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.

Local Business Reviews Update

Remember the old shampoo commercial where the woman is so happy she tells two friends and they tell 2 friends, and so on, and so on, and so on?

The point of the commercial is twofold (pun intended!)

First, if you have a great product, people will tell their friends about it! Word of mouth advertising is free, so all businesses can benefit from it, and afford it.

Second is the concept of geometric progression. When these happy customers each tell 2 friends the company isn’t adding just 2 need customers: they are quickly adding hundreds of customers because of this concept. 1 becomes 2 which becomes 4 and so on… 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256…

Bottom line, every happy customer can result in a huge lead pool for your business.

Today the way we tell 2 friends, and so on and so on, is through the internet and social media!

If you have a service that gathers customer reviews be sure it is easily found on the internet. Having a service that actively solicits reviews from your customers after they have been to your store can be a great benefit for some–as long as customers don’t feel harassed, which is a huge turn-off.

Don’t have a service? Don’t worry. One of the best ways to get reviews is simply to ask your customers to give you one!

The best situation is when you get reviews on a variety of sources. A few reviews on several different sites, such as Google+, Angie’s List, and Yelp! is better than having all of your reviews in one place. This also makes it easier for your customers. Gone are the days when all your reviews need to be funneled to one site–so wherever your customer already goes on line is the perfect place for them to write a review for you!

Remember–you want to make it EASY for customers to let others know how pleased they are with your product or service. Unhappy customers will make the effort to leave a negative review, but those that are happy with your work may not unless you ask for it. Let them know you could use their help in getting the word out.

If your clients tell you they aren’t online or don’t know how to leave a review online–have a card handy for them to leave you a review in writing. Ask their permission for you to post it to your website on a testimonials page and you are good to go!

To more happy customers leaving positive reviews resulting in more happy customers!



Business Reviews Update: Yelp Site a Waste of Time

I have been telling clients for a long time that reviews are an important part of their internet advertising. Search engines like Google like to see that people have been to your business. So we have encouraged our clients to ask their customers for reviews and if possible, to write them on Google or other sites like Yelp where they might have a membership. We are changing our tune and are not presently recommending Yelp.

A big reason that we have encouraged our clients to use Yelp is because of their reputation for filtering out reviews that are not real. One of the reasons we haven’t been in love with Yelp is it is next to impossible to delete a negative review–even if you have cleared up the situation that caused the review, or if the negative review was unfairly written. But…bad reviews happen, just like a business can have a bad day…so a small percentage of bad reviews make it look more “real” in the eyes of the review sites. And we can’t really disagree with that line of thinking.

Now it appears Yelp is removing legitimate reviews…even ones that have been on their site for months and that can be verified to have followed their terms of service.

This is all about what I view to be the biggest challenge to the use of review sites: they offer paid advertising slots which can seem to influence their site’s performance.

Sure, everyone should be able to earn a living…but is your site a review site or are you merely listing ads like a modern day phone book? Many of the sites will come right out and tell you that if you don’t pay for an ad then your site’s listing will not be at the top of the page. This is not necessarily a problem, because many of these sites are not seen by many people, but they are still read by the search engines and therefore is serving its purpose.

Now it seems Yelp is actually reviewing legitimate ads if a business owner does not pay for an advertisement on their site. There is evidence that suggests Yelp is even leaving reviews up that violate their terms of service as long as the business owner pays for advertising with them.

My response is to no longer support Yelp. In my business I make every effort to follow the various terms of service that other businesses have because I respect their right to set their own rules. It is important that businesses be clear about what their mission is, and Yelp always put it out there that they were a review site–their mission was to help people find good businesses that provide the service they want in the their city or town. I do not believe their customers believe that ONLY businesses who pay for advertising will appear.

While it may be if you check today your business will have reviews on Yelp and tomorrow they are gone because you didn’t buy ad space. I think this is a poor business model and we can focus on other review sites until Yelp figures out that it doesn’t have to strong arm people–or they figure out which business they really want to be in–reviews or merely a listing service for hire. There are just so many other options out there.

I am not making a blanket statement that no one should advertise on these sites…that’s NOT my point. If the sites are a good source of traffic for you and you want to try a paid ad to see if it increases the number of calls or visits you get, that’s great. Some businesses do well with paid ads on sites. For other businesses and sites it is not cost-effective.

My point is about reviews…and that it is not okay to change your ship’s course midway across the stream and then blackmail people into staying aboard.

Most business owners find that getting customers to actually write a review and put it online is a challenge–and I do not want to encourage people to post reviews in a place that will just turn around and take them down. So if your business has customers who want to post reviews for you, ask them to write them on Google and stay away from Yelp.