Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software

Big Changes to 5 Important Online Tools

Some of my favorite tools and services have gone through some pretty big changes recently – enough so that felt it warranted a post just to point the changes out.

The first three, Gmail, Evernote and TweetDeck, are tools I use every day to run my business. The last two, Yelp and Foursquare, are familiar rating and location tools that have morphed a bit to go after the lucrative local search market and deserve a good hard look from local small businesses.

1) User interface changes for Gmail – This is a pretty big change as far as I’m concerned and addresses a number of needed enhancements for handling mail. You can switch back and forth from the new view to the old by clicking on the new view link in the compose window.

  • Composing Messages: One thing you may notice about the new interface is the way you compose a new message. It looks similar to a Gmail chat window but a little bigger. This makes things simpler by allowing you to check old emails and saved drafts because you don’t have to leave the current page you are on to write a new email.
  • Profile Pictures: It is now much easier to keep up with who is saying what within your email threads. Your contact profile pictures now show up within a conversation.
  • Themes: New HD themes are now provided by iStockphoto. Simply choose the theme that suits you in preferences.
  • Labels and Chat: These are constantly shown in the navigation panel on the left side. You can now customize that by size as well as completely hide your chat area.
  • Search Box: Gmail’s new interface has incorporated a better search function allowing a drop-down advanced search box, which makes things much easier to locate.
  • More here

2) Evernote 5 brings new look – probably the biggest news here is the totally overhauled and more visually appealing look of Evernote.

  • Sidebar: The new Evernote 5 has implemented a left hand sidebar. With this sidebar comes a section for shortcuts that enable you to use a customized variety of notes, previous searches, tags and notebooks. Along with this you have the ability to view your tags, notebooks and latest notes.
  • Notebooks: With the new changes you can now integrate your notebooks with shared notebooks that other people have allowed you to access.
  • Note Editor: You will be able to see how many people have access to the same note you are viewing. You will see that at the very top of the note. There is also a function to shared notes updates, as they are integrated with Mountain Lion’s Notification Center. This is helpful so it won’t overwhelm you as they come in.
  • Atlas Function: Simple way to view and access your notes is using this function. It allows people to search for entries geographically.
  • Card View: This will show you text notes and images in a thumbnail preview.
  • Type-Ahead: This is a search field that finishes your inquiry with ideas from previous entries, to include saved searches, keywords, and related notebooks. You are also able to improve your searches in more detail with advanced options.
  • More here

TweetDeck

3) Tweetdeck get a long overdo facelift – Now that Twitter owns TweetDeck it has finally ushered in some enhancements.

  • Twitter Cards: You can now embed a photo or other media into a tweet with the 2.1.0 version. This makes your twitter stream appealing and attractive.
  • Font: From your settings pane, you can now change your font size. There are only three options: 13 pt.-Small, 14 pt.-Medium or 15 pt.-Large.
  • Color Scheme: You now have a choice to change your colors to the white background which has dark gray text. The links, URLs, hash tags and twitter addresses are blue, making them much easier to see.
  • Columns: You are able to add a new column and check your twitter lists from the Tweetdeck toolbar. You can decide what you would like to incorporate into your columns, like a specific tweet stream from a particular group or person, or from one of your lists, or from a search. When adding a new column Tweetdeck will come up with suggestions for that particular subject, interactions, mentions and timeline.
  • Shortcuts: The toolbar has many shortcuts to make things easier and simpler. For example, it has buttons that control the columns that will enable you to move through it seamlessly. You can also conduct a Twitter search and start a new tweet. When creating a new tweet you can add pictures and schedule that tweet for when you would like for it to go out or you can email that specific tweet. If you press ‘N’ on your keyboard you can instantly create a tweet. To send it, simply press “command” and “return” at the same time.
  • More here

4) Foursquare Business Pages

The new business pages feature allows business owners to provide status updates, post deals, special promotions, photos, message and tips to the activity feeds of loyal or repeat customers who may be in the same vicinity. It automatically updates for those customers who are where the business is located.

Additionally, when a customer searches for places in the Foursquare app or through the web, these important updates will show up in search results.

The merchant dashboard has been redesigned to where merchants can manage updates more efficiently. This also allows SEO services, social media marketers and business owners to see data on businesses with numerous locations with improved analytics.

More here

yelp

5) Yelp keeps enhancing its Local Directory

In 2012 Yelp and Bing partnered to bring Yelp’s local business content to the local search pages of Bing. With this partnership, Yelp is able to bring its photos, business qualities and reviews to Bing’s search engine with hopes of strengthening Microsoft’s attempts to be competitive with Google+ Local.

Yelp listings are used in Apple’s Siri iPhone assistant, Yext listings and in the navigation systems in BMW, Mercedes and Lexus.

Local small businesses have plenty of reasons to get more active with Yelp and other location based tools. Facebook recently revamped it’s “nearby” feature that allows people to discover businesses based on location.

More here

One thing is certain – we live in a rapidly changing world of business and technology that calls for staying on top of a never-ending stream of new and emerging tools. But, hey, that’s what I’m here for!

Hey Brother Can You Spare a Tweet

There are a handful of proven referral partnership approaches that I’ve advised most every small business to consider.

One is to establish a formal partnership with a not for profit whose mission you can get passionate about supporting.

Approach the development director or a board member and tell them up front that you want to explore all of the ways to partner. Many non-profits will take and need your financial donation, but I find that they are always looking for much deeper relationships with businesses.

Build supporting this organization’s mission through financial support, event support, in kind support, volunteer support and even committee or staff support into the partnering idea. Supporting a community cause can be very good for your business and good for your business culture when done for the right reasons and allowed to grow.

To maximize the relationship I further suggest that you use your marketing muscle to provide your chosen not for profit with a win that also allows you to showcase your relationship.

This, I’ll admit, is a tricky point and let me put forth this disclaimer: I’m not suggesting by any stretch that you flaunt your good deeds publicly for gain, but people want to support companies that they see are doing good things in the community, people are proud to work for a company that they feel cares about the community and your marketing support can provide significant opportunities for exposure and fundraising for your chosen partner.

A large regional bank in my community (UMB Bank) has started a pretty innovative support campaign in this vein that involves Twitter and Foursquare. Banks are highly regulated so they often have to great pretty creative if they are to use social media in any meaningful way.

One of the ways that UMB raises funds for its chosen charities is to donate when people use the #umbgives hashtag or check in at a branch on Foursquare. Throughout the year they rotate in a new charity and all tweets of any kind that include the hashtag and checkins accumulate money for the organization.

This to me is a great way to create a win for the organizations while demonstrating community involvement. The not for profits have a very easy way to get their staff, volunteers, donors, and other constituents involved and the bank receives some glow from all that sharing and tweeting. In addition, bank employees now have a very simple way to participate and support the charity while supporting their own organization through social media. I like the month to month approach as well because it creates some urgency for the organization.

Another great approach is to simply hold a special event, sale or new product launch and designate a portion of the proceeds for that campaign to your organization. This allows and motivates your charitable partner to help spread the work and it’s another win for all involved.

Done creatively and in support of a mission your entire organization can get behind, this approach offers some wonderful opportunities for both brands and not for profits.

Foursquare Turns Into Powerful Local Search Engine

Between you and me I had become a little bored with Foursquare. I think it has application for many small businesses and certainly know some businesses that use it quite well.

As a consumer user however, it never really offered up enough value.

I think that’s changed with the introduction of what Foursquare is calling the Explore function.

Explore has been on the mobile app for some time, but now it’s been added to the newly designed Foursquare website and it gives Foursquare a unique opportunity to compete with Yelp and Google Maps.

explore foursquare

The way Explore works is that it allows you to search for businesses that your friends and the other hundreds of millions of Foursquare users have found and commented on.

You can use your current location or put in the location of your next vacation to start finding a place to eat lunch today or get a drink near your hotel.

When you find a place it will tell you if any of your friends have checked in there in the past.

Find by tips

One of my favorite features (and one that should get the attention of business owners) is that Foursquare also searches through the tips notes that users leave. So, if you want to find the “best biscuits and gravy” at a great breakfast place you simply add that to your search and Foursquare will go to work.

Filter by your history

You can also filter your searches to places you’ve been, have not been, your friends have been, or Foursquare recommended places. (Not sure what the criteria for that last one is, but should probably find out.)

My favorite though is that you can filter your searches to only places with specials. This effectively gives the user a great special finding engine and the business a great additional reason to run specials.

Claim and participate

duct tape marketing on Foursquare

To me that adds another great reason to add your business to Foursquare and start enhancing your business presence there. If your business is already in Foursquare, find it and claim the profile so you can information to it.

If it’s not yet listed download the Foursquare app and check in at your business and make sure you add accurate address information. Then you can go to the Foursquare website and claim your venue.

Will Credit Card Companies Cash in on Couponless Geo-Location Targeting

I checked into my office on Foursquare the other day and I got a message showing there was a special offer. I thought, that’s odd, I didn’t create a special offer.

When I clicked on the offer is was a special from American Express telling me that if I used my American Express card to buy $10 worth of something I would get a matching $10 credit from American Express.

At first I was confused, but then I saw that a number of restaurants listed around my business also had the same offer. Apparently American Express had struck up a deal with Foursquare (and as it turns out any number geo-locations services) to offer specials directly through Foursquare at locations that accepted American Express (data that American Express would obviously have)

This program has been developing since a June roll out, but it appears Amex has really ramped it up to every imaginable category of business.

As I thought about this a number of things came to mind, but the most important one was that a credit card company had essentially taken over a geo-location service.

Now, I’m not suggesting that’s a bad thing. (For the record, American Express is a client and I happen to think very highly of the folks at the OPEN business unit.)

I am suggesting, it’s an interesting turn of events and here’s why:

  • Merchants benefit without having to do anything, but of course, accept the Amex card.
  • Shoppers benefit without having to do much more than check in and  sync their card
  • Foursquare benefits because all of a sudden it’s worth $10 to check in at a lot of places

The full benefit to Amex is evident only to those that know the numbers, but my guess is that this is a cheaper and way more directly targeted way to get to a user than paying for TV. Plus, when someone checks is on Foursquare when out with a bunch of friends and announces they just got $10 off, I’m guessing some non Amex toting friends take note. This play also positions Amex squarely at the front of the hip line and will likely help remove some of the stodginess that they’ve been shedding for a few years now.

This combination of location, mobile, commerce and local business to reach the end user is quite possibly the digital media story of the year.

Getting Creative with Foursquare for Small Business

Marketing podcast with Carmine Gallo (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Foursquare boasts over 10 million users and some 400,000 businesses, and even though it’s not this week’s hot topic anymore, it’s ripe to add to your marketing mix.

foursquareMy guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Carmine Gallo, journalist, communications coach, speaker and author of The Power of foursquare: 7 Innovative Ways to Get Your Customers to Check In Wherever They Are

We discussed the various ways that small businesses can move into the location based marketing game and take advantage of the fact that most of their customers are using mobile devices to locate the places where they shop.

I’m going to skip the introduction and focus mostly on how to use it as a customer magnet. If you don’t really know much about Foursquare yet go here first: Foursquare 101.

Since a lot of folks are using Foursquare, it’s time to break out some creativity and move past the “me too” users that are simply copying what they see other people doing.

It’s okay to play the checkin smorgasbord game. You should consider a special deal for different kinds of checkins, such as a generic checkin and get something special, a special for the first time someone checks in and, of course, treat your mayor to something really special.

If you really want to make Foursquare pay, consider adding one or more of the advanced and slightly more creative offers listed below.

1. Target the hot spots

If there are businesses near you that get lots of checkins—hotels, conference centers, sporting arenas—consider adding tips to these venues that point people to your business or special. Foursquare has a feature that will point to nearby specials, but why not write a great tip (be outrageous to get some attention) and attract even more of those large numbers of people checking in?

2. Make referrals

You can take this last point up a notch by collaborating with strategic partners to make referrals all over town at a multitude of locations. This can take a little time, but if you place checkin tips referring your team of business partners to dozens of sites—and your partners do the same—you’ll gain lots of exposure. Make sure you’re not placing tips on competitors’ sites, as that will likely backfire.

3. Flash specials

Foursquare recently add a few new kinds of specials that offer much potential. A flash special is something you can offer to a certain number of people that act fast—this is a great way to create buzz and get people promoting for you. Let’s say someone checks in and learns that the first 50 people that check in that day get a cool offer…this kind of special really gets people reacting and sharing.

4. Friend specials

Another new special type is the friend special that allows someone to check in and get a great deal only if, say, they get three friends to check in as well. This one is nice because you can limit it and offer something really great for someone that goes to the effort of getting his or her friends into your store. The game and sharing aspect of this one offers lots of fun potential.

5. Create a swarm

In Foursquare terms a swarm is when a lot people check in at one place. This is a great one for events and could even make a neat little fundraiser kind of thing for an organization. Imagine hosting a PTA or club and offering them a special donation for everyone that visits your business and checks in on Foursquare creating a custom swarm of whatever you determine.

One of the things that Foursquare offers small businesses is the technology to track customer behavior. Use your creativity and you may find even more ways to tap this tool to grow your business and community.

You can find out more about various forms of special at the Foursquare for Business support forums.

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or

5 Ways For Small Businesses To Get In The Location Game

foursquareLocation based check-in type services are this year’s overhyped topic – with good reason. While you may not understand why someone wants to be the mayor of their barber shop, you do need to recognize the behavior that social location services such as Gowalla, Foursquare, Yelp! and Facebook Places represents for the local business.

Shoppers these days are using the Internet to find everything locally and increasingly using mobile devices, services and apps to effectively bypass even the web to find a merchant. What that means is that local small businesses need to find ways to tap into the behavior and not necessarily try to ride the hype wave to Foursquare fame.

Below are five ways the local small businesses can capture their own personalized version of social location behavior and tap what may be the ultimate online to offline combo to produce sales.

Create virtual rewards programs – Rewards programs such as those offered by most coffee shop via punch cards or large retailers like Eddy Bauer have been around for years, but smart offerings by folks like PlacePop are making the punch card concept an easy virtual or online play. Merchants can offer their own version of a check in and capture rich data on their most loyal customers.

Ride the group buying craze – If you’re not familiar with group coupon buying services like Groupon, then you’re probably not reading this blog. Facebook app maker WildFire offers small businesses the ability to create their own group buying offers and take advantage of the viral and social nature of this play to create local Facebook engagement.

Google Places coupons – When local shoppers do turn to a search engine for local shopping they often uncover your Google Places Page (or at least you should be working to make sure they do) Google has a handy coupon tool that automatically creates mobile versions of your coupons and offer. Here’s more information on Google Places Mobile Coupons

Advertise on mobile coupon networks – You can also place your ads on Mobile coupon networks and get distribution of your coupons across many local sites.

Make your own game – The game playing aspect of many of social location biggies is an aspect that should not be overlooked when trying to develop your own strategy. The web app SCVNGR is a tool that allows you to create your own game and have it related to verified checkins for a specific QR code. This would be pretty cool for a merchant association to use to create their scavenger hunt check in game.

And, of course, make sure your business is listed with the major players – Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places

Will Location Checkins Change Social Networking?

This post isn’t so much a declaration as an observation.

With the success of location aware tools like Foursquare and Gowalla and the looming rush to grab this space by Twitter and Facebook, I wonder if there’s an evolution in the works.

twitter places

Here’s my observation. It’s easy to friend and follow perfect strangers on social networks. Some of these even develop into business contacts, partners and customers, but most go nowhere and some may even turn into minor annoyances. But, when Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and every minor player start baking location check-ins into the mix, will you be choosier about friending and following and giving your exact specific location to thousands of unknown folks?

My guess is that these services will need to develop layers of settings, but that’s yet to be seen. I know I think twice about accepting follow requests on Foursquare. Again, I’m as social as the next person, but not ready to let folks I don’t know have access to the hotel I’m staying at this week. It will be interesting to see how this space develops. Mature players like Twitter might actually have trouble adding this feature unless it’s selective.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Take a Look at Foursquare

In an end of the year prediction post I wrote for OPEN Forum, I listed location aware social media tools as something that would get big time attention in 2010. (See: 5 Trends that Will Shape Small Business in 2010)

foursquare for businessThe idea behind location awareness is that people will use the GPS capabilities in today’s mobile devices to check-in, tweet, review, and refer and add their location while doing so. Today I would like to talk about what I think is one of the first location aware services that is already beginning to impact small business.

The service is called Foursquare and while it’s receiving lots of hype from the bleeding edge social media types as the next Twitter, it may be totally foreign, or at least nonsensical, to many small business owners. While I want to use this post to introduce you to Foursquare, keep in mind that my primary point of view is that of the small business marketer and what I believe Foursquare has to offer, and not really the Foursquare user per se.

Having said that I do first feel the need to give you an overview of Foursquare.

The big picture

Foursquare is a location enabled service that allows users to “check in” when then stop at a bar, restaurant, park, bookstore or really anywhere they want to list. The service further allows users to connect with friends and alert them of your location if you choose. There are other services that have tackled this basic function, such as Loopt, Brightkite, Gowalla, and even Google Latitude, but Foursquare also turned this activity into a game: a point that I believe led to its current role as a leader in this evolving space. (I’m also keeping an eye on Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s location play in private beta called Square)

Foursquare is self-described as – “Think: 50% friend-finder, 30% social cityguide, 20% nightlife game.”

Users compete with check-ins to earn points for their city, badges for various types of activity and to become mayor of frequented spots. Just like Twitter back in early 2007 none of this makes much sense until you play with it a while and until you have some folks to follow and connect with. (In fact, it doesn’t really make that much sense then, but there’s something sort of addictive about it.)

Users also add and update information about businesses, write tips and make suggestions for anyone to consume. This rating and reviewing function treads on the turf of services such as Yelp! and acts as another data point for people trying to locate a good pizza on the Upper East Side for example.

Foursquare is set-up around cities and enhances the kind of neighborhood, hyper-local, branding and community building that is so important to local type small businesses. The service is currently available in a growing list of cities and is driven by iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps. Check out the Foursquare help page for some more detail.

OK and now on the real reason I’m writing today. I’m not ready to suggest that every business rush to Foursquare as the next red hot thing, not yet anyway, but I do want to point our a handful of reasons that many small business should start paying attention to this growing force, even if you don’t get it.

Below are seven reasons why I think Foursquare may hold promise for small business

1) Hyper local, tech savvy, evangelists – Foursquare user are people that really love their neighborhoods, getting out and evangelizing the businesses they love. This tech savvy, early adopter is exactly the kind of consumer business should kill for as they often influence large circles. Embracing Foursquare and giving these tech leaders the tools to promote your business is just plain smart business.

2) Online offline – I’ve been writing a lot about this lately, but Foursquare is yet another way for local business to use the efficient online tools to drive more in-person, offline activity. People are physically checking in to your business and talking about online in what can turn into a tremendously effective one-two punch.

3) Make offers – On a recent trip to Chicago I checked into my Marriott on Foursquare and immediately received notice that three nearby businesses had a special offer for me. Currently Foursquare allows just about any business to use their platform to offer deals and promotions to users. You can visit the Foursquare business page to get your business signed up. It’s free for now, but I’m guessing this is big revenue piece for them in the future.

4) Track and reward – Foursquare’s gaming functionality allows businesses to create special promotions for mayors and badge earners and in effect setting up a competition among their most loyal fans. The image below comes from a special promotion hosted by blynk organic, a restaurant in North Carolina. By creating and communicating Foursquare’s tools and platform you can begin to educate customers and create Foursquare advocates for your business. Some bars and restaurants routinely promote free offers for mayors.

5) The power of making it a game – One of the most intriguing aspects of Foursquare is the game. It’s amazing what some folks will do in order to win a game, come in first or, in this case, be the mayor of a popular spot. Gaming and entertainment are huge money winners (video games rival the movie industry in sales) and any small business that can find ways to add gaming elements tied to patronizing a business may just find a real competitive edge.

6) Automated CRM data – So many small businesses have little of no way to track customer behavior. A coffee shop may have a patron that comes in daily for years, but they have no way to track anything other than a face and friendly smile. Every business should find ways to capture everything they can about a customer. Obviously email is a great tool and can be very effective for follow up marketing. Foursquare usage however goes far beyond that. Foursquare can provide business owners with check-in stats for users. What this means is that the customer that comes in every day can now be tracked and even incentivized to get a free cup of coffee for every tenth check-in. It’s like the digital/social version of the loyalty card. Please tell me you see this as huge potential.

7) Sync with Twitter and Facebook - Like all good social media platforms Foursquare understood the need to integrate with platforms that others already use. Foursquare users have the option to tweet or add a Facebook status update every time they check-in. What this means is that a Facebook user with a few hundred friends might expose your business by way of a Foursquare check-in to thousands of Facebook walls. While many of those folks on Twitter or Facebook may not be in your part of town, I’m thinking it’s still a pretty good thing for the brand.

While I’ll caution again that Foursquare might not be the highest priority for many businesses, it’s something that is coming and will be put to use by businesses outside of the retail and entertainment world (I can already imaging how real estate agents could use this.) Businesses that get how to use, stimulate adoption and promote Foursquare now could hold a significant advantage when and if Foursquare becomes the next Twitter.

Sidebar: Look for Facebook or Google to acquire Foursquare before the year is over.

Image credit: Joshua Kaufman