Jul 122014
 
closed-bike-shop-in-bad-retail-location

A Virginian restaurant, the Serbian Lion, went out of business because its Google Places listing was hacked, reports Wired.

The proprietor of the Serbian Lion, Rene Bertagna, wasn’t aware his online listing showed the restaurant as being closed on weekends and as a result customers stopped showing up, he alleges in a law suit against Google.

As a result of result of the drop in earnings, the restaurant entered a death spiral of falling service standards, declining customers and further cuts until the place closed down.

While it’s difficult to judge how true Bertagna’s claim is – it’s quite possible the listing was a mistake by Google’s data scrapers or an oversight by a customer putting the data into the services – the story does illustrate how important getting the correct information into online services like Google Places, Microsoft Bing and Yelp.

Bertagna himself appears to be a classic case of roadkill on the information superhighway with his claims not to be a computer or internet user.

Bertagna immigrated to the U.S. from northern Italy when he was young. He’s 74 now, and, he says, doesn’t own a computer—he’d heard of the Internet and Google but used neither. Suddenly, a technological revolution of which he was only dimly aware was killing his business. His accountant phoned Google and in an attempt to change the listing, but got nowhere. Bertagna eventually hired an Internet consultant who took control of the Google Places listing and fixed the bad information—a relatively simple process.

The sad tale of Rene Bertagna and the Serbian Lion illustrates just how important it is for operators in the hospitality industry to be on top of their listings and online presence. This is where the customers are.

Sadly, this story isn’t news – that customers are using the web to find local businesses and read reviews of neighbourhood establishments has been the case for a decade, the move to mobile has been obvious for over five years.

For all local businesses, it’s a core responsibility to make sure online listings are correct along with having an up to date website. If you don’t, you only have yourself to blame if the customers don’t show up.

Jun 262014
 
How do mobile phone users reduce costs

‘Digital natives’ has been the term to describe people born after 1990 who’ve had computers throughout their entire lives.

The theory is these folk have an innate understanding of digital technologies from being immersed in them from an early age.

It’s doubful how true that theory is; the generation born after 1960 were born into the television generation yet the vast majority of GenXers would have little idea on how to produce a sitcom or fix a TV set and the same could be said for the war generation and motor cars.

Digitally native businesses

For businesses, it may be the digital native concept is far more valid. Ventures being founded today are far more likely to be using productivity enhancing tools like social media, collaboration platforms and cloud computing services than their older competitors.

What’s striking about older businesses, particularly in the Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) sectors, is just how poorly they have adopted technology. The Australian Bureau of Statistics report into IT use by the nation’s businesses illustrates the sectors’ weak use of tech.

The most telling statistic is the number of businesses with a web presence; the SME sector lags way behind the corporate sector that has almost 100% penetration.

Australian_business_with_a_web_presence

Many of the zero to four business can be disregarded as most of them are sole trader consultants who’ve had to register a businesses for professional reason, although there is an argument even they would benefit from a cheap or free web presence to advertise their skills.

The ABS statistics show small business is lagging behind the corporates in social media and e-commerce adoption as well so the argument that local businesses are ignoring the web and using services like Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Places to advertise their services doesn’t hold water.

Old man’s business

Part of this reluctance to use digital tools is age; many SMEs were born either in the era when faxes were a novelty or when Windows computers were first appearing on small businesses desktops. They are creatures of another era.

In the current era cloud, social media and collaborative services are running business. The idea of buying a workstation for a new employee and waiting for the IT guy to set them up on the network is an antiquated memory; today’s workers have their own laptops, tablets and smartphones to do the work – all they need is a password.

Those services offer a different way of organising a business and this is the most worrying part of the statistics – large organisations are slowly, and not always successfully, adopting modern management practices while many small businesses are locked into a 1970s and 80s way of working.

For businesses being founded today, this isn’t a worry – they are the true digital natives and are reaping the benefits of more efficient ways of working. Something emphasised by Google’s updates to its Drive productivity services announced overnight.

That’s something that should focus the plans of established businesses of all sizes as they adapt to working in a connected society.

May 302014
 
classifieds

At the Code Conference held outside Los Angeles last week, analyst Mary Meeker delivered her annual State of the Internet slideshow covering the trends and opportunities in the online world.

One of the most watched graphs is the time spent on media versus the advertising spend on that channel.

For years Meeker has shown print is receiving a higher share of advertising dollars for the amount of time consumers spend on it compared to online channels.

That implies print revenue is due for collapse and online advertising revenues will surge. Here’s the 2014 chart.

2014-advertising-spend-gap-mary-meeker-kpcb

If we track this over the last five years, here’s what we see with the ‘difference’ column being the sum of print’s over-representation and online’s (mobile and web) under-spending.

Year Print time Print share Online time Online share difference
2010 12 26 28 13 29
2011 7 25 36 23 31
2012 6 23 38 25 30
2013 5 19 45 26 35

The collapse in print’s share of consumer time, down 60% in five years, is stunning and the 2012-13 changes may indicate advertising spend may is now collapsing as marketers start to adapt to the changed marketplace.

It could be however that advertising as we know it has to change; one of the key reasons for online – particularly mobile’s – spending being under represented is because no-one is quite sure what works in the newer mediums.

Advertisers may no that consumers are moving from print channels, but at least they know what works in print. Online the experts’ guesses are still not much better than the amateurs’.

In short, we’re still watining for the digital era’s David Sarnoff. As Mary Meeker keeps reminding us, it’s a $20bn a year opportunity.

 

Apr 202014
 
like-a-business-on-facebook

Could liking a brand’s Facebook page cost you your right to sue?

The New York Times has a story on how corporations are subtly changing the wordings on websites and social media pages in an effort to make it harder for customers to challenge the business in court.

It’s quite cheeky attempting to strip people who ‘like’ a Facebook page of their rights to take action against a company, it even strikes at the heart of building an online community around a brand.

The whole point of accumulating real life followers behind a brand’s social media presence is to create a band of fans; by creating suspicion, business destroy the goodwill behind that exercise and possibly render it useless.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook react to this behaviour as intimidating users and discouraging them from liking brands is a direct threat to their business model, it’s hard to see them not changing their own terms to make this corporate behaviour a breach of their own terms of service.

For consumers though it’s a reminder that corporations, at least those who operate on twentieth-century mass market principles, aren’t really their friends.

Update: Since posting this piece, General Mills has backed down on its policy but the point still remains that unfair and over legalistic terms and conditions threaten social media platforms.

Apr 192014
 
newspapers are dying as the media business models move online

Last week, Google’s share price slumped on news of poorer than expected revenue results and website Asymco has a detailed examination of how the company’s growth might have reached its limits.

Asymco’s warning to the online advertising industry is clear with the warning that revenues might start to decline in 2016.

That online advertising may have reached its peak means even an even more uncertain future for businesses rely on those revenues, and times have been tough for those sites in recent years as returns have fallen.

At the same time online ad spending seems to be peaking, print advertising revenues in the United States dropped a further 8% last year with income at now at 1982 levels. It seems publishers can’t win either way.

So its now wonder that online services like Google and Facebook are looking to payment systems and other ways to generate revenue, for online publishers things are even more problematic.

What is clear is the advertising driven revenue methods that work so well for the broadcast industry aren’t working for online publishers and quite possibly other internet based businesses as well.

The online industries need a David Sarnoff to figure out a model that works.

 

Apr 042014
 
management and executive training, workshops and keynotes for technology

According to AdAge, Instagram has no advertising rate card but if you have a spare million hanging around the photo sharing service will speak to you.

Dropping a million dollars on a social media campaign isn’t a massive amount for a global brand, but is it a worthwhile investment?

As Vintank’s founder Paul Mabray told Decoding the New Economy earlier this week, the social media services were never invented to be business to consumer advertising platforms.

“I think that every social media platform that’s been developed had such a strong emphasis on consumer to consumer interaction that they’ve left the business behind, despite thinking that business will pay the bills.”

“As a result almost every single business application that’s come from these social media companies has met with hiccups. That’s because it wasn’t part of the original plan.”

With Instagram it’s not clear exactly what those companies are getting for their million dollars a month with its consumer focus, it could well be its the cost of experimenting with the new medium.

In the early days of radio it took nearly two decades to figure out how to make money from the broadcast model — it may take a similar period to understand how to make social media pay.

Apr 022014
 
paul-mabray-vintank2

“This is the most difficult time in history to be a wine maker, declares Paul Mabray, Chief Strategy Office and founder of Vintank.

“Never has the wine industry been as competitive as it is today.”

Update: The Wine Communicators of Australia, who sponsored Mabray’s visit, have posted Paul’s presentation that covers this post’s theme in more detail.

Mabray’s business monitors social media for wineries and collects information on wine enthusiasts. Since Vintank’s founding in 2008 the service has collected information on over thirteen million people and their tastes in wine.

Rewriting the rule book

Social media, or social Customer Relationship Management (sCRM), is what Mabray sees as being part of the future of the wine industry that’s evolving from a model developed in the 1970s which started to break down with the financial crisis of 2009.

“In the old days there was a playbook originating with Robert Mondavi in the 1970s which is create amazing wine, you get amazing reviews and you go find wholesalers who bring this wine to the market.”

“As a result of the global proliferation of brands the increase of awareness and consumption patterns where people like wine more, those playbooks didn’t work in 2009 when the crisis started.”

With the old marketing playbook not working, wineries had to find other methods to connect to their markets and social media has become one of the key channels.

Now the challenge in the wine industry, like all sectors, is dealing with the massive amount of data coming in though social media and other channels.

The cacophony of data

“If you rewind to when social media came out, everyone had these stream based things and the noise factor was so heavy,” says Mabray.

“For small businesses this creates an ‘analysis to paralysis’ where they’d rather not do anything.”

Mabray sees paralysis as a problem for all organisations, particularly for big brands who are being overwhelmed by data.

“The cacophony of data at a brand level is just too much,” he says.

“It’s as noisy as all get go and I think the transition is to break Big Data down into small bite size pieces for businesses to digest is the future, it shouldn’t be the businesses problem, it should be the software companies’.”

A growing digital divide

Mabray sees a divide developing between the producers who are embracing technology and those who aren’t, “the efficiencies attributed to technology are obvious whether they’re using CRM, business intelligence or other components.”

“The people who are doing this are recognising the growth and saying ‘hey, this stuff actually works! If I feed the horse it runs.”

While Mabray is focused on digital media and the wine industry, similar factors are work in other industries and technology sectors; whether it’s data collected by farm sensors to posts on Instagram or Facebook.

Facebook blues

Mabray is less than impressed with Facebook and sees businesses concentrating on the social media service as making a mistake.

“I think that every social media platform that’s been developed had such a strong emphasis on consumer to consumer interaction that they’ve left the business behind, despite thinking that business will pay the bills.”

“As a result almost every single business application that’s come from these social media companies has met with hiccups. That’s because it wasn’t part of the original plan.”

Facebook in particular is problematic in his view, “it’s like setting up a kiosk in the supermall of the world.”

The business anger towards Facebook’s recent changes is due to the effort companies have put into the platform, Mabray believes; “everyone’s angry about Facebook because we put so much into getting the data there.”

“We said ‘go meet us on Facebook’, we spent money collecting the items and manufacturing the content to attract people and now we have to spend money to get the attention of the people we attracted to the service in the first place.”

Despite the downsides of social media Mabray sees customer support as one of the key areas the services. “It’s easy to do in 140 characters.”

Context is king

“Everything come back to context. There’s this phrase that ‘content is king’,” Mabray says. “Context is king.”

“Anyone can produce content. It’s a bull market for free content. We have content pollution – there’s so much junk to wade through.

Mabray’s advice to business is to listen to the market: “Customers are in control more than they have ever been in human history: Google flattens the world and social media amplifies it.”

For wineries, like most other industries, the opportunity is to deal with that flat, amplified world.