Six Apart acquires Rojo Six Apart adds to their arsenal an RSS aggregator and search engine. Haven’t used Rojo since an early beta and it seemed to only be designed for the uber-RSS geek, wonder if it changed?
A very good friend of mine is relaunching her seasonal store in San Francisco this fall. It’s a really great non-profit business that sells items made by local artists. I talked to her the other day and was trying to convince her that even though the store is local, she should try to use some free online tools out there to help publicize her business online.
Some of these items are specific to the store I’m helping, but others are applicable to any local store. I’ve listed my recommendations in priority order and I can help you with most of the below if you like.
Cheap and Easy
Blog Your current website is great, but I bet it is hard to update and may not get updated as often as you’d like. Setting up a blog is relatively simple to do and with your down time through the week, you could use your spare time to write about items in the store. Also, write a little profile for the artists/crafters that you feature (or better yet, ask the artists to do this for you). A blog is a great way to both show off what you are selling in-store, but also a way to attract other artist’s to sell their work as well.
Your blog also serves as a good place for people to ask you questions, for reporters to gather info about your store and best of all, other folks to link to you. Blogs tend to get more Google love, so hopefully, it brings you more customers.
Local search Make sure that your store has a listing in all the local search engines like Yelp, Yahoo, Google, CitySearch, and Judy’s Book. Asking customers to review your store on these sites post purchase probably wouldn’t hurt. Search engines are devoting a lot of effort into these areas and you can only assume that they (at least the bigger ones) are getting a lot of traffic.
Flickr Photograph everything that comes into the store and post lower resolution images (ie not printable) of the items that are for sale. I know there may be some sensitivity surrounding artist’s work, so make sure they know (and are ok with) you posting pix online. Tag all the images that you upload with your store name and thoroughly tag what they are and who they came from. This will help folks find either the artist or the work in the future.
Also, use Flickr to post pictures from the launch party, (which is something you would probably do anyway). Encourage other photographers to tag their Flickr images with your store’s name. This will help create a larger pool of pictures.
A little sidebar – a good way to make your products look good is to use a lightbox when photographing them. Here’s a link to make a cheap one.
MySpace Create a MySpace profile for your store. Add all of the artists that you work with as your friends. Join groups and post on forums that make sense for your business. I know that many of your artists have a presence on MySpace and promoting your store and artists in MySpace will get those crazy teens in your store. Seriously, tho, MySpace has helped many a business get going moving product and it’s not outside the norms of MySpace, nor is it against their TOS. And hey, no web design chops necessary ;-).
A little more work and expense
Etsy Etsy is a great online marketplace for handmade goods online. Create a store to help sell and promote your artists stuff online. I know that the focus of your store is selling local stuff locally, but ultimately, you are the artists agent, and I’m not sure they really care where it is sold, so long as they are putting food on the table. Etsy just did a great promotion with the upcoming Craft magazine from O’Reilly (another great resource to check out).
Second Life Build a virtual store on Second Life. Ok, this one is a bit more difficult and might take an actual programmer, but a lot of your locals spend time on Second Life and people are spending real money on Second Life. If any of your artists are virtual, perhaps you could get them to sell their virtual goods in your virtual store. The options are virtually limitless. This is one you’d have to find someone else to help (I know a guy).
In the interest of full disclosure, one thing I would recommend is that you should make sure that artists that sell through your store should know what you are planning on doing with their work. You can decide whether to let them opt out of the program, but ultimately, these recommendations can be great ways to promote both your store and the artists.
I want to look a little more at the Yahoo! Answers story and add what I’ve learned about gaming a system. When you look back at the history of Epinions, the site made a big bang when it debuted because it offered to pay writers for their product reviews. The idea was the company would make money off of ads (this is when banners were big) and they would share that money with the community of writers.
At the time, your “Income Share,” as it is known, was based on the number of people that looked at your review. At the time, I believe that the going rate was something in the $.30 per-page-view range. You can just imagine how this got gamed.
How it works Now, given that the site’s raison d’être was product reviews, there is a relatively finite amount of products to review and ideally, from a shopper’s perspective, you would want the “best” review at the top. So to accomplish this, Epinions built a reputation system called the Web of Trust. In theory, Epinions’ “Web of Trust,” or WoT what an early social network where your “friends” were people whose reviews you trusted and respected.
The second component of review ranking was how helpful someone found your review. At the bottom of every review, users are asked to rate the review on a 4 point scale from “Not Helpful” to “Very Helpful.” Review order is determined by a combination of the two criteria, WoT and review ranking. The basic idea is that if you are trusted more than another member and your review received a higher rating, that review would appear higher up in the list.
The story goes that writers on the site formed rating and trust circles to boost their own reviews over others. The stakes for this were high. If you were the top review on a popular product, most shoppers would see your review first. If you collected all the page views, you received considerably more money than anyone else who wrote the review. And while points are nice, money is a lot better.
Here’s a link and comment roundup regarding the purchase.
Sony is acquiring Grouper Networks in web-video bid – WSJ “YouTube Inc., which had about 16 million unique visitors last month compared with 542,000 for Grouper, according to comScore Media Metrix, a research company. Grouper says comScore doesn’t measure its traffic accurately and claims its numbers were about eight million last month.”
Sony Pictures Buys Grouper – PaidContent “valuation is not really based on traffic…what it does have is a solid management and technical team…and user tools”
It will be interesting to see what happens to Grouper as a result of this acquisition. Sony may actually be ahead of Apple in the NIH (not invented here) syndrome. Of course, this acquisition is from Sony Pictures, not electronics, which may or may not make increase the chances of a successful merger and integration.
The WSJ is reporting this morning that people are asking and answering inane questions on the Yahoo! Answers service to boost their point scores.
Here is the WSJ’s explanation of the system:
“A points economy is like a regular economy, except the currency is points, not currency. Even though you can’t exchange these points for real-world goods and services, people will still spend enormous amounts of time accumulating them just to beat others in a list of top point-getters, or simply to compete with themselves.
Web sites are taking advantage of this aspect of human psychology and setting up point systems to draw in users to help create “content” for them.
If you’re a member of Answers — total users are in the millions — you can gain points asking questions, answering questions, and rating the questions and answers of others. The points are good for nothing, save allowing you to move up through the seven levels in the Answerers hierarchy. With each new level, you gain more powers on the site, such as the ability to ask and answer more questions, and thus get more points.”
It’s interesting to see this particular system gamed as the incentive is somewhat low. Notoriety is one thing, but it seems that perhaps there are more lucrative sites out there to game. One thing that I learned at my time at Epinions is that the higher the incentive, the more likely it will be gamed.
Congrats to Yahoo! Answers for figuring out a way to make users care enough to game the system.
Why Apple should buy YouTube This will never happen, but it’s fun to talk about. Apple has a long history of not doing big acquisitions (NeXT excepted). Fact is, Apple (a) could build a crappy version of YouTube that integrates nicely into iLife or (b) just sit back and wait for one of the numerous companies falling all over themselves to get onto the iPod to make a service that works with the iPod?
One of the things that stunned me when I joined Epinions was that they had no formal message boards. Before I joined, (in my mind) the very definition of a Web community was message boards. I had spent countless hours either lurking or actively participating in many message board, Usenet, and BBS communities even before the Web existed. It was weird that Epinions didn’t have message boards. This was community, right? How did they talk to each other?
I discovered, however, that members did talk to one another. Quite a bit actually. First, there were off-site message boards (we’ll save those for another post), but second, while I hadn’t noticed it, every review on Epinions has a comments section. The comments section is where all the community interaction happened on Epinions prior to the launch of Epinions’ message boards.
So what could you expect in the comments section? This is what Epinions wanted to happen in comments:
In many cases, comments were just a way for friends on the site to let each other know that they read the review and what they thought of it. This is where the flame wars happen. This is where people let you know that they like you. And just like the blogosphere, that’s where community happens on Epinions.
Lesson learned – give people a place to talk, or they will do it wherever they can.
[By the way, we launched message boards on Epinions while I was there. A hell of a lot of community happens there as well :-) ]
Today I’m going to do something a little unusual and it may signify some changes to the blog and the sorts of things I write. I’m going to talk about me and my past work experience and what I’m planning for the future. No, the plan wasn’t to pontificate the finer points of gadgets, online media and general nerdery forever but figuring out what to talk about took some time and focus.
It’s been a really great month or so for me. I’ve taken some time away from being a full time dad (which is not so great for the family) and I’ve spent a lot of time immersing myself back in the world of social media and community generated content. Before my hiatus, I worked on a little site called Epinions which is one of the first and one of the largest, most active community generated content sites on the net.
With a trifecta of social media conferences, Gnomedex, WebVisions and WordCamp, my head is spinning a bit, but it made me realize that I really need to share some of the great stories from my time at Epinions and the lessons that I learned there. I had lunch with some old colleagues there and gave them a head’s up that I was going to do this.
What’s really great about Epinions is that in many ways, it is a microcosm of the world of social media. Many of the issues that companies are facing working with consumer generated media have already happened at Epinions. Some of the stuff that I’m going to talk about really hasn’t been discussed in any sort of public way, but I think that what I learned there is valuable to anyone who is trying to develop and grow online communities.
My intention isn’t to rock the boat, so I’m keeping my old pals at Epinions abreast of what I’m doing. I didn’t ask permission, but I’m not going to talk about things like revenue or internal stats in any specific way. I hope that anyone who wants to learn about working with and cultivating web communities joins in the discussion. I’d also be glad to answer any questions about Epinions that you might have.
One final word, I want to give a shout out to Garrett and Christal some ex co-workers of mine who taught me everything I know about Epinions and are two of the reasons that the Epinions community still prospers today.