Online Reputation Management Blog

Bitcoin Seeks Mainstream Appeal with First College Bowl Appearance in St. Petersburg

BitcoinAlthough Bitcoin has faced several high profile public relations challenges this year, Bitcoin, a decentralized, peer-to-peer virtual currency which can be exchanged for traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, or used to purchase goods or services online, has set out to emerge from the shadows of the cryptocurrency market into the mainstream of one of America’s most popular college sports with sponsorship of the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl later this month.

Bitcoin backers are hoping to score a big public relations and marketing win with its sponsorship one of college football’s marquee matchups.  BitPay, a leading business solutions company for the Bitcoin digital currency, is the new title sponsor for the annual college football postseason game that will be played in St. Petersburg, Florida for three years through the 2016 game.  Bitcoin currency users will have the opportunity to purchase tickets with Bitcoin to see how the digital currency works.

Over the past year, Bitcoin, has seen its reputation tarnished by the high profile failure and subsequent bankruptcy of Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin exchange in Japan, the alleged use of Bitcoin in a Ponzi scheme that attracted the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the unwanted attention of the FBI and U.S. Treasury Department, amid concerns of potential money laundering and the virtual currency’s potential as a conduit for illegal online activities.

Despite these well-publicized setbacks, Bitcoin advocates tout its potential as an efficient, secure and affordable alternative to traditional cash or card transactions and expect the event sponsorship will be a very positive showcase for the alternative currency.

Although some financial institutions have been resistant to Bitcoin, well-known merchants like Overstock, Expedia, Dell and others have begun accepting Bitcoin and the future looks bright for the virtual currency. PayPal, one of the most popular payment processing companies globally, recently announced it is working closely with a number of prominent Bitcoin payment processing companies to make it easier to transact business online.

The buzz over Bitcoin is also giving birth to enterprising servicing and transaction processing companies that have staked their future on the alternative currency, and investing in creative ways to burnish the image of Bitcoin and highlight its potential as a mainstream method of payment.

Atlanta-based BitPay is hoping its bowl game sponsorship will further promote interest in the digital currency and increase awareness across the country with its prime-time TV slot.  The bowl game will be an exciting opportunity to enable fans to use Bitcoin in a fun, collegiate sports environment. With nearly 35,000 merchants on its platform, including Newegg, TigerDirect, Zynga, ESPN, Virgin Galactic and the Sacramento Kings, BitPay has led the Bitcoin economy by allowing businesses around the world to easily accept Bitcoin.

As tens of thousands of football fans make their way into the Tampa-St. Pete area over the next couple of weeks in anticipation of the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl, BitPay executives expect the attention brought to Bitcoin by the sponsorship of the college bowl game will engage their target demographic around the Bitcoin ecosystem, enhance Bitcoin’s reputation and relevancy and further boost Bitcoin’s ascension into the mainstream.

The 2014 game will feature the University of Central Florida from the American Athletic Conference and NC State from the Atlantic Coast Conference and will be played on Friday, December 26, at 8 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and air on ESPN.

Are Pictures Still Worth 1,000 Words? Or Just 140 Characters?

People are taking more pictures than ever — 380 billion a year, in fact — thanks to digital cameras and social media, which have made photography easier and more accessible. Now, people take more pictures in two minutes than the whole of humanity did in the 19th Century.

However, some people think that this might not be such a good thing, suggesting that the attention we give to photos has atrophied as a result of the sheer volume of pictures put in front of us. Consequently, this may mean our photos carry less weight, and are less valuable.

To put this in perspective, think back to a time when digital cameras were the stuff of science fiction. You first had to buy film, then pay for it get to get developed and printed. Now, sharing pictures is as easy as pulling out your smartphone, snapping the shot, and putting it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or whichever social network you may prefer.

There’s also the emotional value to consider. Film can only capture a very limited amount of pictures, so photographers who still use film — both amateur and professional — have to be selective. Memory cards, on the other hand, can hold what feels like a limitless amount of pictures. The standard eight gigabyte memory card can hold 1,907 12-megapixel pictures, and most smartphones and cameras have much, much more memory than that. Instead of exclusively photographing precious moments — birthdays, holidays, babies’ first moments — we take selfies and pictures of lackluster meals, simply because we can.

In economics, there’s a principle called diminishing marginal returns. According to Investopedia, it’s “a law of economics stating that, as the number of new employees increases, the marginal product of an additional employee will at some point be less than the marginal product of the previous employee.” This means that after you possess a certain amount of something, the value of each individual thing decreases as you get more.

Essentially, the more pictures we take and share, the less valuable each one becomes.

To retain our pictures’ value, perhaps it’s not a matter of being more selective with our subjects, but a matter of thinking before sharing. As Nat Burgess, a photographer and writer for GeekWire, writes, “Many of the 60 billion photos taken this month will be deleted when the photographer upgrades his or her phone. A few will receive a passing glance on social media. The ones that catch your eye, most likely, will have been taken by a photographer who cares about the subject, and who has something more to say than ‘look at me.'”

McDonald’s Hopes New Social Media Q&A Campaign Will Improve Public’s Perception

McDonald’s has a bad rap, and with the increasing popularity and availability of healthier on-the-go meal options, such as fast-casual chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, and Saladworks, consumers aren’t lovin’ it anymore. McDonald’s has therefore taken to social media in an effort to revamp their image of unhealthy — and maybe even downright unnatural — food, to one that promotes healthy meal choices.

As such, they’ve recruited former Mythbusters host Grant Imahara as part of their new social media campaign. Imahara, with his approachable nerdy-but-cool demeanor, is seemingly far less frightening than McDonald’s previous Facebook and Twitter Happy Meal Mascot, which drew an immense amount of scorn and mockery from consumers and which coincided with four consecutive months of declining, less than stellar U.S. sales. While the mocked mascot may not be directly linked to declining sales, it contributed to the public’s poor image of the McDonald’s brand.

According to a third-quarter study conducted this year by Brand Keys, McDonald’s has suffered declining sales across all age groups and generations. Millennials, Gen X- and Y-ers, and even Baby Boomers are spending less and less at McDonald’s, characterizing its food as “cheap,” and not “quality food.” However, McDonald’s has been suffering from much more than declining sales and the social media blues. Ironically enough, social media may just be what ultimately repairs their image.

In an effort to shift consumer behavior and dispel negative associations regarding their food, McDonald’s has taken to social media to keep it real with consumers by answering their questions. And consumers definitely got real, asking tough questions like “What is mechanically-separated meat, and how do you turn it into a nugget?” and “What’s with that pink slime?” and also “Is there horsemeat in your hamburgers?” The realest question of all may have been, “Does McDonald’s even sell real food?”

In addition to the social media campaign, McDonald’s is now accepting Apple Pay, a new mobile payment system that allows users to pay with a smartphone app rather than their wallet. Cloud based-POS systems have taken the retail and restaurant industries over by storm. The convenience and security of cloud POS systems allows businesses to have access to important sales data at all times, from any location where an internet connection is present. Large retailers and restaurant chains use cloud POS systems to carefully monitor sales. The Golden Arches will likely use this technology to track the efficacy of their new social efforts, as well.

While the future of McDonald’s has yet to be determined, the trend towards healthier, more natural foods makes it seem as though fewer people may be asking to have fries with that in the future.

NY Attorney General Goes After Astroturfing and Fake Online Reviews

Online Reviews - Reputation RhinoNew York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced that 19 New York companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties.  As part of an undercover investigation, representatives from the Attorney General’s office pretended to be the owner of a yogurt shop in Brooklyn and solicited several New York SEO companies for help in addressing negative reviews on consumer-review websites like Yelp, Google Places and, as part of their reputation management services.

The Attorney General’s office noted that several reputation management companies used IP spoofing to post fake online reviews and some sought to buy online reviews from freelancers located outside the U.S. who would write and post positive online reviews in an effort to evade filters and algorithms designed to prevent fake reviews.

Over the past couple of years there has been increasing focus on the importance of online reviews. A Harvard Business School study from 2011 estimated that a one-star rating increase on Yelp translated to an increase of 5% to 9% in revenues for a restaurant. Cornell researchers have found that a one-star swing in a hotel’s online ratings at sites like Travelocity and TripAdvisor is tied to an 11% sway in room rates, on average.  Gartner projects that by 2014, between 10% and 15% of social media reviews will be fake.

Kudos to AG Schneiderman for trying to clean up the mess! [Read more…]