Social Proof is in the Pudding

Social proof is a common catch phrase these days, but what does it mean?

It is being suggested by many “experts” that social proof is something new, something that business people didn’t have to think about before.friends talking

Perhaps I just think of social proof more globally than some other internet consultants, but I think that idea is crazy. Social proof is not a new local business marketing concept at all, but how it works today is quite different from the past when it was neighbors talking over the fence or over a beer.

Businesses have always relied on social proof in one form or another. It is just that the form changes and now we have a convenient label for it.

Word of mouth advertising has long been the standard for social proof, and is most certainly not a contemporary construct. Businesses large and small have long known that if they can get their happy customers to tell other people about them and recommend them that it is the least expensive and most successful advertising campaign they have.

Social proof has always been about customers indicating their support for your business. That has not changed.

What has changed is HOW they demonstrate their support.

Today your customers are online every day. They get most of their information from the internet, more than the television or radio, more than print publications. And this trend continues to accelerate as we are seeing the millennials and younger folks ever more tied to their electronic devices.

Whether shopping locally or buying something across the globe, more and more people are relying on the internet to gather information before making a purchase.

Social proof has always been part of that research process, it is just easier to get these days. You no longer have to talk to lots of different people to learn their opinions and experiences–it is all there online.

What is social proof in current terms then? It is how your business is supported online. This can be done by customers posting a review on Yelp, Angie’s List, or any number of other review sites. It can be comments left on your blog or your Facebook or G+ page. It can even be that someone links to your business website on their blog or Facebook page, or that someone shares a post that you have media icons

How do you get more social proof for you business?

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but you have to get social. Nope, you don’t have to do it all. Unless you have a lot more time on your hands then most business owners I know, you can’t anyway.

Learn a little bit about the various types of social media and pick one, give it a go and see if you like it. I’m a firm believer that if you enjoy it, you will have better results. If you find you aren’t enjoying it, you can try a different avenue.

If you are a visual person or you have a visual type business, then Pinterest might be a good choice for you. If you naturally talk in sound bites, you might try Twitter. If you are in a B2B field, or are looking for professional connections, check out LinkedIn. Facebook is gaining ground on the major search engines and gives businesses some more flexibility in their posts and pages. These are just a few of the many options that are available to your local business.

There is no one best social media, one that works for every single business in every single market. Find where your customers are online and start there. Then dive into that online “pudding” and get some social proof.

Internet Tips for Your Local Business Photos

paparazziPosting photographs online of your the work you do is a great idea.

But can it help you with getting more customers?

Yes, if done properly.

Here are some internet tips for using photos for your local business.

Use Original Photos

In other words, don’t use stock photos or rely on photos from “corporate” if you are part of a chain. Sure, include pictures of products as part of the items that you offer at your store–and those can be stock images–but be sure to include pics of your crew making a local delivery, a happy customer making a purchase (with their permission, of course), and even the items in your storefront or showroom.

Titles & Tags

Title and tag the photos to include what work was done and what City it is in. So if you delivered a new stove to Greeley, you want to be sure to label the photo something like “Greeley stove delivery.”

Spread the Wealth

Put your photos on all your different web properties. That means you should upload them to your website, your Facebook page, Google+ page, Twitter account, LinkedIn, and any review sites that you have built out such as Yelp and Angie’s List.

Tell the Story

Sure pictures are worth 1000 words…but be sure to include the words. Tell a little bit of the story of your business. Let potential customers get to know you and the work you do.

Mix it Up

When you are posting those images around the web be sure to use different wording. If you use the same titles and stories on all the sites you are at risk as being seen as posting “duplicate content” which can ding your results!

Be Real, Be You

Whenever you post photos or stories about your business, make sure it is accurate. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Let your personality come through. You want customers who will resonate with you, your staff, your products and services. That won’t be everyone–and that’s okay. Remember, there’s plenty to go around as long as we aren’t a bunch of Stepford Wives!

All Work Makes Johnny a Dull Local Business Owner

fishingGo ahead and have some fun with some of your photos. Maybe you want to add shots from your company picnic or customer appreciation day–that’s cool. You can also include photos from things outside of work that you don’t mind making public. Do you love going hiking in the mountains? Does going fishing give you the peace of mind to be a better lawyer? Do you like restoring old cars? Are you an animal lover with a goofy dog or cat? Posting a picture that has nothing to do with work once in a while is just fine. People want to do work with those they know, like and trust. Don’t be afraid to let them know you–at work and away from the shop.

Bit of Delicious Links Social Media Disaster for Local Businesses

Social media tip for local businesses: Google declares twDeliciouso sites contain malware, using them can result in YOUR site being blocked. Reconsider your links, on your site and also what you use in your social media campaigns.

While Google is not the only search engine around, it still is the kingpin. And what Google wants, Google gets. Or rather, what Google doesn’t want, Google slaps. This is an important social media tip for local businesses to keep in mind.

Case in point, this weekend two popular sites were blacklisted by Google.

In order to “protect” us, Google often declares that sites are malicious. This may or may not be true, but that is actually beside the point. Once blacklisted, sites will be flagged as contained Malware–especially if you (or your potential customers) use the Google owned Chrome browser.

According to Google’s Safe Browsing page on

Of the 370 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 69 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2014-10-26, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2014-10-26.

Malicious software includes 17 trojan(s), 14 scripting exploit(s). Successful infection resulted in an average of 1 new process(es) on the target machine

If you want to know more details about the most recent blacklist, read this article on WordFence:

A general rule of thumb is don’t click on a link you don’t know. If you use a link shortener (like, which was also blacklisted, albeit temporarily) you may want to reconsider. If you use Twitter a lot for your business you may want/need to use the shorteners in order to not exceed the character limitations, but still it is good to keep in mind that many people will not click a link they can not read.


Unlike Netflix Check Social Media First When Creating Business Name

When creating a business name, it is smart to check Social Media first.

Case in Point: Qwikster the new company that was formed when Netflix split its home delivery and streaming video services.

The argument that Netflix is charging more for less service with this split is the subject of a different post.

Let’s just focus on the business name.

Businesses seek names that are unique, easy to remember, memorable, and often, but not always, are meaningful.

Qwikster meets none of those criteria–in addition it does nothing to capitalize on the brand millions of people associate with the successful video business: Netflix.

Not only is Qwikster not unique–it is alarmingly similarly to names that could be offensive to many of it’s customers.  Read Qwikster: Not to be Confused with Quistar, QuickStar, Kwikster, Quickster, Kwik Star, Quick-Star, or Kickstar for more on similarly named companies.

When hearing about the company by word-of-mouth, still the best free advertising there is, one wonders just how is it spelled?

People of a certain age are apt to type in the “most correct” spelling as a first effort, which would be q-u-i-c-k-s-t-e-r.

According to a “quickster” is someone who can get girls “in the sack quick”

A Quickster is also a type of sports net…and lots of other items.

BTW, “The Quickster” was a superhero that appeared in a single SpongeBob SquarePants episode. OK, maybe that’s not a problem for Netflix, but it does make you wonder about Sponge Bob…buy maybe that is why the character is retired.

Now the customer or potential customer is left to wonder if there are hyphens in the name or what “sounds like” spelling was chosen. And why?

Googling is a challenge when people don’t know how to spell your name...and there are so many variations. Today people want instant results–even people who want their videos mailed to them.

By Googling Netflix you discover the spelling is Qwikster. Ok, we can handle that, right. Well, the execs at Netflix must have been smoking dope, because they didn’t check Twitter for the availability of their new moniker. Nope. @Qwikster is already taken by a guy who mostly tweets about smoking dope and chasing girls. Not exactly the image the video giant will want to many of their clientele.

The lesson in all this? (Ok, there are LOTS)

Social Media is imperative to your business. If you already HAVE a business, check to see if your name is available on on the Social Media sites that your customers frequent–especially Twitter and Facebook. If it isn’t, get as close as possible, use abbreviations, whatever, but CLAIM YOUR SPACE.

If you are just starting your business, or considering a name change, check out the Social Media spaces where your customers hang out, including, but not limited to Twitter and Facebook. If the name is already taken there, TRY SOMETHING ELSE. Especially if it is claimed by a dope-smoking young quickster. Unless that’s your target market, of course.

Searching Twitter for People to Follow

Once you start your Twitter account you will find that Twitter offers suggestions on people to follow. If you login to Twitter, you will see on the right side of the screen the people who are following you, “Followers” and below that “Who to follow.” When you are first starting out, there may not be many suggestions, however as you follow more and more people Twitter will interpret your interests and make more (and presumably better) suggestions for you.

The top listing in the suggestions is frequently, but not always, a promotion, which you may, or may not, want to follow. You will know it is a promoted Tweep by the “Promoted” box next to their handle. I find the promoted Tweeps don’t seem to have any real connection to me or my interests, but other than that the suggestions are generally pretty good.

You can either click on the “Follow” next to their Twitter handle or click on their handle and review their profile to see if they are indeed someone you want to add to your list of followers. Clicking on the X to the right of their handle will delete them from this list.

If you click “Refresh suggestions” you will be served up additional people you can follow.

Browse Interests to Find People to Follow

Below this  you will find “Browse interests” and “Find friends”

Clicking on the Browse interests link opens a full page “who to follow” and allows you to look through Twitter by categories such as Business, Funny (not to be confused with funny business), Government, Sports, Travel, Technology, Health…By clicking on a category you will find people who have similar interests that you can choose to follow.

For example, I clicked on the category Food & Drink and a list of 81 people to follow came up.

Or if you have a specific topic that you are interested in you can enter that into the search box directly. For example, I can enter “chocolate” and anyone who expresses in their profile will be listed. Similarly, if you want to find people in your town or region you can enter that in the search box. (Hint: this is a great way to connect with people in your local area!)

The more people you follow, the better the suggestions made by Twitter will become, especially if you are searching for a particular niche or region.

Keep in mind that if you want people to be able to find you, then you should be sure to complete your Twitter bio with the keywords or terms that you want to connect over. If you are an artisan chocolatier in Loveland, Colorado with a retail store downtown then you would want to include all that in your bio so people in town who love chocolate will be able to find you easily.

When you are searching on interests and when you are writing your bio, think about the various ways that people might search for your topic. For example, not everyone will think to search on “chocolatier” but “chocolate” is an easy search term.

Twitter Tips Connecting Local Businesses and Customers

If you have a business that is local-centric? By that I mean, does your business rely largely on local customers? Many small businesses do, and of those that do, most of those customers come from 5 miles away or less!

Of course you can a website and be visible to people across the country, and even across the globe. But this doesn’t necessarily translate into getting those local customers who will call you on the phone or walk in your door.

So how does a small business attract those customers who work or reside nearby? Social Media venues including Twitter are an important part of your internet advertising campaign to reach those ideal customers.

You can actually use Twitter to find folks you live in your city or town or even neighborhood–or if they don’t live there, they frequent the area, maybe because of work.

Searching for Local Tweeps

Since people who tweet (aka “Tweeps”) at least once in a while will tweet about things that are going on around them, places they have been locally, etc, you can search on tweets that are about things going on and other places that are near your business.

Some of these things are pretty obvious, but you can search by City name, a business name, a special landmark, a museum, the library, a community event such as a parade or fundraiser.

In your Twitter account, in the search box type the name of your city, town or neighborhood and see what comes up.

For example when I searched on Loveland Colorado today I saw that one of schools had a problem this morning, there was a Pet Expo last weekend, some local job postings…


If I click on the “People” link, then I will see people and businesses that list in their profile they are from the Loveland Colorado area. You may find that if you search on “Your Town” including the quotations you will have a more refined search, so try it both ways.

Click on the Advanced Search link and you will get to a more detailed search screen. Here you can list you town and a distance you want to search for people (in some locations you may be able to see a tab in your initial search Tweets Near You…but this feature does not appear to be available to all of us!)

You can also enter your business name in this search function and see if anyone is tweeting anything about you. For example, I entered Loveland Museum as the phrase I was searching on and selected tweets from within 15 miles of Loveland and saw a nice Tweet about the Museum from the newspaper.

Follow Found Tweeps

One of the things local businesses want to do with their social media accounts is to follow people who are in their area. To follow someone that you have found through this Advanced Search function (or that you found by other means) click on their name


and when the new box opens up (they call it a flyout) click on the follow button.

Following other people and businesses in your area is a great idea if you share common interests. It doesn’t mean you have to follow every “Tom, Dick or Harry” in town, but it CAN be a great way to connect and meet other people who you might not otherwise meet. You’d be surprised what you can learn about your town or neighborhood by following people on Twitter.

How Does This Help?

Twitter and other social media venues are about engaging in the conversation. So if someone is tweeting about something in your area you can enter the conversation. This can be social or business or both.

For example, if you are a photographer in Loveland you might search on ‘photographer or photography’ near Loveland to see what people are saying about photography in the area. There might be other photographers tweeting about a great shoot or you might find someone looking for a wedding photographer.

If you carry specialized products, you can search on the brand or a phrase that relates to that product and see if people are searching for it, giving you an opportunity to let people know that they can find it at your store.

I’ve found people who are coming to Loveland and are looking for places to see. This can be a great way to let folks know about your favorite park, event, or restaurant.

For more tips on how to use Twitter to connect with local customers, read this article.

Twitter: Growing Healthy 5 Year Old

If you convinced that Twitter is a fad, a waste of time or not important for business, I understand. That’s pretty much what I thought when I first learned about Twitter.

Since then I have learned a lot more and actually started using Twitter…albeit kicking and screaming at first!

Twitter is now over 5 years old and still growing.

Businesses are finding great results from Twitter.

I’ve made invaluable business and personal connections through Twitter.

My own book and website Refuse to Diet have both been helped by Twitter and The Gratitude Book Project of which I am a co-author became an Amazon best-seller–largely because of our use of Twitter.

Twitter can be used as a way to connect with people in your industry or with potential clients or with people who have similar interests.

I believe Twitter is a good tool for business. Will it be a great tool 5 years from now? Maybe, or maybe something else will take its place…but for now I see it as healthy and growing, and going mainstream and a vehicle that should be used as part of your Internet Advertising That Works!

Social Media Marketing is Fresh, Relevant Content

Effective Social Media Marketing is not merely putting up profiles on  Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and every other social site you can think of!

In fact, your social media efforts may be more effective marketing tools in your internet advertising toolbox if you only choose one venue–as long as you are choosing the RIGHT one for your market AND you are updating it often with fresh, unique, relevant content.

If you are doing all this yourself, you can easily spread yourself too thin and become overwhelmed with all the different media, learning what goes where and how to utilize it all effectively. Especially if you are doing this for yourself, it is far better to start slow…begin with one social site if you don’t already have a social media plan in place. Become comfortable with that platform and use it appropriately. Then as you become comfortable with it you can branch out to other platforms. But even when you hire a Social Media Manager, it doesn’t mean that you should be on every social site there is.

Choosing the right site(s) is an important part of effectively using social media for business.

Whatever you do, do not merely put up a profile page and a couple of posts and expect to see dramatic results. These things take time. You are building a relationship with readers and potential customers. You must add value to their lives in order for them to friend/follow/connect with you. By providing good content that is relevant to your industry on a regular basis you position yourself as an expert–a person they can go to to learn more, someone they can rely on!

Bottom line is people want to do business with people whom the know, like and trust–I know you have heard that before, but it is still true. So let people get to know you. Don’t be afraid to let your personality come through. Will everyone love you? Of course not…but they won’t in real life either, so why should cyber-space be any different?

I’m not suggesting you must create “controversy” as a strategy to gain followers. There are people who have done that effectively, but if you are not controversial by nature, if you don’t enjoy debating with others then this is not a strategy for you. I am saying to be yourself, and that may include having some controversial points of view at time.

Let your personality, style and knowledge come through. This will allow potential clients to learn why they should follow/learn from/buy from/listen to you as opposed to someone else in your market. You may have fewer numbers, but the followers you do have will be much more loyal to you. And after all, it isn’t about quantity, it is about quality!

By effectively using Social Media as part of your marketing efforts you can boost your website rankings with the search engines and increase your sales:

  • Post Regularly
  • Let People Get to Know YOU
  • Provide Good and Unique Content.

Social Media Marketing: Who Is Really Using It?

Sometimes a prospective client will ask who is actually using Social Media Marketing as part of their advertising methods. Interestingly, when the question is turned around they will generally give me one of two polar opposite responses. Most people seem to believe either:

  • Only big companies who have big ad budgets use Social Media
  • Only small companies who have no advertising budget use Social Media–and they do it all themselves

What I find most interesting about each of these beliefs is that often people are using this belief as a way to prove to themselves that they can’t use or don’t need to factor Social Media Marketing into their business plan!

Certainly there are large, national corporations who are using Social Media, such as Sam’s Club, Sears, OfficeMax and Office Depot, Walgreens and JC Penneys. And, many of these corporations may do this work in-house or through their advertising agency.

It is also true that small “Mom and Pop” type businesses are also using Social Media, either because they don’t have a large advertising budget or because they realize that they can reach their target audience cost-effectively this way.

There are lots of other examples of businesses using Social Media, businesses of all sizes with a wide range of advertising budgets. For example, here in Loveland, Colorado can find Facebook, Twitter and YouTube icons featured as part of print advertisements for local medical centers,  a regional farm supply store,  a local furniture store, an area health food store, heating and air conditioning repair service and real estate agents.

Why are all these companies, large and small, using things like Twitter and Facebook? Because they know that many of their customers do, too. For an advertising campaign to be effective it has to reach your potential customer base. So rather that throwing money at advertising media that no longer work for much more than a doorstop, you deserve to check out how Social Media Marketing can help your business find new customers and keep in touch with your existing customers so they keep coming back!


eMail Safety Tips for Local Businesses and Their Customers

Anyone with an email account, local businesses and your customers, is subject to a variety of email nuisances.

We’re all familiar with SPAM, those unwanted emails that arrive in your inbox and can take up your valuable time.

Other people seem to get their kicks out of spreading viruses and they can do this through attachments that when opened infect your computer.

Even worse than that are those nefarious folks who are goin’ Phishing.

Phishing is when someone sends an email that asks for personal information like financial or account information or personal details like birthdate or social security number. What makes Phishing so bad is that often these people are posing as reputable companies or even friends, which often leads people to think it is safe to respond.

If you get a request via email for any vital information, including passwords, account numbers or security questions do not respond and certainly do not provide private information. Anyone who actually SHOULD have that information will have it.

Sometimes the Phishing expedition is even more sly than that and they will actually not request information but include a link to their store or corporate website. If you click on that link you would then be redirected to a site where they can capture your keystrokes or gather information without your even realizing it.

Recently Facebook users were finding their accounts hacked and their photos placed on X-rated sites. The users had responded to a “friend” either on Facebook or via email who asked for private information.

If you receive an email that seems odd from a friend, family member or business that you frequent contact that person/business. If they have been hacked they will appreciate the heads up. But do not contact them by clicking “reply” instead give them a call or contact them through their official website, Facebook page or Twitter account–some alternate method you have to reach them.

Suspicious emails may be reported to the local Better Business Bureau (BBB) or

This can happen to anyone--a recent breach in the Epsilon database has affected customer records for numerous financial institutions and shopping sites including:  BJ’s, Barclays Bank of Delaware, Best Buy, Brookstone, Capital One, Chase, Citi, Disney Destinations, Home Shopping Network, JPMorgan Chase, Kroger (that’s King Soopers here in Colorado), LL Bean, Marriott Rewards, McKinsey & Co., New York & Co, Ritz-Carton Rewards, The College Board, TiVo, US Bank, Walgreens.

Defense Strategies:

Update your spyware, virus protection and spam filters and keep them current. This will help prevent these emails from getting through.

Back up your computer regularly. This is great protection for a lot of reasons, but one of them is that if you are the unfortunate victim of a computer hack you are better able to get your system back up and running quickly–an important point for businesses and home users.

Social Media Managers can clean up your email inbox to help keep your email safe. Not only will the SMM will get rid of SPAM for you, he/she will also be sure the most urgent emails are flagged for your attention. You can work with the SMM to set up procedures on how some emails are handled so you may be able to offload some correspondence and customer service issues to your SMM saving you a lot of time.

Summary of Best eMail Safety Tips:

  • Don’t click on links in emaileven if it appears to be coming from a reputable company. Instead use your search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) and contact the company that way.
  • Never provide passwords, social security numbers, account details or birthdates to people via email.
  • Don’t open attachments in email unless you are sure the email is real. If a friend never sends attachments be wary if you get one!
  • Report suspicious emails.
  • Keep spyware, virus protection and spam filters up to date
  • Back up your systems regularly.