’s logic in making Facebook count as much as Twitter.  After all, the average message on Facebook is more “sticky” than one on Twitter and seen by more people. But this logic reveals another flaw in the new system. Any form of message amplification on Facebook is easier to get than any on Twitter due to this time frame gap.  Only the rarely used “share” button on Facebook is as valuable, due to its scarcity of use, as any of the similar behaviors – retweets, favorites, and replies – on Twitter.

2) Choosing to compress the scores around 50. Klout is on the record as saying that their scale (before the redesign at least) was reflective on a classic 1st to 100th percentage scale. Therefore, someone without any understanding of the system could look at a score and recognize what its relation to the norm was due to past experience.

In the change, my score dropped from a 62 to a 46. Klout went out of their way to assure people in similar situations with similar scores that a 46 was actually one of the “higher” scores on the system. But anyone who sees my score would assume (as I did) that I’m a below average internet user. This ability to easily discern what a score means to anyone viewing it takes away from its value.

3) Choosing a system that does not seem responsive to any stimuli on any platform. In the month or so since Klout instituted their new system, my score has seemed to do nothing but fall. I have not noticed any other user’s scores rise by any significant amount in the same time frame.

While I understand the logic behind this as well (that they wanted to make the score more reliable by making it less gameable) the problem is that during this time frame, I had two posts on Twitter that were both retweeted almost a dozen times. On both of these days, my Klout score actually fell. Both of these posts were completely legitimate and were retweeted because I used the tried-and-true social media method of writing about what my readers wanted to learn about.

Klout’s old system had scores that fluctuated rapidly. This reflected an objective reality. On some days, events happen that make people who are subject experts in that area more influential. As soon as these events pass, these scores would dip to their normal levels. Other people are influential regardless and their scores would be relatively flat. No social media theory that has been postulated has everyone being less influential over time.

The combination of these three factors has me at a loss on Klout. I cannot recommend that anyone use it as a metric for making any sort of important decision on social media. Perhaps they’ll be a useful again in the future once they sort out these three issues. But I wonder if they’ll have any clout left by the time this happens though.

Fighting The Rise Of The Twitter Machines

Much like telemarketers (who are actually in sales and not marketing) have given marketing a bad name, spammers have given Twitter marketers a bad name. Therefore, to not encourage them, I have a rule against following them back when I see them pop up as new followers on TweetDeck. However, some spammers (and their automated bretheren the spambots) have gotten very sneaky. Spammers have programmed their bots to closely resemble human tweeters. And, much like telemarketers damage the reputation of the entire profession so do Twitter spammers.

But, fear not, there are subtle differences. You too, human Twitter user (and especially Twitter marketers and businesses) can rage against the machines!  Sorry, I’m 36.  I had to throw some reference to Tom Morello’s band in here, right?

And, in the process, avoid looking like spambots to the people you actually want to engage in conversation (or legitimate inbound marketing with).

First of all, to get them out of the way, I have to state the obvious red flags that an account is a spam account:

1) The account has zero tweets, almost zero followers, lots of followings: Oh look, this person is interested in following me. It’s a basic human emotion to want to be liked. Especially by someone who expects nothing out of the relationship themselves (like you reading their tweets). It’s a lie! As soon as these accounts get a significant number of followers, which eventually they do since some people follow back anyone who follows them, they quickly spit out advertising links. Or worse, phishing or virus links, then go dormant. There’s a reason they have few followers. Most people are onto them.

  • How not to look like this: Have content before you try to recruit followers. If people don’t know what you’re going to offer them, they are not going to follow you.

2) The avatars are really good looking, scantily clad women with lots of links in their posts: This one is the oldest trick in the book since “sex sells.” These “women” are actually machines and the links are usually to the same one or two company pages.

  • How not to look like this: Even if you’re an attractive woman, Twitter is supposed to be about the user’s mind. No need to break out the bikini shot. Well, unless you’re a fan of this blog and then you can e-mail them to me.

Anyhow. With those out of the way,  it’s onto the more insidious ones:

3) The posts from a Twitter account are all links and seem to have no rhyme or reason: Many bots have taken to being “newsbots” inbetween sending out malicious links or company propaganda. Most real Twitter marketers and legitimate businesses tweet stories about their area of expertise inbetween marketing pieces – to provide added value.

  • How not to look like this: Carefully curate your content. Don’t post links that don’t add to your brand and the experiences people can have while using your products.

4) The posts from a Twitter account don’t have a human tone: Most human Twitter users do things like retweet other users. They definitely respond to other users on a regular basis. Occasionally they’ll take a break from posting links and talk about their day. Spambots are not programmed to do any of these things (usually). Also, a new one that I’ve started to see recently is leaving off the end of news stories so they don’t have a link at the end. Twitter’s spam purges have gotten smart to the fact that a real user will often have a completely textual post. If you see a lot of the start of news stories with no links, it’s a dead giveaway.

  • How not to look like this: Don’t fall asleep at the switch. It’s easy to think you’re generating content just posting other people’s stuff off of blogs, but you’re not. While aggregators can be useful, people are not going to want to follow more than a few. Even if you just post links, write introductions to them to give them a more personal tone.

5) The links that account posts are to content published more than a week ago: Twitter is all about immediacy.  While the occasional meme is revived and passed around, in general most links posted on Twitter will be from the past few days. Spambots, however, are constantly looking for content. The more they post, the more they get exposed to more people. They go for quantity over quality. So many of the links that they post are to stories that are ancient (in internet terms).

  • How not to look like this: Keep current. You don’t have to post a link to every story you see. If you missed the boat on a fresh story, most readers won’t hold it against you. In fact, most will thank you for not posting it again since they probably saw it a bunch already.  If you really feel the need to post it somewhere, post it to Facebook. Ancient stories never die there.

6) The “business” account doesn’t try to be selling you anything: This one is counterintuitive. Most businesses label themselves as such. If an account doesn’t seem to ever talk about its own products, something might be amiss.

  • How not to look like this: People know you’re a business and are on Twitter to hype a product. If you’re doing everything right and not stuffing advertising down people’s throats they won’t care. If you never say anything about your product, on the other hand, people get suspicious about what your true Twitter intentions are.

It must be said that Twitter does an excellent job of purging spammers. If you’ve ever noticed your numbers drop by three or four followers overnight, chances are Twitter deleted these accounts for spammy behavior. However, new spam accounts are being created every day so it’s important to be vigilant, to not follow them back (or even to report them if you’re into that kind of thing), and – most importantly – not to act like one yourself.

Now I have accidentally followed a spam account or two in my day so these six things to look for to detect a spam account isn’t perfect. But I think it’s a good start in winning to war against those who would destroy my reputation.

Occupying The Disconnect With The Mainstream

While this isn't my photo, I admit that I agree with it completely.

The old saying goes, in advertising circle, “perception is reality.”

And, if this is the case than the Occupy Wall Street movement is in a bit of trouble. Its numbers are growing as more people from the left are mobilized for certain. But any social media marketer will tell you with certainty that numbers of followers are meaningless. It’s the connection that you have with those followers and the ability to spread a message through them. And, of course, no matter how many followers you have, it’s the perception of those outside that you’re trying to influence to become followers that matters most of all.

Today I read a statistic on Politico’s Twitter account that made how the Occupy movement is failing in winning over the hearts and minds of the populace of the United States. Only 37% of the population supports Occupy Wall Street.

On the surface, this might seem like a pretty high number. After all, only 19% of voters in the United States consider themselves liberal.

But here’s the problem. Based on the numbers on individual issues that they support, Occupy Wall Street *should* be doing much better.

Where’s the disconnect? It’s in the fact that those opposed to the movement have managed to create some negative perceptions around it. Listening to the likes of Fox News, the people camped in the park are all a) unemployed hippies, b) Marxists, and c) just want handouts from the government.

All of which would make the average image-conscious person in the United States not want to be a part of the movement. When, in reality, what they agree with the movement about should make it in their best interest to be part of it.  I have to admit that when a friend did a great presentation on social media for Occupy D.C., I was reluctant to go.

When I did, I was shocked at how clean and organized it was. In fact, it might be a bit too regimented for me.

Also surprising was the diversity of the campers. Although new research should have made that less surprising. 70% of people who are participating in the movement are employed.

So where’s the problem? Why don’t people realize this? Of course the media plays a part in this. But the Occupy Movement is not helping itself by not having any leaders as such to speak to the media and present a mainstream face. I have noticed contact numbers on the many Twitter accounts representing the movement but as far as who is getting interviewed on the news, it could be anybody. People with “odd” piercings, “wild” hair, or covered in tattoos. Perfectly normal in many circles, but not among a lot of swing voters. The Tea Party doesn’t just throw out Joe Sixpack in a trucker cap to answer questions about what it stands for.

Occupy intentionally tries to be a leaderless movement. But, due to this, they have no public face. The Tea Party started out this way as well, but people quickly formed organizations around it who have spokespeople who can spread talking points.

Like it or not, they’re now a brand. As such they need marketing. They need a message. They need to build an image.

They also need to focus on two to three things instead of trying to get everything that’s been on their wishlist for the entirety of the Bush and now Obama presidencies. Occupy D.C. makes more sense to me personally because it’s definitively about getting money out of politics. If Occupy Wall Street would focus on the same thing – full time – they would have more people in the United States on their side.

Anyone with a brand to manage will tell you that you need one thing that people think of when they think of you. For the Tea Party this is, “they want to cut spending.” Occupy Wall Street needs to be something like, “they want to take money out of politics.”

Even Rush Limbaugh ranted about how the political process was corrupted about money. Now I would never hope to lure him into Occupy Wall Street no matter what kind of face it presents to the public (and, honestly, would anyone want him nowadays). But there are plenty of people in the United States to the left of him who could easily be supporting the movement if it would reach out to them correctly.

I know there are some smart people in the movement. And creative people as well. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Sometimes You Just Need A Moment Of Silence

Where were you when Steve Jobs died?

I’m sure that if you’re into social media, it’s a question that you’ll be able to answer in twenty years. Facebook and Twitter grew pretty quiet about every other subject. At one point, 17.3% of all posts on Twitter were about Steve Jobs.

Personally, I was standing outside of Potomac Mills Mall in Woodbridge, Virginia, waiting for a bus home when the news broke on Twitter. And I had just made the following tweet:

Suddenly, as my timeline began to become a testimonial about the greatness of Steve Jobs, that tweet seemed more inane than it would have ordinarily. In fact, I considered deleting it. Now, conduct a thought experiment, and imagine that I posted that *after* the news of Steve Jobs’ death had started to circulate. It might even seem to border on rude.

Yet, somehow, there were certain people that I highly respect posted similarly off the topic posts at that moment. By accident. The reason? They use auto-posting on Twitter.

If I were to come up with a Ten Commandments of Twitter (as others have), the second would be: THOU SHALL NOT AUTO-POST!


Now I understand why there is a desire to auto-post. It allows a social media manager to be able to front load content that will post in different time zones at the sweet spot. I know that I, for one, don’t like waking up at 3:30 a.m. to make sure a message gets posted to my Japanese friends at the heart of their day. And as a business, the ability to target a message at the correct time impacts their bottom line.

But the downside of ceding control of the time you post on Twitter (and Facebook) in the name of convenience is that you cede control of your timing. At your own peril.

In the end, I feel that if you auto-post, you will be doing more harm than good for three reasons:

  1. You might step on a story that makes your release seem irrelevant regardless. Or make you seem out of touch. If you were a technology company posting anything other than a story about Steve Jobs when he died, you risked irrelevancy. Silence would have been better!
  2. You miss the chance to connect your brand and its related content to the event. While I personally find this marketing method off-putting, auto-posting takes away the opportunity to use this proven technique.
  3. You miss the opportunity to harness any viral action that might happen due to your content. If a message begins to catch on while there’s “no one at the switch,” you’ve lost an opportunity to connect with those spreading it. Also, if people being to ask questions on your post, you risk alienating them by not answering them within a good time frame.
Of course, it’s up to each individual business or organization to choose if the costs of auto-posting outweigh the benefit. But I think the aftermath of Steve Jobs’ death on Twitter (other social media platforms) proves that there are significant risks to letting technology replace human contact. Auto-posting programs don’t have a conscience. And that’s something that’s crucial to have in marketing in the Web 2.0 world.

You’ve Got A New Follower On Twitter. Game On!

Remember Super Mario Brothers?  Particularly how far out of the way players would go, busting blocks and wasting precious time, to get that stash of unlimited coins?

Squeezing every last coin out of that block!
It's only human. Or Mario.

This was especially after they had already beaten the game. The only desire left for some to play the  game at all was to beat a previous high score. To correct any imperfection that  occurred in previous attempts at levels.

Now there are those out there who will play a game even after beating it just for pure enjoyment. But they’re not the majority. Most people need a reason to still play even though they revealed everything.

On Twitter, there’s a game happening every day for many people. It’s called amassing followers. For some people, if not the majority, their follower counter going up is like squeezing another coin out of a block.

And if you give people the ultimate “win” by friending them back instantly you’re taking away a lot of the desire they would have to keep in contact with you in order to,  for lack of a better term, “curry favor” from you.

Sure it’s Machiavellian, but it’s the truth.


If you’re a company or association, you shouldn’t follow back everyone. It’s a simple extension of the game theory that states: “the more people who are involved in something, the more people will think others will take care of keeping it up.” If you have thousands of “friends,” people will just assume that others will jump to your aid to answer a question. Keeping a smaller group of “devoted” friends (mutual followers) will encourage this group to become brand ambassadors.

And, if the “outsiders” see this select group interacting directly with your brand, it will encourage many people to try to get into this select group.

Once people are in this cohort, just like you’d reward your real world regulars, reward your Twitter regulars with “level ups.”  You can do this in a number of ways, including:

  1. Giving them @ responses to their non-business related posts.
  2. Retweeting especially funny things they say (being careful to not offend the sensibilities of your other followers).
  3. #ff’ing them if they mentioned your business in a given week.

Some users will take offense to preferential treatment. If you see negative reactions about your brand in your mentions, let people  know there’s a game on to become closer to your establishment.

There is no established best practice to who you should follow back but these guidelines should help any entity, including individuals, get more engaged followers. It’s human nature.

The Multiple Personality Dilemma

From the beginning, almost every business owner or blogger who uses Twitter finds themselves with a simple dilemma.  A simple dilemma with far reaching implications…


Do you want to have a separate account for your personal “persona” and another for your business “persona?”

The fact that you most likely reached this blog from @MGoldman2_0 on Twitter and not @greenmind0428 (despite the latter having nearly ten times the followers than the prior) should tell you my answer to this question. Yes. By all means. Yes!

One tweet that a friend of mine recently sent sums up my reasoning possibly more concisely than the rest of this blog entry will:

Now my quoted friend is a very outspoken person. But the thing about outspoken people is that they often say out loud what a good plurality of people are thinking internally. And with a lot of people, you don’t get a verbal complaint before they unfollow you on Twitter.

The simple reason to have two account is that specialization annoys some of your generalist followers and generalization annoys some of your specialist followers.

To put it more positively, a specialized (business or otherwise) account allows you to generate deeper connections with your followers than you would with putting specialized information on a generalist account. For example, if you’re a marketing blogger, you can concentrate on posting links and participating in discussions about marketing on a specialized account. On a “main” account, this sort of in-depth marketing talk at regular intervals could alienate a lot of your followers.

In fact, they might even consider you a spam account who is posting nothing but links to topics that they don’t care about.


Not that having a separate personal account lets you off the hook for what you say on it vis-a-vis your business persona. If people know you are the “voice” of a corporate or organizational account, you must still maintain professionalism on all accounts you manage. There are no walls between accounts as far as reputation is concerned. Some people even use making sure professionalism is maintained as a justification for only having one account.

However, if someone wants to learn more about me personally (like my politics and my love of soccer) after reading my @MGoldman2_0 account, I encourage it! I recommend even, occasionally, posting a link to your other accounts to encourage users who might be interested to follow both.

Another reason the proponents of single accounts cite is that without “personal touches,” business or blog accounts seem almost robotic. And one thing that alienates potential customers or members a lot is the lack of an authentic voice. Therefore, don’t abandon your personality at the door of your business account!

A blog or business account should mirror the activities of a personal account. Participate in Twitter rituals like Follow Friday and, if you have a business specific Foursquare account, you should – sparingly – broadcast your check-ins. And, yes, feel free to post minutae of your day. Especially if these have to do with your “work” persona.

Any sociologist (or maybe even a Women’s Studies major) will tell you that a person puts on many different “faces” throughout their day in their offline life. Why should it be any different online?