Nobody likes being ripped off so automated marketing rip-offs exposes companies which you should avoid. I’m one of those people who writes about various stuff; my hobbies, career, interests, experiences, battles with cancer and going through divorce, my faith, etc. so others may gain from my experiences.
I may or may not add to this if I come across more companies and services that you need to beware of. This post is an excerpt of my summary sent to an attorney regarding my actual experience with a company that fell short in so many ways that unfortunately it’s not laughable. This is because it cost a pretty penny and also caused me much frustration while wasting a lot of my time.
My experience with Vocus Marketing began when I got a presentation from one of their salespeople. At the time, I was searching for a service and/or software which could automate the social media tasks associated with building a social web presence to support a new ecommerce site. During and after the presentation, I was yes’d to death for practically every question which I had and ultimately became sold on their service. Although Vocus was new to me, they owned PR WEB which is the most well known company in the online press release world. This gave them credibility and gave me a comfort level high enough to recommend Vocus Marketing to the owner of the ecommerce site which I was in the process of building.
The only issue seemed to be that the ecommerce site wasn’t quite ready as it was taking me much longer to build than originally anticipated. John, the Vocus salesperson created a sense of urgency stating that their prices were going to have huge increases within just a few days as their fiscal year was changing and they were presently underpriced compared to the market and what their services were worth. I basically became an advocate, selling this service to the owner of the ecommerce site as a means of managing all the social networking activities and as a bonus; we got to submit press releases through PR Web. John, the Vocus salesperson then sweetened the offer by “getting approval” for an additional 20% discount and postdating the contract for a couple of months which gave me more time to work on the site itself. The incentives to act immediately made sense to me and my friend trusted my opinion and desire to use this service. The service was purchased on March 31, 2013 but would not go into effect until May 31. I was excited and looked forward to the benefits and potential time savings of using their service. In retrospect, I didn’t do any research into this company and trusted everything which I was told by the salesperson. This turned out to be a huge mistake.
Well I didn’t begin using the Vocus services until November, 2013 due to my own delays in launching the ecommerce site. Building individual pages for hundreds of wines while needing to learn about all the laws and various regulations regarding the online sale and shipping of wine, took many months. I unfortunately wasted over five months of time on the one year contract for Vocus Services. I hoped that eventually Vocus would extend the contract since we didn’t use their service at all until now but the priority was learning how to utilize and benefit from their services.
The Learning Curve
I spent a lot of time in the Vocus knowledge bases and getting all the account information set up. I joined many of their webinars which started to put a bad taste in my mouth. Each webinar was live and had an open chat box for questions but my questions never got responses. I recall being in awe when they would state something along the lines that – OK, since there are no more questions; we’ll be shutting down this webinar. Initially thinking that this was just a fluke, I didn’t begin to complain until this happened a few more times. I now found out that I had a new person responsible for my Vocus account but neither she nor her supervisor could explain my experiences. While conversing with them, I took the opportunity to bring up my desire to get an extension on the contract and they couldn’t promise me anything stating something along the lines of lets get to that in the future. I began contacting their support staff to get my questions answered and issues resolved but I rarely even got a return phone call. When I had the opportunity to communicate my issues, I was either blown off or promised some follow-up which never occurred. I started to document my problems and lack of support as my frustration built and even emails got no response. The attorney now has these.
The Main Problems That I Had With Vocus
- The daily recommendations which their service made for me to repost, share, follow, etc. were not very relevant. The Vocus people who did actually speak with me had me change my keywords but the changes never made things better. When I mentioned that I used Google News to find relevant things to repost, I was informed that Vocus uses their own system of searching the web and coming up with content. Ironically, my own posts done manually to Facebook would show up as recommendations. Applying the various filters that the Vocus service has, never gave me results on par with what I found on my own through Google News.
- A huge issue came up whenever I did see something appropriate from the Vocus recommendations. When their system reposts or shares something on Facebook, it only posts a shortened link. No photo, excerpt or descriptions were brought into my Facebook posts. I now began wasting even more time on the phone with support people who told me that I need to add images to my account and then I can select which image to use along with a post. What? Posting my logo or copying, uploading and reposting an image from a webpage in order to appear in my reposts are a huge waste of time and certainly not automation. I brought this up to many support people who were going to check into it and get back to me. Not once did I even get a return call. Now Facebook has what they call “open graph” technology which is built into Facebook and inherently does this. In the WordPress world there are numerous free plug-ins which will do this as well. Vocus; no shot.
- Aside from Facebook, I was sold on the complete control of all my social media accounts. Again, I blame myself here as I made the mistake of thinking that Vocus would support the visual sites of YouTube and Pinterest. I won’t claim to remember the sales pitch or my questions from a year ago but this was always a requirement for me. Nobody at Vocus could explain why they don’t support these sites or even if they ever will in the future. Their posting and management is limited to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. What a disappointment which I had trouble understanding at a time when visual is growing by leaps and bounds and also; LinkedIn for general marketing; ???
- Their Twitter service apparently did what it should (how difficult would it be to screw-up 140 characters) but unfortunately you could only get it to post from the selections in their recommendations. Tweets and Facebook comments that included the word “wine” (my main keyword) were mostly inappropriate for my goals of reposting valid information about the world of wine. Again, I had to resort to manual Twitter posts or use the automated reposting technology built into Facebook and Pinterest for wine related news which I found on my own.
The Service and Support
I continued to sporadically check into the daily Vocus recommendations while rarely finding anything of value. Occasionally I’d try to get assistance from Vocus but never got any real support or issues resolved. At their suggestion, I tried a variety of keywords and phrases to base the recommendations on but the results were no better. I was building the social presence manually which is what I wanted to avoid when I discovered the Vocus services. I felt foolish expressing my dissatisfaction to the owner of this wine site who paid for the Vocus services. I’m sure that I hurt my own credibility with him and feel bad about wasting his money along with my time.
Adding Insult to Injury
In February of 2014, I start getting emails from Vocus about renewing the service. I initially ignored their reaching out to me but these emails came from yet another new person so I took the opportunity to attempt getting help. I contacted John, yea another John but he seemed legitimately interested in assisting me; a first with Vocus. During one of our lengthy conversations, we stepped through their system and he confirmed my Facebook posting issues and determined that there was seemingly no way of having post excerpts and photos repost. I sensed his frustration as he seemed blown away when exposed to the shortcomings of the service which he was selling. He did attempt to get some answers through their support system but we got nowhere. For the heck of it, I brought up getting an extension on the contract due to five months of non use. I did put out a couple of press releases and I figured that I’d have a need to do additional press releases. However, on May 31 our contract for all Vocus services expired.
I learned a few lessons from this experience including the fact that Vocus is first and foremost an email marketing service. As my ecommerce site has email functionality built-in and I personally subscribe to the most advanced autoresponder service out there, the email service which Vocus offers was never part of the equation. If you need an email service, there are many out there which are ridiculously cheaper and probably provide better functions than you’d get from Vocus. I’ve also never experienced such poor support in my life and can’t imagine any other service just ignoring you after taking your money but who knows. I will never rush into a purchase or make a recommendation again without first thoroughly investigating it instead of taking the word of a salesperson. Also, scammy internet marketers often use the sense of urgency to convert a customer but I never expected it from such a large company and I’ll run away fast from this tactic in the future.
I will update this as my friends’ lawyer does whatever lawyers do. He’s a friend of the wine site owner whose money got wasted on this and he seems happy to help out free of charge. I mentioned punitive damages for my time, frustration and sanity but who knows. I’ll update this post with any new information as I get it.
Apparently I’m not the only Vocus client who got screwed as a simple search for Vocus scam or review turn up more dissatisfied clients.
A few are listed in the Ripoff Report and it seems that Vocus doesn’t even address these complaints.
Wow! I came across Complaints Board and there are many unhappy campers regarding Vocus.
There’s a large group of Vocus complaints at Pissed Consumer
Here’s another person on Yelp who experienced Vocus; not too happy!
There are plenty more complaints online about Vocus but I think you get the general idea. As I’ve read about them not always honoring their free gift card for watching their presentation, I wouldn’t waste my time even looking at Vocus.
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