Lists are anti-democratic, discriminatory, elitist, and sometimes the print is too small.
- David Ives, American Playwright
I love lists. I love writing them, I love reading them, I love thinking about them, in fact I believe any argument can be settled by referring to a list. With that said, there are way too many worthless lists on social media practices (where everyone is an expert). A recent study came out and found that only 10% of marketers are happy with their social media marketing efforts (no you are not alone) so yea…Talkwheel does things differently. You know how the movie Transformers 2 made $836 million worldwide? Ten years from now I guarantee you more people will be talking about Caddyshack, which came out in 1980 and made $117 million (adjusted for inflation). This is the perfect metaphor for Facebook engagement. You may have 10 million Likes, but unless you have a high number of people talking about you, then your Likes are worthless (you don’t even get a pile of money for it :( ). This was a long winded way to introduce Talkwheel’s list on the 5 Ways to Get Your Fans Talkin’.
1) Shutup: Notice how people love to talk to you and tell you their life story when it’s clear you are listening? Even in TV shows, the cops get the guy just by looking at him and listening. Social media is the same way. Let people know their voice is heard and listen to them. That means reading their comments (not just doing the analytics).
2) Show them they matter: Now that you’ve gotten people to share their deepest, darkest secrets (because isn’t that the goal?), you have to show them their voice matters. The simplest way to do this is to respond to their comment. Would you make a comment if you knew no one would listen or respond (it hurts the ego)? When people say something nice about you, say “thanks” (or “gracias” if you are in a Spanish speaking country). Simple steps like this encourage more feedback and build relationships. If people say something negative about you, address it, don’t just ignore it. The current belief in social media is that ignorance is bliss. Brands are afraid of having open conversations on their Facebook pages because they are afraid that people will say bad things. People are saying bad things and always will, best you can do is make sure it happens under your watch and that you address it.
3) Give them something to talk about: You as a company or brand are not just your product. You are people just like your customers and your brand has ideals that are important to it. Don’t just talk about how awesome your purple hot pants are (how is this not a popular fashion item) because then you are selling. Remember that people are on social networks for personal reasons. So be personable and spark conversation around issues that matter to your company. They might not even be related. Maybe your purple hot pants company is focused on being a company that has integrity. Then start a conversation with your fans about the upsetting prevalence of child labor within the clothing industry.
4) Enable your friends to talk to each other: Did you know that fans can’t actually respond to each other on a brand’s Facebook Wall without using tagging? No one uses tagging and thus customers aren’t/can’t talk to each other (only 2% of comments on brand Facebook Walls are to other fans). You know how social media can lead to awesome customer testimonials/referrals and great times where your existing customers help out a newbie and make them a lifer for your brand? Unfortunately that is very tough when you cannot respond to each other, which is one of the main reasons we created Talkwheel in the first place.
5) Be personable: According to people much smarter than I (the Supreme Court Justices), businesses are people too. Regardless of your politics, we can all agree that businesses are made up of and run by people (for the time being, I hear Amazon has some amazing robots). With that said, don’t be afraid to be personable with customers. It is intimidating when you are communicating with a company and the response (on Facebook or Twitter) comes from the company name. I love the practice where the company individual who made the social media post puts their name at the end (it is meant to enforce accountability, but has this great side effect). Even if you are the only person in the company doing the marketing (which most of us are), end a post with your name. That subtly reminds customers that you are human and will go a long way.
I hope this helped you out. If you have any other advice on social media leave them in the comments, would love to hear your thoughts. Don’t get overwhelmed by people saying that social media changes the rules of communication. The 5 rules I listed above are the same 5 I would list if you asked me what is important when talking to people in real life. In addition to lists, I love quotes, so I leave you with a reminder to be ever cognizant and avoid this trap.
Most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. - Margaret Millar
- Patrick from the Talkwheel Guys (and Gals)
I recently got back from a two week trip to Malta and Italy. Whenever I go abroad, I make sure I forego the five star hotels and stay in hostels, for two reasons. First, Talkwheel stock is not an accepted currency (yet) abroad, and second, because you meet tons of other travelers there. For those of you who don’t know what a hostel is, think of a mix between an old house and an army barracks (yes there are 8 to a room). When you search for hostels (much like with hotels), there are great sites like Hostel Bookers and HostelWorld, where you can see ratings, reviews, and pictures for the hostels. One thing was missing though, I wanted to know who was going to be at the hostel when I was. Would there even be one person there and would they be willing to trek to a remote island in order to see the world’s oldest free standing structure (Note: it’s supported by beams)? I realized that social media held the answer to my problem and to a major problem hostels have.
(Note: World’s Oldest Free-Standing Structure…Not Free-Standing)
Social media offers a fantastic opportunity for hostels to distinguish themselves by connecting travelers. It is important to remember that hostels are usually individually owned and are struggling to differentiate themselves among hundreds of others. What do businesses do when they are selling the same thing (more or less), they invest in marketing and build a brand. Think about all the money Pepsi and Coke spend on marketing. There are no big name brands in hostels, social media can change that. I’d recommend each hostel have a Twitter account and a Facebook page. On the Twitter account, hostels can tweet out pictures of visiting travelers, answer questions from prospective visitors, and tweet about availability. Hostels can use the Facebook page as a place for travelers to connect with a Facebook app (like Talkwheel). Travelers can find out who will be there at the same time, what they will be doing, share travel tips, and stay in touch. Hostels can publicize this unique hostel network (where past, current, and future hostel tenants can connect) on their Hostelworld/Hostelbooker websites as well as at their hostels.
Traveling creates once in a lifetime stories that people share for years to come. Meeting other travelers at hostels is an integral part of that experience. Hostel owners are in a great situation to build their brand based on the amazing experiences had at their hostel as well as allow potential travelers to gain new insight into their place.
(Some see art, I see Hostels slaying the Social Media serpents)
I think the benefits far outweigh the work and that the hostels who do this the best will see an uptick in satisfaction, visitors, and money. Not to mention they will have more awesome stories to share with new travelers. Would love to hear from fellow travelers and hostel owners in the comments.
Patrick of The Talkwheel Guys
(The Sistine Chapel: Because it is always important to go out on top)
In our never ending quest to shed some light on what it is like to work at a growing startup like Talkwheel, we have ripped an idea from one of our favorite writers, Bill Simmons, aka the Sports Guy. One of his famous columns features real questions from real readers. We have duplicated that with some questions from real people about working at a startup. Enjoy and if you have any questions you want answered in our next startup mailbag, just post them in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you rich yet?
Marianne R. from Connecticut
This is a question you will get a lot, from your family, friends, and exes. You will get this question whether the startup is two months or one year old. See, in the movies, the company is formed, a quick montage takes place, then the company is printing money like Gutenberg. However, in real life it doesn’t work like that. Let’s take Pinterest for example. Right now, they are the hottest startup out there. You can’t read an article, go on Facebook, or browse Twitter without hearing about them. They seemed to have popped out of nowhere, but in reality, work started on it in late 2009 (who knows when the idea started). The fact is that even in Silicon Valley, you do not get rich overnight, it just seems that way. But to answer your question, no mom, I’m not rich yet.
What’s it like to work with the same small group of people everyday?
Quinn P. from Washington D.C.
The people are the most important part. VC investors invest in the team, more so than the idea (bet on the jockey not the horse). From a company perspective, it is vital that you respect the people you work with. You do not have to like them and not everyone in the company should be the same. In fact, it makes sense to have people in the company who challenge you as long as everyone is working toward the same goal. The worst part of working with the same people every day occurs when you are in a work place that loves sports. As a diehard fan of teams that do nothing but disappoint, it is further denigration when your co-worker’s team wins the Superbowl (again) and you have to see him in his team’s slippers, team’s shirt, and team pants. As a firm believer in the phrase misery loves companies, that part stinks.
does Talkwheel need any interior decorating done? How about boiler plate legal language? (see this article http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/david-choe-artist-facebook-stock_n_1251021.html)
Shouan R. from New York City
It is rumored that when the investment bank Goldman Sachs went public, even the janitors became millionaires. With Facebook going public, the interior decorator stands to make $200mm+. To put that in perspective, the Clinton’s (Bill and Hillary combined) didn’t make that much this decade. It was all because the painter took payment in Facebook shares instead of cash (and because Facebook is IPOing at $100billion). The truth is that unless you are one of the first five or so employees of the company you most likely will not become a millionaire in a successful exit. For example, if your company sells for $100mm and you got .5% of the company (which is very reasonable), you won’t become a millionaire. What you will get is experience building a business and Valley cred, having been one of the first employees at a company that had a successful exit. This will come in handy if you ever want to raise capital of your own and will be the experience of a lifetime.
What’s the best way to tell girls/guys what you do at a bar?
Jon from Dillon, TX
Whether you frequent juice bars, Yoga bars, coffee bars, or bar bars, meeting strangers and answering the simple question, “what does your company do?” is the best practice for your pitch. You have ten seconds to get the attention of a random stranger so you better be concise and hit at the heart of what you do. To answer the follow-up question, working a startup or telling people you do does not increase your chances with the opposite sex, sorry.
"I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be."
- Peter Gibbons, Office Space
In today’s world where news and information travel faster than they ever have before, it seems that there are three types of companies dealing with social media. One type of company has tons of bad stuff being said about it, but doesn’t address it nearly as much as they should (Sorry, but airlines are big offenders here). The second type of company is constantly scanning social media to catch anything bad that is being said and addressing it (like a Headmaster at Hogwarts). The third type of company will jump in and address bad stuff sometimes, but other times won’t (the Goldilocks company). The difference between company’s two and three (Headmaster and Goldilocks) is based on supporter behavior. The Headmaster believes that if they don’t solve a problem, then no one else will, while Goldilocks believes that there are some problems only they can solve, some they don’t need to. The crucial point is, will your customers/fans defend you, answer other users’ questions, or makes the sales pitch for you?
I want to hightlight two real-world examples where an entity combated public criticism by doing nothing and how their results differed based on the exuberance of their fan bases. Mitt Romney’s run for President (Disclaimer: this is not a political blog, nor are we expressing support or criticizing his platform) has seen its ups and downs. Many pundits believe his career creating and running Bain Capital (one of the most successful private equity funds) gives him the perfect credentials for the Presidency. However, his support from Republicans has been tepid at best and can be best summarized (to paraphrase Winston Churchill here) as being the worst candidate except for all the others. For weeks, his challengers have been hounding him to release his tax returns, in the hopes of illustrating that Mr. Romney is out of touch with the “common” man due to his wealth. For weeks, he did nothing. He then started to make excuses as to why he wouldn’t release his records, but still did not release them, giving further voice and ammo to his challengers. Finally, after an upset by Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary (due in part to his refusal to release his tax return), Mr. Romney released his tax returns. Mr. Romney underestimated how big a deal his tax rate would truly be to the Republican electorate. However, this is not the first time where a politician or a brand (they are one in the same) has faced negative criticism and many of them weathered the storm just fine.
Let’s look at the case of McDonald’s. Monday, McDonald’s did a Twitter promotion with the hashtag #Meetthefarmers. The point was to highlight the quality of their food suppliers and transitively, the quality of their food. McDonald’s continued the Twitter promotion by adding a second hashtag #McDstories to continue highlighting their suppliers. This time, the internet seized the opportunity and many people wrote negative tweets with the hashtag #McDstories. After an hour, McDonald’s discontinued the use of the hashtag, made one quick public statement and have done nothing else. They didn’t have a giant PR bonanza, they didn’t discontinue their whole Twitter campaign, and there was no mention on their Twitter account about this. This will blow over in a day or two and McDonald’s will be no worse off because of it. The main reason is that their supporters have their back. The negative posts that made headlines constituted only 2% of the Tweets, to be put another way, 98% of the Tweets with the McDonald’s hashtags were positive. Financially, McDonald’s just posted it’s best earnings in history and are growing faster than ever before. Clearly there are millions/billions of people who loved McDonald’s. If McDonald’s had overreacted, they could have brought significantly more attention to the problem then necessary, but because they have built support for their brand through social media and in practice, their supporters created results that speak for themselves.
The lesson in all this is to create a strong network with your fans. Allow for fans to be your spokesmen, your salesmen etc. in such a way that you do not need to push the alarm button every time something negative happens on social media. It will allow you to handle criticism well, have confidence in your actions, not to mention ease the burden on your social media team. A famous story of Michelangelo’s David illustrates this point. When Michelangelo finished his sculpture of David, the town mayor Piero Soderini, fancing himself a bit of an expert, came by to look at Michelangelo’s not yet released sculpture. Ever wanting to prove his “expertise”, Soderini commented that the statue was coming along well, but that the nose was “too thick”. Instead of acting like Michelangelo’s twin (the teenage mutant ninja turtle), Michelangelo grabbed a chisel and a hammer and went to fix the sculpture. Soderini saw him chiseling and saw dust fell. When Michelangelo stood back from the sculpture, Soderini liked what he saw and was pleased. However, what he didn’t know was that Michelangelo had been chiseling a rock he held in his hand to create the illusion like he was changing the nose, but in fact did nothing. We’d love to hear your tales of how doing nothing worked out better for you because of your fans or support. Let us know what you think of this or our other posts in the comment section or on Talkwheel.com.
The Talkwheel Guys
There was a time (ok this is still going on), that you couldn’t go anywhere or listen to anything without being told to “Like” something on Facebook. Our personal favorite (for selfish carnivorous reasons) was Chipotle offering a buy one, get one (BOGO) free burrito to anyone who “Liked” a 2011 NBC show, produced by Chipotle’s founder, about finding the next great fast food restaurant. Hundreds of thousands of people lined up and the campaign was deemed a success. Ok, we deem it a success because we got free burritos, but have no idea what happened to that show. Over the last two years or so, businesses have become OBSESSED with two trends. First, the Facebook “Like” button and second, offering deals through group buying sites (like Groupon). Companies, both big and small, wondered whether using Groupon and Living Social made business sense. Yes it provided some brand awareness, but did it create return customers? The results aren’t clear, but many businesses say the costs far outweigh any benefits, see an example here. However, many businesses who weren’t right for Groupons, got caught up in the hype and misspent money on a one-time traffic surge instead of sustainable investments.
Both the “Like” button and Groupon obsession represent short-term ADD marketing. With Groupon, businesses spent money on slashing prices in order to get a one-time boost in traffic, instead of improving food quality or decoration. The “Like” button became the Holy Grail (copyright Monty Python) of marketing with many brands viewing “Likes” as the objective of their campaigns. Many brands and businesses lost focus on the importance of the traditional brand objectives of pleasing and connecting with customers and instead, focused on “Likes” and one time customers. As a result, particularly with business pages on Facebook, you have some top brands with hundreds of thousands to millions of “Likes” with no real customer interaction. It’s reminiscent of the late 90s when people created tons of Geocities websites and the left them for dead after realizing running a website was annoyingly difficult (Here is a Wikipedia Link for those of you who have no clue what Geocities is). A quick scan of Facebook brand pages reveals a ghost town of uninhabited pages. There are too many offending brands to point out, but I will stick with the our initial example of the tv show created by the Chipotle founder that offered BOGO burritos in exchange for “Liking” their page. The show received 294,179 “Likes”, which is pretty darn good (that would be half the population of Wyoming). You would think that having that many people “Liking” your page would be great because once the new restaurant from the show was launched; you’d have a build-in platform on which to market. The actual results perfectly illustrate the problem. Currently 126 people are talking about the show, which by the way, was cancelled after one season. And the actual restaurant resulting from the show opened three restaurants„, two of them are already closed.
The lesson from this obsession with the “Like” button and Groupon is that the Kevin Costner line (from Field of Dreams), “Build it and they will come” only works with fictional movies based in Iowa. Social media offers the ability to engage customers in a way brands have never experienced before. Businesses can ask people what they are thinking in real-time, bounce ideas off them, solve customer service problems instantly, and connect fans across the internet. Right now, businesses are not fully taking advantage of social media and don’t realize how the intelligence of today’s customers can help them. Some brands are waking up and realizing chasing “Likes” and one-time foot traffic isn’t the way to go. They are left wondering, “what’d I do now?”
Fear not, brave businesses! Start by talking with your customers, which humanizes your company, improves customer experience, and will improve sales. As customers we want you to succeed, it improves our experience and makes our lives more enjoyable. We understand that all businesses mess up from time to time and what we focus on is how you deal with those problems. We may even want to defend you, so let us talk with other fans and help each other out (this means less work for you!). As consultant, Dr. Alan Weiss put it, “Ask your customers to be part of the solution, and don’t view them as part of the problem.” We would love to hear from actual businesses who have experienced this problem and from individuals with absurd tales of being told to “Like” some weird product or remote business.
The Talkwheel Guys
You know who the least popular people in the world are (besides people who point out that you shouldn’t end a sentence in a preposition)? Telemarketers. No one likes getting a phone call at dinner from a guy who wonders how you are doing with your insurance. In fact, I’m willing to bet that EVEN telemarketers hate getting those calls. However, I now have sympathy for those people. In the same way that people say that once you work at a restaurant you won’t scream at waiters, I now will scream a bit less at a telemarketer. At Talkwheel we do send a ton of emails (I’ve sent literally a ton, 2000) to people we don’t know. Most of them are executives at top corporations and marketing firms that we are connected through personally, professionally, or through our college. I’d say our response rate is 30% in the first go-round (very good by the way).
People usually aren’t maliciously avoiding our emails, they just are busy running a billion dollar company or answering one of a hundred emails they get that day. So we always email them again and again and again until they respond. We usually wait a week or two in between, but we keep doing it. Don’t get me wrong, when I started, I hated the idea of “bothering” people. But I realized it is like the telemarketer. After you scream at him/her/it (to some of you) on the phone, they will pick up the phone and dial another number until they achieve success. They know that tireless perseverance and most importantly, having no fear of rejection is the only way to success. In fact, people frequently thank us for emailing them again because they meant to get back to us, just got overwhelmed with work. And sometimes people don’t respond no matter how much you email them or even worse will response pissed off. It is times like this that you have to follow the advice of Coach Taylor from tv’s Friday Night Lights and remember that “the best have a very short memory”. Mark Zuckerberg was turned down by every VC in Boston, what if he’d just given up? Let’s hear your stories of fighting against rejection whether it be personally or professionally in the comments.
"Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victor, nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
Patrick and the Talkwheel Guys
It has been a long time since we at Talkwheel blogged. Since then, we have made some great strides in our product (see twitwheel.com, a new and easy way to experience Twitter) and have really grown as a business. However, this post is not about us, but rather one of our investors. In Startup 101, “they” stress the importance of choosing your investors wisely and based on Bob Braudy’s actions, we would put our investors against any other company’s.
Bob is 70 years old and in “retirement” is a member of the Coconino County Search and Rescue (SAR) team near Sedona, AZ. Their job is to rescue climbers who get into trouble by climbing onto the mountain themselves. On Saturday, August 13th, a canyoneer fell 450 feet while rappelling in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, AZ calling Bob into service. The canyoneer ended up 1800 feet below the rim of the canyon with a broken pelvis and serious head injuries in a location that was unreachable by helicopter. The SAR sent their two most experience team members (one a paramedic, the other Bob) to rappel down over 2000 feet to the victim. Bob rappelled 1000 feet, spent the night on a ledge 30 feet wide preparing the rope rescue (think of this next time you complain about a cold night in bed). The helicopter couldn’t go all the way down the canyon, so the SAR group had to bring the guy up about 600 feet in a litter. Then SAR folks were picked up by helicopter so they didn’t have to spend another night on the ledge and several hours hiking out, in lightning and rain (oh yea did we forget to mention the lightning and rain?).
We think of Bob as having just saved a life, while Bob who is an extremely modest man (we didn’t even get this story from him) would say he was just doing his job. Oh and this was Bob’s second rescue that day. He had set an alarm for 4 am for what turned out to be the body recovery of a guy on a “Vision Quest” hike. Search dogs found the body easily. Bob was home by 9 am and was just starting an afternoon nap when the 3 pm call came in for the complicated Sedona search. In case you are keeping score, Bob Braudy, saved a man’s life in a canyon while not having slept for 40 hours at the age of 70. We tip our cap to you Bob and are honored to have you as an investor and adviser to Talkwheel.
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