The Case for User Generated Content

How can you use content from your customers to build your brand?

How can you use content from your customers to build your brand?

Are Millennials a key part of your audience and customer base? Great, yeah, that’s a lot of you. Well, a recent study found that, when it comes to who to trust, Millennials trust their peers over professionals, which is where user generated content comes into play.

Let’s back up a second and talk about user generated content (UGC). UGC is anything we create and share when we’re using social media: status updates, photos and videos, blog posts, online reviews, etc. Our sole purpose to is share our opinion and possibly help others; in other words, we are not trying to sell something. We are not in it for the money.

Well, marketing startup Crowdtap and the global research company Ipsos found out just how much Millennials love and trust UGC when they conducted a survey in January. Here’s what they found:

Millennials said that UGC is 35 percent more memorable and 50 percent more trust-worthy than other media (defined as traditional and non-UGC media).

When it comes to what sources they trust most for product information, 74 percent of Millennials said conversations with friends, 68 percent said peer reviews, and 50 percent said social networks.

Peer reviews are just as trusted as professional reviews by Millennials – interesting!

Millennials said that UGC is 20 percent more influential than any other type of media when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

So, how do you encourage user generated content? Ask for it! Here are 3 super-easy ideas to get you started:

Make it easy to share

When I recently signed up for Dollar Shave Club, I was prompted to share my new membership with my Facebook friends after I completed my purchase – and I did.

Ask for reviews

A few days or a week after a customer makes a visit or completes a purchase, ask them to review their experience, whether it’s on Yelp, Zagat, Google+, your e-commerce site, or elsewhere.

Showcase your customers

Create a customer-of-the-week or –month program that is easy to join and highlight a new or regular customer. Switch out your Facebook banner with user-generated photos. Encourage users to share photos of themselves using your products. Hold a photo or video contest. Get creative!

How do you encourage your audience to share user-generated content? Have you seen an uptick in engagement as a result?

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Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Banana Lady and Trademark Confusion

Copyright and trademark answers for small business

Copyright and trademark answers for small business

The headlines were pretty funny “Banana Lady Slips Up” “Banana Lady Files a BUNCH of Appeals” “Case of Banana Lady Has Little Apeel for Judge” but behind the case was not only a slightly off-kilter performer, but a common business mistake, especially for small businesses.

The Banana Lady is a performer, primarily at children’s events, in Madison, Wisconsin. As you may have guessed, she dresses up as a banana. She recently sued a group that hired her to perform and then posted pictures of her performance on their website. In overthrowing the case the judges of the appeals court mentioned that she had filed at least seventeen frivolous lawsuits since 2009. All of the lawsuits were over similar issues, people posting photos or videos of her. In one case, she sued a group that sent out postcards with her picture in order to advertise her appearance.

Many people understand a basic concept of Trademark and Copyright law that if you allow people to violate your Trademark or Copyright you could lose the right to sue others who do the same. This was part of the reason the Beastie Boys objected to toy company GoldieBlox using their song in a commercial this winter. Banana Lady seems to have taken this idea to an extreme, objecting to those who are even trying to help promote her appearances.

Banana Lady isn’t the only one who takes an extreme, and potentially damaging, view. A certain really large football championship held in January does not allow advertisers to mention the name of the game (starts with Super) unless the company is an official sponsor. That’s why you see a lot of ads for foods you can eat “while watching the big game.” A certain red carpet movie awards show with a funny bald-headed statue has been known to send “cease and desist” letters to blogs that even mention the awards show by name. Ironically, at the same time this show has expressed concern at remaining “relevant” to younger moviegoers.

Therein lies the problem for stores and businesses big and small: how to make sure others are talking about you, but not violating your rights. If you feel like you may be the victim of a Copyright or Trademark infringement, even if it’s an infringement you don’t really mind, your first step should be to consult with a lawyer. It may seem expensive, but it could save your business in the long run.

What are your biggest questions and concerns about trademarks and copyrights?

Related Articles:

Marta Segal Block is a social media and content marketing consultant specializing in small-service businesses. You can read more of her work and random thoughts on Advice from Marta and Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Restaurants Owners Across the Country Love Groupon

 

Restaurant owners like Chris Johnston from Cheesie's Pub & Grub in Chicago work with Groupon to meet their business goals.

Restaurant owners like Chris Johnston from Cheesie’s Pub & Grub in Chicago work with Groupon to meet their business goals.

Restaurant owners across the country love working with Groupon.

Managers, operators and owners have worked with Groupon to attract a large influx of customers at once, steadily draw patrons month after month or fill reservations at times that make the most sense for their restaurant.

Solutions for Every Appetite. 

We have a full menu of products to help you grow your restaurant and operate more efficiently. Whatever your business goals, we’ll work with you to find a solution that fits your needs.

Restaurateurs Found Answers with Groupon:

Groupon has really helped us connect with a newer audience, more tech savvy, and people that are foodies themselves. — Carlo Mantica, Le Cirque, New York, NY

We’re already a high volume restaurant. However, Groupon has introduced us to a whole new market who might have heard of us but not been incentivized to come. — Scott Berman, Superdawg, Chicago, IL

I love Breadcrumb because it’s super easy. It’s just user friendly. I don’t even train my staff, I just tell them to look at it and do exactly what they think they should, and it always works out. — Talya Strader, Bow Truss, Chicago, IL

Hear more from restaurant owners that love Groupon. 

Hashtags Dos and Donts

Hashtag dos and donts

Hashtag dos and donts

Once solely used on Twitter, hashtags are now key to finding conversations, people, and information on a specific topic or event on Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to get hashtags right as it is to get them completely wrong.

Here is a quick look at hashtag dos and donts if you want to increase engagement and get found on social media:

Do use them for the right reasons

Hashtags categorize information by topic. You can use them for contests, industry-specific topics, people or brands, events, news, and advocacy around a cause.

Don’t use them to be cute or clever

I’ve seen ridiculous uses of hashtags, mostly on Facebook, to be cute or clever, ie #worstdayofmylife or #thankgodformywonderfulhusband. If you abuse hashtags, people won’t trust you.

Do keep them short

Those two hashtag examples I used above are way too long. The shorter the hashtag is, the more memorable it is and the easiest it is to type into a smartphone – and thus the more likely it is to be used.

Don’t assume your hashtag is unique

You must do your research first before settling on a hashtag to ensure it is, in fact, unique and that it isn’t too similar to one already in use.

Do publicize the hashtag

If you want people to use the hashtag for an event, your brand, or advocacy reasons, share the hashtag everywhere and encourage people to use it.

Don’t go overboard using them

When you do use hashtags, hone in on the one or two that are most relevant to your audience and therefore more likely to be found. Use more than two, and your post will look spammy.

How has the thoughtful use of hashtags helped you increase engagement and improve sales or reach?

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Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Groupon’s New Ways to Serve You

Marketing solutions for every appetite.

Marketing solutions for every appetite.

Groupon has helped thousands of great restaurants overcome obstacles to their success and growth. From marketing that delivers the right number of customers to tools that help you operate more efficiently, our solutions are designed to meet the needs of businesses like yours. How can Groupon help your business grow?

Groupon Has More Ways to Serve You Than Ever Before

We’re constantly evolving to meet your business needs. Here are just a few of the ways Groupon can help your restaurant grow:

  • Featured offers that quickly attract a lot of new customers

  • Ongoing offers that steadily draw customers month after month

  • Offers that require a reservation to redeem so you can control your inventory and bookings

  • A sleek, powerful, and affordable iPad point-of-sale system

We have a full menu of products to help you grow your restaurant and operate more efficiently. Whatever your business goals, we’ll work with you to find a solution that fits your needs.

Recently, restaurant owners shared with us why they love working with Groupon:

Groupon has really helped us connect with a newer audience, more tech savvy, and people that are foodies themselves. — Carlo Mantica, Le Cirque, New York, NY

We’re already a high volume restaurant. However, Groupon has introduced us to a whole new market who might have heard of us but not been incentivized to come. — Scott Berman, Superdawg, Chicago, IL

I love Breadcrumb because it’s super easy. It’s just user friendly. I don’t even train my staff, I just tell them to look at it and do exactly what they think they should, and it always works out. — Talya Strader, Bow Truss, Chicago, IL

Hear more from restaurant owners that love Groupon. 

How Small Businesses Can Launch and Grow Using the Lean Startup Methodology

How to grow your business

How to grow your business

Unless you are part of the tech startup world, you have probably never heard of lean startup, a methodology developed and popularized by Eric Ries. In the startup world, he’s a rock star, because his scientifically proven method has helped countless companies get off the ground – and succeed.

Just because you’re not a tech startup doesn’t mean you can’t use lean startup, because its five principles are universal and apply to any small business that is just getting off the ground.

As explained on The Lean Startup website, here’s the problem: A lot of startups have an idea for a product that they think people want. They spend months or years trying to perfect it without once showing it to the customer, and when they launch, they find out that no one cares/wants/needs what they created – and the startup fails.

You definitely don’t want to be in that boat, so here’s how you can launch and grow your small business using the lean startup methodology:

Ask, “Is this idea sustainable?”

Share your idea with others and get feedback. Instead of asking, “Can this product or business be built?” ask “Should it be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?”

Build an MVP

An MVP is a minimum viable product – it’s what you need to launch at the very bare minimum. Think about a restaurant doing a soft opening for friends and family, or a fashion designer creating samples for friends to wear. It is a way of getting your business out there so you can start getting feedback and creating a better business.

Listen to feedback

That brings us to our next point: Actively ask for and listen to feedback from your beta (test) customers. They will tell you what features, services, and products they really want or need, and how to make those things better. Make those changes, and ask for more feedback to make sure you got it right.

Stay flexible

This is important, because as you get and act on feedback, your products, services, and even your overall business may change – and that is OK! You want to build something that has customers and is sustainable over the long-term. You want this to succeed! Stay flexible, and stay focused on the big picture.

Keep that feedback loop in place

All businesses change as they grow, and if you want to continue to change for the better, keep your feedback loop in place. Listen to your customers in a year, 5 years, and 10 years down the road so you can continue to adapt to their needs – and continue to grow.

If you’re a small business owner, how did you grow and succeed? If you’re thinking about launching a business, what else do you want to know about lean startup?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

 

Must See TV

How do you keep the joy of running a business alive?

How do you keep the joy of running a business alive?

Last weekend Mad Men started it’s seventh and final season. For the past seven years Mad Men has provided a useful touchstone in talking to people about marketing techniques and trends.  Because of that and because some of my clients are in very trend and style heavy fields (like weddings) I sometimes joke that watching things like Mad Men or red carpet award shows is part of my job.

Although I’ve never charged a client for time spent in front of the television, it’s not entirely a joke. Knowing what’s current and what people are talking about is part of what I do. I’ve always loved pop culture but I find that it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the trends. Some of it is my age. Some of it is the way television, social media, and services like Netflix are creating smaller and smaller audiences. I don’t have HBO and so don’t watch shows like Game of Thrones. This could be a problem if I had a client going for those demographics. There are also several extremely popular YouTube channels about which I know nothing.

But in reality, it would be next to impossible for me to digest all the media I might possibly need to help my clients. On top of that, it would turn something I enjoy, entertainment, in to a chore. By the time I’m done with work, home, and kids I have about an hour a day to spend vegetating in front of the television, do I really want to spend that watching things I don’t want to watch? Do I want to turn my free time in to work time?

In one way or another this is a dilemma a lot of small business owners have. Most of us go in to a business that’s closely related to what we like or even love. But that can turn what was a joy in to just another work task.

Business owners struggle with so many balance issues, always trying to walk the necessary lines. Keeping the joy in the things you love to do, but have to do is just one more example.

How do you make sure you still love the things you need to do for your business? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Articles:

Marta Segal Block is a social media and content marketing consultant specializing in small-service businesses. You can read more of her work and random thoughts on Advice from Marta and Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

Social Media Spring Cleaning

Revamp your social media this season

Revamp your social media this season

Tomorrow we’ll be hosting a Twitter Chat on spring cleaning for business and home (follow #grpnspring on Thursday 4/17 2pm CST). That makes this a great time to talk about how you can apply the ideas of spring cleaning to your social media accounts.

Clean Your Face

OK, not really, but have you looked at your avatars lately? Make sure all your profile pictures and avatars are presenting the professional you that you want to present to the public. If you’re still photo-less on any of your accounts, change that as soon as possible. No one trusts a blank face.

Freshen Your Passwords

Recent news about the Heartbleed bug has made the importance of password safety clear to businesses and individuals. Make sure you have clean, secure passwords for all of your social media accounts.

Scrub the Comments

Spammy blog comments and Facebook posts are more than just annoying, they make you look unprofessional. Go through and make sure you’ve deleted spam comments and posts.

Reduce

Social Media platforms change over time, especially as new platforms become available. If you’re trying to post to a million places at once you may be wasting valuable time. Take a look at your social media platforms, decide which ones are working for you and consider reducing the time you spend on others.

Reuse

Nobody wants to follow a Twitter account and Facebook page that have the exact same information, but you also don’t want to reinvent the wheel with every post. Consider which items can be reused on multiple platforms.

Recycle

Did you write a great blog post last year? No need to recreate the same post and clutter things up. Use the power of social media to make your old posts new again.

Don’t forget to join @GrouponWorks on Twitter tomorrow, 4/17 from 2-3 CST. Follow #Grpnspring

Related Articles:

Marta Segal Block is a social media and content marketing consultant specializing in small-service businesses. You can read more of her work and random thoughts on Advice from Marta and Facebook and follow her on Twitter

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

How to Write a Tagline that Means Something

Does your business have a tagline?

Does your business have a tagline?

Last week, I saw a truck that had the most meaningless tagline ever emblazoned across its back: Delivering Results. Solving Challenges.

“GREAT!” I thought. “Are you solving world hunger? Finding a cure for Lyme disease? Inventing Christmas lights that don’t burn out while stored for 11 months in a cardboard box?” I mean, COME ON! Talk about a completely meaningless tagline – and I can only imagine how long it took the company’s brain trust or marketing agency to come up with that.

While a lot of companies do have fabulous taglines that mean something – Nike’s Just Do It is my all-time favorite – coming up with one that is short, powerful, memorable, and meaningful is pretty hard (see “Just Do It”).

Here’s a brainstorming exercise that will help you write a tagline that means something:

List benefits you provide

What benefits do you provide your customers? How do you do things differently than your competitors? What value do you offer that no one else does? Make a list, and then run it by some of your favorite customers to make sure 1) it’s accurate, and 2) you didn’t forget anything.

Think about your – and your business’s – values

Your customers love you for more than just the benefits you provide – they connect with the values that govern your business. For example, I can buy shoes anywhere, but I tend to buy them from TOMS because I believe in their One For One philosophy. Now, list the values that inform your business.

Condense your list

Condense your list of benefits and values into short phrases that begin with an action word. Action words will add energy and paint a picture (aka, show rather than tell).

Identify your top benefit and value

Now you have two lists: one of benefits, one of values. Which are your top, most important ones? Which ones inform the others? Which are the reason you get up in the morning? Which are the reason your customers patronize you?

Link your benefit and value

Play around with your top phrases. Maybe your tagline is your top benefit, maybe it’s your top value, but maybe it’s a combination of the two. Go back to your customers and ask them which options capture your business most accurately.

Congratulations – you have yourself a tagline!

If your business has a tagline, how did you develop it? Why is it so meaningfull for your particular business?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.

 

 

How to Make the Most of Recent Changes to Twitter

What do recent Twitter changes mean for you?

What do recent Twitter changes mean for you?

Last week, Twitter announced a bunch of new features that were kind of a surprise and kind of not. For the past few months, there has been talk of them doing away with hashtags (#) and mentions (@), which would be radical changes to the way we use Twitter. Luckily, they did not announce anything radical; instead, they made some great tweaks that can only improve our use of, and experience with, Twitter.

Here is a rundown of the changes to Twitter and how to make the most of them:

Twitter is now more visual

Like Facebook and LinkedIn before it, Twitter has gotten a LOT more visual. You’ll now have a big banner/header, a la Facebook, across the top of your profile page.

What to do: Start thinking what kinds of photos you’ll share. Will they be the same as on Facebook? Will they be of you and your team, just you, you and your customers, your bricks-and-mortar establishment, or a mix of all of the above? How often will you swap out the photos?

Twitter will highlight best tweets

Your tweets that get the most RTs, mentions, favorites, etc. will show up in your feed bolder and bigger than others.

What to do: To encourage interaction, focus on sharing really cool information and spend time crafting your tweet so it encourages engagement.

You can pin tweets

You can move tweets up to the top of your timeline in order to capture more eyeballs.

What to do: Hone in on the truly outstanding content that you are creating and sharing. Quality counts here; if you want people to see it, it HAS to be good.

You can create photo collages

The iOS and Android Twitter app lets you upload 4 photos at once AND tag up to 10 people in the photos; it does not affect your character count.

What to do: Well, for one, this is a great way to get retweets! Not only will people see that you’ve tagged them and feel compelled to share the tweet, but the visual aspect will definitely capture attention. Take it one step further and add a call to action for each image, announce new products or services, or create a story around the images.

You can see emojis

If you added an emoji from your mobile phone, you could not see it on your desktop – but now you can.

What to do: Be careful using emojis, or you could come off as unprofessional. Only use an emoji if it really drives home your point.

What change are you most excited about, and why? How it will help your brand?

Related Articles:

Monika Jansen is a copywriter and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, website content, and other marketing materials for her clients, who tend to be startups and professional service providers. She is a blogger for GrowSmartBiz and the managing editor of UberStories. You can follow her on Twitter (@monikacjansen) or find her on LinkedIn.

Any views, opinions, advice, or endorsements herein are the author(s)’s and are not necessarily the views of Groupon or its partners.