01. February 2017 · Comments Off on White Hats, Pink Hats, Black Hats… and the White House · Categories: Blogging, Digital Marketing, Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , , ,

White Hats, Pink Hats, Black Hats and the White House

Many of us in tech tend to be introverts.  We are passionately engaged with our clients. We feel  and experience deeply but you would never know it as we are reticent to speak up, or cause controversy in order to avoid a drop in web traffic, fewer consulting gigs, or trolls from high school taking issue with a mildly progressive meme involving the color pink.  When Googlers this week finally started “marching” in support of immigrant colleagues, this made me smile and also remembering fondly an SEO conference from several years ago.  The SES event we attended involved a meet and greet icebreaker  which involved identifying your firm as to whether it was “white hat” or “black hat”.   “White hat” meant you used technical skills that were above board, slightly less aggressive in order to earn higher rankings but none which would trouble the search giants such as Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go or Facebook.  “Black hat” meant you were not above being scrappy and slightly nefarious by using keywords hidden in white fonts, misdirected pages, buying followers, or other questionable tech tactics.  We were provided real cowboy hats during the event and instructed to both wear them and mingle.  Surprisingly, it was a 50/50 color spectrum.

But when you have always leaned “white hat” and have turned down more gigs than you have accepted due to questionable client ethics, there comes a point when you need to actually wear your sheriff’s badge and come clean.

In the early 90’s I both interviewed and processed grants for disaster victims, for women at risk who had been violated and burned with cigarettes in the trafficking industry, human rights activists in foreign jails housed in horrendous conditions,  and health professionals who had their hospitals and lifesaving equipment bombed by political factions.  Later, as a case manager and small business developer, I went on to help refugees impacted by similar events try to build small family microbusinesses in order to escape tough working conditions from jobs they had to accept once they had been admitted to the US.  Many of these tiny businesses made it.  Some did not.  I was new to understanding the impact of PTSD on many of my clients and looking back wondered if stronger mental health support would have allowed more of these families to thrive.   One client had been chased by gangs with knives through the jungles of Togo.  He was heartbroken to be separated from his wife.  A large man with a broad smile, he came to my office and cried when he was placed in a job with a meat packing plant.  Idealistic, but inexperienced, it took me several years to understand that the knives in the meat packing plant were probably not helping him recover from his experience of being hunted in the jungles of Togo.

So…as I saw people unjustly detained and then finally “making it” through the gauntlet at so many airports in these United States this weekend to cheering crowds, I was haunted by the man with the broad smile.  He never had a crowd to greet him, just me.  And this is how we continue to work.  If we can cheer for your success (and the standards are high) then you qualify for a sheriff’s badge with our “white hat” team.

For someone who has yet to make our “white hat” list, it was indeed surprising that instead of doing a breaking news event on regular television networks, 45 opted last night to switch to Facebook Live.  Maybe he was hoping for a sea of pink hearts rather than angry smiley faces in order to give him his needed mandate.  We are hoping that he received what he needed.   So many do not.

Mountain Woods Media, LLC is both a white hat and progressive firm and will forever remain so.  Pick your hat, giddy up, get out there, design a cool sign, and in the face of injustice, do say something.

~  Leigh M. Drake, President, Mountain Woods Media, LLC

14. October 2016 · Comments Off on Avoiding the Unprofitable Time Suck in Your Business · Categories: Blogging, Digital Marketing, Mountain Woods Media, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , ,

Does it always seem like there’s never enough time to get everything finished in your business day? Where does the time go?

Sometimes, for business owners and operators, there always seems to be a “fire” that needs to be put out. An upset customer or client; some employee drama or your regular six-month check-up at the dentist, etc. and just like that your day is gone.

What happened?

Actually, you probably accomplished quite a bit during your busy day, but if you feel like you are burning the midnight oil; working weekends, etc., and still falling behind on getting work accomplished, perhaps there are some things you can do – and other things you should cut out – to help make your day more productive.

For instance:

  • Stay off Facebook and other social media platforms. This is such a huge time suck. A post here; a picture there and before you know it you’re comparing bushy squirrel tails to Donald Trump’s hair.
  • Constantly checking e-mail. Again, this is also a time-wasting task. Checking e-mails and immediately responding to them gets you off-track. It also lets the receiver of your email know you’re available for a back-and-forth e-mail conversation. Try to get into a habit of checking your e-mail once in the morning (when you get to the office); once at lunch and then at the end of the day.
  • Get organized. If you can, plan tomorrow’s tasks and “to do” list at the end of the day. Then, when you start your work day, you have a plan. Follow the plan.
  • Try to avoid other distractions. This includes checking sports scores; playing online games; scanning the news websites; watching YouTube videos, etc.
  • If you schedule and conduct meetings, sales calls, etc., schedule them for less than one hour. If you’re hosting a meeting, get to the point and move on quickly. Your clients will appreciate it, too!
  • When possible, conduct meetings via mobile phone or through an online meeting software platform. This will save a ton of unproductive travel time.
  • Take your lunch. Not only is this a budget-minded issue, but going to a restaurant; ordering a meal; waiting for your meal, etc., also burns 45 minutes or more per day.

Are you guilty of any of the aforementioned time sucks? Trim it back. Get things done. Be more productive and more profitable.

Are You an ExpertAre you an expert?

Recently, we attended a two-day e-commerce conference in Ohio covering a variety of topics from pricing strategies to selling and beyond.

However, in one particular workshop session, the speaker told the nearly 100-person audience that they needed to convince themselves they are the “expert.” She even went to the extreme to ask everyone to repeat (out loud) over and over again “I am the expert.”

Seriously?

This is so wrong on many levels:

  • You are NOT the expert if you need to convince yourself that you are the expert.
  • You are NOT the expert if you need a self-proclaimed marketing expert to tell you that you are an expert.
  • Repeating the phrase “I am the expert” doesn’t make you an expert in anything.
  • Chances are good if anyone claims to be an “expert” that they are only trying to either convince themselves or the prospective customer, client, etc.

Can you tell how much we can’t stand the word “expert?”

Here’s how you can really become an expert, guru, ninja, etc. in your field:

  • Walk the walk and talk the talk. Your actions; knowledge of the subject matter and helpful advice will eventually make you the “go to” person in your industry.
  • Listen, study, and learn. Stay up to date on new topics, trends and information.
  • The more you share information and other tips to help your customers and clients, the more you’ll be recognized as an actual expert.
  • Write a blog. Write articles. Consistently create and publish YouTube videos, etc. These are the kinds of things that eventually make you the expert.

Claiming, shouting and repeating that “I am an expert” in such-and-such (insert topic here) is amateurish and unprofessional. It many cases, it turns off your prospective customers.

Instead, let your posse; your customers; your clients; your Facebook Fans; your Twitter followers make you the expert. Make yourself THE person they want to seek out to help them solve a problem or find the right product or service for their business.

Conference organizers – and conference speakers – please, no more “I am the expert” lectures. OK?

 

29. September 2016 · Comments Off on Getting Your E-Commerce Road to Riches in Order for Q4 · Categories: E-Commerce, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , ,

Plan For Q4 Now!Road-to-Riches-4th-QT-ECommerce

It’s hard to believe how fast the 2016 has flown by. Now, in just a few days, we’ll be heading into the fourth quarter which is, by far, the busiest time of the year for e-commerce and online retailers.

Are you Q4 ready?

Here are some tips to help you plan and prepare for what could be your business’ best fourth quarter yet.

  • Today (as in right now) – Set your sales goals and work backwards on how you’ll reach them. This includes timely inventory purchases; packing and shipping supplies; marketing budget and strategy; hiring part-time help, etc. Don’t delay on getting started.
  • Every day – Continue to stay active within your social media networks including Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Even if you’re busy filling and shipping orders, your customers (and potential customers) want to see continued updates and product photos. If you’re offering gift wrapping services this year, offer photos, tips and ideas.
  • Monday, October 31 – Halloween is the second largest holiday in retail and e-commerce sales. This is a great holiday to kick-start your Q4 sales. Don’t wait too late into the month to jump in on the action.
  • Wednesday, November 23 – The day before “Blue Thursday” and two days before “Black Friday.” Get ready!
  • Thursday, November 24 – Thanksgiving, also known as “Blue Thursday” as many retail stores are open for business. If you’re getting together with family and friends today, make sure you keep an eye on your e-commerce sites and answer customer e-mails ASAP. If you’re serious about your business, this is truly not a day to overeat and watch football.
  • Friday, November 25 – Black Friday. You should be filling orders and getting them shipped to customers that day. Do not rest on our laurels. Don’t procrastinate to Monday. You should be open for business!
  • You should also be aware that post offices and other federal, state and local offices are closed on Monday, October 10 (Columbus Day) and Friday, November 11 (Veterans Day). Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Plan accordingly for possible shipping and delivery interruptions.
  • Keep tabs on upcoming important cut-off shipping dates when announced by the United States Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, etc. Be aware of any extra shipping charges you may have to incur if you plan to ship to customers wanting an item at the last minute (and in time for Christmas).
  • Oh, by the way, Christmas Eve is Saturday, December 24 and Christmas Day is Sunday, December 25.

Don’t delay. Get ready and make your Fourth Quarter plans today!

 

27. January 2016 · Comments Off on Negative Reputation – You Can Run But You Can’t Hide · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, ORM, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , , ,

This is an online reputation example of a business who thought they could take the easy way out and run from their negative reviews; customer complaints and media coverage.

Zombieland Zombie chase via FanPop Wallpaper

Before we get into the mud, the business discussed here will remain anonymous as there’s no reason for us to make their online reputation matters worse. In addition, for the record, this isn’t a client of ours nor have we ever been retained to consult with or help improve their online reputation.

Here’s what happened:

The company, which we will refer to as “The ABC Company” is a retail establishment with a single store location on the East coast.

When searching for the company’s name in Google, the first two results are secured by The ABC Company’s domain name. From there, however, it gets worse.

50 reviews in Yelp averaging two (out of five) stars.

Two negative blogs

A complaint filed with the Ripoff Report

All on the first page of Google search results.

So, rather than try to clean up its reputation, The ABC Company opted to purchase a different domain and changed their business name slightly to “The ABCD Company.”

Guess what? That strategy never works.

You see, your negative reputation will always follow you. If you (as an individual) or your business didn’t get it right the first time, then chances are good you’re going to fail the second time.

The “new” business continued to earn poor reviews; negative complaints; media coverage as well as an onslaught of comments informing everyone that “The ABCD Company” is the same as “The ABC Company,” etc.

The “new” business has secured the top two results in Google with their new domain name, but a fresh batch of negative posts follow, including:

Back-to-back negative news stories.

Those same 50 bad Yelp reviews (reviewers helped Yelp connect the new company with the old company).

A negative blog.

A legal matter.

Two more negative blogs and a negative Facebook Page attacking the new company round out the Top 10 search results.

Overall, the reputation for the “new” firm is worse than the original company.

Where do you start?

Well, besides shuttering your doors and never going into business again, this is an online reputation problem from a very dark place. It would require the following:

  • There’s obviously more here than just an upset customer or two, so other problems exist within the company itself. Processes, products, services and staff need to be corrected; modified and re-trained internally first.
  • Develop and implement a strong public relations campaign. Only new and fresh online media coverage (print and video) can outrank old negative URLs appearing in search results.
  • Blog every day. Maybe twice a day. Work on your company and brand name.
  • Share a ton of positive photographs in social media (Twitter; Flickr; Facebook, etc.).
  • Film and share your own positive videos on YouTube and in other social networks.

This online reputation problem can be fixed, but it will have to start internally and then publicly.

 

07. January 2016 · Comments Off on How One Post Ruined Holly Jones’ Online Reputation · Categories: ORM, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , , , ,

No one plans on ruining their online reputation.

However, in this case, Holly Jones of Indianapolis didn’t think before she posted her New Year’s Eve restaurant complaint on the establishment’s Facebook page.

This is a prime example of how quickly one’s reputation can be severely damaged (almost to the point of zero chance of recovery) and how a business’ posse quickly came to the rescue and defended its actions.

In a blink of an eye, the story when viral.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened:

Jones and her party were enjoying their New Year’s Eve dinner at Kilroy’s Bar and Grill in downtown Indianapolis. During the evening, a 70-year-old woman suffered a heart attack. Paramedics arrived; took the patient to the hospital, where she is recovering.

Rather than showing a little civility, mercy and care, Jones felt the need to post a message on Kilroy’s Facebook Page and blasted the restaurant; management; the suffering woman (who Jones said suffered from an overdose) and complained about her $700 bill.

Now, since the post was published on Kilroy’s Facebook page, the restaurant could have simply deleted her post. However, Kilroy’s Managing Partner Chris Burton blasted back….big time:

“This poor lady, who was celebrating New Year’s Eve with her husband and son, had to be placed on the floor of a completely packed bar and have her shirt removed in front of everyone so the paramedics could work on her. But I can completely understand why you think being intoxicated a******s that didn’t understand your bill should take priority over human life. I especially appreciate you making your server (who doesn’t curse) cry as well. I’m sure she really enjoyed working on New Year’s Eve just to deal with people such as yourself.”

Burton went on and told Jones that she was “cold hearted and nasty” and that he wouldn’t lose a second of sleep over her pledge never to return to Kilroy’s.

However, the fire storm was just getting started.

Enter local media, Twitter and here you go. Even at 2 a.m., the story was trending (#HollyJones). Holly Jones was getting blasted by those who never knew her; never met her; never had been to Kilroy’s; never had been to Indianapolis or, even been to the United States for that matter. Other Facebook users with the name “Holly Jones” were getting hate mail and anonymous threatening phone calls.

Jones took down her Facebook Page (claiming it had been hacked) and it appears she also lost her job as a hair stylist. Burton and his fans donated $14,000 in funds for medical bills of the heart attack victim

Did Holly Jones deserve it? Did she pick a fight with Kilroy’s and is now paying a huge price for her public post?  Did the restaurant manager go too far? Are the tables finally turning on restaurant review trolls?

Holly Jones

Some of the ongoing reviews and conversations on Kilroy’s Facebook Page from January 5, 2016

 

22. December 2015 · Comments Off on The Opportunities for Building Positive Reviews for Your Business Just Grew Exponentially · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , ,

by Leigh Drake, President, Mountain Woods Media, LLC

As a way to do some Facebook limitations testing and as a means of coming up with a new way to test potential interview candidates for our social media staff team, for a couple of weeks each morning I pushed myself to play with the Facebook Editor (https://www.facebook.com/editor) . This is an area of Facebook where you suggest areas or “edits” for improvement for business and place pages within the Facebook garden. The business pages suggested start out as places where you can make local business page editorial suggestions. As you become more adept (and pass Facebook’s muster) they will give you pages to suggest edits in far flung locations…like bars in the Texas desert, marketing businesses that are spamming keywords in alternative categories such as dentists, and fake pages you can report.

By helping me better assess Facebook activity for our clients’ various industries, it is also a funny way to pass the time over coffee — especially for business and media geeks. Facebook has succeeded in crowd sourcing a global editorial team that provides free edits of “business categories” to their business pages as a means of encouraging businesses to improve their business page content. There is a global team contest going on for the month of December, but you can still participate as an anonymous individual and the app will reward you personally with new levels and an accuracy rate. Am now just up to Level 12 with an 86% accuracy rate. I would probably have a higher accuracy rate if I hadn’t made some of my earliest edits “rebellion” edits for Trump Towers and businesses I had recently been burned by…but that’s another topic for another blog post.

Facebook Professional Services

As I started doing this for a few weeks, I became curious as to “why” Facebook was mobilizing and incentivizing a team of editors for all of these business pages. My question was answered when both Search Engine Land and WIRED magazine wrote articles regarding Facebook’s soft roll out of their “Professional Services” pages.

Facebook Takes on Yelp, but Doesn’t Get a Thumbs Up Yet by Brian Barrett on 12/15/15

Is “Facebook Professional Services” Facebook’s Stealth Project to Beat Yelp? Unannounced desktop-only feature gives people the ability to find the highest-rated businesses in a given area. by Martin Beck on 12/14/15

Apparently Facebook saw a window of opportunity for grabbing market share as there have been numerous rumors about Angie’s List being bought out or absorbed and Yelp and Google reviews enduring a plethora of small business lawsuits. We also wrote recently on our blog how Google Plus is Dropping Small Business Reviews.

This new Professional Services feature in Facebook is available to users anonymously via desktop by going to this link https://facebook.com/services . Visiting this link via Safari on a mobile device, took us to the page, but asked us to login to our Facebook account first. Visitors to the Professional Services area in Facebook are presented with a page saying “Find Local Businesses with the Best Facebook Reviews and Ratings” that has their current location pre-determined via a form box. We were a little puzzled as to how location suggestions were being routed as Facebook directed me to businesses only in Erlanger, Kentucky which is not really a “normal” shopping area in our area. For the sake of privacy, my Facebook profile is intentionally set to say I live in Northern Kentucky which is “normal” for 4000 users in our area. When we attempted to use the location override and insert our actual city location, we got the same thumbnail pictures results for Erlanger, KY which indicated the same businesses. But the sub-section of the page did serve up a logical assortment of business categories like wedding planners, business consultants, dentists, electricians, day cares, etc. Once I clicked on a specific category, I obtained better localized results for businesses in our area.

From the standpoint of building positive reviews; however, what was interesting is how many business results appeared with very few completed Facebook profiles, or reviews. Clearly, small businesses in our area need to get on board with enhancing their business profile pages within the Facebook walled garden. We see this as a golden opportunity for building positive business reviews for your business.  Take a look at your own business profile in Facebook and make sure it is what you want your customers to see.  If you are overwhelmed with the task, contact us and we can help.

Contact Mountain Woods Media for help with Facebook