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Tim Peter Thinks

Tim Peter

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April 24, 2014

Why Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon Want to Screw Your Online Business

April 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

Comcast, Verizon, aand AT&T want to destroy net neutrality OK, I’m not usually one for hyperbole — or for politics — but the proposed new FCC ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules are really, really horrible for any business not named Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

Seriously.

“Net neutrality” is a complicated topic, largely due to the many gory technical details of how the Internet works. But the basic principle is simple: Every packet on the Internet should be treated the same by the carriers — our “friends” at the ISP’s we use to go online, such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

The new rules say this would no longer be so.

Given the new rules under discussion, your local ISP could offer a “high-speed lane” to those willing to pay, while keeping everyone else in “standard lanes.”

Even the people arguing in favor of these rules can’t explain why this is a good thing:

“…this weak-tea neutrality is… [not] necessarily the death knell for an open internet. It’s just the beginning of a slightly stratified one.”

This Orwellian formulation means that those companies with more money could put their content in front of potential customers more easily. Unless you’re a very large business with lots of extra cash laying around you want to pay to Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, this is a very bad thing. Tim Wu, whose book “The Master Switch” I reviewed last year, puts it bluntly:

“We take it for granted that bloggers, start-ups, or nonprofits on an open Internet reach their audiences roughly the same way as everyone else. Now they won’t. They’ll be behind in the queue, watching as companies that can pay tolls to the cable companies speed ahead. The motivation is not complicated. The broadband carriers want to make more money for doing what they already do. Never mind that American carriers already charge some of the world’s highest prices, around sixty dollars or more per month for broadband, a service that costs less than five dollars to provide.” [Emphasis mine]

Now, I’m in favor of companies making more money. In fact, I work with businesses every day to help them do just that. But this isn’t a case where ISP’s want to charge users more for higher levels of consumption — I have no problem with that. This is where the guys who “own the road” want to charge some businesses more than others to drive down the street.

The Verge offers this response from an FCC spokesperson:

‘… the proposal does include the ability for service providers to negotiate with individual companies, so long as all content is delivered at a baseline level of service. “Exactly what the baseline level of service would be, the construction of a ‘commercially reasonable’ standard, and the manner in which disputes would be resolved, are all among the topics on which the FCC will be seeking comment,” the spokesperson said.’ [Emphasis mine]

Here’s the thing. Apparently, there’s nothing in the proposed rules to say that the baseline standard isn’t the current “state of the art” for 2014 and won’t stay there for years. Which would be fine, sort of, except for the fact that Butters’ Law says the amount of data coming out of an optical fiber doubles every 9 months. Unless the FCC’s “commercially reasonably standard” of “baseline service” moves at the same rate, you could be experiencing “state of the art” 2014 service 5 or 10 years from now for every business unwilling to pay the gatekeepers’ tolls.

Worse, your business could find itself relegated to those slower lanes because you can’t match the prices Amazon, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Wal-mart, eBay, Booking.com, and others can afford to pay.

Don’t think it will happen? Think again. Even when net neutrality regulation was more strictly enforced, Comcast illegally discriminated some traffic in an attempt to lock customers into its on-demand video services.

This is a crushing blow to startups and small businesses of all kinds — and to more than a few mid-sized and large ones, too. As Quartz points out, the FCC itself thought this approach to maintaining net neutrality was a poor one just a few years ago:

Even more damaging, broadband providers might withhold or decline to expand capacity in order to ‘‘squeeze’’ non-prioritized traffic, a strategy that would increase the likelihood of network congestion and confront edge providers with a choice between accepting low-quality transmission or paying fees for prioritized access to end users.” [Emphasis from Quartz, but I wholeheartedly agree]

I strongly recommend you read up on the topic and make up your own mind. And here are a couple of good places to start:

Once you’ve had a chance to make up your mind, though, I’d strongly encourage you to push your local representatives to continue fighting for net neutrality. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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April 23, 2014

Social and Mobile Make E-commerce… Mo-cial? – Thinks Out Loud Episode 70

April 23, 2014 | By | No Comments

Mobile commerce grows up

Social and Mobile Make E-commerce… Mo-cial? Headlines and Show Notes

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

And the tips in my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results, may help you out as well:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 15m 16s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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April 21, 2014

Why You Should Care Where Google’s Search Volume Comes From

April 21, 2014 | By | No Comments

Shopping on mobileMarketing Charts offers some fascinating data that shows mobile is now one-third of Google’s organic search volume, up roughly 22% year-on-year.

Um… damn.

Clearly, we shouldn’t be surprised by this growth. I talk about how big mobile’s getting fairly often. Most of my clients see mobile contributing between 12% to about 35% of their traffic these days, up 20% or more from a year ago.

I don’t see these numbers shifting anytime soon. It’s possible we’ll see some movement towards wearables in the coming months, but for right now, mobile’s where it’s at.

What’s more important than the numbers, of course, is how you respond to this trend. Last week I challenged the notion that retailers lose 32% of shoppers to in-store mobile, noting,

“Customers choose strong brands — Apple, Google, Pepsi, Coke, Harley-Davidson, Fischer Travel, and countless others — because those brands tell an effective story that connects with their customers. Full stop.”

eMarketer offers data that supports that position, showing consumers often choose “…small businesses because of the personalized experiences they provide compared with larger businesses.” These customers also like supporting the local economy, the ease with which they can conduct business, and the sense of accountability they enjoy when interacting with business owners.

Sure, customers can and will shop around for the best price on many items. The ease with which customers can check prices guarantees that behavior (they do, after all, carry the Internet in their pocket). And if your prices don’t align with common sense pricing, yes, you probably will lose the sale. But those same customers define value based on a variety of factors, price being only one of them. You don’t have to be the cheapest game in town (or on the Internet), if your total brand value proposition makes you worth the additional cost.

The Internet has long created and reinforced price transparency. Increasingly, user-generated content like ratings and review sites, creates transparency around product and service quality. And all of those items put together helps your customers define value.

Don’t assume the big boys hold all the cards in this new world. You have the ability to tell a convincing, credible brand story. You have the ability to differentiate yourself from larger competition, using your size as a strength, not a liability. You have the ability to offer your customers personal service and individual attention. And, most importantly, in an age when brands may be struggling to deliver consistently on their promise due to ratings and reviews, you have the ability to win.

Interested in more info about how it’s all e-commerce? Then you might want to check out these slides from a recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results”. Check them out here:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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April 15, 2014

This Week’s Sign That Mobile Rules (Travel Tuesday)

April 15, 2014 | By | No Comments

Woman traveler mobile phoneI wrote a post a couple weeks ago looking at on-property mobile experiences that seemed to strike a chord with many of you. So, you’ll probably want to check out Mobile Marketer’s roundup of how the 5 biggest online travel agencies are using mobile to expand beyond bookings.

This quote from Giorgos Zacharia, Kayak’s chief technology officer, struck me in particular:

“We see heavy usage at home, suggesting mobile devices are replacing desktops and laptops roles in booking and planning travel.”

Most of my clients see the same behavior, with Safari on iOS replacing IE or Chrome on Windows as the most common browser/OS combination. I know I’ve talked about this for a while, but you should check your numbers, too, to see where your guests come from — and start planning your response.

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results:

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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April 14, 2014

Retailers lose 32% of shoppers to in-store mobile use. Or do they?

April 14, 2014 | By | No Comments

Woman shopping phoneInteresting article over on Mobile Commerce Daily today, which outlines a study suggesting retailers lose 32% of shoppers to in-store mobile use. The key quote:

“Tradedoubler research reveals that when smartphones are used in-store for product research, consumer shopping habits sway by 61 percent.”

Um… how to say this politely? I got it: Bullcrap.

Retailers don’t lose 32% of shoppers because of mobile. That’s simply untrue.

They lose 32% of shoppers because their customers found a product that better met their needs. Or found a retailer that addressed an outstanding concern. Or, yes, the customer found the product someplace else that saved them money.

In fact, the less sensational part of the study suggests the exact same thing:

“The research found that after viewing a product on mobile, 20 percent of people decide to buy elsewhere, 20 percent decide against purchase and 22 percent decide to buy online.”

For the most part, customers don’t care about you. They care about their needs. When you meet your customers needs, they’ll buy from you. When you don’t, they won’t. Sure, mobile may be facilitating the process, but suggesting that, somehow, that process is mobile’s fault is patently absurd.

Look at it this way: If your customers are bailing just because they found a better offering, were they really your customers in the first place? Or were they always looking for a better offering, but had fewer ways to find one?

I suspect it’s the latter.

Customers choose strong brands — Apple, Google, Pepsi, Coke, Harley-Davidson, Fischer Travel, and countless others — because those brands tell an effective story that connects with their customers. Full stop.

I have an iPhone. I very much like my iPhone. Would I trade it for an Android phone, say the Galaxy S5? Nope. I would not. This, despite that fact that an Android phone is undoubtedly less expensive (at least upfront), and probably every bit as effective a smartphone.

Why wouldn’t I switch? Because, for whatever reason, the iPhone is the right phone for me. Just like I prefer Diet Coke to Diet Pepsi (and, using “prefer” in that context is like saying “I prefer breathing oxygen to not breathing oxygen.”)

Mobile may make it easier for your customers to learn you’re not the right choice for them. The question is, what can you do to make sure you are the right choice?

On a related note, you may enjoy these slides from a recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results”. Check them out here:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

April 3, 2014

For Millennials and Gen X, There’s No Such Thing as Offline

April 3, 2014 | By | No Comments

Fascinating chart from Deloitte and Marketing Charts today, showing that fully half of all millennials own a laptop, smartphone, and tablet. The graying Gen X demographic lags only slightly, at 46%. Here’s the full chart (and link to the data) for you to look at.

I know I say it again and again, but this data underscores the point that your customers no longer go online, they are online. They’re carrying the Internet with them all day, every day, no matter where they go.

One of the real keys to responsive design is reacting appropriately not to your customers’ screen, but to their context. A potential customer who’s browsing the web or an app while sitting on her couch has very different needs than one checking for information while hustling through an airport, riding in a taxi, or waiting to pick up her kids from school. Your digital strategy needs to start with an understanding of where your customers are, what they need, and how to help them address those needs in each context.

For more thoughts on helping your customers via social, mobile and search, check out “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results,” a talk I recently gave:

Finally, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

March 28, 2014

6 Key E-commerce Stories Worth Reading this Weekend

March 28, 2014 | By | No Comments

Reading on your phoneAnother week is in the books, Big Thinkers. As you’re catching up before heading into Monday, be sure and check out these 6 e-commerce stories worth reading this weekend:

  1. From the “Wow, you don’t say,” department, Marketing Charts posts a chart (you were expecting something else?) showing that friends’ social media posts influence purchase decisions. In related news, oxygen is important to most human beings and water is wet. Still, it is a pretty chart.
  2. You know how I always say “it’s all e-commerce”? Turns out that’s darned near an understatement for the UK entertainment market, where eMarketer reports Internet-derived sales claim 60% market share.
  3. Speaking of “it’s all e-commerce,” this weeks Thinks Out Loud podcast asked, and answered, the perennial question, “How Big is E-commerce Anyway?” The answer: Big.
  4. Another post over on Marketing Charts shows that 1 in 2 US marketers “trust their gut” for marketing budget decisions. For your sake, I hope they’re your competitors.
  5. Our Book Review of the Week-ish made its triumphant return, featuring a review of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, the incredibly important book by MIT scholars Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Fascinating topic and highly important to e-commerce and digital marketers of the future (which is to say, all of them).
  6. Finally, you might want to check out these 7 fastest ways to improve your e-commerce effectiveness when you get a moment. Useful stuff.

Hey, speaking of e-commerce effectiveness, you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

By

March 26, 2014

How Big is E-commerce Anyway? Thinks Out Loud Episode 67

March 26, 2014 | By | No Comments

Shopping cart image small

How Big is E-commerce Anyway? Headlines and Show Notes

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

If you’re looking for more e-commerce tips, check out my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results as well:

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using an Audio-Technica AT2035 studio condenser microphone through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 25s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

By

March 25, 2014

A Fair and Balanced Look at Balancing Direct and OTA Business (Travel Tuesday)

March 25, 2014 | By | No Comments

Hotel metasearch marketing exampleHow’s business these days? If you’re like many hoteliers, things are starting to get pretty good. Hoteliers I talk with are enjoying higher rates and occupancies, along with an overall improved business climate and increased optimism about the coming year. 

As tends to happen during good times, many of these hoteliers are taking this opportunity to evaluate their relationship with OTA partners — and to explore ways to drive more business through direct channels. 

While it’s popular these days to grab the torches and the pitchforks to “storm the castle,” that seems short-sighted to me. Instead, I prefer this balanced, measured approach. Yes, with increasing competition for high-performing search terms from OTA’s and metasearch, hoteliers are seeing their costs to acquire guests continue to rise. But the current business environment provides a perfect opportunity to evaluate each of your distribution options for its fit into your overall approach. 

Instead of assuming that this all about “good guys” and “bad guys,” take a new look at each of your channel partners with a clear eye and ask these questions: 

  • Can this OTA reach a guest you can’t? While the answer to this question is often yes, don’t assume OTA’s always reach new business. Look for channels that deliver first-time bookers and look for opportunities to convert these to loyal guests. 
  • Are the guests they reach the guests you want? One general manager I know once told me about his “cooler index.” He could accurately predict which booking channel his guests used by the number of beer coolers they dragged through the lobby at check-in; the more coolers, the lower rated the business – and the greater the effort needed to convert them into longer-term, higher-value customers.  
  • How much are you willing to pay to reach those guests? In other words, can the OTA reach those guests at a reasonable cost? Analyze your business to ensure an appropriate return on your cost of acquisition, whether paid as commission or as net rate margin.   

Of course, OTA’s represent only part of your overall distribution strategy. A balanced approach to distribution also puts significant focus on direct business, too. Research shows that guests spend significant time before booking, looking to answer two questions:

  1. Why should I choose your hotel for my next stay?
  2. Why should I book that stay through this channel?

Savvy hoteliers ensure guests can answer the first question across all channels — web, mobile, voice, metasearch, and OTA — while focusing their efforts and investments in answering the second question only on those channels delivering high-value guests.

Look to improve your guests’ shopping and booking experience on your own website, and in particular, pay attention to mobile. Many forward-looking hoteliers enjoy significant benefits from mobile, with Starwood, for example, noting that it’s seeing mobile booking growth five times greater than Internet booking in the Web’s early days. Mobile’s staggering growth rates continue to boggle the mind and they show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

The distribution landscape continues to evolve, but also continues to represent a crucial element of a successful hospitality business. When managed well, OTA’s, Web, voice, mobile, and metasearch work together to deliver increased room nights and improved revenues. And when not managed well, you risk leaving money on the table.

Take advantage of the improving economy to think about the role you want OTA’s to play in helping you find and acquire the right guests for your property. Pay only for those guests you can’t reach yourself, then work to migrate those guests to higher-value channels. Invest in your direct presence, particularly for the increasing number of guests choosing mobile. 

Taking a balanced approach to your hotel’s overall distribution enables you to achieve the results you want from the channels you choose. And provides you a great answer for when you’re next asked, “how’s business these days?”

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You may also want to review the tips in my recent presentation Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results:

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Hotel News Now, where Tim Peter writes a quarterly column for the magazine’s Digital Tech Impact Report.
Tim Peter

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March 24, 2014

The 7 Fastest Ways to Improve Your E-commerce Effectiveness

March 24, 2014 | By | No Comments

Happy family shopping on tabletIf you could do just one thing this year to grow your business, what should it be? Think about it for a minute. I’ll give you a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Redesign your existing website to improve SEO ranking and conversion rates.
  2. Develop a mobile website to support mobile commerce.
  3. Increase your content marketing to attract new customers.
  4. Grow your email list to increase repeat business.
  5. Improve your social media marketing to drive engagement.

Do any of these leap out at you? Long-time readers of this blog have heard me argue in favor of each of these, but if you can only do one, what should it be?

The answer is: None of the above. Not because these aren’t important. Every single initiative I just listed can help you improve your customers’ experience and increase traffic and revenues.

However, there’s a more fundamental opportunity for your business and that’s to develop a clear picture of who your customers really are and what they really want. Your customers have lots of things on their mind, and ultimately, care more about their needs than they care about you.

If you want to make sure you connect with customers through your mobile, social, web, email . and content marketing efforts — and drive sales through those channels — consider these 7 ways to measure what matters to your customers:

  1. Review your web analytics. It doesn’t matter if you use Google Analytics, Omniture, Webtrends, Analog, AWStats, or something else. What does matter is whether you review your data to see where your customers spend their time, where they bounce, and where they convert. Need help? We’ve got a whole series of posts on how to make analytics work for you.
  2. Conduct an A/B test. Pick one of your top pages and set up an A/B test to see if you can improve your customers’ experience. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got a whole series on A/B testing, too.
  3. Conduct a user test. Sites like UserTesting.com make it easy to see how customers interact with content and functionality on your site. Which goes a long way towards showing you how to make that content and functionality more useful for your customers.
  4. Try heat mapping. Another useful tool for seeing what actions your customers take on your site is heat mapping, which lets you see where consumers look, scroll and click on your site’s pages. Tools like CrazyEgg and ClickTale can show you where your customers spend their time — and where they struggle.
  5. Read customer reviews on social sites. For years, I’ve heard marketers say, “If only we could really know what our customers thought of us…” Now, with sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and plenty more, you can. Spend time with your customer reviews, looking for common threads and themes your customers care about. Then use that information to shape — or shape up — your products and services.
  6. Launch a survey. Here’s an idea: When in doubt, ask your customers what they think. You can use tools like Survey Monkey or just set up a simple Google Drive form to capture customer information and get direct input on what your customers think about you.
  7. Talk to your customers. Finally, don’t forget to listen to what customers tell you in your offline interactions, too. Whether you ghost your call center reps to hear what customers call about or visit with your in-store employees, take the time to really listen to what your customers have to say.

The information you’ll glean from these efforts will help you ensure that all your marketing and e-commerce actions actually help your customers — and drive more business.

And that will ensure that your site redesign aligns with customer goals, that your mobile website meets customer needs, that your content marketing answers customer questions, that your email messages tell the right brand story, and that your social marketing connects with customers on a human level.

Still want to do more for your customers? Then you may also enjoy these slides from another recent speaking engagement “Elements of E-commerce: How Digital Storytelling Drives Revenue and Results” here:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including: