Etsy’s Social Commerce: Smart at Christmas

Etsy’s new Facebook app, the Gift Recommender, is a smart move and a great example of ways to use your data to attract more business.

I’ve no doubt that some will see Etsy’s “social commerce” via Facebook as “creepy” or invasive, but I suggest you give it a try to get an idea how this new app might impact your business or generate some ideas.

If Facebook isn’t your thing, but any form of retail is, create a test Facebook account with a throwaway email address so you too can see what the fuss is about.

Etsy is widely known for their belief in automated software testing. You can read about their latest project in their developers’ blog at  http://codeascraft.etsy.com/2011/11/09/engineering-social-commerce/

Hat tip to Scobleizer for pointing it out.

Facebook you…because?

As I drive around the area, I see lots of businesses who are trying to reap the potential rewards of local marketing on Facebook.

One sign: they have “Facebook us” or “Find us on Facebook” or similar on their roadside signs.

The idea is for you to click the “Like” button or become a fan of their business on Facebook, which will appear in your Facebook feed.

Because it appears in your Facebook feed, friends will see it as well and presumably some of them will check it out.

And that’s where it ends for many businesses. One time.

The smart ones talk with their fans/clients regularly via Facebook, even if they have a blog or other web presence.

People made the effort to friend, like or become a fan on Facebook.

What are you doing on Facebook to keep them paying attention?

Attention span

What are you doing to stand out amid the ever-present flood of game-related posts, surveys and other stuff on Facebook (note: you can hide that stuff without hiding the friend by clicking on the X at the right side of items of the type you don’t want to see – something you may want to share with your friends).

Does your restaurant have a Facebook fan special? A night where fans of the restaurant all get together IN PERSON (how’s that for frightening?)

Do you communicate daily or weekly with your fans to let them know what you’re up to? I don’t mean unnecessarily, but in cases where it makes sense.

Morning Glory Coffee and Tea in West Yellowstone, Montana does a great job of this and should give you some ideas, even if you don’t run a restaurant.

Ideas

What are people unaware of about your business? What knowledge would you like new (or existing) customers to know / have immediate access to?

What would they ask you in casual conversation about your business? What reason would people have to continue to visit your Facebook fan page?

Do some thinking about it – and act on it.

Fishing on Facebook

A common question I’m asked by small business owners is: “Should I use ‘bright shiny object of the month’ to market my business?

Lately, the question tends to be asked in the context of Facebook, but quite frankly, the answer is the same regardless of the magic solution you’re asking about.

As always, the answer is “Fish where the fish are.”

You’d never fish for westslope cutthroat trout in a midwest farm pond. Or at least…you’d never catch any cuts if you did try to fish there.

But..back to Facebook

In the context of Facebook, we’re still talking about people who care about the product or service you provide.

Let me rephrase that: What they really care about is what your product/service does for THEM; caring about you is way down the food chain.

And while it really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Facebook or the Weekly World News, I’ll continue in the context of Facebook because there are a few Facebook-specific things to consider.

Ask yourself…

You have to ask yourself a series of questions about the pond you want to fish in.

Can I specifically identify the kind of prospective customers I want to meet? (No is not a valid answer – no matter what you sell)

Do those prospective customers hang out on Facebook?

A question you might not have considered…are your customers mostly women? And are they mostly women in their prime buying years?

If you take a look at the demographics of Facebook users (here, here, here and here), you’ll find that (currently) about 55% of Facebook users are women and the biggest group of women on Facebook are 35-55 years young (Tom Peters would be yelling at you not to ignore this market if he were here).

BUT…the key point is still “Are they actively using Facebook and having a conversation that involves what you do?”

Joining the conversation

Is your product or service the sort of thing that people tend to talk about around the water cooler, the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game or similar? That’s the same kind of conversation that occurs on Facebook.

If your Tribe meets on Facebook, you should be there and join the conversation.

If you were on the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game and the conversation turned to a topic that you are an expert on, would you ignore the people having the conversation or would you join in?

I’m guessing you’d gently find a way to join the conversation.

If you were at a Chamber luncheon and some business owners at your table were discussing a problem that your business’ product and/or service is great at resolving, wouldn’t you find a way to join the discussion in a way that doesn’t impose on the table?

Sure you would.

So…If there’s a conversation on Facebook, how is that different from these two situations?

You’re right. It isn’t different at all.

Finding them on Facebook

So..your next task is to create a Facebook account and search for people having conversations that you can offer value to.

You need to look at Facebook groups. There are groups for every conceivable topic. Some of them are sponsored by industry associations or leading vendors.

You might also look for Facebook “pages” (which normally represent a business) that you have something in common with. Interact when it makes sense.

Your goal is not to carpet bomb Facebook with “buy my stuff, visit my website”. Your goal is to join conversations, deliver value and thus establish your positioning as an expert.

In order to avoid spending all day on it AND to avoid blowing it off, treat it like any other work: Schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t take it seriously.

If it isn’t right for you: Two ways to say “I don’t use Facebook”

Almost every day, I hear business people saying “I don’t waste my time on Facebook.”

That’s one way to say “I don’t use Facebook.”

I suggest this instead: “I looked on Facebook to see if there was a community of people who need what I sell and found none, so I don’t use it for business. I still check in every few months to see if that has changed.”

That thought process shouldn’t be limited to Facebook.

Does your business fit the Facebook profile?

Facebook
Creative Commons License photo credit: _Max-B

One of the reasons that you see some businesses flocking to Facebook is that their advertising (and sites they connect to) are now capable of scanning your profile’s musical and movie preferences and passing  them anonymously to a site you visit so that selections can be made easier for you.

In markets where a Facebook profile is a good match to your marketing needs, the new profile scanning feature lets Facebook partner sites *anonymously* “see” your likes and use them to fine tune your shopping, listening, viewing and other experiences at other sites – but only if you give your permission (you’ll be prompted at sites which use that data).

It automatically tries to show you stuff that will be of interest, just like a good retail salesperson would. The difference is that it happens online.

The same thing happens in retail businesses and restaurants every day. Think about “Norm” from Cheers. Do you know what he likes to drink? Anyone who has ever watched Cheers – even once – probably knows what he drinks.

If Norm put “beer” in his Facebook profile, would he suddenly become paranoid because a liquor store website automatically showed him the beer page when he opened their site? Probably not.

That’s how this feature works with sites that have this feature setup. This same feature is also the topic of a lot of privacy discussions on the net. More on that shortly.

In your Facebook advertising

Facebook is also launching advertising that is even more context sensitive. Like Google’s Ad Sense ads that appear on pages all over the net, these Facebook ads will come up based on info in your profile and content on the page.

Don’t look at this as a bad thing.

As a business owner, it’s good for you because it allows you to target people more likely to be interested in what you do.

As a purchaser of consumer and business products and services, it means you’ll see fewer ads for junk you have no interest in. Note that I said “fewer” not none.

Despite the fact that I have no need for some products and services; magazines, TV, radio, newspapers and other media sources pound me with ads all the time for things I’ll NEVER buy.

Most of this happens because they don’t pay enough attention to the media buys they make. Too often, they sell the wrong things at the wrong time of day, on the wrong channel/station or in the wrong paper.

That’s one reason why people get tired of advertising – they see messages about things they don’t care about and aren’t interested in, so they see it as noise.

Keep it private

One last comment about all the uproar about Facebook privacy: Why in the world would you post anything on Facebook that you aren’t comfortable sharing with the world? That’s just silly, and no more wise than tossing your checkbook out in the driveway. Share appropriately.

Marrying Facebook, or just dating?

I‘ve heard a lot of talk about “Facebook taking over” the web lately.

It’ll only take over the web if you let it.

I realize there’s a lot of noise out there about new F8 (Facebook app) platform, which includes the like and share buttons that you see here on my blog.

Those buttons are important not because they drive traffic to Facebook (just the reverse, in fact), but because they allow YOU (my readers) to *quickly and easily* share a blog post with a friend on Facebook. No cutting, no pasting, almost no effort. Making it easy for you to share is the ONLY reason why the buttons are there.

If you have a web site and don’t have those buttons integrated, do so soon. Make it easy for folks to share what you do with their friends, family and co-workers via their Facebook wall.

Facebok is not a web host

I’ll bet you’ve seen a lot of ads in major media that promote a vendor’s Facebook page rather than their primary website.

Hopefully they have some metrics on that, but on the surface I just can’t recommend it. If you’re investing in a major media buy and can plaster one website address in your print/video/radio ad, why in the world would you send it to Facebook.com/YourFanPage rather than your own site?

I just don’t see the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely agree that you should have a fan/group page at Facebook, but I really have to caution you against using a Facebook fan page as your primary (or only) website.

Even if your business is consumer-based (which means that Facebook is a natural for it – especially if you focus on products of interest to women), you need to really think hard about what’s going to happen if Facebook changes their terms of service and for whatever reason they decide that your fan page is no longer acceptable.

Whatever the reason might be, there’s there have been many instances where systems like this have just disappeared, have gotten bought out or have had changes in terms of service. Sometimes these events are very difficult to recover from.

B-to-B

If Facebook is used for your main website and you’re in a business-to-business market (where your clients are other businesses), it’s entirely possible that your clients will have no access to Facebook – and thus, to your website. It’s quite common for the network administration staff to block access to all social media sites, especially in larger businesses (especially big corporates with lots of worrying attorneys).

In some cases, even laptops that travel with outside employees will block sites like Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s OK to have a Facebook page for your business.

In many cases, it’s a great idea – particularly to provide another source for promotions and customer service access – but DON’T depend on a Facebook (or MySpace etc) page to be your only website.

Worst case scenarios

What happens if Facebook goes under, or has some catastrophe that brings their site down for a week? What if you start doing something that they don’t like? It doesn’t matter what that is.

Might not be a big deal today, might not be a big deal next week but at some point in the game the possibility could occur that you could get your Facebook fan page turned off overnight.

Do you want to come in tomorrow and find that all of the links on the ‘net that point to your “site” on Facebook are suddenly pointing to Facebook’s 404 page – or worse – to a Facebook ad page that lists your competitors?

It could happen.

It’s OK if some of the links out on the net point to your fan page, but you want them to get to your main site: a site you have complete control over. Bringing them to Facebook is one thing, leaving them there is entirely different and downright risky.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about the new Facebook advertising features that have prompted all the privacy complaints – and we’ll talk about why these are mostly good for yo, both as a consumer and a business owner.

The Social Media Scoreboard

dirt
Creative Commons License photo credit: shoothead

You’ve probably seen people on Twitter or Facebook yammering about “Wow, I only need 17 more followers or fans to hit 2000” (or  10000 or whatever).

If you’ve used Twitter, you know that there’s a curve there and when you round it, it’s like drinking from a firehose.

Stowe Boyd talks a little about the social media scoreboard in today’s guest post, stating that quality rather than quantity is the important factor.

Remember that each of those fans or followers are people. They have needs, wants and presumably they followed/fan’d you because they thought you had something to say. “I’m having a waffle” just isn’t it.

@BillGates doesn’t have 400-500k people following him on Twitter after just a few weeks because they want to hear him talk about Windows or MS Office. Bill is engaging to follow nowadays because he talks about poverty, disease and education – and then puts his money where his mouth is. Lots of it. Almost $300 million for polio, for example.

Engage. Have a *meaningful* conversation.

Think about the folks on Twitter or Facebook whose posts you look forward to. How are they different from yours?

Overheard in the frozen food section: What’s all that crap you post on Facebook?

Last night in the grocery store, 2 moms stopped me in the frozen food section. I thought I was safe since their kids swim with mine on the Columbia Falls Swim Team.

As I stood embarrassingly close to the frozen sausage and egg biscuits and pre-fab hamburger patties, they did it…

They asked me a question about Facebook.

If I remember accurately, it went something like this:

“Mark, What’s with the gibberish-filled crap you post on Facebook?”

Specifically, they asked about posts like “RT @idealfool Lakecam now!!!: http://bit.ly/pfsn0“, specifically wondering if I was speaking Klingon or some other language that few people speak here in Northwest Montana.

They asked because most of the stuff I post on Twitter (anything that isn’t a reply or a direct message) is automatically reposted to Facebook. And then they called me a geek. Ouch.

There’s a business lesson here, so keep up, will ya?

Twitter lingo

Twitter has its own lingo that you pick up pretty quickly if you use it. For example, RT means “retweet”.

When you “Retweet” someone else’s post, you are saying “Someone else posted this and I think its important / funny / stupid /sad / amazingly cool / etc enough to repeat to the folks who read what I post”.

The @ sign is also Twitter-speak (mostly). @WSJ, for example means “The Twitter user named “WSJ”, whose posts you can find at http://www.twitter.com/WSJ

I don’t think I need to explain HTTP://, but the rest of the URL looks weird and it’s easy to either think it is a typo or a link that no one in their right mind would click on.

Normally you’d expect a .com, but a lot of these URLs coming from Twitter posts end in .ly, .me, .gd and other really short abbreviations rather than .com.

No way am I clicking on those“, you’re thinking.

These sites are URL shorteners – though it does pay to be careful…

URL shorteners take a really long URL like this: http://ittybiz.com/customers-cant-afford-it/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Ittybiz+%28IttyBiz%29&utm_content=Google+Reader and turn it onto something rather compact like this: http://is.gd/4WLix

The reason URL shorteners are used so much is that Twitter only allows 140 characters in posts placed there. That URL above is longer than Twitter’s message size limit, so my Twitter program automatically shortens it using free services like http://bit.ly, http://is.gd or http://tinyurl.com.

Yeah, but what did you REALLY say?

We’re getting there.

The bit.ly URL in that “RT @idealfool Lakecam now!!!: http://bit.ly/pfsn0” post goes to http://www.nps.gov/ns/featurecontent/glac/webcams/popup-lakemcdonald.html, which is a glorious view of the mountains of Glacier Park as viewed from the south shore of Lake McDonald (cloud cover and darkness notwithstanding) – which is obviously what the original poster means by “Lakecam now!!!“.

@idealfool is the alter ego of Barry Conger, the volunteer Executive Director of the First Best Place Task Force, a seriously cool community organization here in Columbia Falls. Yes folks, Barry is one of those community organizer folks – and he’s read Hildy’s book, so now he’s really becoming dangerous.

Anytime you see an @ followed by a reasonably short name, it’s usually someone’s Twitter name. If you were around during the heyday of CB (citizens’ band) radio, the @idealfool part is pretty much the same as a person’s “handle” on the CB.

And the lesson?

Don’t assume that your wicked cool lingo from one context, group, environment, industry, peer group, media (or whatever) will be crystal clear to and perfectly understood by people in another.

Communication is critical. Don’t assume.

No, I’m not sure how to resolve that in this case without turning off the automatic repost of Twitter messages to Facebook. Yes, I’m thinking about doing exactly that.

Update: Today’s Freakonomics post in the NY Times is another fine example of a message that means one thing in one group and something vastly different to another – the term “Shovel ready”.

What do a Nebraska farmer and Paypal Australia have in common?

For one, both are using various forms of social media to expand their business, find new customers and communicate with existing ones.

In some cases, they might never have communicated directly with the customer who way down the commerce chain actually consumes their product. Now, they can and do – even while settled into a tractor seat in their Nebraska croplands.

Meanwhile, a programmer acquaintance in Australia recently talked about how social media connected him and a global corporation, making him feel like more than just a number and engaging him to develop software using their payment systems.

What would reaching out would do for your business?

Social media mistakes small business owners should avoid

junior
Creative Commons License photo credit: notmpres

Today we’re going to talk about three mistakes that I advise small business owners not to make when getting into social media.

#1 – Don’t be a firehose

One of the easiest things to do – and most important to avoid – is the temptation to flood the place with automated messages.

For example, there are tools out there (like twitterfeed.com) that allow you to automatically post links to your blog to Twitter. You can do the same with Friendfeed and Facebook.

Using tools like this to send your blog posts to Twitter or Facebook is fine – unless that’s the only thing you post.

If you’re the Flathead Beacon, CNN or The New York Times, you can get away with that – even though we’d still like to see more interaction.

As a small business owner, your job is not to be a firehose.

Interaction is better. Note the first word in “social media”. It’s social.

It’s not you standing on a corner preaching to anyone who will listen – while you listen to no one and interact with no one.

#2 – Don’t treat me like it’s our honeymoon when it’s really our first date

One of the most common mistakes I see in Twitter is the “Hey, thanks for following, want to buy my product?” direct message (in Twitter lingo, a DM).

Look at it this way. If we meet at a Rotary meeting for the very first time, the first thing you say face to face after we are introduced and are seated across from each other is NOT going to be “Hey, great to meet you, want to buy my product?”

It’s the same thing. Don’t do it.

#3 – Don’t assume that everyone wants to listen to your politics or the F bomb all day

They don’t. Just because the environment is a bit casual on many of these sites, don’t assume for a minute that you are sitting in a bar in a strange town where no one will ever see you again.

Would you have those conversations across the counter with a customer? Would you have them out loud with a friend in your crowded business?

Didn’t think so. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are also not the place to have them either.

Always remember that you’re taking the time to use these tools in order to better connect with the people who are interested in what your business does, or what you know.

EXCEPT…when it supports the nature of your business. Yes, Ian’s Catholic goods store comes to mind as the easy example.

That may seem a bit cheesy, but the fact remains that if your politics have no business out loud at the counter of your store, then they don’t have any business representing you on Twitter and Facebook (etc).

Finally, watch your online mouth just like you would your real one. It’s still a business conversation.

Social Media: Time Waster or Essential Small Business Tool?

Polio outbreak campaign
Creative Commons License photo credit: coda

If someone threw a party for a big group of people who are interested in the products and services you offer, wouldn’t you want to be there?

Yeah, you would and social media can help you do just that.

Given that you’re reading this, I can’t help but assume that you know what social media is. Still, you may still wonder how it could possibly be of productive use for your business as opposed to another way to waste your staff’s time.

Note that last word in the phrase “Social Media”. Really, that’s all it is. A media.

What’s critical to understand is that it is a very different kind of media than businesses are used to dealing with.

It’s interactive and independent. It’s not controlled by a major media company, which likely keeps them up at night.

If you want to learn more about your favorite music, where do you go? If you want to hang out and discuss music with 100,000 fans of The Who, The Beatles or Miley Cyrus, you don’t go through a music industry gatekeeper to do so.

Social media enables you and those 100,000 other people to find each other. Easily.

I Leica cameras

Let’s say that I’m a big fan of Leica cameras, as Ed Dale is. (Sorry Ed, I’m a Canon guy).

If I want to have a conversation with someone about them or learn more about them here at home (remember, I’m in a fairly rural community), I’ve got a problem.

So how do I find others who are into Leica camera gear?

You can call a local camera store. You can visit your local photography club. If your community has a central web-based events calendar, you could check that out or subscribe to updates. You can visit a local photography exhibition and ask someone there. And of course, you could Google <your town> photography club.

Even after doing all that, you may find that there is a small number of people in your area who are interested in Leicas. On a photography social media site like Digital Photography School, it’s a different story.

Now imagine that your business specializes in Leicas in some way. Maybe you sell them, repair them or create accessories for them.

Wouldn’t you want to take part in the discussions that all these Leica enthusiasts have? Worst case, you’d want to listen in on them and get your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community of Leica fans.

If you’ve taken my advice to heart here at Business is Personal, I’m thinking you’d want to be right in the middle of all those conversations.

Join the Conversation

Even if you don’t participate in the conversations (though you should), there’s a huge amount of value there. Because of this, social media is a great research tool.

It provides an efficient way to keep an eye on what people are saying about your products, business, industry and competitors.

It allows you to easily reach out to your customers and prospects and improve your relationship with them. The more responsive you can be to your customers, the more likely you are to keep them.

Social media allows you one more way (and one more place) to demonstrate your expertise to people who need it. People want to do business with the expert.

Robert Collier said to join the conversation already going on in your prospect’s head. That’s exactly what social media allows you to do.

Rotary rings

Social media also provides you with the ability to connect with people you might NEVER have met any other way – someone who can make a substantial difference in your life or business (or vice versa).

I follow the Cary (Kildaire) North Carolina Rotary Club on Twitter.

Why? They’re a large, successful club in a high-tech town. I’m (currently) our club President in a small, new club in a small rural town. I can learn a lot from a large successful club.

I have a Rotary search setup in Tweetdeck so that I can find people who talk about Rotary. If they’re interesting and helpful comments, I eventually follow them. That’s how I found the Cary Rotary Club on Twitter.

One of their comments earlier in the week said someone from Rotarian magazine (the monthly magazine that Rotary International publishes for their members) was looking for a source to talk about social media and Rotary.

A perfect fit

Gee, is that a good fit for me and my business? Rotary members are mostly business owners. I’m a Rotarian and currently club president. Marketing is my business. It’s a *perfect* fit.

The Cary post on Twitter included the email address of the reporter, so I emailed her and soon enough we had an appointment to speak.

The next day, we had a 45 minute phone interview for a story that will appear in Rotarian magazine.

We talked about the interaction of social media with Rotary and Rotary’s 4 Way Test, as well as social media’s use in business for marketing and other purposes. We also talked about common mistakes that people new to social media might make and should avoid.

I have no idea what will come from that, but it’s exactly the kind of publicity I can use, to the perfect audience for my business. For free.

In addition, it’s a pretty cool thing to be a Rotary member who is interviewed in The Rotarian, so that’s a nice bonus (and yes, I will likely have to spin the wheel when the magazine comes out).

Back to you

Enough about me, even if it was a good example.

As you can see, there are a number of benefits to participating in social media.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about some of the pitfalls to avoid and some things to focus on.

As you might expect, it’s personal.