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Is Pinterest Really Useful for Business?

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Pinterest for Business?Everyone’s new favorite social network, Pinterest, has been creating front page news for a few months now.  The site has had an explosion of users and has garnered attention because of it.  And just as anyone who follows this sort of thing closely could predict, with the explosion of users came the marketing expert’s advice on how to use it for business.  There are hundreds of blog posts titled “X ways to use Pinterest for business” and “X has crazy, stupid success on Pinterest, and your business could too!”  Before you go jumping onto the bandwagon, there are a few important things to note.

Pinterest Links are No-Follow

Any links that are created from images are given a no-follow tag.  If you’re not familiar, no-follow tags tell search engine bots to give no value to the site that is being linked, ultimately rendering the link useless for helping with SEO.  So, if you were planning on pinning a bunch of pictures of your products back to a page on your site, just to help with search rankings, spare yourself the trouble…it won’t help. 

Pinterest is all About Being Visual

People aren’t pinning and sharing business related marketing messages, so just sharing what you already have isn’t going to help.  Things that get pinned over and over again are clever images.  Trying to shoehorn your product or services into images may not be the easiest thing in the world, so proceed with caution.

Some Topics Get Shared/Pinned Way More than Others

At the moment, the majority of Pinterest users are women.  I hadn’t heard of the site until my girlfriend refused to give up the laptop for even one minute a few months ago.  She was hooked, and she wasn’t the only one.  My Facebook news feed filled up with content being shared from Pinterest…which was all being shared by women.  The only men that I know that utilize Pinterest can be classified as the “extremely plugged-in” type.   So, with the user-base being predominately women to begin with, it seems that some topics spread much more than others.  Initially, crafting ideas, recipes, fashion, decorating, animals, and funny quotes have dominated people's boards (just look at the homepage and see).  Not saying that every board is the same, or that everyone has the same interests, but these topics seem to be the highest topics of interest on Pinterest (say that 10x fast).  This may change in the future, but it is something to be aware of, if you’re trying to insert your business into people online lives.

I’m not saying that there is zero benefit for brands that utilize Pinterest.  Obviously, sharing content or interesting topics can help boost your brands identity and ultimately the bottom line.  There are some success stories of some businesses utilizing Pinterest to the fullest, but my warning is to proceed with caution.  For every “Look what Zappos did on Twitter” story, there are thousands who spend countless hours to receive nothing in return. 

My general rule of thumb – don’t just join these sites because everyone else is.  Have a plan, analyze the data, and amend accordingly.  Also, have some realistic metrics in place.  None of these extremely popular sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) become this popular because of businesses joining.  People want to connect with people, so proceed with caution


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Netflix: How Customers are the New Shareholders

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If you haven't followed the Netflix debacle, here's a quick overview:

  1. In July, Netflix announced it was raising prices on accounts that have both streaming and DVD rentals from $9.99 to $15.98. This actually reflected separate pricing for each service ($7.99 each). Customers were outraged.
  2. Netflix almost instantly lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers and was expected to lose a million total - mostly from the DVD-only side. By mid-September, the Netflix stock price was down 20%.
  3. Immediately following the stock sell-off and mass cancelation spree, CEO Reed Hastings sent a letter to all subscribers  explaining the reasoning behind the split. The company would be split into two entities, one for streaming (Netflix) and one for DVD's (Qwikster). That quelled some anger but others persisted.
  4. Today, amidst the continuing outcries, CEO Hastings announced that there would be no split and the Qwikster initiative would be killed off.

Now how's that for customer complaints turning the tides? Even ten years ago if a company made a major change like this you would have to assemble a small army of protestors and march on their headquarters to get a company to reverse course. Not anymore.

With Facebook, Twitter, blog comments, customer forums, and other social channels you can instantly create an army of a million or more who share your viewpoint. Protesting consumer brands can be incredibly viral. And Netflix' price increase and service changes are no exception.

Here are a few lessons to take away from Netflix' errors:

  1. Test, test, and test again. If you are a public company with a market cap of 5.8 billion dollars, test the Qwikster concept on a small segment of your subscribers. Keep it private and see how many from that group cancel their account as a result. It's insane to think that you would split your company with little input from your customer community. Granted, you're raising prices and that won't go over well anytime. But you never mentioned the split at the time so there was no correlation to the 60% price increase.
  2. Don't raise prices 60%. I used Netflix before they offered the streaming service and hung it up after I realized that I could only rent two movies every 8-9 days. That's three days in the mail, 2-3 days at my house, and another 3 days back to Netflix in the mail. Do the math and you can only get 4-6 movies a month. 

    About this time, Blockbuster offered their unlimited DVD rental plan for around $15 per month (2 or 3 DVD's out at a time). I could actually rent movies, watch them, and pick up new movies on my way home. I cut out six days between each change-up. Then they raised prices on this service to $24.99 per month. I dropped out. $15 of entertainment per month was worth it. A 60% increase to $25 was not. Perhaps Netflix should have read their business history books before they made the same change.
  3. Honest Communication. â€‹Netflix has been stuck in a reactive course of action since July. This would have been much simpler if they were more open and honest about their price increase and stagger the plan. Perhaps something like this:

    "Dear Netflix friend, we are working hard to provide you high quality entertainment at a competitive rate. While our costs have risen over the last several years we've kept your fees unchanged. I sincerely wish that we could continue these rates but for us to continue providing great service and great entertainment, we must raise prices to cover our increased costs. We won't do it all at once. Instead we'll make those increases over the next six months to a year and here's what they will look like....."

    See the truthful, planned nature in the response? It's proactive and addresses the issues honestly and straightforward. There will still be repercussions but you will have an informed customer base behind you. Those that love the service might even stick up for you.

With the new power of social media channels, and the potential of major influencers to raise a fuss more quickly than ever, I don't see why any company with an informed customer base would make major changes to their services without testing the waters first. The mass fury of Netflix customers could have been avoided  if they had an approach that was less of a "screw them, they'll deal with it" approach and more of a "hey, we need to make some changes and would like to hear your feedback first" approach. This is all goes back to the 2nd website marketing pillar, engagement. Talk with your customers through the most active channels and don't puke your plans all over them without expecting a backlash.

Customers are the new shareholders. Through social channels they can make your world an awful place to live if you don't provide a good return on their investment.

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Steve Jobs: 1955 - 2011

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As a high school junior in 1985, my family purchased our first computer, a Macintosh.  Little did I know at that time that twenty-six years later, I’d be writing a blog (heck the word didn’t exist yet) about the Mac and the founder of the company that introduced it, Apple.  Since that time, Steve Jobs personally has had a hand in revolutionizing the world of technology as well as at least five different industries:

  • computers - Apple II (1977) & Mac (1984) personal computers, Mouse (1984) , iPad (2010)
  • phone – iPhone (2007)
  • music – iPod (2001)
  • retail – iTunes Store (2001), Apple’s App Store (2008)
  • motion pictures – Pixar (1979, purchased by Steve Jobs in 1986)

Steve Jobs was a visionary and one of America’s true innovators.  And whether or not you feel he should be mentioned in the same class as Thomas Edison or alongside great American entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, or Walt Disney, it is clear he had a huge impact on our culture and our world.  I know he had a significant impact on my life.

In the past decade or so, my own family has grown up on Apple products that have been favorites on Christmas morning.  But it is still fun to think back to my first Apple purchase.  I don’t remember a lot about that first product, but I do remember using that Mac to create fake IDs with my brothers and our friends.  We were shocked by how easy it was.  Thanks Steve.  

Steve Jobs In Tribute to Steve Jobs:

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become."

- Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford Commencement

The Crazy One – Steve Job’s Tribute (1 minute)

Wired Video Tribute (3 minutes)

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