Perch is a free, universal social media management app designed to save business owners time every day. Perch offers social network and review activity for your company in a simple, unified feed. It's also possible to watch other businesses and track their activity. Keep track of your competition or see what similar businesses in other cities do with their online identities.
Opening the app for the first time allows you to sign in via Facebook or with an email address by creating a Perch account. Then you start searching for businesses. You can claim your business or add your competition to the watch list. Then you sit back and monitor your feeds. Eventually, Perch will add helpful tips and insights to the app so you can optimize your online presence. They're also working with strategic partners to recommend applicable services to your business in-app.
Unfortunately, I initially had a hard time finding my business on Perch. I found a couple of my local competitors and added them to my watch list. Unlike the 1-star iTunes reviews, I actually loved the concept, so I sat down to figure out what wasn't working with my business. I generally consider myself active on social networks and maintain my Yelp/Google records, but Perch still couldn't find my business. After reading their FAQ, I realized why: Perch uses Foursquare for their business records, and I hadn't updated my Foursquare record in more than a year. After spending a few minutes on the Foursquare website, I was able to see my business properly in Perch. To the naysaying business owners in iTunes: it was an easy fix. We really shouldn't be ignoring Foursquare, should we?
At this point, I asked myself, "Why is Perch using Foursquare?" Everyone has a different opinion on the Swarm rollout, but it was a negative change for me; I stopped using Foursquare completely. Maintaining my Foursquare record didn't seem like a priority (I realize that was a mistake on my part). Since it's the only way to work with Perch, I decided to ask the developers a few questions. Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter, I reached out and asked about their decision to integrate with Foursquare. They set up a phone call with the VP of Customer Operations and Marketing, Anke Heckhoff. She answered all of my questions and helped me understand the nature of their Foursquare relationship.
It turns out that Foursquare provides the richest pool of location-based data. No other service offers links to various social media accounts specific to a business address. Yelp records only link to the business website, same with Google... so using Foursquare's data makes the most sense for Perch. Alternatively, Perch would need to build and maintain its own editable directory of businesses and social media accounts; that's a lot of overhead for a simple app. The main problem this presents is monitoring competitors. If a competitor's Foursquare account isn't accurate (or in the worst case, completely missing), monitoring their social media activity is impossible with Perch. Anyone can create/add the necessary competitor data by suggesting edits on Foursquare, but that would get time consuming.
While aggregating data from Twitter, Facebook, Google and Yelp is very helpful, it doesn't show the complete identity of a business. Maybe Perch will convince Foursquare to link more social networks like Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Vine, etc. to the business records. That would bridge the gaps in their feeds but only if the business or a Foursquare user updates the record.
Perch is also largely dependent on what data the major social networks allow them to access and if that data matches a specific location. For example, I cannot see a competitor's complete Instagram feed in Perch because Instagram doesn't link accounts to a specific address. However, I can see individual pictures taken at a business if an Instagram user adds the location data. Pinterest doesn't allow any third-party access to their content, so Perch can't share any information from that network. Neither of these issues are deal-breakers. Businesses utilize both networks heavily, but missing activity from these networks wouldn't be detrimental to most social media strategies.
Ultimately, Perch is a unique utility that provides a simple location-based feed for business owners. If you're looking to monitor and stay ahead of your competition, it's a must-have app. I did ask about iPhone 6 and 6+ compatibility; they said it would be available in a December update (along with some new features). Perch requires iOS 6.0 or later and works with all iOS devices. At the wonderful price of free, I highly suggest spending some time with this app so you get the most from it.
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