Reputation Management, Ethics and Reviews

Should online reviews be ‘political’?

By | Featured Posts, Google Reviews, Reviews | No Comments

Should online reviews be ‘political’?

Over the past few years I’ve been diving deep into review systems, including Google, Yelp, Trustpilot and Facebook. My Lynda.com course is here.

Having lived in the States during the run up to the election I started to connect the dots between Trump’s campaign and reviews online. What I found was something that has profound significance – people are reviewing Trump’s businesses (or those named after him) based not on their experience but on their opinion of him and his political policies.

Take a look on Facebook for Trump Towers and the reviews, we can see 5 stars, and 1 star ratings – both of which are frequently two sides of the political standpoint:

Trump tower new york

And very similar on Google Reviews too, albeit with a higher overall rating still:

Trump tower

Who cares, right? They’re just reviews.

Online Reviews are increasingly important as they reflect a degree of trust in a product, service or business.

When you have two or three comparative business, people will tend to choose the listing with the ‘best results’. The platform algorithms are going to be complex, but one assumption in the industry is that business listing that are trusted will be surfaced over others.

Does it matter to the business?

This is whether people will choose that business as an option, and ultimately we vote with money. The people’s voice has an influence on the future decisions of those who pay attention to such things.

Let’s take a quick look at the breakdown of the factors in the decision:

1. ‘The number’ – i.e. the rating e.g. 4.1 stars
2. The number of reviews/ratings
3. The text i.e. the reviews themselves (not just the rating)
4. The freshness of reviews (how long ago they were made)
5. The name of the person reviewing, and their photo
6. If the person is a ‘Local Guide’ (or other equivalents) they have a badge, giving them a point of difference – status – within the eco-system. A guide’s review will carry more psychological weight as they are putting their reputation on it.
7. Check in – this actually solves a lot of issues (but being a customer is actually more what is being sought than ‘just turning up’)

3 is the magic number

As soon as a listing has an average ‘in the two’s’ there can be significant issues for that business.

In other words, when it comes to a five star rating scale, as most review platforms have adopted, it is the number three you should pay attention to. Why? Well, let me explain:

The psychology of social proof
When a person sees a listing they instantly judge that business
Above 3 gives the psychological assurance that the place is ‘ok’
Less than 3 i.e. in the 2’s or 1’s, means the place is not ‘ok’
The volume of reviews matters too, but the overall number tends to hit the mind first, and lead to a next action e.g. a click, or not.

There there are…

Search results
Whether it is on Google or another platform, you will rarely find top organic listings with a ranking or less that 3.0 when you have alternatives that are higher.
Even though I would be cautious to say that the rating causes ranking, I would be comfortable saying the lower the rating the less likely it will be shown first. (subtle difference, I know – just being cautious)

Taking a look at this hotel listing – one of the most competitive spaces I’ve seen, hotels want to be over 4.0. This one is holding up right now, but…

Trump international beach resort

…this listing for Florida seems to have a lot of real reviews, but the review above that says ‘great hotel and great service. Trump2016!!!!’ throws suspicion.

Interestingly enough, as an aside, the manager of the hotel below is doing a great job at replying to the positives:

Trump soho new york

Next you can you can see another Trump listing for the ‘Donald J Trump Exploratory Committee’, and as the graph shows the same 5 star and 1 star pattern is apparent as for Trump Towers on Facebook (mentioned at the start of this article):

Reputation management 2

Dig deeper and guess what? Many of the reviews are political…

Donald J Trump Exploratory Commitee

So, is it ethical to ‘vote a business down’, i.e. give them a bad review because your don’t like a person associated with that business?

Here are some of the potential reasons to rate (the numbers) and review (the text) a business:

1. You experience the product or service yourself (inc. the service)
2. Someone you know had a bad experience
3. You like/dislike a person associated with the business

Checking on the Terms of Service, and you will probably only find the first one to be a valid reason. It does seem though that politics, or opinion about a person is currently being ‘allowed’ by Google and Facebook.

Want to hit Trump’s business with reviews?

You can hammer the hotels, hit the business with one star reviews and it WILL affect the person’s business. The questions with Trump are a) whether he still had a financial interest, and b) whether you are happy for people who work there to potentially lose their livelihood?

Ultimately it would be a case of bringing any listing below that critical ‘3’ tipping point as any action in the political reviews space seems to be countered i.e. a politically motivated 1 star campaign of #OneStarTrump is likely to be countered by a #FiveStarTrump one – leading to an average plus or minus ‘3’, depending on the volumes of each.

This is exactly what is happening right now on Facebook:

Reputation management 3

As you can see, this listing breaks down as follows:

1. 2.9 star average
2. 319 five stars
3. 344 one stars.

We can assume that there was probably more like 15-20 five star reviews until the campaign, based on the 4,3,2 star numbers shown above (i.e. 15, 11 and 14 in that mid section).
In other words, the majority of the reviews are politically driven.

This is not the first time…

We’ve seen this before (last year) with Cecil the Lion and River Bluff Dental.
Short version, people rated the owner with one star, and left scathing reviews after the guy killed a lion. Yelp stepped in and removed the listings. Quoting Wired, “Yelp says that the protest reviews posted to Palmer’s profiles violate its terms of service and will be removed.” In that article, it says: “Media-fueled reviews typically violate our Content Guidelines,” a spokesperson told us in an email. “One of these deals with relevance. For example, reviews aren’t the place for rants about a business’s employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don’t address the core of the consumer experience. Yelp reviews are required to describe a firsthand consumer experience, not what someone read in the news.”

Now here is the thing…
Of the 26 reviews that remain, contributing to the one star overall rating, you will find many of them remain as a response to the outrage. This seems odd that Yelp have removed thousands but still kept a few. Maybe an oversight.

Yelp

And here are some of the current reviews, as of time of publication of this post:

Reputation management 4

Note the top listing with only two prior reviews, and the bottom one with a fake profile picture too. Both of which tend to lead to ‘question marks’ rather quickly as to the authenticity of any reviews, with the ‘check in’ (as mentioned above) being the main way this site has to increase trust.

The power of the Check-In

This is something that will become more important once the eco-system fills out.
Check in creates increased authenticity, but still doesn’t guarantee a person was a customer. A review could be based on people simply pop on by.

Reputation management

Conclusion

Trump is a businessman, so online reviews will matter far more to him than other listings for Clinton or Sanders – assuming he still has an interest in the businesses attached to his name. This is about business, sales, customers, and about listings being the places where people influence the future purchase decisions of those paying attention.

As Daniel Lemin, author of Manipurated says, “Are reviews of a business about commerce, or about judgement? Generally speaking, we think of reviews as filling a role in the ‘purchase funnel’ as consumers do their research and look for a business that meets their needs, but in practice we often see reviews behave more as judge and jury, serving as the court of public opinion. It is this latter trend that alarms many businesses.” Get his book here: Manipurated.

Reviews really matter, and as Yelp, Facebook and Google have all shown signs of politics influencing what is shown I think ultimately it may be that the geeks will inherit the Earth after all – one review at a time, although it may well be a 2.9 version of it all.

We will help you build communities around your business, and run co-ordinated marketing approaches that deliver results. Want to contact us to find out more? Click here!

Online community building

A Quick Guide to Online Community Building

By | Community, Featured Posts | No Comments

General principles of Community Building

What every business needs is a team that is active 24/7/365 who want to spread the word about what you do.
This is the equation. Generate passion, include them in the process of growing and developing your business and they will tell the world on your behalf.
But you need to make it easy for them. As such, here are some tips:

1. Choose a Home Base for your community.
This could be on Social Media, but make sure the ‘home base’ for your community is one that is likely to hang around.
Personally, we tend to use Slack now as it is ‘platform agnostic’ and super easy to learn how to use it.

2. Offer something to community members that will make them feel special e.g. events, and access to key team members.
Think about giving people something they get by ‘stepping over the red velvet rope’ – it could be exclusive access to people, information, releases of new versions of software, ideas, events etc.

3. Look at all your existing social media channels and find your top 10, 50 or ideally 100 engagers. These people are waiting to be invited behind the velvet rope.
You may well already have an engaged community, but now is your chance to bring them together in once place.

4. Supply quality information to your community members first. Include them in your story.
To do this, you may exclude all offers and information going to everyone else.
Put your community first.

5. Make it about them.
Create stories about community members and the success they are experiencing. Promote them.
Help spread the word by boosting the profiles of your members.

6. Help fellow members to connect with each other across all platforms – this will generally strengthen the network and allow your information to flow more readily (i.e. people are more likely to see the content shared by others if they are connected)

7. Know, someone needs to ‘lead’
Not only that, but they also need to know what they are talking about!
If they are not an expert in the ‘thing’ relating to the community then they need to up their skills. Why? Well, they need to be seen as an authentic voice – then people will listen.

8. Set up a watercooler channel
This is a place where ‘anything goes’ for community members – they can chill out and connect on unrelated community matters. This frees everyone up a lot.
Also, ideally, encourage people to ‘Hangout’ together using video calls. It connects people in new ways and makes them feel part of something.
(Thanks Sheila Hensley for the name)

9. Listen to feedback
It is the community that decides whether they engage. If they are not happy, then it doesn’t matter how hard you push them. You need to adjust what you do, just as if you were surfing.

10. Look at the stats
Using Slack, for instance, you receive a notification of the people who have not engaged during the past 7 days. This gives you an opportunity to reach out and see how they are doing.
It is all about building and sustaining relationships, and as a brand who is building a community you want to make sure you re-engage those who may have dropped away.

community building

Finally…

Community building is a must for brands looking to grow in a multi-channel world. Trust me, we can help. Click here and get in touch!

authentic voice online

10 tips on how to find your authentic voice online

By | Communication | No Comments

This month I recorded a new video course for LinkedIn’s Lynda.com.

I was employed to create one titled ‘Advanced Google Adwords’, but after my first day I started to have a bad feeling. The truth is this, I’ve been using Adwords with clients since 2003 but it will come as no surprise that it is not ‘my daily job’. Put simply, my job is to build Plus Your Business – to acquire new clients, create a strategic overview of projects we undertake, to put in place a team that performs at an outstanding level etc.

And I blog, create videos, and have podcast interviews that all help people to connect with my authentic voice.

Being blunt, one evening during recording I gave myself a ‘good talking to’ and despite four months of consistent work on the scripts I felt as if I was a fraud. I know there are much more advanced people when it comes to Adwords; after all I call on them to help me out when I get stuck. Jim Banks, for instance, has spent hours in hangouts over the past years helping with both our Analytics and Adwords accounts. There is so much to know, and you have to keep learning to stay on top of your game.

So, what did I do? Well, I approached the person who contracted this course and we discussed moving it from the Advanced category to the Intermediate one. The course I’ve developed is far more advanced than so much material I’ve consumed online, building on years of experience but there are people out there that deserve credit for truly being ‘Advanced’ in this subject.

When I taught windsurfing (during and after University) there was a basic principle we followed: at most, you can teach the level below the one you’ve achieved. Out of 5 levels this meant that a Level 3 person could teach Level 1, and a Level 4 was well positioned to teach Levels 2 and 3.

This sat well with me psychologically, and just as with windsurfing I’ve found your perform your best when you can ‘simply be’ what you are, at that level. If you try and fake it because you want to teach ‘advanced’, those in the know will, well ‘know’.

It is better to be awesome at the level you are at, then try to climb too high too quickly.

Since my start as a blogger and content creator, I’ve always done my best to base what I put out on direct, ‘evidencable’ experience. And now, the way the course is structure with the evidence included, I feel it will be a true asset for those people looking to extend their Adwords skills beyond the basics.

I know people love tips, so let me give you a few that I think could help you find your own voice a little more:

1. Being authentic means not being ‘inauthentic’

This is the most useful starting place. Know what inauthentic looks like and feel like, and you will find it easier to know the alternative.

2. Quote numbers.

It is great to give facts. Revenue is something that really matters, and it is great to have transparency from the crew at Buffer, and John-Lee Dumas too.

One tip though is this:

Don’t say “we are growing 100% a month” as it could mean you went from $100 revenue to $200. As investor Igor Shoifot once said, until you are down the line (e.g. $100,000 a month+), it is a great move to be showing people the figures.
I really respect businesses like Buffer and ConvertKit for their transparency.

You will build a lot of trust by bringing people with you on your journey.

3. Say when you ‘don’t know’ something. It’s ok.

People will help you more when you are truthful

Saying you don’t know something is AOK. No one knows everything.

4. Accept ‘where you are at’

If you are ok with not having to know everything, not being perfect, it is far easier to move forward.

And know when you are pushing things too far, too fast

Even though you may well have to ‘man up’ and face a situation, which may not be comfortable, at least you are taking charge of a situation.

5. Discomfort means ‘something’

When you have a nagging feeling that something ‘is wrong here’, it probably is.

Get used to spotting it early on and you will save yourself having to double back on decisions later.

6. Try to guess where something is going to go wrong.

Then know, it is better to call yourself out, than to have other people do so for you.

For instance, I could see future issues unless I adjusted the course I mentioned to a level that was more appropriate.

7. Seek out five people who will be brutally honest about your weaknesses.

Ask then what they think about what you are doing.

This will help you not only to be authentic, but shape your future.

8. Be kind to yourself.

Beating yourself up is not a good thing.

Instead, practice using your internal dialogue to give yourself a pep talk, focusing as much on the ‘good things’ as to the things you want to change.

9. Blog, do podcasts and create video content.

I’ve left this to the end as this is the expression of everything else outlined above.

You will need to ‘display’ your personality through your content, and by doing so you will find people who are going to relate will relate.

And you need to think about ‘Strategy’ first, then you will be able to align your actions towards it. This will deepen the authenticity you have in your chosen niche for you and your business.

10. Ask people to give you testimonials.

As you take your brand out into the world, there will be temptation to ‘pump yourself up’, this is ok. But is better is when other people say awesome things about you, giving you testimonials. This may well be the most useful of steps to take once you ‘feel ready’, and maybe even just before. They may be from clients, or from peers.

Like the approach we take to business. Contact me here!

7 ways to use Google Analytics to better understand your audience

7 ways to use Google Analytics: to help understand your audience

By | Featured Posts, Google Analytics | No Comments

So often we can get caught up in the detail that we miss the big picture.
As such, here are five very useful headlines you can look at creating for your own business or with your clients.

This is about:

Where
Who
What (browser, device)
How often?
What are they into?

If you click on the ‘audience’ tab you will be given a load of options:

Google Analytics 1

You’ll need some website data to work with, but if that is not there yet it may well be within the month.

1. Location – where are your main visitors coming from?

Go to ‘Geo’ and choose ‘Locations’:

Google Analytics 2

For me, over 50% of visitors come from the USA and United Kingdom. 5% from India, and with around 9% coming from Canada and Australia.

But actually, let’s say I want to drill a little deeper to know which States are driving most traffic.
Click on the country:

Google Analytics 3

And I can see that California, Florida and Texas are the top three for me:

Google Analytics 4

2. Age – how old are most of your visitors?

Google Analytics 5

As you can see, over 30% of mine are in the 25-34 range, and 50% are 25-44.

Google Analytics 6

3. Gender – are they male or female?

Go to demographics and choose ‘Gender’:

Google Analytics 7

As you can see 63% of my visitors are male.

4. Device – how many people are using desktop or a mobile device?

This is so important to know if your mobile site is ‘friendly’ but still not quite doing its job.

Google Analytics 8

For me 72% are using a desktop.

5. Browser – which one are they using?

Under the technology tab you will see ‘Browser and OS’:

Google Analytics 9

For me 63% are using Chrome, and 23% are using Firefox or Safari.

6. New/returning – how many people are coming back?

Under behaviour you will see this tab:

Google Analytics 10

With 28% returning visitors it means I need to be aware I am serving people who are already paying attention.

7. Interests – what are they into?

Go to the ‘Interest’ tab and choose ‘Overview’:

Google Analytics 11

As you can see 7.3% are into Tech, 5.9% Photography (Shutterbugs), and over 11% are into movies and TV.

Finally:

These are just the 7 items I’ve used to illustrate how to create what follows:

50% of visitors are from the USA (top 3 states: California, Florida and Texas), and United Kingdom
63% are male, and 37% are female
50% are aged between 25-44 years old.
28% are return visitors to the website; 62% are new
63% use Google Chrome, and 37% don’t
72% are on a desktop
Many have an interest in technology, films, movies and photography

Once you have this for your own site, write it out somewhere so you can revisit it later. Then think, are these the people I thought I was serving with content? And how best could I serve those paying attention better?

With Analytics you want to be setting up goals and tracking your conversions. What this exercise does, is give you a high level view of the nature of person visiting your site. It is also a very quick and handy way to create a meaningful top level view of a website for a client or a board meeting with your Directors or team, without drowning in data.

Social Media Addiction

10 tips to prevent Social Media Burnout

By | Social Media Marketing | No Comments

Introduction

Social Media is an incredible way to build your brand online.
With tens of platforms, millions of people active and ready to connect, you have an opportunity.

As someone that has spent 10,000+ hours across social media platforms in recent years, I feel well positioned to give you some guidance based on some mistakes I’ve made.
You probably all know which one I spent most time on, and it was truly mind expanding; it was life changing, and felt like world connected for the first time at a higher level – group video calls do that.
It also took a huge investment of time, so l
et me (hopefully) help you address a few of the ways you can get the most out of Social Media. Putting it simply, burnout is not worth it and I was on the edge of that until March last year.

Before we get to the tips, let’s explore the role of language in our lives…(you’ll see where I am going):

“The world is made of language.”

Ever since Jason Silva picked up the gauntlet of cultural transformation from Terence McKenna, we see the emergence of engagement in one main understanding:

The world is not ‘out there’, it exists as a perceptual construct. And language matters.

As the culture changes, so does language.

I remember as a kid we used to call it ‘Sun tan lotion’ which then became ‘sun block’ a few years later. The sun didn’t change as much as we do – our understanding of health alters our perceptions and our use of language.
Which leads us on to…

Addicting vs. Addictive

Since arriving in the US I am hearing this word more ‘addicting’, as in e.g. ‘Milk chocolate ‘Reeses pieces’ can be an addicting…’
(we don’t use this word as much in the UK)

Addictive is an adjective, and

Addicting is said to be an adjective, but actually I would suggest it is not.

You can be addicted and you wouldn’t even know.

If you search Google for ‘meaning addicting’ it hasn’t as yet enabled the result as a separate word:

Addictive

As such, I am not sure this Google Search result cuts the mustard, so to speak.
To me, having failed to learn 7 languages in my lifetime (kind of proud of that, in a very strange way), it looks suspiciously like a verb structure, and likely to stem from the present continuous form of the verb ‘to addict’ i.e. it is addicting.

And this site (Grammar Girl) seems to have dived into this linguistic rabbit hole too, saying “The American Heritage Dictionary lists [addicting] it as a transitive verb.”

Why does this matter?

Well, I would suggest that by making the word a verb it changes how we process the information.
Making it continuous ‘-ing’, like ‘He/she/it is walking/talking/singing’ means that there is an active, ongoing process involved, not a passive descriptive state (an adjective), like it is ‘blue’ or it is ‘fast’. (and adjective being a describing word, but I know you know that – love you Elmo).

Ok, back in the room.

Tips on dealing with Social Media Burnout

Saying something is addictive is a bit like saying ‘fire is hot’. Sure, but so what?
Saying ‘Social Media is addicting’, however, shifts us from this somewhat passive on/off, ‘this is the nature of it’ into a position where it possesses an ongoing power i.e. it continues to have the power of addicting you. But just like fire, it doesn’t have to burn, even though it has the capacity to do so.

These are the global stats for social:

Tips on dealing with Social Media Burnout 2

And these are for social media addiction:

Tips on dealing with Social Media Burnout 3

Saying it is addictive almost makes it, well ‘it’s fault’. Saying it is addicting means there is a relationship you, as a unique individual, has with whatever you are doing.

Fire can be used to cook food, keep your warm, melt metal for machinery (all technology), or it could burn you out. (see what I did there?)
The question is this: what are you trying to achieve through your online activity?
Then approach social in way that serves you best.
Know this: you either consume or your produce. If you are not producing content, then you are consuming. What you really want to be doing is creating quality connections (for business), with the content being the conversation around which those relationships are built.

With all that ‘set up’ in mind, here are the tips:

(And please know, I’m still working on this whole area, and am far from perfect myself.)

1. Switch off your Social Media notifications on your cell phone.
It was my good friend Chris Brogan from Owner.Media that nudged me on this one.
Very pleased he did.
Put simply, stop push notifications and you do Social much more on your terms.

Notifications are digital dopamine. And maybe you need to wean yourself off a little…

2. Close your social media tabs on your browser when you are doing other work.
Know this: your attention can only be on one thing at a time. If it on ‘that’ it is not on ‘this’.
Keep focused and you will get much more done, and enjoy Social Media on your own terms.

3. Go and buy yourself an alarm clock. Like this:

alarm clock
Why? That will stop you turning your phone on at night to see the time. No more will you be all like ‘Oh, I’ll just click a few buttons whilst I am at it.’ No.

And it doesn’t tick. Life changer.

4. Buy a book to write your to-do list in (i.e. know your outcomes)
This is like a rope tied around your waist when you go online.
You can ask yourself, ‘What was I meant to be doing?’, looking at the list in front of you, instead of being pulled any-which-way by the content that is pulling for your attention.

to-do list book image

5. Know that your behaviour is what continues the ongoing pattern
i.e. you continue to behave in a way which keep re-addicting yourself.
If you think that you need ‘more followers’ to be ‘ok’, then you will spend your time chasing that goal.
The follower count, and the engagement though plus ones, likes, emoticons etc, are just metrics within a channel – and ultimately for businesses you need to be brutal as to what is working, or not.

It is not digital (on/off), even though it is (obviously) in the digital domain.
Ok, that could be a linguistic rabbit hole, so let me run with…

6. Pick a carrot, and stick with it. (I’m a writer, don’t you know…)

If you are on social for business then pick one or two main platforms for your attention.
(at least if you want to slow down a little..)
And you can nibble, you don’t have to spend hours on any one platform, consuming.

The complexity you will be experience by posting across seven sites, with seven groups of followers, with seven different cultures…you get the picture.

7. Run these experiments

Do you ‘think of Social’ when you are not on it?
I mean, do you find that thoughts are pulling you back. Are you walking down the street thinking of all the funny Facebook updates you could make? Or, how you could construct the perfect Snapchat story?
And maybe you have the urge to open an app and click a button or two?
Any addicting behaviour requires effort to sustain itself, and it starts with those persistent thoughts.

Test 1
Want to know whether you have a ‘habit’? Well, sit for one hour, or just ‘do stuff for a day’ and notice how many times your mind was pulled toward social. But resist it. Go cold turkey, and then you will get a sense where it is ‘at’ for you.
And yes, posting photos counts.

Test 2
Take one day off from Social, and notice how many times you are ‘tempted’ back.

Test 3
Now imagine months with no posting, no snapping, no liking…
Could you live without it?

(I pretty much stopped for months last year, and trust me, the world didn’t end. Good people were still there when I returned.)

8. Stop. Clicking. Buttons.
I write articles, so I click a lot of buttons most days (like 10,000+) but even when I don’t I reckon I click 3000+ buttons every day. And a lot are relating to social.
How often do you check your notifications? Even when they are not showing any new message? (just to check)

9. Email counts too.
I started on Social Media back in 1998, but then it was friends on email lists (I used to share jokes with people I’d met on my 3 years living overseas).
Email is often more on your terms, but it can still be addicting as you feel you are missing out, or waiting until ‘something’ happens.
Here are some tips for taming your inbox.

10. Be present in your body

Until we get those snazzy contact lenses to wear, and fully connect our neo-cortex to the Cloud to gain an extra few RAM, I think we can learn to put our phones away and simply ‘be here now.’
It may well help restore more presence in the real world, and give you better quality time on social when you are ‘there’.

Finally…

Social Media has become a lifestyle for many people, and it is still early days as to how it will pay off for some.

What I do know is this…

Social Media has opened the doors of the world, and we are all connecting.
The main thing to do is treat it as a tool that helps you connect with the right people for you.
Then you can tell your story, and build your business.

I hope the suggestions I’ve made help you navigate your way through a little more easily.
Get in touch here if you want to chat!