Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Power of the #Hashtag

Last weekend was a major event for us Mormons. Those of you that aren't, bear with me, because what I have to say about that weekend will make a difference to you and how you promote your business.

So, last weekend was what we call "General Conference Weekend". It's two days of hearing speeches in big meetings (totalling about 10 hours) from our church leaders. It happens every six months and, in our culture, it's a big deal.

In recent years, an interesting cultural phenomenon has occurred, called "live tweeting", where members who are watching or attending the conference sessions post their favorite thoughts and quotes in real-time as they hear them, either on facebook, twitter, or both. Other members then watch for those quotes and share their thoughts. It becomes a running commentary on the proceedings.

Here's why that's important to anyone else: It's all tracked by a single "hashtag". For the uninitiated, a hastag is a short string of characters that immediately follow the "#" sign in a twitter post (Facebook, now, too). What good is it? Why is it there? It's to allow others to find your post by using Twitter's search function. By searching for the the right hashtag phrase, a reader can peruse all of the tweets about a given topic. In this case, those livetweeting general conference were using the now-traditional: "#ldsconf" hashtag.

I had a lot of fun this time livetweeting and reading the tweets of others as the conference went on. Many of my tweets were marked as "favorites" by others, and "retweeted" or reposted in other people's tweets. I ended up with a big list of new followers, too, all because I joined in using the right hashtag. Here's an interesting artlicle about that from the church's tech department:

I was very intersted to learn from this article just how high in the national ratings the trending hashtag got.

So, the real take-away message, here, is that while you're using twitter and facebook, to find and use the hashtags that are trending in your own audience. To do this, you have to begin by finding people to follow in your audience, your industry, your niche. When you see them using hashtags, click on them, or search them. If there are a lot of relevant posts with that tag, then, you know you've hit paydirt. Sometimes you can also google search your nice and the word hashtags, because sometimes people compile articles about the hashtags and post them on blogs or pages.

Then, once you've identified them, begin using them. Make tweets and posts that are relevant to the tag and add it in. If you're sharing some online resource you've found or retweeting someone else's post, that's even better!

Then you can ride the hashtag wave to more followers, and, ultimately, new customers.

Check out Mark's other blogs, at Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Cookbooks or Handicap Parking Spot

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Social Media Disaster: The Applebees Restaurant Perfect Storm

You might have heard about this, or read about it.  There are a lot of lessons to be learned.  Here’s what happened, and how it blew up too big, too quickly, for everyone involved.

A pastor was having dinner out with some friends at an Applebees restaurant.  Per the restaurant’s policies, whenever there’s a part of so many people, the tip is automatically added into the ticket.  The pastor was a bit frustrated by that policy, or maybe by the percentage that was added in (18%), and wrote a note on the ticket that said, “I give God 10%, why should you get 18?”  In spite of the comment, the pastor did pay the gratuity.

The waitress who served the pastor brushed off the comment, but showed it to her co-worker, who got upset by it and took a picture of it with her cell phone, and posted it to a social media site.

It went viral, and the pastor was embarrassed to find her comment all over the ‘net.  She was even more startled that her signature on the ticket was plainly visible, and was going viral along with the picture.  She called and complained to the management of the Applebees.

The Applebees management was caught in a bind.  The second waitress, in posting the picture with the signature and other personal information on the ticket, had violated the company policy on guest privacy.  They fired the waitress.

The ‘net went crazy.  Or, crazier, I should say, with facebook pages and petitions to re-instate the waitress along with hatemail to the pastor and threats of boycotts to Applebees.

Here is a report on the story:

Here are some things to learn from this experience.

1 - There were no winners.  Nobody came out on top.  Applebees is reeling from a big hit to their corporate PR, the waitress is out of work in a recession, and the pastor is hurting from the backlash of a momentary lapse of her christian goodwill.

2 - The two acts that sparked this media wildfire, the waves that added up to this perfect storm, were simple, relatively innocuous acts.  The snarky comment on the restaurant ticket is something that we’ve all probably thought from time to time, when paying for a meal.  Finding something quirky or funny and posting a picture of it is not that big of a deal, either, right?

3 - A teenage friend of mine once asked me why people he didn’t know were seeing his “private Facebook posts”.  I explained to him that it’s a SOCIAL network, and there is no such thing as a “private post”.  If you want something to be private on Facebook, don’t post it on Facebook.  The bigger lesson is:  Be very careful what you post online.

4 - An extension of that is to never - NEVER - N  E  V  E  R  R  R  R - post something about your job.  Don’t complain about your job, don’t vent about your job, don’t do it.  If you post it, your boss can find it.

5 - Most companies don’t know how to handle the masses on social networking.  I’m not sure there was any clean and easy way for Applebees to get out of this one and to turn it around, but the buzz on the ‘net has not been kind to them.  It reminds me of the “United Breaks Guitars” song that caused the airline so much headache.

6 - Neither Applebees nor the pastor nor the waitress had any idea that these actions would spiral out of control.  The waitress should have known, because she did, you know, post the picture to a, well, SOCIAL NETWORK.  But all this bad karma was unexpected.

I don’t mean to scare anyone away.  Facebook is a fun way to keep up with family and friends, and to be “in the loop” on what the world is talking about.  The big takeaway from all this, the Tip from Applebees is: social media is a tough animal to control.  Use it carefully.


Mark is currently employed as an Internet Business Coach.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MySpace, Facebook, Google+

I know I’m showing my age, but I used to be very active on MySpace.  Even though I was actively promoting many websites, especially my music, and I resisted the transition to Facebook.  I had figured out all the nuances of MySpace, and I didn’t want to have to relearn everything.  

But, eventually, I did.  I made the jump, and once I was in with both feet, I never looked back (I get paid extra by the cliche, you know...).  It is true there was a learning curve.  Not so much how to use it, or how to get around in it, but how to USE it.  Effectively USE it to promote my sites, I mean.  

Each social network is a different animal, and it responds to your methods differently.  There are some underlying principles, it’s true, but still, they’re NOT the same, and if you treat them that way, you’re destined to fail.

So, today, I read an article about the ascendence of Google+, and my first thought was, “Oh, no, not again...”  Now I’m going to have to work both Facebook AND Google+ for a while, and I’ll have to learn it and figure it all out.  I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Still, I jumped in.  I’ve had a Google+ account for a long time, I just haven’t been using it.  I spent some time this afternoon tweaking my profile, finding some friends, and joining a few groups.  I’m not being too active just yet, as I want to discover the lay of the land (more cliches) and watch for a bit first.

There are a few things I like, like the circles, and how easy it was to organize my friends into them.  There are some similarities, like the posting feed.  The more I read, the more I’m convinced that the secret to the future of SEO will be tied into how many +1’s you rack up, so the more I learn about it now, the better off I’ll be.  

I don’t like splitting my time between many social networks.  I don’t like posting the same thing, essentially, on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.  I imagine there’s a lot of crossover in my audiences.  For now, however, I don’t see any other way.

Some bonus thoughts:

1 - I thought it was really interesting that by a total saturation percentage, MySpace (such as it still is) actually beats out Pinterest!

2 - Google owns both Google+ AND YouTube, but added together, they're still just under Facebook!


Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Making More Money Blogging

Everyone wants to make more money, right?  It seems that no matter how much you have, it would always be nice to have a little more.  As I look at all of the blogs I run, it seems to me that with a little effort, they could all be making me more money.

Over at Problogger , Darren Rowse spelled out three things that could make a blog more successful.  Really, these are the same principles that could make ANY website better.  His ideas to make money blogging are:

  1. Increase traffic to the site.
  2. Increase conversions of first-time visitors into subscribers of an email list.
  3. Increase sales conversions.

His point in the article is that even a slight increase in all three of these areas can add up to a significant increase in the bottom line at the end of each month.

Increasing Traffic

There are, of course, a lot of things that can go into this, from SEO, to linking, to use of social networking.  Before deciding what can be done to improve a site, however, I think it’s important to take a look at the analytics and see where you are.  How can you fix things if you don’t know what is broken?  By the same token, if you know what’s working, you can turn it up!

Email List Building

A major part of internet marketing is, of course, the email list.  If there isn’t one already (like most websites), it’s vital to build one.  First time visitors to your site need to be aware that they can sign up, and be aware of a good reason to.  Is there a freebie giveaway for the signup?  There has to be a benefit.

Increasing Sales Conversions

If a higher percentage of visitors become buyers, then you build your income exponentially.  The same number of visitors makes you more money.  It really makes a lot of sense to put effort into your site’s layout.  Streamline the purchase process.  Make the products more prominent.  Make it easier for people to find and buy your products.  Whether your site is eCommerce or affiliate, the principle is the same.

It’s also valuable to spend some time figuring out what your conversion rate is.  Out of all the pageviews your site gets, how many of them do something you want them to do, like buy something, or click through an affiliate ad?  Before you can improve something, you have to measure it.

There are many different ways to accomplish these improvements.  The first step, really, is knowing where you are now, and where you want to be at the end of the year.  That will help make money blogging!


Mark is currently in the curriculum Department of an internet and SEO training company.

Mark also has other sites and blogs, including Mark's Black Pot - Dutch Oven Recipes, and his MoBoy blog.