Social Vibe – Fundraising with Attention

The rap on monetizing social media, especially for charity, is familiar.  People engage in social media to have fun, not receive a pitch.  And some of that is certainly true for any interruption-based advertising, much less untargeted advertising.

Facebook and social networks are new ad platforms, and we’ve never had scalable one to one efforts where friends targeted each other and endorsed  a product or service.  That’s what makes Social Vibe so interesting.

By paying for attention, not asking for money, big brand advertisers like CBS, Sprint and Colgate supply a short advertisement and agree to support a cause.   I’m co-chairing the local StepOut for Diabetes fundraising walk so it was a no-brainer for me to send the spot to a few well-chosen friends.  Social Vibe is smart enough to cap the number of people who can receive a request.

Programs like Causes, a popular Facebook application, have been around for some time and are successful.  What makes Social Vibe different is that people pay in attention, not in money.  The model worked like a charm in email for companies like eRewards and MyPoints.  Of the social apps I’ve tested that monetize attention, Social Vibe seems to have the best reach and enough big names to make the platform worth looking at for non-profits and associations.

I suspect I’ll be experimenting with Social Vibe after our walk on October 31 (hurry — still time to register or donate!), but here’s my current spot:

Does Silvia Work For You?

A complex arrangement of rigid steel piping, s...

Don't relegate customer contact to the basement. Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes your processes are textbook, your product or service offering is valued and desired in the marketplace and…

…you miss on execution.

More importantly, you miss on customer-facing execution.

There is a web company here in the U.S. that has done very well marketing themselves and their service for years.   They do a nice job most of the time, and I’ve been using their service for years.   But when I recently wrote about a product that hadn’t arrived, I received no reply.   I wrote back one week later and included my original email thread.

My response will make any small business owner shiver:

Good Day,

Thank you for contacting [name of company], we reviewed the account and your redemption has been send of to be filled. Please allow six to twelve weeks, form the date we send it to the Vendor (highlighted date) for the subscription to arrive, if it is not been, received with in that time frame please contact us so that we can contact our Vendor and inquirer about the delay and assist you further. Feel free to contact us with any concerns that you have.



This kind of reply makes me, King of Typos, die a little bit inside. The company’s entire customer interaction with a person instead of the brand was dealt with in a rules-based, you-didn’t-read-the-fine-print email by someone who clearly doesn’t have fluency in the customer’s language.

When I was running a lead generation service, I spoke with a woman once who was using a tracking telephone number for a one truck plumbing business she ran with her husband. They had a top of the line number, and I suggested a downgrade because they didn’t need some of the advanced features like call recording.

Her response?

“I want to hear how my husband [the plumber] is talking to customers when I’m not in the office,” she said. “He is a nice man, but he hates talking on the telephone.”

Executive Summary:   Don’t leave the customer interactions alone once the process is in place.   Monitor with internal resources and an external mystery shopping service.   In this global, offshore-for-a-tiny-increment, interconnected world, you simply can’t afford to leave your customer contact channels unmonitored.   Almost without exception, there is no activity you engage that is more important than customer retention.

No #DIV/0! Excel Errors – Fast Friday Fact

Microsoft Excel (Windows)

Excel errors are no fun. Here's how to clean up some. Image via Wikipedia

Are you tired of looking at spreadsheets that proudly proclaim that you’ve divided by zero?   You know those spreadsheets.   They’re riddled with ugly fields that show #DIV/O! or #N/A.

Cleaning your spreadsheet doesn’t require an Excel ninja and is a snap to do.   Microsoft’s Excel 2007 (sorry if you don’t have it, but it’s 2009 already so it’s time) has a nifty function called iferror.  You might be familiar with the function iserror, but iferror is maybe the easiest Excel command to use.

To ensure that #DIV/0! or other errors don’t show on your spreadsheet, simply preface your formula with iferror and then include a default for the error.  You’re instructing Excel that if an error exists that you want a symbol or number or other thing to appear in the calculated cell.  If no error exists, Excel simply does the calculation.

If you were dividing cell A2 and B2, your formula might look like this:


With this function, you simply instruct Excel that you’re going to give your own error message if, say, the item in field A2 is a zero.  Your formula would look like this:


All you’ve done is added iferror before your calculation, added a comma after your calculation and included your own error message surrounded by quotes.   The result is a more professional, easy-to-read spreadsheet.

Now go fix your reports.  We’ll see you again on Monday.

State of Meta Keywords: September 2009

Paris Hilton

Did you mean this lady or a hotel in France? Paris Hilton via

Google doesn’t care about meta keywords.  Yahoo! suggests you use them.  Microsoft’s Bing is publicly ambivalent.

Meta keywords, for those who don’t spend their days draped over a computer and puzzling over the innards of a web site, were once considered Grail-like by search engine aficionados.   Using my favorite “signals and cues” line, the search engines that mattered years ago wanted webmasters to guide them about the theme of a page.

Is this page about a woman named Paris Hilton or a hotel in France?   And this one here:  is that about the food or Rice University?

But any search marketer worth their salt (road salt, table salt or the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) knew years ago that fussing with keywords did nothing for a page’s rankings in Google.  And since Google now has 60%, 70% or 879% of search engine share depending on who you ask for data, many folks stop caring about the meta keywords tag.


The little search engine in second place is called Yahoo! and still handles a mind numbing number of daily searches.  Know what Yahoo! says about meta keywords?

Use a “keyword” meta-tag to list key words for the document. Use a distinct list of keywords that relate to the specific page on your site instead of using one broad set of keywords for every page.

That seems pretty cut and dried to me.  Sure, Google announced yesterday that they no longer use this as an indicator for ranking pages.  The official Google word on meta keywords is here.   If you would like to skip the GoogleSpeak, Matt McGee writing about keywords at Search Engine Land yesterday has a nice analysis.  (And be nice to Matt.  Today is his birthday.  After you subscribe here if you haven’t already, go read his stuff and subscribe to him too.  He’s wicked smart.)

Executive Summary:  Don’t get caught in the hype.  Google doesn’t use the meta keywords tag for defining how its search engine ranks pages, but Yahoo! still does and anything else is gravy.  Since no one penalizes the use of the tag and at least one major company still holds the keyword tag as somewhat relevant, they should still be a part of your on-page optimization effort.  There are many things to do before the meta keywords tag, but skipping them entirely isn’t a good idea.

And We’re Back

After a blogging sabbatical, we’re back, recharged and ready to go into the big holiday buying season so many of our clients prep for now.

Here is what I learned by observing instead of blogging over my self-imposed hiatus:

TWITTER is the world’s biggest chat room.  Twitter is not a micro-blogging platform.  Twitter was positioned as a micro-blogging platform because the founders created… Blogger.  Like most chat rooms, you might run across a new person who is fun or interesting every so often, but chatroom behavior still applies.  But if you ignore Twitter, you’re missing branding and direct response opportunities.  We’ll cover that more later.

GOOGLE CHROME is the best browser for Windows right now.  When third party plugins start appearing on more than fan sites, Chrome will be the operating system.  But there is a serious issue going on regarding Google Documents, which includes spreadsheets, presentations and all the rest.   The post by Googler “Marie” on the official forums about crawlable documents is here.  Quoting that page, “…published docs that are linked to from a public website [will] be crawled and indexed, which means they can appear in search results you see on and other search engines.” That means you must have linked to the document from a public website only.  For now.

SEO is very much alive and well, thank you.   SEM, marketing online via search engines, is even better.  Both are changing so fast that offshoring companies who charge $10 for work costing hundreds or more can’t keep up.  But we’ve seen what happens when we take a keyword list compiled outside Country A by someone who doesn’t speak that language fluently and what happens when the same campaign is given to an agency that understands local mores, idiom and seasonality.   One size does not fit all.

MEDIA CONVERGED.   Did you hear Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler giggle about the end of broadcast television during The Emmy Awards?   The two brilliant comediennes may be a tad early, but broadcast is going the way of the daily newspaper reader.  I still love my papers and subscribe to multiple publications, but those days are ending fast.  Between Twitter, cable news and companies like my friends at SmartBrief , news is current, accessible on all types of devices and while the news cycle is louder because of all the chatter it’s accelerated beyond belief.

BADDA-BING. Don’t ignore this search engine that Microsoft has termed a “decision engine”.   There may be a 2 player game in Search Town soon:  Google and Microsoft.   Make sure your agency is advertising as appropriate on each.

WHAT BIG THINKING READERS CAN EXPECT. We’re not going to blog to blog.  If two or three days go by between posts, we’re busy or there really isn’t anything compelling enough to take us from our small business mission and interrupt your day.  We’ll also be continuing our work on “Famous Marketers”, expanding our “Lessons from Nurses” series and introducing a new feature called Stagecraft.  We’ll also be sharing hints and tips about web services that small businesses will find attractive (or those you should stay away from)

LA Times Station Fire Map Delivers News – Fast Friday Fact

DUBLIN, CA - JUNE 24:  A firefighter uses a dr...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

What was that about old dogs and new tricks?

Mixing a great Google Maps mashup with 24 hour reporting from a huge news organization, the Los Angeles Times tackled a huge local issue and absolutely owned the coverage.   The Times added a blog and annotated map to its coverage of the Station Fire that remains uncontained through the San Gabriel Mountains.

I don’t think I’ve seen a newspaper mix digital media so well in a developing story while staying on top of developments.

You can see the Station Fire map by the LA Times at Google

Everyone in that area, stay safe during this holiday weekend.

Redskins Shatter Implied Promises, But What About Your Business?

Not all promises are explicit.   Sure, if a small business says they’ll provide a service for $100 and either doesn’t provide the service or charges more, trust takes a hit.

Prize winning reporter James Grimaldi broke story on Washington Redskins

Reporter James Grimaldi broke story on Washington Redskins

But there are implied promises every business makes every day.  At Silver Beacon, we promise each client that we are going to stay on top of online marketing trends, notify them when their business could be impacted and maximize the return on their advertising dollar.   If I visit a client tomorrow who asks about Bing and I think he’s talking about Bing Crosby, we would have broken our implied promise.

Implied promises are getting a workout here in Washington where the city’s beloved Redskins claim to have a season ticket waiting list that stretches tens of thousands of names to along with decades of sold out games, including in what is now the NFL’s largest stadium.  Great reporting by The Washington Post‘s James Grimaldi, a reporter with a passel of awards including a shared Pultizer Prize, uncovered a broken implied promise.

The Redskins — who are still the number one topic of sports conversation in this town when they’re not playing — sold tickets to ticket broker StubHub instead of whittling down the list of fans willing to shell out thousands for tickets and endure hours of snarled traffic.   The Redskins made no promises.  But they’ve broken an implied promise.   Just like we vow to keep the best interests of our clients in the forefront, the Redskins’ implied promise was to take care of its most ardent fans who were willing to prove their loyalty with money.

Unpopular owner Daniel M. Snyder now faces a public relations crisis as his team takes the field tonight in its final preseason game.   The blowback on larger than life figures like sports team owners is huge.  Snyder needed no fake scarcity to drive his team’s popularity.  The Redskins were locked and loaded for decades of financial growth.

And once **a promise like this is broken, everyone can opine, even in a small business blog.

For his part, Grimaldi’s followup was a knockout PR blow in today’s paper where he reports that during the recession, the same business that broke implied promises to its fans have filed 137 lawsuits against multiyear ticket holders who could no longer make payments.  Sure, there was a promise to pay and people get sued when they don’t honor those promises.  The Post’s reporting has uncovered that those seats were then sold to ticket brokers as well.

Today, not tomorrow, but today:   take 15 minutes while you gobble your lunch at your desk like the hectic small businessperson you are and start scribbling on a notepad.   You’re answering this question:

What implied promises have I made to my customers, my employees and to my equity holders? Include yourself as an equity holder because like any small business leader, you’ve been making promises to yourself for a long time.

Then come back here and post your findings.  You don’t have to share what you’ve learned only how well the exercise worked for you and any changes you’ll be making.