Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quick Response - or QR-Codes

This says it all. If your smart phone reads QR codes.

Quick Response Codes (QRCs) are like bar codes on steroids. They will grow in their application and usefulness. So get familiar with them.

For a basic understanding, Wikipedia is a good start.

There are free QRC generators, like:

QR-Code Generator: the site the created this image

What's next? 3D hologram QRCs?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is YouGottaCall like AngiesList?

Shawn O'Brien Tweeted: "Is your stuff like angies list? Just saw commercial on TV." Here's a longer answer than I could fit on Twitter:

"Is YouGottaCall similar to Angie's List?"

We are aiming for the same goal – to connect consumers with trustworthy businesses. But our means of achieving this are as opposite as can be. is more similar to other recommendation social networks like GigPark, Yelp and LikeList. But we are designed to benefit charities and have a unique voluntary, intrinsic pay-for-performance model.

Here's how we stack up with AngiesList -

Fees: Angie's List collects fees from consumers. This is their primary revenue source. is free to join and free to use for consumers and businesses.

Trusted relationships: AngiesList features written testimonials about the businesses. But the testimonials are written by strangers. The starting point for YouGottaCall is our members' trusted relationships. Recommendations are filtered by the members' social connections so they personally know the people recommending the business. Because we are integrated with Facebook our members can log-in using their Facebook ID. We plan to expand the integration with Facebook to achieve more referral and search utilization within Facebook.

Effectiveness: AngiesList does not guarantee consumer satisfaction in exchange for their subscription fee. In our model consumers are not charged a fee. Our revenue comes from our business members who select the amount they want to pay. For businesses, this is performance based. They choose to pay their fees for either 'referrals' or for 'new sales'.

Cause related: enables members to select a not-for-profit organization their referrals will benefit. Eighty percent of all fees go to these charities.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Take: Redbeacon’s Plans to Live Up to the Hype

Redbeacon is just a year and a half old, until recently was bootstrapped, and has deployed its local-services marketplace in only one region, but something about what it’s doing clearly makes people think the company’s on to something big. It’s won four separate startup competitions, including TechCrunch 50 and Silicon Alley Insider’s top prizes. People seem to really like the idea of using a website to find and negotiate with local service providers to clean their house or detail their car.

Redbeacon’s most recent valuation was its first outside funding: $7.4 million from Mayfield Fund and Venrock. So we invited co-founder and CEO Ethan Anderson over to our office to hear about what the company is doing to meet these lofty expectations.

Redbeacon is planning to use the funding to expand, said Anderson, by building up new regional markets and also through online distribution, via a publisher widget and formal partnerships with distributors like phone directories. He wants to build Redbeacon as a brand, while borrowing from the traditional classifieds business.

My Take:

RedBeacon seems like a LendingTree for contractors. Kind of Web 1.0 with some pasted-on testimonials. Not all that innovative.

Many players (AT&T -, Reach Local, Localeze, Google, Facebook, LikeList) are converging on the social-local space to leverage word-of-mouth referrals. Who will come up with a successful way to effectively tap the value of these trusted recommendations?

These two elements might be the keys:
1. a unique monetization model. There's so much value in the transaction itself - why not convert that to cash?
2. a unique way to benefit causes. The Web is famous for its ability to marshal the concern and financial support of people for good causes. With a creative model, the social capital of these transactions can benefit charities with a recurring source of donations.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Deriving Value From Social Networks - Open Door vs. Closed Door Approaches

Can Closed-Door Exclusive Social Networks Make Money?

Sean Carton | August 16, 2010

Excerpted from Clickz

Overall, most of us have looked at social media as a marketing tool, a way of driving traffic, building awareness, or building brand loyalty. But what if we looked at it as a way of driving revenue through access?

Social media: we all know that it’s a great marketing tool. Maybe it’s now time to start thinking about how to turn it into a revenue generating tool by making it less accessible to your audiences, not more.

My Take:
Closed door seems uncreative and Web 1.0-ish. Especially considering that marketers have yet to tap the rich potential offered by the Social Web to attach an actual dollar value to a service provided in a social transaction.

This can be done in a very "Webby" way - i.e.
- it can be done as a voluntary payment
- it can be paid after the value of the social transaction has been recognized - so it's not a "pay me now for value you may or may not get down the road" model like traditional advertising
- it can be distributed via the Web (PayPal, etc.)
- it can take brand affiliation to a new level and support affiliation with a cause (e.g. generating donations for charities)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Academic Research: Word-of-Mouth is a Great Investment

According to a new study, "Referral Programs and Customer Value," to be published in the January issue of the American Marketing Association's Journal of Marketing, customer referral programs are indeed a financially attractive way for firms to acquire new customers.

"There's a lot of talk about word-of-mouth-marketing, and about making money out of social connections. Our first objective was to see if customer referral programs can indeed turn social capital into economic capital. Second, we wanted to come up with a methodology to assess the effectiveness of customer referral programs that was easy to implement with data and tools available to many managers."

The study tackled three questions:
•Do referred customers have higher margins than other customers?
•Do referred customers stay longer with the firm than other customers?
•Do referred customers have a higher customer lifetime value, the net present value of all the profits a customer generates over his or her entire association with the firm?

The answers, according to the study, are all positive. Referred customers were about 18 percent more likely to stay with the bank than other customers, and that gap did not fade over time.

The researchers also concluded that the difference in margin combined with the difference in customer retention amounted to a disparity in long-term customer value of 16 percent to 25 percent. "That's not only a sizable chunk of money," Van den Bulte says, "it also amounts to a 60 percent ROI over six years.

My Take:

While this study measures the profitability of word-of-mouth for large banks, the millions of small, locally-owned US businesses undoubtedly enjoy the same benefits. On top of this, most small business owners tell us that up to 80% of their new customers arrive via word-of-mouth.

Social media is poised to help these small business owners to harness word-of-mouth as a measurable and manageable part of their advertising mix. Traditional advertising media (newspaper, Yellow Pages, local broadcast) are in a tight spot. They currently receive most of small business ad budgets, yet only account for 20% of their new sales.

These traditional, local ad media will need to offer more social media functionality to remain competitive.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Our Cool, New UI is Thanks to Their Hard Work

June has been fast paced in the midst of rolling out the new user interface. Feedback has been thrilling - genuine enthusiasm for the design, the graphics and ease of use. Our recent growth says it all!

A lot of effort and sweat by the entire team has gone into it. So here's some deserved thanks. Ben and his development team at ForeSite are creative, thorough - and patient! Our "Super Members" Rich, Michele, Ed, Caitlin and Giulia - social media consultants who help in QA'ing the site, brainstorming and giving honest feedback - have been encouraging and inspiring.

The CT TweetCrawlers (#cttu, #pcct, #pcwm, #swct) - from Hartford & New Haven to Stonington and Stamford - are great to have in your corner. They are trusted local businesses with well-earned reputations. For them, word-of-mouth is not new. But they are using social media to share it in new ways. And they are generous with their ideas and critiques.

With this cool UI we are ready to take it to not-for-profits and businesses to demonstrate the power of word-of-mouth connecting. And that's our goal for the next several months.

We have tons of neat stuff planned - right, Ben? But for now, thanks to all of you, we hope to see lots more "Good referrals. Doing good."

- - Tim

Unlocking the elusive potential of social networks - McKinsey Quarterly - Marketing - Digital Marketing

Unlocking the elusive potential of social networks

As published on the McKinsey Quarterly

Excerpt: "... We think of word of mouth generated on social networks as a distinct form of media... When you think of word of mouth as media, it becomes a form of content, and businesses can apply tried-and-true content-management practices and metrics to it. In addition, word of mouth generated by social networks is a form of marketing that must be earned—unlike traditional advertising, which can be purchased. "

"Obviously, there are no generic solutions, and each company will need to invent and discover what makes sense for its unique situation"

My Take
Accurate metrics are one reason word-of-mouth powered by Web-based social search is vastly superior to other forms of marketing. Other benefits will be improved cash flow,stronger customer relations, and a downward effect on under-performing, legacy advertising media.

While there may be no generic solutions, platforms may be developed that support the common needs of millions of small businesses in the long-tail of the $100B US local advertising market.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

'Lessons from the 'mute' button"

- or -

"The Value in Breaking Your Communication Impulses"

Do you use the mute button on your phone? Have you ever forgotten it's on? I have - and here's what it's taught me.

Over the many times (yep - I learn slowly) I've done this:
  • I've learned that the conversation can actually go on without the idea that I wanted to add at that very moment. And often the conversation is improved by the fact that I did not chime in. It takes unexpected turns and uncovers unanticipated information.

  • I've learned that communication benefits SO much by allowing a couple of seconds of silence. The person with whom I'm speaking has valuable things to add. When they feel free to do this they become more invested in the conversation and in the relationship.

  • Sometimes the silence is awkward. Everyone is naturally compelled to fill the void - which can make what comes out all the more spontaneous and authentic.
In today's world of home offices and virtual work relationships, these lessons are well heeded.

Now, if only I can employ them consciously - not just by accident.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Theory of Social Marketing Relativity

The Energy yielded from your social marketing is a function of three factors. Each of these is critical to your social marketing success. Doing any two well, at the expense of the third, assures sub-optimal results.

These three factors are very simple – and simple to remember, thanks to this play on Einstein's famous formula:
where 'R' is the relevance of your messages; the first 'C' is content, and the second 'C' is consistency.

Relevance – The beginning & end of social media is people – you, your customers, your friends and their friends. All of these are increasingly using social media to connect and to share pertinent information with those they care about. This is where word-of-mouth referrals happen for their trusted service providers – a.k.a. “you”.

If they're recommending you, then guess what - they like you! And they welcome you to connect with them appropriately and genuinely. Thanks to social media you can easily join this conversation.

Some tips on being relevant: be real – let your personality show. Whether this means you're always on topic or else you clown around a bit; whether you're stricly corporate or you let your personal side show – this is up to you. Just be you and they will find it easy to connect with your social media personna.

Content – The gist of your social media messages will be what grabs people. There is no simple formula to follow. Not every post will “wow” people – but your body of posts will establish a reputation for substance and will expand the number of people who listen.

Your content should revolve around your personality and your expertise. Share your insights, advice, tips, ideas and inspirations.

The all-important content rules are
avoid controversial topics (politics, sex and religion). These cause otherwise interested folks to stop paying attention – quickly. Also,
negative or sarcastic comments tend to drive away readers.

Consistency - You might be brilliant and relevant, but if you do not connect consistently you will not establish many new, real relationships via social media that help grow your business. And you'll be frustrated.

In your frustration you will lose precious time as your competitors build their profitable social media networks.

So, to save time and aggravation it is strongly recommended that you do not begin social marketing unless you commit to a consistent effort. Seriously – I am not kidding.

Still reading? Good! If you still want to 'give it a go', there are some guidelines to follow:
  • regular time daily
  • check for messages directed to you. If they are not “automated” messages, then they are probably from people who are interested in you or your company. Reply to these.
  • Give 'props' – quote friends and associates on Facebook; Re-Tweet on Twitter. This tells them you appreciate their thoughts. It also helps theie message get seen by more of your friends. And it encourages them to return the favor to you.
  • Save time - “re-purpose”. If you have an interesting story or news item on your Web site, blog or Facebook page, then pass it along. Others will probably enjoy it – and you get extra mileage from the effort you spent.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Local Search Frustration? Here's Why

Local Search Complexity = SMB Frustration

At our recent Local University in Spokane, Mike Blumenthalexplained to small business owners how Google and Bing assemble a Local listing. Mike explained that the major search engines pull in a number of disparate pieces of information (street address, phone number, hours of operation, etc.) about a business from just about any source they can crawl – obviously weighted more heavily towards sources they trust, including their own Local databases.

He further blew our minds with the notion that this two dimensional chart of location information not only expanded infinitely in two dimensions to cover additional local information sources, but also extended into three dimensions, with time as the additional variable. Suggesting, in other words, that recent changes to listing information that aren’t corroborated by other sources may be overwhelmed by the weight of a particular listing’s history!

This lack of transparency and understanding of how listing “clusters” are formed understandably leads to frustration on the part of the business owner, particularly when his experience to date has simply been to tell the Yellow Pages rep how he’d like his information represented year after year.

The bottom line: if you don’t claim and verify each and every listing on each and every search engine and data provider, Google and the other search engines are forced to make a “best guess,” by clustering information that seems to match up, and they don’t always guess right.

My Take

The daunting and inefficient choices for local advertising are temporary - a left-over effect of the mad rush by businesses to get found on the Web.

As Web advertising options begin to take shape, social media is achieving dominance in both traffic and advertising effectiveness. HubSpot's Mark Roberge demonstrated this in his keynote at yesterday's Hartford Business Journal eTechnology Summit. By a show of hands, he illustrated the staggering contrast between purchase decisions influenced by traditional ads vs. social/web research & recommendations.

The "Social Web" provides major advantages over the "Search Web" - higher quality interactions; less "noise"; lower cost' higher yield. Consumers and advertisers who 'get social' will realize these benefits.

The only losers will be the firms who thought short-term and provided unimaginative quick-fixes as well as old media firms that failed to adapt.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

After the Hype - Does Trust Remain?

Heavy participation in social networks ignited enormous hype around the newfound economic value of relationships. Recognizing the advertising opportunity, companies attempted all manner of ways to pose as our trusted friends in order to sell products using the new venue of social media.

While the advertising industry itself, followed by the justice system, clamped down on the glaringly unethical and deceptive practices, many more clever and subtle social techniques are still employed.

There's nary a Facebook app that is not the social Web's version of Hollywood product placement. Not that this is necessarily bad. Like any other advertising, it will continue to be as long as there is a market for it - even though consumers gradually tune it out.

Which brings us to the real question. Is trust in relationships gone? Based on the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer you might conclude "yes".

According to the survey, trust in information from friends and peers, “people like me,” dropped by 20 points, from 47 to 27 percent. That is a 42% drop in just two years.

To get to the bottom of it, let me ask - do you trust your friends and family 42% less? Do you trust 42% fewer of the people you trusted in 2008? If you answered "yes", then please call a psychologist now. It's crazy to accept this statistic as a measurement of trust among "real, trusted relationships".

The Edelman study merely points out that the rush of ad dollars and marketing resources into social media produced a fad - and fads don't last. It'd be wonderful to trust every person who recommended a surefire-make-money-now-from-home-scheme on Twitter; or to believe that every 20 year old named Bambi really wants to be your Facebook friend; or every headhunter with 20,000 LinkedIn connections just found a great career opportunity for you.

To see the ridiculousness of this statistic, you merely need to see if the converse is true. Ask local businesses, many of whom get 80+% of their new customers from referrals, if they are now getting close to half of that.

Bottom line - social media is another media. It can never fabricate trust. And it will never create friends - even though, when used well, it can help you build relationships.

And relationships is where the trust is - and will stay.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Curves Like This You Don't See Every Day

Excerpted from eMarketer Digital Intelligence 1/8/2010

Marketing, Not Ads, Fuels Social Spending Growth

Focus on word-of-mouth and earned media

Going social is no longer an experiment for marketers; it is a reality.

Marketers spent $800 million in 2009 on social network, word-of-mouth and conversational marketing, up more than 23% over the previous year. Further growth of 35% is expected for 2010 to more than $1 billion.

US Online Social Network, Word-of-Mouth and Conversational Marketing Spending, 2007-2012 (millions and % change)

“In 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of marketers’ expenses will go toward creating and maintaining a fan page, managing promotions or public relations outreach within a social network, and measuring the impact of a social network presence on brand health and sales,” wrote eMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson in the report, “Social Network Ad Spending: 2010 Outlook.” “Paid advertising will serve to drive traffic and engagement with the larger social network presence.”

My Take

Good old fashioned WOM and social media - two great phenomenons that go great together.

Marketers are planning to spend more and more on getting word-of-mouth to happen. Let's flip the problem around. How about creating a Web infrastructure that facilitates the WOM that's already occurring naturally and normally?

Seems like the simplest solution.