Pinterest: Visual Microblogging

Pinterest has quickly become one of the popular social media tools among other top contenders such as

social media marketing seo

Twitter and Facebook. The founders of this San Francisco-based startup have created the equivalent of a

Twitter-lilke microblogging platform — except through images. Rather than a 140 character-limit, users are allowed one image, a short message, and a URL.

Pinterest is an extremely effective social media marketing and SEO tool than many businesses have yet to discover. Pinterest “pins,” an equivalent of a post, but with image emphasized, become indexed in Google searches, and therefore, posting Pinterest pins can be a great way to market your business and products.

What’s more, humans are visual. On Twitter, one trick to getting more noticed is attaching an image to your tweet. On Pinterest, all posts are visual, so it’s easier for the human eye to navigate, identify, and highlight.

Many retailers have discovered that Pinterest is a great tool on which to sell their products. With keywords that describe an item, a prospective customer can quickly get a visual of the item on Google, click to Pinterest for a brief description, and click on the photo to direct to the business site.

If you aren’t using Pinterest to market your business, you should consider it. Like all social media sites, not every business should market on all sites, but if your potential customers have a better chance of finding what you sell through Pinterest, it’s a tool you might explore.

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Yelp engaged in questionable business practices

San Francisco based Yelp Inc.’s business practices are being questioned. Multiple business owners have reported that the company has contacted them on numerous occasions, asking them if they want negative reviews on their profiles removed – for a price.

A Livermore, CA nail salon owner reports she was shocked at Yelp’s proposal, and stopped taking their calls. “They wanted a lot of money to remove the bad comments. They would call every day and ask for the owner. I just started telling them [the owner] wasn’t here,” she explains. “My husband [who works with me] said to them, ‘This is not Asia!…This is USA! We have ethical businesses here!”

Another East Bay business owner, a chiropractor, complains of the same Yelp practices, and warns other business owners about them.

A San Francisco Bay area fast food franchise owner claims that she knows “more than one business owner who have been ‘bullied’ by Yelp into advertising so that good reviews showed up.”

Yelp also has some interesting policies on how it handles customer reviews. When responding to a complaint that “positive” reviews are not showing up, Yelp customer service responds, “not all reviews make the cut, even some legitimate ones.” Even after multiple requests, the business owners, a real estate team, still can’t get Yelp to post the two additional positive reviews submitted by their clients. The last complaint was ignored entirely.

Comments by both business owners and users suggests that Yelp “blackmails” businesses by suggesting that if they pay for advertising both negative reviews will be removed and positive ones will show up.

It seems that the word is getting out; So is Yelp’s reputation – and it doesn’t look good. In April, 2012, in response to business and user complaints, Yelp felt it necessary to make two adjustments to their site. Their corporate blog announced, “…we’re adding the ability to see reviews filtered by our review filter and we’re discontinuing the ‘Favorite Review’ feature that’s part of our advertising package.” This means that reviews that were previously hidden by yelp (whether positive or negative and whether businesses paid Yelp anything before they were removed) are now available but only by going to a special area site (which this author still hasn’t found). The “Favorite Review” feature displayed more positive reviews first.

How effective have Yelp’s changes in response to such customer complaints been? Its questionable. The default sorting for yelp reviews is the “Yelp sort.” To see reviews by date or rating, the user must make a conscious effort to seek out and click on a button for that sort. And clearly customers and businesses are still complaining about the company’s practices.

It sounds as if Yelp needs to do a better review of its policies and see what other changes are needed to avoid continued complaints, a questionable future – or even worse, a legal inquiry.

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Facebook Timeline – Helpful or Hurtful?

In January 2012, Menlo Park, CA based Facebook Inc released a new user interface (UI) called Timeline. Timeline replaced the current UI for Facebook Fan and Group pages, but still remains optional for individual profiles.

The new UI overhaul is a vastly different look and feel from the previous Fan/Group pages and current, optional previous profile pages. According to the Facebook blog, Timeline is “where you can tell your story from beginning, to middle, to now.” Appropriately, there’s a vertical timeline-esque feature on every page, where users can click through the history of posts from the day the page was created until the present.

Surely, Facebook spent quite a bit of time and money into the new look. But did they truly deliver what users want? The answer is debatable.

Many people don’t adapt well to such great leaps and bounds of changes. Do an Internet search on “timeline” and you’ll find all sorts of varied opinions on it. Some think it’s “snazzy” while others say it’s “so much work.” A few have even started Fan pages on how much they dislike it (see “I hate FB Timeline, and want to disable it ASAP).”

Given so many disgruntled comments and extreme reactions, one might truly wonder how much time Facebook actually spent on developing Timeline, researching user desires and reactions to the overhauled look. When we think of Google interfaces, generally, we feel they “did it right.” This is because (this author happens to know) Google spends a lot of time on UI research, employing people with big, fancy PhD titles to manage the efforts.

Of course, Google doesn’t always get it right (remember Google Buzz?). Like Google, it’s suspect that Facebook has entered that period where they are so cash-heavy, they are now looking for ways to spend it. Unfortunately, this can lead to romantic and narcissistic visions of grandeur and designing products that companies (or leaders) think users want — rather than really delivering what they need.
Hopefully, next year, Facebook users will either forget their UI was ever changed or fall in love with it. Right now, however, I feel sorry for the Timeline Product Manager.

Timeline: good or bad? What do you think?

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Yelp helps drive local business accountability

As more consumers look to the local business review and rating site, Yelp, merchants and service providers are finding themselves reviewed like never before. Yelp was founded in 2004 and built “to help people find great local businesses like dentists, hair stylists and mechanics.” From 2007, site reviews grew from less than one million to about four million by 2008.

Initially, Yelp seemed to spark popularity for restaurant and coffee shop reviews, but the range of businesses being reviewed has increased dramatically as its number of visitors has increased. Do a local search on Yelp now and you’ll find reviews for practically anyone who sells goods or provides a service, from moving companies to psychiatrists.

Many companies who’ve heard about Yelp have signed up for their free account, manage their profile and — if their smart — attempt to manage customer feedback. This includes damage control, when a customer leaves a negative review. Yelp allows businesses to comment on reviews and send messages to reviewers. Often, a reviewer will update negative feedback with a positive comment about how the business apologized or compensated for some lack of service. Some businesses take it a step further and ask their customers right after purchase to leave a review on Yelp.

Sadly, it also seems that some businesses aren’t yet informed about Yelp or don’t care about negative reviews. And that can hurt them. A co-owner of a San Francisco based moving company says, “Oh that Yelp….I don’t pay any attention to it.” I’m guessing he didn’t like what some people had to say (and some reviewers can be harsh with their comments). Unfortunately, what business owners like this fail to realize is that customers care about what others are saying and they’re making informed decisions on what businesses to patronize from Yelp reviews.

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