Considerate or Creepy?

FoursquareThat’s the question I posed to my Facebook friends earlier this year when I was wrapping up a consulting project.  I wanted to give the person who referred me to an opportunity, a small token of my appreciation.  At the time, Foursquare had not yet split its check-in activity into a separate app called Swarm.  Since I was connected to this individual on Foursquare (and she checked in on Foursquare frequently), I was familiar with the restaurant and entertainment venues she likes.

At first I was a little concerned that using this information could be construed as creepy.  But, she was posting to Foursquare and syncing her check-ins to Facebook (where we’re also connected).  Rather than guessing at where she might like a gift certificate to, I could give her a gift I knew she’d enjoy, by using her social media activity she’s chosen to share publicly.

But before I purchased my gift, I posted my question to my Facebook friends.  In an unscientific poll, it was a near unanimous opinion that using the shared social check-in information was considerate.

This is just one example of how social check-ins can be valuable.  Businesses can learn about customers who frequent their location.  Customers can often receive incentives for checking in (free items, discounts, Wi-Fi access).  It can also be used as a search engine tool to discover new businesses in an area or see what’s trending in your area.

Social check-ins can also be used in the job search process.  Job seekers may be able to learn information about the hiring manager (and visa-versa).  But, be careful with the information you choose to publicly share and the check-in knowledge you choose to use.  Not everyone will view the “considerate vs. creepy” question the same way!

What are your thoughts on social check-ins?  Do you participate?  Do you find value in them?

Advertisements

Mixing Work With Work

Harvey Research, Harvey Research Inc., Magazine Research, Advertising Research, Editorial Research, Print Advertising Research, Publication Research, Advertising Effectiveness, Tablet Magazine Research, Publisher Research, Ad Effectiveness Study, Magazine Apps Research, Reader Profile Study, Content Publishing Research, Magazine Research Analysis, Media Research, Magazine Ad Research, Audience Research, Website Research, Apps Research, Mobile Apps Research, Panel Research, Digital Media ResearchMy “day job” is Vice President, Senior Research Officer with Harvey Research.  It’s a small market research company in Fairport, NY that specializes in advertising and publishing research.  We work with B2B/Technical publications as well as B2C/Consumer publications from virtually every industry and special interest category you can think of.  One of the things I love most about my work is that I get to learn a little about many different industries!

Harvey Research recently launched a new website, which contains a blog.  I thought the regular readers of this blog might find it interesting to get a peek into my work at Harvey.  The first two posts I’ve written for the Harvey blog examine the impact that ad size and ad color have on advertisement recall.

The impact of ad color:  http://bit.ly/Z5K6nR

The impact of ad size:  http://bit.ly/14PuAkK

If you like the Harvey blog, we’d love to have you subscribe to it.  🙂  And if you have ideas for future blog posts (this blog or the Harvey blog), I’m certainly open to suggestions and ideas.  Thanks for reading!

Is Social Media Right For Your Business?

I recently consulted with a business regarding their various marketing needs.  One of the topics we discussed was social media.  After our initial consultation, they decided to hold-off on moving forward with social media for a few reasons/concerns.  I hear these a lot, so I thought I’d share them (and my opinion) with my readers.

“I’m not sure I’ll do it correctly.”  While it’s not super-complicated, there is a marketing science (and etiquette) to using social media correctly.  In a nutshell . . . you need to determine if your customers are using social media, what platforms they engage in and what their expectations are.  You need to determine goals and objectives for your social media and create a strategy/plan to meet those objectives.  You’ll also need to determine what metrics you’ll use to evaluate your strategy.

“I’m not sure it will pay off.”  If you’re expecting an immediate and significant boost in sales by suddenly engaging in social media, you will likely be disappointed.  Social media is more about relationship and community building, interacting with customers and a gradual build.  It’s about sharing and providing something of value.  It’s about the art of attraction.  It’s not a soapbox to promote your business with 90%+ of your posts.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to generate content.”  Don’t let that stop you! Chances are, if you Google the product or service you sell, you’ll find millions of hits on that search.  Which is a good article?  Which is a trusted source?  Use your industry knowledge and experience to become an information filter for your audience.  That filtering of quality information provides value, builds trust and attracts others.  Over time, it positions you as someone with subject matter expertise.

Is social media right for your business?  It can be, if you use it correctly (or hire someone who does).

Do You Signal?

No, I’m not talking about driving – although that could easily apply to half of this blog’s readers based on a recent vacation.  😉

I’m talking about LinkedIn’s under-utilized feature called Signal.  Do you use it?  Have you even heard of it?

Last week I wrote about how Twitter’s decision to discontinue automatic cross-postings to LinkedIn has helped reduce clutter in your network update stream.  If you’d like to further reduce the noise and fine-tune the relevancy of the LinkedIn status updates and news in your stream, you need to use Signal.

Signal allows you to filter your stream based on one or more of the following:  network, company, location, industry, time, school, group, topics, seniority and/or update type.  You can search within checked filters on keywords or people.  As with your “regular” network update stream, any new updates will get pushed in real-time so that you can refresh for the latest update that meets your filter settings.  You can even view trending links and who has shared them.  Lastly, you can save your searches and even share them as a status update, post into a group or send via private message.

So where can you find this handy LinkedIn tool?  Look under “News” in the gray toolbar at the top of your LinkedIn homepage (between “Companies” and “More”).  It’s the last choice in a 3-choice drop down menu.

If you’re not familiar with Signal, I encourage you to check it out.  Play with the different filters and see how it changes your update stream.  As I write this post, I have 5,579 network updates I could read.  If you don’t have the time to read that many updates (who does?!), using Signal could turn LinkedIn from a casual “read when I have time” to a highly filtered daily must-read.

Let me know your thoughts on Signal.  Are you ready to start using it?  If you have been using it, what’s your experience been like?

Plan Ahead Now for 2012 Holidays

In a recent Ad Age article, they advised marketers to plan ahead now for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Your calendar is correct – it’s only April and Easter was just this past Sunday.

As we learned last year (for many, with regret and disillusionment), the holiday shopping season moved back one day to Thanksgiving Day.   Expect more companies to jump on that bandwagon this year as for the most part, it was a successful strategy.  Think it will stop there?  Think again.  Expect the kickoff date to slide even earlier in subsequent years.

For marketers, the planning indeed needs to start now.  After all, there are the proverbial ducks to get in a row.  If you’re uncertain about your “ducks” – the answers to the questions of who? what? where? when? why? how? then you desperately need market research.  Without it, you’ll be planning blindfolded and will likely fail before you even begin.  I’d even argue that it should be your first duck in that proverbial row.

Properly designed market research can provide the answers to those questions, giving you direction for your planning.  It will capture where you are and where you need to be with your efforts.  It can prove or disprove assumptions you’ve made about your industry, your customers or your clients.  It can confirm a good plan and point out the flaws of a bad plan.

If you’re not experienced with market research, don’t assume any old Survey Monkey survey that you or your intern whips up will do.  Bad idea.  Really bad idea.  Poorly designed market research is actually worse than no research.  It could lead you to draw incorrect conclusions and send you down the wrong path.

If you think you can’t afford to incorporate market research as part of your planning process, I’d say you can’t afford not to.  Companies don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.  No company is too big or small to need market research.

When is the last time you professionally researched your industry, company, competitors and/or customers?

How Well Do You Know Your Customer?

If I had $1 for every business owner who thought he/she knew their customers very well, I’d be wealthy and retired at this point.  The sad reality is, most businesses think they know their customer, but their perception is almost always inaccurate (and sometimes by quite a bit).

I once worked with an established retail business in Rochester, NY that sold men’s fine clothing.  They were convinced their clientele were, on average, “male, 50 years or older, from the eastern suburbs, wealthy and watched prestigious networks on television like CNN.”  While that seemed plausible, I still conducted market research analysis with two main goals.  The first was to verify their customers’ demographics and the second was to research the media consumption of the actual demographic.

When the data was tabulated, it showed their customer base to be much younger and less affluent than they thought.  As a result, different television networks were a better fit.  Imagine their shock when I demonstrated how their advertising would be more effective (and cost-effective) on MTV instead of CNN!

Since seeing is not always believing, the client wanted to stick with the media plan involving CNN.  I was able to convince them to incorporate MTV into the plan as a trial, and suggested they simply ask customers if and where they saw their television commercial and keep a manual tabulation next to the cash register.  At the end of one month, MTV had a 3x advantage over CNN.

Seeing that MTV was significantly less expensive than CNN at the time, by concentrating on the proper network for their customer base, they could cut their ad spend, double their advertising frequency and triple (at minimum) their impact.  Now that’s what I call bang for the advertiser’s buck!

If you own a business, how well do you think you know your customer? If you haven’t conducted market research recently, I’d suggest there are many things you could learn.

Do You Fit The Demographic?

Nearly twenty years ago (yikes!), Bruce Springsteen wrote 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).

Technology and how we watch television has changed tremendously since 1992.  Who could have imagined we’d watch streaming video on smart phones?  After all, cell phones were the size of a shoe box then!

What hasn’t changed is there’s still a lot of junk on television.  With far greater than 57 channels to choose from, why is it that we have so little quality to choose from?  I had lunch with some old friends not too long ago and we discussed one show in particular that they swore I made up as a joke.

Television channels exist to make money, mostly through advertising.  They use research to illustrate the demographics of their audience and set rates for commercial spots accordingly.  Below are 10 shows currently on air with descriptions mostly taken from their websites.  It makes you wonder what the demographic profile is for their audience.  See if you can spot the fake.

  1. Pawn Stars (History Channel).  Pawn Stars takes you inside the colorful world of the pawn business at a shop on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
  2. Hairy Bikers (History Channel).  A classically trained French chef who loves motorcycles pairs with a motorcycle mechanic who loves food to travel the back roads of America.
  3. My Strange Addiction (TLC)The compelling stories of individuals battling unusual obsessive behaviors.
  4. I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant (TLC).  As impossible as that sounds, apparently there are tons of women who receive the surprise of their life with each new episode.
  5. Sweet Home Alabama (CMT).  Inspired by the movie of the same name, a southern bachelorette (or bachelor) searches for love among 22 contestants (11 from the country, 11 from the city).
  6. Silent Library (MTV).  Modeled after a Japanese game show, six friends vie for a cash prize by imposing unimaginable, beyond hysterical stunts on one another in a library setting, but they must maintain their silence to win.
  7. Jerseylicious (Style).  A “docusoap” that follows the owner and employees of a renovated hair salon in New Jersey, showing off Jersey fashion and style.
  8. Beer Money (SNY).  A fast-paced, non-traditional New York sports quiz show, with cash given away to people (in bars, tailgating, on the street corner) who know their New York sports.
  9. Hillbilly Handfishin’ (Animal Planet).  A reality show about noodling, the sport of fishing for catfish using only bare hands and feet.
  10. American Loggers (Discovery).  Follow brothers as they carry on the family tradition of harvesting timber in the Maine wilderness.
  11. Swamp People (History).  Follow Cajuns who live in the swamps of Louisiana during the 30-day alligator season.

I’ve actually seen about half of the above shows.  Some are actually interesting, although I can’t imagine I’d be considered in the target audience for most of them.  As for the fake?  Trick question – they’re all legit.

What show do you enjoy despite not being in their target demographic?

Hey Klout! I’m Kalling You Out!

If you’re into social media, you’re likely familiar with Klout.  Klout attempts to measure social influence online by analyzing True Reach (number of people you influence), Amplification (how much you influence these people), and Network Impact (the influence of your network).  Using an algorithm, their analysis assigns a score of 1 to 100, giving you the ability to compare your social influence to others.  You can also see topical areas of influence.

Having worked in market research for many years, I find their behind-the-scenes metrics and analysis fascinating.  In a way, it’s a great combination of what I enjoy professionally:  marketing + market research + data analysis + social media.  That’s why I love Klout (the occasional perks don’t hurt either!).

Recently, Klout changed their algorithm in an effort to more accurately reflect true reach.  Most people saw their Klout score drop (some significantly so).  Mine dropped, but that’s not my problem with Klout.  If you’re doing social media correctly, a Klout score shouldn’t be of much importance to most people.

While I’m not privy to their algorithm, I believe there may be a big flaw in their analysis.  LinkedIn is a major component of most people’s social media usage.  Yet, to what extent does it analyze your LinkedIn profile?  Specifically:

  1. Does Klout recognize the actual number of connections that I have, or does it just see “500+”?  There’s a big difference between having a network of 500 and having a network of 1,200!
  2. Does Klout recognize the groups I belong to and/or manage, and the frequency with which I interact in those groups?  Is it all groups (and subgroups), or just open/public groups?  Is it only groups that are displayed on my profile or all groups?
  3. Does Klout recognize Q&A interaction?
  4. Does Klout recognize interactions with comments and “likes” on updates with connections?
  5. Does Klout consider events I’ve created and the interest/attendance level indicated as well as comments and views?
I have similar questions with how Klout interacts with Facebook, given your privacy settings and those of your connections too.  Twitter is pretty open, so that seems more straight-forward.  I’m not so much concerned with what my score is, or how it’s trending.  But as someone with a 20-year career in market research, I am concerned with the accuracy of what they’re measuring.
 
While I don’t expect Klout to fully disclose their secret formula, depending on how they analyze LinkedIn and Facebook, all 3 components that comprise their Klout Score would be impacted.  I’ve asked them, both through a public blog comment and more than one email.  I’ll share their response if I hear from them.  Sadly, I must not have enough Klout because I’ve been waiting for nearly a month to receive an answer.  Perhaps that will be a future Perk they’ll offer.  😉 
 
Besides a lack of transparency, that’s not the best customer service experience.  So what are your thoughts on Klout?  Do you find their lack of transparency frustrating?
 

What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name?  Quite a lot when you’re making a first impression.  I recently read a story about a new restaurant that opened in a nearby town.  The name of the restaurant?  Bad Apples Bistro.

Quick, what’s your first impression of that restaurant?

If it was negative, you’re not alone.  You only get one first impression.  Make the most of it, or you’ll be hoping for the opportunity of a second chance.  Whether it’s in a job interview, a business deal, a first date, or a new business venture, that initial impression is key.

When it comes to a new business venture, market research can help with the vetting process, allowing the business to improve its odds of a positive first impression.  Want to know what your potential (or existing) customers think of your idea?  Ask!  But please engage the assistance of knowledgeable professionals.  Yes, Survey Monkey is easy to use, but that doesn’t make one qualified to conduct market research.  After all, I can operate a stove, but that doesn’t make me a bistro chef.

As for my example of Bad Apples Bistro, it turns out the reviews of the restaurant are generally positive.  According to an article in City Newspaper, the chef came up with the name “as a joking attempt to prove that ‘even a bad apple can make a great dish.'”  As a self-described foodie, the restaurant sounds great and I hope to try it one day.  Let’s hope the chef’s back-story proves to be more powerful than the first impression the bistro name creates for many.