Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Yelp

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water . . .

You open a business. You market it aggressively. You do your best to serve your customers. You have a few “learning experiences”, but over all everything goes well. Then tragedy strikes. You get “yelped”. Some customer who you barely remember posts a scathing review of your product or service on the consumer feedback site Yelp.

Think it couldn’t happen to you? If you’ve got customers in the local retail sector, you’re most likely on yelp. For those of us working for companies that sell to the enterprise, we have our own demons. Our disgruntled customers are as likely to buy domains of “” and make a career out of vilifying us. But we have infrastructure for that. We have huge multi-touch marketing teams and great PR departments and legal representation if needed and about a million ways to engage our customers directly using a number of different channels, some of which we’ve covered here.

But what do you do if you’re a small corner shop? Your options are much more limited. Much of your revenue base is dependent on new customers, meaning you’re not able to preempt negative reviews with your own information. But even if that weren’t the case, you don’t likely have a very large marketing budget. And if you were going to use it for anything, it would be to get new customers, not lose old ones. Unfortunately, many business owners are facing this situation now.

Could this mean the end of business as they know it? Maybe for the bad ones. If you remember, authors found themselves in a similar dilemma as Amazon’s user reviews system became more relied upon than the publisher’s canned marketing pitch. Today however, more books than ever are being sold through Amazon and with rare exceptions do authors have trouble with allowing every single customer to have an open public forum with anonymity and almost no barrier to entry to posting their review. Its just become part of the paradigm in publishing – if you want good reviews produce a good product.

I’ve spoken to some local business owners about their reaction to yelp and its effect on their business and without exception all were driven to improve some aspect of their service because of it. How is this a bad thing again? It’s certainly not a bad thing for the folks at yelp, who’ve seen the unique visitors triple over the last year. As a business owner, I’d be terrified of yelp to the point where I’d go out of my way to satisfy each and every customer as if they were the Internet Yelp’r from hell. As a customer, I really digg that.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cisco Ends the Search for the Perfect Valentine's Day Gift

This is a great B2B example of a viral video. This video was posted to YouTube, blogged about and Twittered about and in 5 days has over 8,400 views!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cisco's Newest Social Media App

Cisco is breaking social media ground yet again with it's new VNI PC Pulse application. I happen to work with one of the masterminds (Thomas Barnett) behind this application so I was able to talk him into an interview to give other social media enthusiasts a back stage view of what went it's creation.

Can you give me a brief description of the new Cisco VNI PC Pulse application?

>> Thomas: Cisco has created a free application to show users how much network bandwidth they consume and the types of applications they use. This application shows users the amount and types of traffic that flow to and from their computer and provides aggregated network usage proof points of all global users of this application for comparison purposes.

This is a great idea, how did you come up with it? What is the benefit to the end user?

>> Thomas: As part of our Visual Networking Index (VNI) initiative, we are interested in activities that can help provide qualitative views of network-based consumer video usage patterns and trends. Cisco has sponsored and will continue to explore consumer preferences and perspectives through surveys/questionnaires (see Cisco VNI Pulse political survey and Initial Cisco VNI Pulse consumer survey). A natural extension of our direct engagement with consumers was to offer a free utility application to develop a deeper understanding of consumer video behaviors and attitudes on a global scale. End users can gain a better understanding of their personal PC use and compare their bandwidth consumption with the aggregate average of others worldwide. They can compare their personal historical bandwidth usage stats (i.e., personal high, personal average, personal low) against WW stats (world high, world average, world low). The application measures LAN and Wi-Fi connections.

What have you learned since the application has been available?

>> Thomas: Data retrieved through the Cisco VNI Pulse application showed that on January 20, 2009 (the day of the U.S. inaugural festivities)individual users downloaded more than twice the amount of data they do during a normal day, at 322 MB vs. a typical average of 159 MB. Doug Webster, a marketing executive with Cisco, speculates that many people had the inaugural festivities streaming in the background while they did other things
Are there any social elements of the application? Thomas' Response: At this point, the ability to compare personal bandwidth usage against world stats is the primary social feature. Users could also compare their usage directly with family, friends and colleagues that choose to use the application. Cisco plans to develop a interactive web page in later in 2009 that will provide additional social networking elements.

What is the main objective of the application and how are you measuring your success?

>> Thomas: By using the Cisco VNI PC Pulse application, consumers will gain a better understanding of their online preferences and needs. The aggregate data will help Cisco build a better understanding of what we all demand from our networks. Data from this application will be shared publicly on a quarterly basis. We will measure our success the number of global users we are able to attract and the quality of new and insightful findings that we are able to share with the telecommunications industry and others interested in IP networking consumer trends.

What future apps can we expect from Cisco?

>> Thomas: We have developed a new mobile application that is currently available for iPhone users and will soon be available for Blackberry users as well. The Cisco Global Internet Speed Test (GIST) for iPhone application is publicly available via the Apple iPhone App Store in iTunes (

To learn more about the app check out Doug's post 'Are you a Super User?' or of course go directly to the download site and check it out for yourself.