Infer Inc. takes the year’s second quarter by storm as they have recently acquired an impressive total of $10 million worth in Series A funding. This particular round was led by Redpoint Ventures. In participation as well were angel investors, Social+Capital Partnership, and Andreessen Horowitz. Sutter Hill Ventures also made an investment.
Foursquare. Groupon Now. Restaurant.com. Yelp. Facebook Deals.
Chances are, you’ve heard of one or more of these geolocation social tools. The premise behind them collectively is that people can search for businesses near their location, as well as check in to these locations for special deals only offered through these apps. If you’re not yet using any of these tools to market your business, you’re missing out on some serious opportunity.
Preventing “Empty Seats” Syndrome
If you run a restaurant, you likely have all the business you can handle on the weekends. But what about Tuesday night? It’s probably pretty slow. But by connecting with customers through a location-based service, you can effectively drive traffic to your location during these slow periods. How? Simple. Offer a limited time deal that customers can’t resist for the period you want to bring in more traffic. Maybe it’s 25% off your bill between 3 and 5 pm on Tuesday. Whatever the offer, anyone searching the app during this time can cash in on the opportunity simply by showing you the deal on her phone. You input the code through your merchant account with the platform so that you get paid.
With Facebook’s IPO just having been launched last week, people all over the country (and even world) are looking to see what the results will be. While it still remains to be seen whether Facebook stockholders will become millionaires, there are some underlying lessons we business owners can take from Facebook going public. And hey, if they worked for Mark Zuckerberg et al, they can certainly work for you!
1. Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
Blockbuster stopped innovating once it got the movie rental concept down pat. We know how that story ends. But Facebook, despite its continuing growth, refuses to stop. The company continues to tweak its platform (often to the chagrin of users), acquire other companies and find new ways to be meaningful to its audience.
No matter how successful your brand becomes, there’s always room for improvement. Never stop innovating, and never stop looking over your shoulder to see who’s catching up to you.
If you’re wondering what all the buzz is Pinterest, the newest social media platform that shares visual images, it may be worth checking out, depending on what type of business you have. Essentially, users share appealing images by “pinning” them to their profiles. Their followers can see these images and repin them if they’d like. You’ll find everything from clothing to food on Pinterest. But why would a business care?
Pinterest has 1.36 million users a day. The average time spent on the site is 15.8 minutes. That’s huge, in an era where it’s hard to get consumers’ attention for more than a few seconds online. Brands like ModCloth, Whole Foods and West Elm are already having great success in using the platform to drive traffic to their websites. How? By sharing images that link back to their sites. Here’s an example:
ModCloth uses its profile to share clothing that it sells on its site, including a link to the original item. Others who are fans of ModCloth can also pin the item, helping it spread like wildfire. But ModCloth (and Pinterest in general) is not all about self-promotion. The clothing company also pins clothing from other sites, as well as informative photos on hairstyles and manicures. Essentially, the company uses Pinterest to provide visual images that appeal to its customers.
Last week I was at the Google Partner Summit in NYC. Lead411 was recently invited to the Premium Publishers Group so I was very excited to go. By far the most interesting presentation/session was about Google+ and more specifically about its engagement. It was done by Ryan Stonehouse of Google. Before I start this, I just want to say that I am a Google+ lover not hater so I feel this is coming from solid objectivity.
Fuzzy Engagement Stats Again
One of Ryan’s slides included “Google+ has over 90M users” and “60% of them login daily” – This confused the hell out of me as I remember reading Matt McGee’s post about how the 90M users were actually just using any of Google’s products in some capacity… not using G+ or logging in. I had to know the truth so I asked him during the session, “So are you saying that 60% of Google+ users log in to the Google+ site each day?” – He said “No.” Google+ users are not actually going to their stream or logging into Google+, but they just engage with Google+ in some way each day. That could mean clicking on a +1 button or clicking on an ad with a +1 button, etc.
At one point in the session Ryan asked the crowd if they used Google+. Out of the 200 people at the event, 3 to 6 people raised their hands including myself. WOW! Judging from the sites(all fairly well known names) I saw at the Summit, I would say that 70% of these publishers get most of their traffic from Google. I was very surprised at this, so at lunch I asked about 10 different fellow attendees about their G+ usage. All said they had an account, but never use it.
First of all, to me, this proves that Google+ stream engagement for most people is extremely low. I love Google+ and I go there more than I go to Twitter/Facebook/etc, but let’s be honest. All of these publishers know that Google+ posts are affecting the SERPs yet they still do not use it. If these web marketers aren’t using it then what is the layman doing?
Second, what are these publishers thinking? Yes, they appear to be fools. Not only will this effect your rankings later, but Google+ is extremely helpful in learning more about seo and inbound marketing. But I guess I can’t be surprised considering Bruce Clay, one of the most reknowned SEOs hasn’t posted on G+ in 8 months.
Anyway, for more G+ optimization I suggest this guide by AJ Kohn.
Everyone else likes to wax on about what we might expect in 2012, so I thought I’d throw my hat in and give you my two cents about what I think we’ll see in 2012.
1. Businesses will continue to ignore the economy. If you haven’t noticed, we stopped whining about the down economy about a year ago, yet conditions haven’t really improved. That shows that the startups and entrepreneurs who have survived the recession are finding ways to trudge on, despite financial conditions. In 2012, I think we’ll see more of that. More businesses reporting profit, more startups launching.
2. Freemium products will grow. A few years ago, no one had heard of MailChimp. Now the email marketing provider is seeing 2,000 or more signups for its free accounts, and has increased paying customers by 150%. Clearly the freemium model works. Small businesses are abandoning companies that charge in favor of free services that offer more. (see my post about why I switched from Constant Contact to MailChimp for that very reason)
Just what we need, right? Another social network to post updates to. While Google doesn’t have a great history in the social media world (Wave and Buzz both failed), people are starting to pay attention to Google +. On the surface, the new social networking site is similar to Facebook. You can post updates and connect with other people, and very recently, Google opened the doors to Business Pages. But after that, the two aren’t much alike at all (at least today).
With Google +, you can put people in Circles. So if you have a Circle for Friends, Co-Workers and Social Media Types, you can organize your contacts into these groups, and you can send messages targeted at each. Your mom probably won’t care about that social media blog post you want to share, so you can easily select the groups that do care and share the link with only them. Facebook has a similar option with Lists, but few people actually use it.
Another difference is that you can participate in Hangouts, which are video chats with up to 10 participants. I haven’t tried this (don’t really want to), but it could be interesting as a way to connect with virtual employees.
Do you leave your phone by your bed to check tweets late at night? Do you update your Facebook status while on a date? Do you surf Google + while watching TV? Does your spouse have to tweet you to get your attention? If you answered yes to these questions, I’m sorry to inform you, but you are a social media addict. Fortunately, there is treatment, if you are willing to work at it. (If you’re still not sure, take this quiz to find out:)
This quiz was provided by – BlueGlass – Media Experts
Step 1: Limit Your Time Online
Like with any addiction, if you remove the temptation, it’s easier to live without your social networks. In response to this exact problem, there are now tools that block you from using the internet or specified sites. Freedom will lock you out of the internet for the time you specify, so you can get work done offline. LeechBlock, an add-on for Mozilla lets you block the sites that are taking away all your time, like Facebook or Twitter.
Step 2: Remove Social Media Apps from Your Phone
Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a similar app for the phone, so staying away from social media through your mobile is a bit harder. You can uninstall it completely, or try to use some restraint and just use it during certain hours.
If you’ve noticed these funny, fuzzy little squares popping up on everything from magazines to business cards, it’s for good reason. They’re called Quick Response, or QR Codes. You can scan them from your mobile device, using a special app. What are they good for? The sky is virtually the limit. They’re a great, innovative marketing tool for small businesses.
Essentially, people scan the code to get more information. That might be a website, entry into a contest or additional information about a product. Here are a few of the ways people are using QR codes to promote their companies.
1. Business Cards
If you attend networking events or trade shows with a tech savvy set, you just might see a QR code on a business card. Since we all basically throw business cards away or store them in a big box, never to be opened, having a QR code lets you scan it to get your new contact’s details, which you can then save to your phone or contact management system. Easy.
If you’re an author, consider using QR codes on the back of the book to give people a taste of what they’ll find in the book. A sample chapter, information about the authors or a chance to win a copy of the book are all enticements worthy of your book’s cover.
Think offering coupons loses your business money? Think again. According to eMarketer, 49% of adult internet users are using online coupons, and moms are twice as likely as women without children to search 10 or more coupons sources each week. And while you may lose a bit of money to get people in the door, there are other benefits you realize from using coupons.
Your Social Media Presence Gets a Boost
Even if you’re not big on Twitter, purchasers of your daily deals or online coupons are. Sites like Groupon and Jasmere make it simple for people who buy daily deals to instantly share them with their social networks. If others buy the deal, the original shopper gets bucks to spend on another deal. Quite an enticement for the budget-conscious shopper.