Social Media for Business in Action

So many people like to talk about how to use social media for business and I just wanted to give an example of an exchange I had today with site5, a hosting company that I have worked with a lot throughout the past year. Here’s some background information. On May 1st, the main server for Ukulele Underground which is hosted by Godaddy (we signed up prior to learning about site5) was hacked and a malware attack was installed ans launched against our visitors. We were able to get the problem down and under control within a few hours. I called customer support at Godaddy and asked if there was a server wide attack (since we are on a shared hosting plan) they insisted it was my fault for not upgrading our installed software, specifically wordpress.

Ok, that may have been the case, our ad server might have been a little outdated and there was a lot of noise on the web just a little while ago about a huge security hole in that platform. I deleted the ad server, all the malicious code, rolled back all the files on the server to a safe back up and thought I was fine. Then last night we were hacked again. Same exploit. I did some research and found many other Godaddy customers experiencing the same problem with no wordpress installed or with it being fully upgraded. A security company has made suggestions that the vulnerability is due to Godaddy’s implementation of phpmyadmin. Godaddy however remains adamant that the blame rests entirely upon its users. So in venting my frustration late last night and this morning, here’s the experience I had.

For me to say that site5 and Godaddy are on equal footing and should provide me the same customer service is stupid. I am not that egotistical to think that Godaddy should give a crap about me. Why should they, I think we pay them maybe $100 a year. Godaddy is a HUGE company with millions of customers, Site5 has thousands of customers. I know I rank very low on Godaddy’s priority list and to them, losing us is not a big deal.

The point of this post is that if you are a small(er) business (like site5) and hungry to win, social media can really do wonders for you if you use it correctly. Social media is good for 2 things, listening to your customers/potential customers and scaling your customer service.

If you are exceptional, your customer service serves as all the marketing you need. Social media allows happy customers to sing your praises to potentially millions. And as we see with Godaddy, the opposite is entirely possible as well. Bad customer service = millions bad mouthing you. Do a search for Godaddy on twitter and you will see I am not the only one frustrated by the way this is being handled. The message is no longer in the hands of the company, it shaped entirely by the consumer.

Site5 is not perfect, they recently had a very bad email crash that affected many of its users, some of my clients and myself included. The way they handled it however was worlds apart from how Godaddy is currently handling their situation. They admitted it was entirely their fault, credited each person affected with a month of hosting fees, and Ben the CEO got on the phone and called customers who were affected by the outage to apologize. This is great customer service.

The twitter interaction with Ben is only a small part of the communication I had with the company today, most of it via email. They assured me that they could handle our entire migration, make sure all our files are clean, and try to work out a discount for switching over.

We’re going to end up paying site5 a lot more than we pay Godaddy currently and that is fine, I feel like we will be well taken care of and treated with a lot more respect. In this “thank you economy” showing your customers you care first then asking them to pay is the way commerce works. We thank businesses by giving them business. Those that grasp that now will prosper in the future.

Now I just need to get my personal blog to site5 and I’ll be all set.

Related Links:

Godaddy Blog post on Malware attacks

Sucuri post on the attacks on Godaddy

Eatkauai.com is LIVE!

eatkauai.com

eatkauai.com

Hey everyone, well it’s Sunday, just about 1 week since I announced my website in a week challenge and I’m glad to say, eatkauai.com beta is up and running! It was a very tiring week finishing an entire website from start to finish in one week but I think it will be a very valuable resource to the people of Kauai.

Currently, we only have a few menu listings but we plan to continue to add more and more to the database until we pretty much have every restaurant on Kauai. There are a bunch of features I have planned out but one step at a time, getting this website up was the first step.

Please check it out and comment and rate your favorite restaurants. Please let me know what you think as well.

Ok, I’m off to help my dad prep for his company Christmas party. Happy Eating everyone!

Thoughts on Monitizing Content Online

Them: So what do you do again?

Me: My partners and I run a website where we teach people how to play the ukulele online. We have around 7500 registered members now and get like 20k uniques a month. Not great but it’s a pretty good start considering we started with $300 and spent no money on advertising.

Them: Oh wow, so all those people pay to use your site?

Me: No, we give away all the content for free

Them: … How do you make money then?

Me: Well there’s a lot of ways, we sell ads, we have an online store… We focus on diversifying our income streams so we’re not dependent on one area of our business.  Right now we’re mainly focused on building our brand equity though.

Them: Why don’t you charge your members?

Me: Because that’s not how you do it online anymore.

Them: I don’t get it…

I think I go through some version of this conversation monthly when someone who is not familiar with the internet asks me what I do. Every once in a while,  a guy or girl will just come out and tell me, “You know, you should be charging for your content on Ukulele Underground.”  I usually just agree with them rather than objecting. The truth is, I don’t believe in that method of monitizing content online, I believe that business model is outdated and a thing of the 90s. When I say that method, I’m talking about locking down content in a paid subscription sort of way. In today’s market, especially when dealing with smart, younger, savvy users, you simply can’t do it. Here are my reasons.

1. People my age and younger who have grown up with the internet grew up with the concept that content on the internet is free. We grew up with the original Napster, these younger kids are pros at bitTorrent and file sharing services like mediafile. The technology and the services available today make sharing content easier than ever. If there is something these kids want to find online they will be able to find it. So why even attempt to charge them, they’re going to pirate it anyways. What makes it even worse is that there will be people who will pay for your content, and when they find out that others are obtaining it for free, they will feel slighted and cheated even if they did things the  right way. Just knowing that, I wouldn’t be able to sleep well at night.

2. Free content leads to faster growth. By leaving your content free and unlocked, you facilitate word of mouth marketing and your users will do your advertising for you. Now, for this method to work, your content will need to be legit but if you pump out good quality stuff regularly, they’ll keep coming back and they will bring their friends. If you instead decided to lock down your content from the start, you create a barrier of entry to your content that most visitors will not bother breaking. This goes back to my previous post about how online trust must be earned. If you give visitors no reason to trust you, chances are they won’t and won’t come back.

3. If your stuff is good, people will still buy it later anyways if it’s packaged correctly. On paper doesn’t make any sense at all. Why would anyone buy something that you can easily get online for free? Well the truth is, people do buy it.  They buy it because they think your content is awesome and want to support you, they buy it for gifts for their friends and family, they buy it as collectors items. Whatever their reasoning, people do buy content that they have access to online, even if they’ve already read or watched it. I’ve done so myself in the past.  The idea that if you give something away for free, noone will pay for it later just simply isnt true. We get tons of e-mails asking us if we’re ever going to put our lessons on DVD because people want to buy them. We probably will do this sometime in the near future.

At the end of the day, the fact that the vast majority of the people I interact with don’t get what we’re doing is great. Let them think I’m clueless and an idiot for giving away this stuff for free. My partners and I get it, and we’ll have the advantage and head start while they try to figure it out.

Why I Love WordPress

When people hear WordPress, majority of them (if they even know what it is) think blogging software. I love WordPress. Blogging to me is the best way to serve up daily, weekly or any kind of regular content. But, I love WordPress for more than that, it is quickly becoming a very powerful content management system or CMS. In fact, almost all sites I build for clients today are built on WordPress.

Here are just some of the advantages to using WordPress other than a traditional CMS

  1. Quick and Easy install
  2. W3C valid css and xhtml
  3. Open Source with no licensing fees (savings passed on to clients)
  4. Modular feature design via plugins
  5. Best spamblocking utilitiy ever (Akismet)
  6. Can be used on almost any hosting plan
  7. Easy to use Administration

I could go on and on forever, but to majority of the people reading this blog, that list doesn’t mean much so let me explain it is more accessible way. WordPress is free to use, there are no licensing fees, you’re not tied to any one hosting plan, it’s built correctly and will help you in search engine rank, and it’s easy to use.

The biggest gripe about using wordpress as a CMS is that the site will still look like a blog. I just have the laugh when I hear this. Here are some examples of websites built on WordPress either by me, or someone who has stated it was built on wordpress.

Derekkawakami.com – I built this site for Derek this year with WordPress.

Hawaiiskindiver.com – This site was built by Giddymachine for HSD using wordpress

Revision3.com – This site was built by their team on wordpress.

As you can see these don’t look or function like blog sites, yet they are all running on a “blogging software”.  WordPress will get the job done for 90% of clients. There will always be a few who require custom applications, but the plugin database is growing daily and I wouldn’t be surprised within the next 5 years that WordPress is the king of content management.

Negative Reviews on the Internet Getting you Down?

I get a kick out of hearing local businesses complaining about negative reviews on blogs or sites like yelp.com. The game has changed my friends. The internet is like a megaphone for word of mouth marketing. It’s word of mouth marketing on steroids, or on HGH, or both. Good or bad, your customers now have a voice and the power to let others know if you suck or if their experience with your company was phenomenal.

This get’s me so excited every time I think about it. Why? Because maybe, just maybe the good guys have a chance now. It’s going to be impossible, even for the largest companies to cover up crooked business practices when information is so readily available and easily distributed to the masses via the internet. There are no more information bottlenecks. If your company is getting negative reviews on the internet, maybe it’s because your company deserves it. On the flipside, when a customer has an experience with a business that exceeds his or her expectations, the opposite happens. They will happily tell everyone they know about their experience. Guess what? These companies deserve it too! In the web 2.0 world, you get what you deserve.

“What if those reviews are unwarranted!? I had a bad employee that did that, it’s not my fault!” You can make all the excuses you want, but at the end of the day it is still your company. Luckily for most cases, it’s not that difficult to remedy these situations. When people post negative reviews about things, they generally assume the company they are complaining about is not listening.

Step one, read the criticism, and ask yourself what you can change to prevent this in the future.

Step two, contact that person who wrote the review. Simply contacting the person who wrote the review says a lot. It shows that you care about your company and your customers.

Step three, give that person something unexpected. A free gift, a free exchange for the product they bought, a gift certificate, something that will make them want to tell others about their new experience with your company. A positive experience can more often than not erase memories of a negative one (to a certain degree, there are some experiences that create permanent views of a company).

Do all you can within reason to change that person’s perception of your company. Chances are if you did your job of creating a new positive experience, they’ll go ahead and and edit their review, or post an update, glowing about the exceptional customer service provided by your company. Now take into account there will be times that no matter what you do, you won’t be able to change that persons mind. I personally have had some experiences that I will never do business with certain companies again. Sometimes you’ll encounter a customer with an experience like that, it’s inevitable, but if you begin to see a lot of those customers, maybe you need to take a long hard look at your business.

“But that’s too much work! That’s too expensive! If word gets out that I do that, people will take advantage of it and it’ll cost me a lot of money!”  There is nothing more valuable than a satisfied customer. At the same time, there is nothing more detrimental than a dissatisfied customer. How much does a dissatisfied customer cost? How much in lost potential revenue will you never see because of a negative review? Is it more than a $100 gift certificate? More than an upgraded replacement product? What is the cost of that lost revenue of one dissatisfied customer? It’s not just a nice idea to keep tabs on what others are saying about your business, it’s imperative. If you don’t believe that contacting dissatisfied customers is worth the time and energy, I wish you all the luck in your business, chances are it won’t be around for too much longer. Who’s ultimately going to win is the consumer and the businesses who do good by their customer. Did I say how excited this makes me????

WLTV – Opposite of Jumping the Shark

4th post into this new blog, 2nd post about Gary V. I’m not trying to turn this into a Gary V nuthuggingfest but for some reason, tonight I was wondering exactly what episode Gary changed the format of his show to really let himself be himself. I’m admittedly a very late comer to Wine Library, started watching it late 2007 but I did know he started very conservatively, very polite and very much catering to his existing customer base. I didn’t know at what point he went from polite and polished Gary selling wine to the real and raw Gary that everyone who watches his show loves today. Well a little browsing of the archives and I found episode 57  posted in July of 06.

Gary at the time had been doing WLTV for just 5 months and had already been approached by 2 TV networks to do a TV show. For some reason, the fact that they tried to make him conform to what they wanted pushed a button within him and really lead him to let loose in those next episodes. To me, that is the point where hit his stride. Whats the opposite of Jumping the Shark? Diving Under the Shark? Yeah he did that.

Boring episode 56

compared to episode 57

It’s not really 100% Vaynerchuk yet like we see today but you can see that this episode was the point where he realized he needed to be true to himself.

I think there’s a really important lesson to learn here. People appreciate authenticity. Not only that, with the internet today, it’s almost impossible to not be your real self. Remember Michael Richards (Kramer)? You can’t hide your true self anymore. If you’re a dick, you’re going to be found out, if you’re a good guy you’re going to shine. In this new age of the web, Good Guys are going to win. How awesome is that?