Q&A with Will Scott: Social media lead tracking and the real deal with Yelp
Will Scott, president of Search Influence, has cutting edge, and sometimes controversial, advice and opinion on marketing on social platforms.
Can you share your general processes for tracking leads from social media? What are you looking for, and what tools are you using to track the data?
A lot of times we’re working on behalf of smaller SMBs who don’t have huge budgets, and therefore we tend to be creative to keep in line with their budgetary needs. In the presentation I did at SearchFest, a lot of that was about how you use tools that are freely available to start to track some of these things so you can put some actionable numbers up.
Some of our tools are things that we’ve written in-house because we’ve found that very few tools at an SMB budget were appropriate for closing the loop. There are tools like Mongoose Metrics that are great if you’ve got an ad spend that warrants devoting a couple hundred dollars a month to call tracking. But we’ve found that often we’re left with $30 or $40 a month to manage call tracking, so we tend to roll our own tools.
Among the things we do internally toward closing the loop are building our own dynamic phone number switching system, as well as our own lead capture form system that actually tracks referral and keyword data. That way, even without high powered analytics, we can, by taking apart the URL string, actually get to the origin of a lead.
While we talk often about tracking other key performance indicators, at the end of the day our clients are interested in leads. Having the ability to do call tracking in a way that we can at least attribute it to ad channel and/or SEO efforts is a big deal for us. That’s a big part of what we think about.
You also talked about how URLs, URL shorteners and custom URLs pose unique challenges in social media analytics. What tips do you have for URL shorteners and custom URLs?
The code for tracking URL variables is really not that challenging, especially on the referrer string. I think it’s something I think most people could deconstruct. A big part of the presentation that I gave at SearchFest did have to do with the use of URL shorteners primarily as a means of containing the data of things like the Google URL Builder. Anybody can go and use the URL Builder to start to add intelligence to the links that they’re putting online, whether it’s for advertising or it’s for social media engagement, and it doesn’t require rocket science. It’s just a little bit of discipline in making sure that your naming convention is sufficient to match up with whatever tools you have on site to actually track those leads.
You examined the power of reaching influencers in your presentation, pointing to tools like Klout and Twitalyzer to discover social media users with enhanced reach and engaged networks. Is the attention to influence sometimes overestimated?
I think that the challenge of celebrities and tweeting is that while they may have a pretty broad reach, they don’t have a lot of focus. If you buy in to long-tail theory, you’re getting the head terms, which aren’t going to convert well. One of the tools I’ve always liked is Twellowhood because it enables you to target locally.
In a couple of the more popular desktop applications for Twitter, you can filter by location if you’ve got a local product or service. One of the better examples I’ve seen of leveraging this is a New Orleans group called Naked Pizza. In a very short period time, once they recognized the power of Twitter, they had amassed something like 5,000 followers, probably like 45 to 50 percent of whom were in or self-identified as associated with New Orleans. We’re currently, in New Orleans proper, maybe like 300,000 strong, maybe 350,000. To have 2,500 people who are what Seth Godin always refers to as the sneezers—the people who are out there spewing information about the new—was a pretty significant effort.
When we’re working on local engagements we tend to target locals, even if they’re not necessarily influencers. I think that a big thing that people don’t think about relative to Twitter and Facebook is what I’ve referred to as attention deficit Twitter disorder. So to your question, if you can be in front of those influencers with enough frequency and enough recency that they’re going to actually see what it is that you’re trying to message, and especially if you can tie it to some kind of offer or contest, I think that you can really start to leverage the local Twitter scene.
New Orleans is a great example of some of these things because it’s so far behind the rest of the country. You know, I’m following and followed by most of the local news media, so I think there’s a big opportunity, if you can make your message resonate, to target local. It doesn’t have to be Lil Wayne, it doesn’t have to be one of these mega Twitter socialites. It can be the local twitterati who are actually moving stuff, especially in a more narrow niche or local context.
That formula sounds like an effective strategy for Twitter, being location, frequency, recency and then an offer, so thank you.
That’s a good distillation of my long statement. One of the examples that’s in my presentation: we had a client that’s in the San Diego area and of their 7,000 or some odd followers on Twitter, fully 40 percent of them self-identified with San Diego. You can really start to get in front of, particularly in a local context, the right people on Twitter. It’s not about notoriety, it’s not about celebrity. It’s about being there when they’re looking for information.
What about Yelp?
At the intersection of social and local are review sites like Yelp. Do you find Yelp’s practices unfair for marketers? Can you also share your tips for optimizing a business’s presence on Yelp?
I want to be clear, I’m a fan of Yelp, I’m a user of Yelp and I have quite a few people who I consider friends who actually work for Yelp.
I think it’s one of those things that because I’m such a fan of the product and because I think that there is so much opportunity there, I see this huge disconnect between the way Yelp behaves as a purveyor of advertising product and the way they suggest a merchant should behave as an advocate for their own business.
Yelp is and should be a tool in the kit of any local merchant. I think there are opportunities to leverage things like check-ins, like specials. These opportunities to take advantage of Yelp and other sites like it is what I’ve always referred to as barnacle SEO—seeing what else you can get on page one for your brand as a reputation management and page ownership perspective. With sites like Yelp with greater presence on [a results] page, one is attaching oneself to a large heavy object and waiting for the searchers to float by in the current. In a market like this one, there’s a Yelp community manager helping businesses take advantage of the things that they have to offer, and it’s definitely a site that one wants to get involved in.
I really have no problem with Yelp’s advertising products except for their incredibly rigid and, in my opinion, hypocritical stance on how a merchant can inform the public of the fact that there are such a thing as review sites and it may be helpful to have them leave a review.
The first caveman that banged out a wheel on behalf of somebody else said, “Hey buddy, tell your friends.” It’s a very common merchant behavior to ask for the referral and to ask for introductions to other possible prospects. As review sites become so important in the ecosystem, something like 70 percent of the people who executed a transaction after doing research online, had interacted with reviews.
To suggest that reviews are not an important part of decision making these days is just crazy. Therefore when a site does such a great job of SEO, to then suggest that you shouldn’t try to assure that your profile isn’t as good as it can be in the site that ranks number two or number three for your brand, it’s not reflective of reality.
There was an example shown by Dylan of Yelp of a steakhouse that has a lot of Yelp Deals, and they doubled or tripled their traffic month-to-month by virtue of this deal they ran. In another case study, the reviews included statements like: “I’ll definitely come back again when it’s not a deal night.” And guess what, it was a five-star review.
To suggest that selling the kind of advertising that Yelp is selling is not incentivizing reviews is a fabrication. I don’t know if you’ve ever interacted with or been part of a presentation in which Yelp has espoused their review behavior, but I think they expect the review fairy to pop out of the sky, flowers bloom, reviews happen, who knows how.
It’s important for merchants to ignore Yelp’s advice and to continue doing what they’ve been doing for eons and asking for those referrals. There are some great articles online that talk about ways that businesses can start to overcome Yelp’s review filter. I found one, interestingly on, I think it was, MerchantCircle blog, by a guy who’s an optometrist in Park Slope, Brooklyn, who is one of Yelp’s poster children on how to use their system.
While it was all about Yelp’s review system, it was all the same stuff: help those people left you reviews look like good Yelpers. If your reviewer looks like a good Yelper, their review’s not going to get filtered. The things that one has to do to look like a good Yelper are very simple. You have to interact with the community in some way. You have to do some very basic things like uploading a photo to your profile, and you have to have some review behavior for Yelp to use to validate your existence. The social elements of Yelp and other review sites are just as open to opportunity as the rest of social media, but definitely a critical tool for a local merchant.
Be sure to follow Will on Twitter, @w2scott, to stay tuned in to his quick-witted marketing intel.