Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category


Yelp Town Hall and How One Star Increase = 5% to 9% Increase in Revenue

I attended Yelp Boston Town Hall, billed as a forum for the fourth in a series of cities hosted by Yelp offering businesses best practices in how to engage online critics and exchange ideas with other local businesses trying to harness the best in Yelp.  Yelp Boston Community Manager, Damien Smith quarterbacked a panel conversation with two avid local Yelpers, Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s Manager of Local Business Outreach, and two local businesses who are faring quite well with Yelp – Renee Eliah of Saus, a Belgian waffle and pommes frites place near Government Center and Brian Poe, chef of Poe’s Kitchen at the Rattlesnake and Beacon Hill newcomer Tip Tap Room.  And though the event was held in a restaurant with two restaurants as the businesses on the panel the folks from Yelp noted that restaurants account for only 23% of the reviews on Yelp.  Note to anyone holding a social media event in a downstairs section of a venue – make sure there’s working wifi to use an event hashtag such as #yelptownhall on social media or to check in on Yelp.  Does that belong in a Yelp review of hosting an event at the Back Bay Social Club?…

Renee shared anecdotes that Yelp worked as a marketing tool for Saus to channel pre-opening anticipation of pommes frites-philes and curiosity to build buzz when the doors finally opened.  Renee also believes that the majority of their business in the beginning was attributable to Yelp and that helped keep the business going.  Yelpers actually came to Saus’ defense from online harsh reviews of growing pains common to lots of new restaurants.

Brian talked about a real-time turnaround when a guest shared the status of a bad experience on social media while it was happening and from afar he and his team were able to figure out who the patron was and made things right for that patron before he left the restaurant.

The Yelping Yentas had earnest intentions in offering frank reviews to business but it’s hard not to feel for the business owner who spoke from the crowd equating bad reviews as graffiti on one’s home or the tattoo studio entrepreneur contending that competitors might be the source of staged reviews or inflating their own reviews manufactured by friends and family.

The event did not offer a magic elixir to remove the digital stains of bad reviews on Yelp, but it did offer some key takeaways:

  • Bad reviews are nothing new.  Attention and resolution of reasonable customer complaints can turn things around.
  • Consistently good customer service and attention will pay off in the long-term.
  • Yelp reviews can be considered focus groups for feedback on your products and services.
  • Higher ratings and great reviews grow organically.  Pushing non-Yelping customers to write a review leads to less-than-raving reviews and fewer stars because people feel obliged and may not even be familiar in how to write a great review in Yelp-ese.

    Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of
    Michael Luca, HBS
    Working Paper

The most delicious part of the night was a serendipitous conversation with Chantelle Karl, Yelp Senior Public Relations Manager when I asked about how much, in dollars, a good Yelp rating is worth when Michael Luca just happened to join us.

Michael is an Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School and author of  “Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of”.  Mike studied the impact of Yelp reviews on Seattle area restaurants through Washington State Department of Revenue data.  His Working Paper demonstrates that a one star Yelp rating increase can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.  Pretty cool to meet someone who can put it into dollars and sense.

Yelp did a good job taking their own advice listening to business owners’ side of their model for feedback.  And for those business owners who obsess over tough criticism, there are many bigger priorities in running a business and plenty of customer marketing options if Yelp is not one’s choice.


MassChallenge hosted the Sisterhood of Startups with Exhale Magazine for Women

Exhale Magazine’s “Women in Conversation – The Sisterhood of Startups” event was an impressive gathering of 180 women where Debi Kleiman of MITX led a panel conversation with women who participated in the MassChallenge competition.

Ainsley Braun / Tinfoil Security, Ashley Lucas / Diffuse 5, Dr. Sonia Divney / Zarzatech, Erica Zidel / Sitting Around, Candice Cabe / Day2Night Convertible Heels, Erin Viestra / Zyrra, Stephanie Kaplan / Her Campus Media

The “Women in Conversation” meetups take a story in the magazine and  bring it into a living room style gathering to take the topic into a lively exchange.  They continue Exhale Magazine’s mission to celebrate, inspire and support today’s busy women.  The entrepreneurs featured in the article about the Women of MassChallenge shared anecdotes from their progress in businesses dominated by men, to pitching a product that solves a woman’s problem to a group of men, and how men see business through a different lens.

Every woman who spoke at the event had common themes about her quest to define her business and to define herself in her leadership role.

  • There’s a real need for mentoring among women.
  • There’s simplicity in just asking for help and you actually get it.
  • Rely on life experience along with the power of trusting one’s instincts.  Those instincts proved right for situations ranging from knowing the target customer to knowing how to pitch for funding.

The level of networking among the women in the crowd created quite a vibe and the connections made should create business exponentially.  One of my favorite parts of the night was when a woman in the audience, Emily Benson, stood up to affirm the power of trusting her instincts.  Just having moved her business from NYC to Boston she was anxious to bring her Fashion Truck  to a high-traffic event in New England, but once she saw what the Laconia, NH weekend looked like … well, you get it.  The cool part is that the entire room soon knew about the Fashion Truck.

Exhale is also a startup that relies on advertising and sponsorship revenue to grow.  Thanks very much to our sponsors, New York Life and TaskRabbit.  If you’re a marketer or business owner reading this I’d be remiss not to ask for your consideration to invest some of your marketing in Exhale.

Here’s a link to the article on the Women of MassChallenge.

If you attended the event please share what you got out of it, give props to the woman who inspired you, the woman you want to celebrate and who you want to support.


#entrepreneurs … no, make that #womentrepreneurs

In the short time I’ve been working at Exhale Lifestyle Magazine for Women I’ve encountered some very impressive groups that foster female leadership in organizations and strive to pave inroads for girls and young women across a number of industries.  Among my favorites so far are The Commonwealth Institute, WEST – Women Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology, The Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, and Mass Innovation Nights.

Yes, Mass Innovation Nights is a woman-led entity and I’m writing this to give Bobbie Carlton her props for building this monthly gathering where products launch to market.  @BobbieCThe companies involved have ranged from major corporations to kitchen-table startups.  Bobbie is a community builder for innovators to connect and promote each other through the power of social media in the stone soup theory of creating a delicious meal with a place for everyone at the table.  For a woman who has built a career in public relations she’s modest about what she does for others.  That’s why I want to give Bobbie her props for being named one of Mass High Tech’s All-Stars of 2011.

If you’ve attended a Mass Innovation Night or launched a product at one of the 30+ Monthly Launch parties here’s your opportunity to give her a shout:


Twitter #Hacked, now QR codes…

Do bad things truly happen in 3’s?  It IS October.  My Twitter account was hacked and I since learned that my fascinating friend the QR code is the next victim.  Maybe it was the foreboding question someone at Mass Innovation Nights #MIN31 (note the number) asked me about the QRCTT project I’ve been shepherding.  “I just got this new smartphone, I want to try this QR scan and Tweet for one of the Innovators.  Are these things safe?….”  Fortunately the wiseguy in me replied “well in tech most anything is possible, so I can’t vouch for that…”.  I’d like to point you to John Paul Titlow’s recent post on ReadWriteWeb.

Mobile Marketer does a good job embedding a Final Take video in articles.  Here’s Chantal Tode’s Final Take on yesterday’s article “Malicious QR code campaigns threaten legitimate marketers”:

I’ll share more as Dag, Bobbie, Jim, Nirmal and I circle back on the QR codes and analytics from the next Mass Innovation Night #MIN32 on November 9th at the Mass Challenge incubator in Boston’s Innovation District.

And the third bad thing happened, not horrible, but it’s over.


My Twitter account was hacked. Here’s what I did.

I’m giving a shout out to Bobbie Carlton for her message sent just after 4am last week suggesting that my account might have been hacked.  I thought I was the early, bright and shiny one at 5am reading email, news and trades.  But she was up and at it before heading to the gym.  I did not know about the secure settings option.

Your friends will tell you in very creative ways that your account might have been hacked.  Some of your Followers will think you’ve lost it. Try these easy steps.  Go to your Settings.!/timstanskyOn the Account tab, scroll down to HTTPS Only, check the box “Always Use HTTPS” and Save changes.!/timstansky

Share this with your followers.  They might eventually need it.

Now I have to ask this question to those of you who have been hacked…..  what’s the funniest thing that came back to you when your followers told you that you might have been hacked?  Please share.


QR Codes for events

Mass Innovation Nights is a monthly Launch gathering where ten new products display to a couple hundred people at various locations around Boston.  The locations rotate including the IBM Innovation Center in Waltham, Microsoft New England Research and Development (NERD) Center in Cambridge and last month at SCVNGR‘s headquarters during Boston’s FutureM.

These Launch gatherings are the culmination of a common ballot on which companies, friends, family, fans and customers vote over four weeks for the participating Launch Innovators to win one of four 5 minute presentation slots to the crowd.  There’s a lot of collective social media in the form of Tweets, blogs, emails, newsletters, video and posts in the voting process leading up to the event and a big blast of it on-site.

In early 2011 I cobbled together two products to create a unique QR code for each participating Innovator to have at their display.  The scanned QR code launched unique pre-loaded Tweet with a shout out for that Innovator.  We named it a QR Click To Tweet, QRCTT.  When you do this at your event remind your guests to sign into Twitter on their smartphones before they QRCTT. 

After a couple of beta tests at Launch gatherings I enlisted the help of Nirmal Parikh of Digital Wavefront, Dag Holmboe of Klurig Analytics, Jim Henderson of VizConnect and Bobbie Carlton of Mass Innovation Nights.  In one short conference call we figured a simple refinement of my cobbled project to generate QR codes to produce better analytics.  Few of us knew that was possible.  Props to Nirmal!

Click here to view slides.

The use of QR codes will allow us to analyze the Tweets, measure collective social media and give us a baseline to figure out how else we can optimize social media exposure for all the participating Innovators who launch products at Mass Innovation Nights.

Here are the steps to create your own QRCTT, a one click Tweet through a QR code scan that allows for analytics.


Google+, Facebook and Lessons from Knitters at Podcamp Boston #pcb6

#pcb6 was my second Podcamp.  Try explaining to your friends that you’re foregoing a September weekend of football for something that conjures up Lady Gaga’s transport mode to the Grammy Awards.  Here are my takeaways from a well-spent weekend at Microsoft New England.

Not this pod, Podcamp. Jason_Merritt/Getty Images

Podcamp is an “unconference” where people share their learning of social media from a variety of perspectives including corporations just exploring it, entrepreneurs, video fanatics and mom bloggers.  Topics ranged from monetizing social media in an organization to blogging, adoption of video, to podcasting and what the long-term value of a like, a + or a follow.

I repeatedly heard how social media advocates, particularly in large organizations, are challenged to translate Twitter, the newly updated Facebook, Google+ and other social media into value propositions for senior executives.

Social Media is a business tool, not a complete business plan.

Start by listening, supporting and helping.  The most important part is to jump into social media and incubate your efforts.  Putting yourself “out there” in a blog or a video in which you’re more concerned about succinctly communicating good content is much better than worrying about high production quality worthy of awards.  Trying it out, testing and measuring help improve efforts over repeated tries. Chris Brogan described it in a hallway conversation as exposing your vulnerabilities.

Learn from others successfully using technology to commune and replicate it.  Mari Anne Snow, an Adjunct Professor of Emarketing and Ecommerce at Bentley University advises to “assemble a gang” because nobody can know everything.  One of the earliest groups to use ARPANET and Usenet before the current internet were people who share crafting hobbies such as knitting.  Kimberly Reynolds from publisher XRX, Inc. and Guido Stein of the Common Cod Fiber Guild shared stories with me about the community of knitters, fortunes spent in pursuit of yarns, and how knitters share their work.  Novice knitters rarely have to go far to get help on a dropped stitch or pattern adaptation.

Don’t buy into the myth that social media is just for the kids.  Mari Anne Snow made an emphatic point in her recommendation to “assemble a gang” that the college kids recruited for internships and jobs are digitally savvy because parents outfitted them with technology from early on.  But that assumption that all college interns are digital whiz kids is false.  We’re all still learning in the social media space.  Plus the kids do not have organizational clout, budgets to allocate or business life experiences to draw upon

4)     Google+, Facebook and technology changes are challenging everyone.  Even the brilliant global names at Podcamp Boston are just wrapping their arms around the changes, gripes and praises.

Can you give a shout out to groups who are doing interesting things in social media that readers can adopt?  Give ’em a digital pat on the back here…

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