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Steve Anderson

Steve Anderson is an expert in the insurance industry with over 30 years of experience. Recently named one of 150 “Top Influencers,” Steve uses his expertise to help insurance agents use technology to increase their marketing ROI. He speaks nationally and publishes a newsletter called “Tech Tips,” as well his own website. This week, Steve wrote a Tech Tips newsletter about how Stik provides the perfect way for insurance agents showcase authentic reviews and attract new clients.  The full newsletter is below:

Build Powerful Reviews and Recommendations

This week Stik.com Co-Founders Jay Gierak and Nathan Labenz presented Google Leader to an audience of 1,200 people at a marketing conference at the Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The reaction from attendees, including executives from Wells Fargo, Merrill Lynch, Allstate, and other Fortune 500 companies, has been incredible. One reporter wrote that I “channeled my inner Zuckerberg” while describing the power of social search.

Folks paid $1,000 to attend this conference, but we’re giving you the goods for free. Check out more info at stik.com/google-premium and see the whole presentation here:

[scribd id=83413125 key=key-tvucvggyhstz2ct1l4r mode=list]

Earlier this week I published two columns (one on BusinessInsider and one on AllFacebook) previewing Facebook’s F8 conference.

As speculation built that Facebook would be launching a major media service, I worried that Facebook might be focusing on the wrong opportunities:

For the economy as a whole, more media means more advertising opportunities. That’s great for Facebook’s short-term bottom line, but not so great for the rest of us. We don’t like the advertising we have. Too often, it’s an annoying shouting match between competing brands: banks and insurance companies, reeling from a loss of consumer trust, trying desperately to win us back.

Facebook’s great potential is in better advertising. Yet, the social network appears to be ignoring some important foundational steps in that direction.

You can read both posts to learn about the projects that I think Facebook should be giving more time and attention.  I’m not suggesting anything too radical — rather, I am mostly encouraging Facebook to open a few game-changing advertising tools that it has previously tested for general public use.

The big announcements are now behind us, and the tech press is swooning over Facebook’s new gadgets, but we’ll have to let the dust settle before we know if the new tools are as suitable to commerce as they are to media.  To Facebook’s credit, they have opened up a whole new set of flexible tools for developers that should make Stik.com and other high-value social sites better in one way or another.

Hat tips to:

My latest guest post has just been published on GigaOM.  The big idea is that online review sites are undermining brands by making it easier for consumers to know the quality of specific locations and individual service professionals.

Here’s an excerpt:

Take this Google search for Super 8 Motels, for example. On the front page, you’ll see ratings that hotel guests have written about particular Super 8s on TripAdvisor, Yahoo Travel and Yelp. Importantly, the reviews vary widely. When I checked, a New Mexico location was rated 4.5 stars, while a Los Angeles location was at 3.5 stars and one in British Columbia had only 2 stars. Such location-specific information undermines brands’ ability to affect consumers’ purchasing decisions with 30-second TV spots and gives TripAdvisor a powerful position.

TripAdvisor is ahead of other travel sites thanks in part to their use of Facebook-connected recommendations, which help websites make sales by establishing instant trust with visitors. As a potential hotel guest, I am interested in the consensus among previous guests, but I am especially interested in what my friends have said. Reviews can be intensely personal — for example, here’s my TripAdvisor review of a beach resort in Mexico — and if you know the author, it makes a huge difference in how reliable you consider the review.

For the Super 8 brand, the end game could be scary: as TripAdvisor accumulates more and more trusted reviews, the best-performing Super 8s, all of which are independent franchises, may eventually realize that their business is suffering from their association with lesser motels. At that point, we might see a “brand run,” wherein the best locations leave the chain, lowering the brand’s value and ultimately leading to its collapse.

See the post itself for a few recommendations for brand managers.

I didn’t have space to discuss which sorts of brands are more or less threatened by reviews sites, but it’s worth pointing out that consumer product brands like Coca-Cola, Gillette, and Doritos are safe.  Online review sites don’t make sense for such items, as everybody already knows the taste of Coca-Cola.

Franchise brands like hotel chains and national insurance agent networks (think Farmers, State Farm, Allstate) - will face the biggest challenges as consumers gain access to location- and employee-level reviews.

Here is Nathan’s piece on Business Insider, highlighting how personalized recommendations will drive the next phase of eCommerce growth.    Despite a growing number of online alternatives, the brick & mortar retail model has largely remained intact and eCommerce still only accounts for  7% of retail sales in the US.  What happened?

In short, the prognosticating class failed to recognize two basic facts:

1. As social creatures, people like to establish trust via personal interactions before making important purchases

2. As physical creatures, people prefer to touch even the most basic things before buying.

This history of eCommerce since 1999 has largely been about overcoming these two hurdles. Progress has been slower than expected, but there have been notable successes. Amazon, for example, disrupted books and music sales by making it fun and easy to sample media on their website, and in this domain the old predictions are starting to come true: Borders is closing their doors.

Yet, eCommerce has remained highly impersonal, and the fate of booksellers has been the exception, because websites have never had a good way to promote trust-building interactions. That is, until Facebook began powering 1-click logins for other sites.

Read the full article here.  Hat tip to Lauren at Business Insider for her continued support.

Are you wondering how to use Facebook to build your business? Tired of signing up for social media accounts, only to have them just sit there for months on end doing nothing?

Stik.com has now made it easy to connect with your referral network on Facebook via our new feature, your Stik.com “to-do” list.   Visit your Stik.com to-do list today and take a few easy steps that will help you connect with your network in a professional, authentic way.

See your to-do list!

Your to-do list will continue to refresh with simple steps to help you get the most from Stik.com.

At Stik.com, we realize professionals are too busy working to spend their entire day sharing, commenting and updating their social media platforms.  As a result, we created a suite of tools to help you gain meaningful exposure on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ in just a few minutes.

Our to-do list prioritizes the most important steps you can take TODAY to build your referral network on Facebook.

This list will constantly refresh and give you new tasks to help build your reputation and referral network. We’ll keep you posted as new tasks pop up starting with a personalized email this week, but come back often and check for yourself!

By Alan Glazier, OD, FAAO

Social review sites like Yelp enable recommendations for a particular business that are not selective; you are depending on the word-of-mouth referrals of a vast number of strangers—people who are generally not in your network.

But, think how much your confidence would be increased if reviews were generated solely from your social circle? Recommendations from those closest to you, friends and other close connections, are the most valuable recommendations, and the ability to comfortably contact those friends to get more information would add another social layer to the experience.

Social recommendation services are in fact a new web trend. Several new businesses are morphing their algorithms to weigh recommendations from one’s social circle greater than general online recommendations. Since Facebook is, right now, with upwards of 500 million users, widely recognized as having THE most powerful social graph, my money is on a Facebook app to win the social recommendation game, and right now it looks like Stik.com is in the lead.

Stik.com enables local businesses to capture recommendations by friends and customers one is connected to online, like on your Facebook businesss page. It also enables you to find professionals through Facebook via friend recommendations, similar to how one might use LinkedIn but specific to your Facebook network. Stik.com recommendations may also have search optimization value. There is also SEO benefit, within and perhaps outside of Facebook. When you are an optometrist or optician with a social network and a significant number of the people who have a relationship with you recommend you within your network, your content, conversations and network recommendations tag you as a thought leader for queries on “optometrist” or “optician” and help enhance your visibility when someone searches for keywords or keyphrases that are relevant to similar queries.

I have been participating on Stik.com for a few months now and building my network. My friends and contacts have been enthusiastic about providing Stik.com recommendations, and every time a recommendation is provided, it shows up on my Facebook wall for all my connections to see, keeping my expertise and services in the forefront of the minds of my significant social network.

Google is also getting into the game, and while I won’t discount the ability of the 800 lb. gorilla to make an impact, they have a dismal history of attempting to participate in the social web. Their +1 button is their attempt at a more efficient way for searchers to recommend content to friends without pointing away from search engine results. The +1 button allows your contacts through Gmail to see what links you like. Each time you search, the results will have a “+1″ button you can click which prompts Google to share that link with your network. It’s kind of a Google “Like” button. I am watching this feature and playing around with it, but I am not sold on it yet.

Connect with me on Facebook and visit my stik.com page and recommend me and I’ll be sure to do the same!

This post originally appeared on VisionMonday.com as part of the CLICK e-newsletter. You can see the original here.

Alan N. Glazier, OD, FAAO is the founder/CEO of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care in Rockville, Md. A search and social optimization consultant, he is now a regular contributor to CLICK and also writes a regular blog for SightNation.com. Glazier is ataglazier@youreyesite.com and his regular posts can be found via his Twitter handle: @EyeInfo, his blog: eyeinfo.wordpress.comand his website: YourEyeSite.com. Author: Searchial Marketing: How Social Media Drives Search Optimization in Web 3.0.

 

At Stik.com we always appreciate feedback from users and analysts. We thought we’d share this post from Basil C. Puglisi, who quickly hits on the real value of Stik.com: finding trusted service providers to guide you through difficult and important purchase decisions. Check it out!

Stik: Reviews from your social network Making significant purchases such as new homes, insurance policies or even your well-planned retirement investments will require individuals to find professionals they can truly trust. Many unsuspecting consumers may find themselves working with unknown representatives or salespersons who may not always have the buyers best financial interest at heart. Just as unfortunately it can often be confusing to know where to find a trustworthy partner in … Read More

via Digital Brand Marketing Educator

Every realtor wants to know how he or she can make money from social media.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, shared her own plan for getting the most from social media in a two-part series on Inman News over the past week. Bernice astutely observes that, “The real issue when it comes to social media and real estate sales is that most people have confused the technology platforms with the actual business of providing real estate services.”

Social media isn’t a new way of conducting real estate business; it’s a more efficient means of doing the same business that realtors have been carrying out for years. Building a reputation and relying on referrals has been the status quo for years in real estate.

That’s still the case as evidenced by the 64 percent of sellers who said they chose their agent based on a referral or had used the same agent in the past, according to the most recent National Association of Realtor’s profile of home buyers and sellers. “Buyers also most commonly choose an agent based on a referral from a friend, neighbor or relative, with trustworthiness and reputation being the most important factors,” the report said.

However, what has changed dramatically is how buyers and sellers are finding out who their friends and family have recommended. Fully 89 percent of buyers said they used the Internet to search for a home and 85 percent of those searchers purchased their home through a real estate agent. In the prime home-buying age bracket of 25 to 44 year olds, an astounding 94 percent of homebuyers start their search on the Internet.

These numbers should tell savvy realtors that the real opportunity with social media is to build an online presence and maximize potential referrals by expanding your social networks. In other words,  it’s about replicating the same offline experience that home buyers and sellers have relied on to find someone they can trust help them through this complex process.

Bernice is exactly right when she says, “The way you use social media to expand your sphere of influence (i.e., your friends and followers) is the same way you would make friends with a new neighbor next door.” It’s just become so much easier to reach people than knocking on doors or posting yard signs. But with everyone jumping on the social media bandwagon, it will be the realtors who execute tactful outreach, as Bernice prescribes, that reap the greatest benefits.

In part two of her series, Bernice advises realtors to start Facebook business or fan pages, and participate in video testimonials and two-way exchanges with contacts. These are all great tips that can have real benefits.

However, we built Stik.com as a low-maintenance alternative tool for realtors, and other time-pressed professionals, to tap into the power of social networks without becoming a full-fledged guru on their own. After creating a Stik.com profile in a matter of 60 seconds, professionals can request recommendations from any or all of their Facebook friends and then get back to other work while recommendations – and the SEO juice that comes with them – roll in.

Practicing the etiquette and protocol that Bernice and others suggest is certainly a good idea, but zeroing in on the time investments that will deliver the most business should be the priority.

 

Stik.com co-founder Nathan Labenz guest blogged today on Piehead about the building momentum for social search. Here is an excerpt:

Imagine if every time you searched for a restaurant or a hotel or a yoga studio online you had your friends to walk you through the search engine results, pointing out which places they’d recommend and which they’d skip. This is the power of social search and it’s gaining ground quickly.

Last month Google announced it was elevating search results that were shared publicly by friends you’re connected to through your Google accounts. Formerly, these results were grouped together at the bottom of the results page, but Google is now recognizing that, “…relevance isn’t just about pages—it’s also about relationships.”

That’s good news from the world’s most popular search engine, but Google is still behind the curve.

Read the full post here