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.
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.
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.