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Online Reviews: An Introduction

Last year, I packed up my family and moved us to a new apartment, a process I liken to having a root canal, only with less sitting, fewer painkillers and far more cursing. I hired movers for the job, and was pretty impressed with their humor, chill attitude, and the fact that one of the guys kept right on working despite needing to bandage a wound on his palm with paper towel and duct tape.

Yes, I tipped, but then they told me that if I was really happy to give them a review on Facebook. This was a first for me, but it made sense. This was a Maine micro business at its core, just starting out. Online reviews were pretty critical in generating good word-of-mouth.

Making your own business available to online reviews is a double-edged sword. The folks at Yelp acknowledge this on their guidelines for responding to reviews: “Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business too, and it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.”

Sometimes a business can do everything right, but there may be no pleasing a customer who has had a terrible day, perhaps because he’s just spent the entire week DRIVING AROUND A MOVING VAN THAT GETS 5 MILES TO THE GALLON AND WOULD IT HAVE KILLED YOU TO INCLUDE THE EXTRA SAUCE IN HIS TAKE OUT ORDER LIKE HE ASKED?!?! ONE STAR!!!!!!!!

Sorry about that flashback.

The point being, is it worth buying into online ads? Yes, but it takes courage.

Unlike traditional print reviews written by critics, online reviews keep coming, and coming and coming, so long as internet-savvy folks keep using your products or services. The advantage of this is that each day is another day to get it right, to improve your weaknesses and build upon your strengths. Here are a few more popular choices to get you started in this brave new world:

Yelp is enormously popular, having garnered more than 115 million reviews last year. Making money off ad revenue, Yelp is free for both the business itself and for consumers. Seemingly everything — from local restaurants to doctors, from prisons  to showgirl supply stores — gets reviewed through their website or mobile app.

The company uses an algorithm to  weed out fake reviews or reviews written by owners about their own businesses. Yelp’s relations with small businesses hasn’t always been rosy, as owners have complained that the algorithm weeds out positive review and leaves negative ones. Yelp admits its algorithm isn’t perfect, but the company has become so ubiquitous, so popular since its 2004 founding that utilizing Yelp makes still makes sense.

Facebook reviews are a pretty organic extension of your existing business’s page. And it makes all the sense in the world to utilize this free service. As we’ve noted before, 79 percent of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook.

Like Yelp, you can respond to reviews positive and negative. Search Engine Journal also notes that Facebook reviews will be giving Yelp a run for its money, in part, because Facebook is already integral to our everyday lives: “Facebook is a platform that nearly everyone uses on a daily basis. We use it to document our lives, connect with friends through Messenger and check into businesses. It’s the one-stop shop for us to get everything we need to get done, from collecting information about our friends, finding news and stories to read and to watch cat videos.”

Google, like Facebook, is seemingly everywhere. Similarly, it only makes sense to integrate product and service reviews with the search engine giant, especially considering how powerful and important Google Maps has become for finding, well, anything.

Our theme for February is “Loving Your Favorite Businesses Online.” Leaving a review, whether on Yelp, Facebook, Google, or elsewhere, is one way to give a business a boost. Stay tuned for other ways you can share the love this month!

Where Have All the Millennials Gone? The Year In Social Media

Snapchat took them, every one.

If CNet is to be believed, we are going to be living with Snapchat for a long, long time. The image messaging app and social media platform continued to dominate one very important market in 2016. Snapchat, which filed for its IPO in 2016 and turns 5 in next year, is still the go-to hub for the all-important millennials.

Snapchat (now “Snap”) claims 200 million active users — 60 percent of whom are under 25 — watching 10 BILLION videos every day.

So what is driving Snap’s popularity? Is it its mobile-first attitude? Yes, there’s that. Plus, for years we were taught that what gets posted online stays online forever. And then comes along Snapchat’s message-destruct feature, giving folks a platform where they can post first and think later.

If you’re a company looking to target millennials in 2017, it looks like Snapchat is still the way to go. But let’s not discount Facebook, especially if you’re aiming for a more, ahem, seasoned demographic. Pew tells us that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform.

Facebook’s number of users continued to grow in 2016 to the point where 79 percent of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook. That’s an increase of 7 percent over 2015, something Pew attributes to the fact that more older adults have joined that community.

Twitter was in the news a lot in 2016, mainly for its use in the Presidential campaign. And yet, it’s only fifth in popularity, trailing far behind Instagram, the second-most popular platform. Once an online hub for the before-it-was-cool-Williamsburg-hipster-vegan, Facebook-owned Instagram is now used by 32 percent of online adults.

Instagram was followed closely by Pinterest and LinkedIn, with 31 percent and 29 percent, respectively.

Compare that to Twitter, used by only 24 percent of online adults.

One of the bigger surprises in 2016 was that while Vine withered and died, Google+ still clung to life. Although not mentioned in the Pew article, good ol’ G+ still has 2.2 billion users, thanks in part (I’m guessing) to the integration with the wildly popular Gmail.

Yet, it’s important to note that only 9 percent of G+ users actually bother to publicly post content. And so Google+ continues to orbit the social media sphere like an abandoned space station. You can still see G+ in the night sky, only no one’s onboard.

So what’s going to big in 2017? Video sharing may be a bigger driving force, based in part on the fact that Snap entered the oft-derided wearable arena with Spectacles. Augmented reality may continue to be big, considering Pokemon Go’s continued popularity.

One thing that won’t likely change in 2017 — the challenges many local, small businesses and nonprofits face in trying to navigate the ever-changing social media landscape. Lucky for you, companies like BEC will be there in 2017, too.

Post-Election: A Loser’s Guide to the Internet

Some things are just too darn hard to bear. You know what I’m talking about — wars, natural disasters, hangnails. In my case, the recent outcome of the presidential election has sent me into a spiral of depression that will likely take me four-to-eight years from which to recover.

I know I’m not alone. For proof, see this article in QZ.com on post-election depression, and how election-addiction leads to post-election depression.

After more than a year of consuming as much news as I could about the election, I’ve found that, now that the whole thing is over, I want to banish it all from my psyche. Yet every time I go online, it pops back up. It’s like after eating a garlic pizza — sure it was fun at the time, but the resulting indigestion is no picnic.

I’ve taken to going onto Facebook only when needed, and I’ve also avoided the Twitter account I’ve set up strictly for bathroom humor.

To keep my sanity, I’ve started compiling a list of websites that are largely non-political. They are decidedly geek-infused, mainly dealing with the future or the distant past. My attention will be on them for the next four-to-eight years:

  •  Wikipedia’s “On This Day.” A daily timeline of events, births, deaths and holidays and observances on any given day. Hey, did you know that Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” was published Nov. 14, 1851? Thank you, Wikipedia!
  •  Space.com. All things space, all the time. Want to know about super-moons, gas giants, Uranus, and other giggle-inducing astronomical trivia? Space.com should be your destination.
  • AVClub. The sister publication of the satirical news site, The Onion, The AVClub is a smart, snarky guide to film, books, television comics and more.

You can’t completely avoid post-election news, but they’re a good substitute for sites such as Politico that regularly fed my election junkie habit, for which I’m currently paying the price.

Also, kudos to the slacktivists on the image-sharing site Imgur, who, shortly after the election, attempted to block any news of the presidency from the front page by upvoting photos of sea slugs.

Also, I’ve started reading about three or four books simultaneously, most of which are between 40 and 20 years old at this point. I’ve become reacquainted with my favorite film from the 1990s, “The Big Lebowski.”

I’m sure this won’t last. We all move on and the healthy, better part of us learns to accept things the way they are, even if we don’t like it. And with that, comes a refinement of social media habits and learning that life does not stop and start at our convenience.

Besides, the holidays are upon us! And those aren’t at all depressing.

Facebook’s Attempt at Mind-Reading

Social media has always been a platform for self-expression, and has even evolved into a way for people to stay in touch and get updates on current events. Facebook in particular has some interesting methods of encouraging users to share their experiences, beyond the “What’s on your mind?” prompt for status updates.

In the past year or so, it seems like Facebook has been upping the ante in terms of getting people to share how they feel about things-current events, politics, sports, even seasonal changes.

Sometimes, it seems as if Facebook is reading our minds…These are a few of the things that I’ve noticed in the past few months that Facebook has offered to anticipate what we want to share:

Temporary Profile Pictures and Overlays

Last summer, Facebook started introducing temporary profile pictures as a way to let people show support for a cause, be it political or showing support for a sports team. When you make a temporary profile picture, you have options for how long you want to have it set for (a day, a week, a month), and then it will automatically switch back to whatever you had before. Last November, Facebook created a French flag overlay to show support for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Facebook prompts users to show their support by creating a temporary profile picture. In these circumstances, a temporary profile picture is meant to extend support and solidarity no matter where you are in the world.

Good Morning/Afternoon/Seasonal Changes

A couple weeks ago marked the first day of fall, and you may have noticed a “happy first day of fall” message at the top of your Facebook newsfeed. A couple months ago, I was on my phone and noticed a “Good Morning, Kassandra” message with a sun beside it (in the same top-of-newsfeed position). This isn’t an every day occurrence for me, and I haven’t figured out what the pattern is (or if there even is one), and one day there was a “Good Afternoon” curve ball. These messages don’t even have a “share with the public” option, so I can only imagine that they’re just to create a positive user experience.

Let People Know that You’re ______. 

Another feature that borders on creepy is the “Let people know you’re watching” option during a sporting event (only on mobile). The scores will automatically appear if you’ve liked a team’s official Facebook page. Facebook has since added a new “Sports” section that you can access to get updates from any team without having to “like” a ton of Pages. This area of Facebook is called Sports Stadium, which came out this past January. In addition to sharing a status update, you can “hang out” with other Facebook friends who are watching the game, too, and talk about it within the app.

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Another example of a narrowed “let people know what you’re doing,” Facebook started sharing a “Register to Vote” campaign. When you click on it, you get taken to a printable page for voter registration along with instructions. And, because it’s Facebook, you could share with others that you’d registered.

Safety Check

Similar to “Let people know you’re watching,” Facebook has a “Safety Check” feature. If you are in an area that’s in crisis (natural disaster or otherwise), Facebook picks up on this if your location services are on, and will ask you if you are safe. Fortunately, I live in a pretty low-crisis area, so I’ve never seen this in action, until last week when one of my friends used the tool to let people know she was safe in North Carolina. For those of you who watched our Facebook Live video last week, we talked a bit about this Safety Check feature there, too.

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These are just a few ways Facebook is attempting to anticipate what people care about and changing the way we interact with each other online. Can’t wait to see what’s next, Facebook!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Facebook Live And Facebook Ads: An Experiment

Rumor has it that advertising/boosting Facebook Live videos is less expensive and more beneficial than other types of Facebook Ads.

Of course, we wouldn’t just rely on a rumor. So we ran a little experiment where we boosted two posts (a Facebook Live video and a blog post we wrote) with the same amount of money for the same seven day period. (Like any good experiment, you should only change one variable at a time!)

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Some interesting things we can see right away.

  1. The blog post I promoted wasn’t styled sexy. I could have worked a little harder to make it visually compelling, especially for mobile.
  2. The video got way more direct engagement (clicks) and reach (views) than the other post.
  3. The blog post got more comments and shares, which we could argue is more ‘deep’ than someone liking or viewing.
  4. We didn’t use tracking links or any real call to action (ex: email newsletter signup) to see if these drove actual business. So not an entirely amazing experiment on all fronts.

One experiment can’t definitively prove anything, but our results show that Facebook is making Live video ads a cheaper prospect to those willing to give them a shot. (I will say, it is cool Facebook let’s you pick your thumbnail; don’t settle for the one they give you!).

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Promoting Your Webinar

So you’ve thought about the technology and content of your webinar… Now it’s time to get the people in the ‘door’…so to speak.

Like most events, most of the work is done before the event even happens. Whether you have 5 or 5000 people attend, you do the same base amount of work, so it makes sense to maximize the amount of people who know about (and will potentially attend) your webinar.

Email a ‘save the date’ to your list.

Start with what you’ve got: your customer list. Whether you have an email list, a Facebook group, or any other ‘platform’, it is good to begin getting your friends and customers excited about the event long before the webinar happens.

When they RSVP, allow them to add it to their Google calendar or share it on social media. Getting some initial interest will encourage you to go further.

Make a Facebook event and invite.

I am always surprised at how many people want a direct invite to something on Facebook. Even if publicly posted, people seem to want me to personally invite them to every workshop we do.

Hey, if that makes them come, I’ll take it. If you have a Facebook page or group, make an event and invite away! Ask your friends to pass on the invitation to those who would appreciate it.

Make several ‘teaser’ videos.

If you are going to listen to someone talk, you want to have an idea of what you are in for. So give your webinar audience an idea of what they are in for!

Post a few teaser videos, they can even be a minute or less, to let your prospective webinar attendees get to meet you and know what it’s about. Think of it as a trailer for your webinar.

If you feel bold, ask them to tag any friends who might be interested or RSVP to the event (which of course, you’ll link in each video caption like the smarty pants you are).

Add ‘calls to action’ on appropriate online properties.

Your webinar is going to be the most exciting thing you have going on while you’re leading up to the event. Think of changing things like the homepage of your website or the link in your Instagram profile to reflect this.

Also creating multiple calls to action on each social platform, multiple email sends, and multiple personal invites (online and in real life) will remind people this is coming up. Trust me, they need the reminders.

Consider ads to appropriate audiences.

Let’s say you’re doing a desk yoga webinar. Taking out a targeted ad to human resource managers of mid sized companies as an example audience may be a really smart move for you. Make sure your ad creative (the image you make to go with the promotion) seems specific to that audience only. You want them to feel like you are talking to them.

This may also be a good time to use remarketing data you’ve been collecting from Google and Facebook on your website, making a targeted ad for people who already have ‘met’ you online.

Paid ads have their place and you may find in attracting 100 more people and converting three of them to customers that your ad spend was well worth it.

Seek opportunities to cross promote.

Let’s say you’re doing a webinar on writing for the web. Consider connecting with university writing centers, libraries, and writing groups (online or off) to let them know what is happening.  They may not only promote it within their group but want to otherwise be a part of what you’re doing in your business. We’ve found involving more people, while it does take time, allows not only for a better attended webinar but a more interesting one as well.

You’ve already put in the time to create something interesting and of value for people, so it’s worth the extra time investment to spread the word and get your content in front of the right people. If you need any help/have questions about the marketing, we’re always happy to talk about that sort of thing 🙂 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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