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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Does Your Twitter Profile Picture Really Matter if You are a Business?

Monday, June 21st, 2010

So we at KikScore have our brand name and a picture of our logo as our Twitter picture (avatar is shown above).  It has suited us just fine over the last six or so months as we have been on Twitter after we launched KikScore.  We really have not received many complaints or even questions about our Twitter profile picture.  Frankly that is not surprising as we would expect the Twitter universe to ask us other questions if they came across KikScore – like tell me more about your product, or what is your background or give us comments like you have a cool service and homepage etc (all actual questions and comments received on Twitter).

In a prior post, we posed a question whether it is better for your company to have a personality on Twitter?  We generally came out with the answer that a personality is good because it gives the community, your customers and your followers something to identify with when they think of your business.  For example, if you spark a conversation, express an opinion on matters, have funny tweets, retweet interesting content, it probably will be good for your brand as people know what you stand for as a business.  If your customers and the community know more about your company, the greater the chance that a bond/relationship can form between you and your customers.

So what about your company’s Twitter profile picture?  Should you have a your brand logo or should you put a real person in your Twitter profile?  I have now heard from multiple people at numerous events and conferences – these would be the social media gurus that live and breathe social media everyday – who almost all suggest having a picture of a real person along with your company’s logo.  They suggest the person pictured could be your social media manager, a group picture of some of the folks from the company or maybe even a rotating picture of different employees every 60 days or so.

Why do they recommend this?  I have heard psychologically that customers, the community and people in general will generally identify more with a person’s face than a picture of a company’s brand name.  I actually think there may be some merit to that.  Think about it. If you see a logo, it is generally nameless and faceless and has no personality.  It is just a logo and you really do not get much of a connection with that logo.  Logos can even become largely interchangeable after you see enough of them.  Now change that logo, even to someone that has a picture of a real person standing in front of a company’s logo and make that a Twitter profile picture – you will probably get my attention.  First, you get a sense of who is behind the Twitter account for that company.  Second, you can now in some ways put a face to a brand name.  Thirdly, I have to say this because I do this even now – when you think of that brand name you actually think of that person’s face.  So in some ways a picture of a real person with a logo could appear to create a great connection, even if it is just a subtle psychological one.

So where does this all lead us?  Look out as I think we will be changing our Twitter profile picture for KikScore later this week.  I will make sure its not a picture of me because that will scare too many people off.  Lets see if it makes a difference to people and if we get any reactions. We will let you know.

Do you think who or what is on your Twitter profile picture matters for a business?

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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Ahoy, Matey! Pirates and Business

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

If you open your eyes and mind, it’s amazing where you can find business lessons in everyday life.  The book I am reading, Michael Crichton’s final novel: Pirate Latitudes takes the concept of war from the pirate’s view.  There are a good number of similarities to small business and overtaking your competition to be learned from it.  To come up with a new business idea, it doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘new’ but ‘better’ is critical to success.

Here’s some lessons that the privateers (often mistaken for pirates) of long ago still apply…

Build a good team – When Captain Hunter came up with his risky idea of attempting capture of a Spanish treasure ship in a far off, dangerous and assumed well protected island, he needed a strong team to accomplish the quest. Building the right team for business success can be tricky, but you can’t do it alone.   Delegate responsibilities that foster team member’s strengths.

Create a more comprehensive solution – After overtaking the treasure ship, the privateers are stalked by a Spanish warship that is more heavily armed with both men and weaponry. The weakened privateers come up with a risky yet tactical solution to attempt to take down the larger ship. Creativity and doing something different with your current resources is a strong business sense. KikScore wasn’t the first trust seal out there, but it is different and more comprehensive than the competition

Overtake the competition – I’m not finished reading Pirate Latitudes yet, so I’m only theorizing here… but based upon the creativity noted above and their zeal to secure the stolen treasure, I have confidence the privateers will conquer the larger warship and bring home the gold.  Obviously in business, war is not the best option, yet clever advertising and getting your business message out there can overtake the competition.   A strong and consistent approach helps.

Pirates and privateers are mysterious, resourceful and have a rather catchy form of conversation.

How is your business pirating through the marketplace?

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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Diary of a Startup: A Few Lessons Learned For Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

On a day that I am bewildered by my Cleveland Cavaliers and their absolutely horrendous performance last night, I am a little reflective.  After all, us Cleveland fans likely have just watched Lebron James‘ last home game in Cleveland as a Cavalier.  When he officially leaves (I truly hope he doesnt but I am a Cleveland fan and we are used to such let downs), maybe I will do a post on how startups and small business can learn from the Cavs/Lebron breakup.  Until then, here is another installment in our continued feature at KikScore called Diary of a Startup.

This one is a quick summary of a few lessons learned from our experience and from other folks I have talked to about their startup experiences:

1. Bandwidth Limitations. No I am not talking about your broadband cable access.  Instead, bandwidth as in you and your team’s ability to keep iterating and making improvements while also juggling all of the operational and marketing aspects of a startup.These types of bandwidth and resource constraints are especially present in nights and weekend startups.  One of the ways we have dealt with the bandwidth issue is continually working to prioritize items/tasks/enhancements/issues as a team.  But as you prioritize do not forget about that enhancement that you talked about doing three months ago that may have been de-prioritized along the way! Also as needed, it is key that contractors, freelancers and outsourced resources get used to increase overall bandwidth for the startup. But remember these tips and tools when using offshore resources.

2. Manage Expectations – As with anything in life, it is important to manage everyone’s expectations including yourself.  The reason why?  Nearly everything you do at a start-up from getting going, getting something developed, partnership discussions, getting funding, optimizing your product and your homepage, takes longer than you think.  That does not mean you should sit back, because you still need to push and push hard.  However, you just need to prepare yourself, your team, customers etc and appropriately manage timelines and understand that sometimes things beyond your control come in that may delay things.  The trick is not to get upset, but figure out how to keep things on track and moving forward.

3. Continually Get Feedback – This is an underestimated one, but has been incredibly valuable to us.  Talk to everyone about your product, your business model and especially have customers (and potential customers) give you feedback.  This is so helpful in giving you and your team a new perspective and has also, at least with us, given us some great new ideas for channels for KikScore.  Here is a an excellent post at the Untemplater Site by Jun Loayza on a feedback plan for startups. Another related note is take the negative feedback in stride.  Frankly, some of the negative or constructive feedback is more valuable than the other feedback.  And please be careful not to just dismiss someone’s feedback, especially customer feedback because you think you know better or you say, “What does that person know?”  That is a sure ticket to failure.

4. Put That Feedback in Perspective – So you first need to get feedback, but then what do you do with it?  The trick is not to act on every piece of your feedback that you receive.  That will set you off in 1,000 different directions and be counterproductive.  Also you do not want to just dismiss feedback.  This is where it is important for the team to approach the feedback from three very basic perspectives: a) common sense; b) what will make the customer experience better; and c) what is “doable” and actionable based on resources, priorities and strategy. Here is a recent post on how we acted on customer feedback.

5. Social Media is Not the Marketing  Savior  – Don’t get me wrong, using social media is a low cost way to build brand awareness for your startup, get leads, make connections to though leaders, get great introductions to partners, manage your startup’s reputation and respond to customer issues.  Frankly doing all of this via Twitter, Facebook, a blog and other social media channels is a must these days for most startups.  BUT, doing all that does not guarantee success.  Frankly, these days doing all of things and having a social media strategy allows you just to play in the game.  In order to win and really succeed as a startup (and be a repeat MVP like Lebron James), you need to give your customers a great customer experience, make your product easy to use and help your customers solve a problem that they have.  As my friend Shashi B has told me before, no amount of marketing, social media or marketing campaigns will protect your company from a sucky product! Make your product great, make sure your customers are happy and that they evangalize your product and the marketing then comes a lot easier.  That actually will make the social media marketing easier as Zappos has demonstrated. In fact, here is a good post on the story of Zappos with an excellent and informative powerpoint deck that is worth a read.

Let us know if you have any lessons learned from your startup or small business.

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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Sometimes the Best Security is Common Sense

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

This past weekend I spent a lot of time online researching software.  Sounds pretty uneventful (even a bit nerdy).  But unfortunately, I was doing the research after I purchased it and attempted to load it on my computer.  At that point McAfee warned me that many users have indicated that the software (that I paid $70 for) was malware/spyware.  Then and only then did I have the bright idea to research the service.  Wouldn’t you know it, I just paid $70 to infect my home computer.  I’m not stupid (not always), so why did I do this?  Because a friend recommended the software — and he seemed savvy, so I blindly bought without researching the service or the company. 

A recent posting by PC World shows that I’m not alone.  Routinely consumers share sensitive personal information on social media sites, in blog posts and responding to phishing scams.  In fact almost 40% of surveyed users indicated that they have posted their full birth dates (including year) on a social media site.  At the same time I bet most of these people shred their bills and sensitive mail.  Why even bother…you’re basically emailing fraudsters the keys to your house when you provide personal identifying information online.  In fact, that’s happened too, where people have been robbed by FaceBook “friends” after indicating that they are going on vacation. 

Without revealing any sensitive information about yourself, please share any unintentional disclosures you have made online.

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Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Shashi B, the Social Media Swami Talks & Small Businesses Should Listen

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The Social Media Swami, Shashi Bellamkonda from Network Solutions, joined the Small Business Hour Talk Show to discuss  how small businesses can best use social media to help their businesses. During the interview he also discussed the trust level small businesses hold with the public, whether performance reviews are useful, and much more.  If you have never heard Shashi Bellamkonda, you really should listen.  He is one of the most genuine, thoughtful and practical speakers that is out there on small business, social media and marketing.  You may recall, Shashi was the one of the main speakers at our Social Commerce Camp DC back in February this year.  Look out because the next Social Commerce Camp is coming to the Denver/Boulder area later this year!

Click HERE to listen to the interview of Shashi. There is 20 minute intro discussion at the beginning of the recording and Shashi’s highly useful interview is after that.

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Contemporary Furniture Expert, SmallBiz Owner & Blogger, Rebecca Malik, Talks to KikScore

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Today’s small business interview is with the President of DC-based, 17thandRiggs.com’s Rebecca Malik.  Rebecca holds a dear place in KikScore’s hearts for a number of reasons besides the fact that she is just a very cool person, but she is also one of KikScore’s very first customers late last year when we launched.  Lucky for us she is very happy with KikScore.  Well, enough about us…..Rebecca comes from a family of a long line of entrepreneurs.  She has recently been tapping into that entrepreneurial lineage by working on a line of shoes, getting 17thandRiggs.com designed, developed and launched and blogging for two woman’s based small business and lifestyle community websites.  From these experiences and especially from her work that she has put in at building an ecommerce site from the ground up, she has some excellent guidance for our small business readers.

1. Tell us about 17thandRiggs.com and who you focus on serving?

17thandRiggs.com features contemporary furniture, lighting and home décor.  We focus on carrying pieces that have sleek, simple lines and evoke a sense of space.  The pieces are also chosen because they work well in many types of décor – they are not hyper-modern or too formal.  I feel that our customers are people who love a sophisticated, modern look, and focus on the overall picture.  They realize that an accent piece is as important as a focal point.  Also, I may be biased, but I think our careful selection of furnishings ensures that prestigious interior designers turn to us for their furniture and lighting needs.

2. How did you get your started selling online?

I’ve shopped online almost exclusively for years and know how hard I would look for items that fit my aesthetic and that I knew were of high quality at a good price.  This site is truly a way for me to pick and choose items that I love and make them accessible to others.  Beyond that, my father actually started selling handmade fireplace mantels online years ago.  His ability to reach customers across the country from his small shop in Florida was eye-opening.  After I left my last job at an interior design firm, I decided to take my interest and passion for design, contemporary furniture, lighting and decor and launch an online store.  That is the way 17thandRiggs.com was born.

3. Where will 17thandRiggs focus most of its energy in 2010?

We will be honing our product lines to ensure we carry our favorite designs.  These are furniture and décor pieces that are high-quality, beautiful and a great value.  We will also be steering our efforts to create an even more specialized lighting category.  Our lamps and pendants are consistently some of our biggest sellers and with their broad spectrum of designs they are always such fun items to handle.

I will also be continually reviewing my business and my marketing plan.  I feel like that is something that every business needs to do on a regular basis.  Otherwise you run the risk of not being focused and not having an underlying theme to everything that you are doing as a business.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

I would say to start out simply – don’t try to offer everything but pick items that make the most sense from an inventory/availability perspective and that are cohesive with your vision for your site.  That and SEO is key.  Integrate your keywords as you go along.  Small businesses like mine can spend forever trying to keep the product information on your site up to date let alone trying to update SEO information so my suggestion would be to do it well the first time around. Here is a post I wrote on the subject titled: How To: An Entrepreneur Improves SEO For Her Ecommerce Site.

5.  What are 2 new trends in your business this year?

Of course, anything eco-friendly is as popular as ever.  As far as new trends, I see people getting more and more adventurous with their lighting choices.  Fun pendants and table lamps are great ways to push the envelope in your décor without making a huge purchase.

For an overall business trend, I would say that outsourcing from a small business perspective.  But it would not be outsourcing as the “four letter” word we know it as.  This would be focusing your small business on your core skills.  Then getting experts, freelancers, consultants, and virtual assistants to fill out the rest of your business and support you as you grow your business.  I now source resources and support for website design, virtual assistants and marketing support from places like Craigslist and Elance.  But you have to be careful and rigorously interview these folks before they are hiredbecause they will never care about your business and your customers like you do.

6. How have you used social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and your blog to help 17thandRiggs?

For me, Twitter has been a great way to learn about other organizations and companies out there with similar or complementary businesses.  It has also been a great place to get leads and also converse with other small businesses. My blog  (https://blog.17thandRiggs.com) has been a unique way for me to process things and continually think big picture regarding my business and the 17thandRiggs.com brand.  Sometimes having to hone into choosing a topic for an article forces you to think about the direction you are heading in and evaluating whether it fits your overall vision of my website, the business and my brand.  That can be very beneficial, especially when your business is at a crossroads.

I have also had the honor of being a guest contributor at the woman’s entrepreneur, startup and small business community site called  Women Grow Business that has been run by the super awesome Jill Foster and Shonali Burke (though I have been on a short hiatus lately since my lovely daughter, Asha, was born at the end of December!)  I recently started contributing to LVC Mag, a woman’s lifestyle community. Guest blogging has been a great experience for me and a nice way to connect and network with other entrepreneurs.  I recommend it for small businesses, especially those that are just starting out.

7. Do you have any parting thoughts?

As this is an interview for KikScore, it makes sense to touch upon my thoughts on the KikScore seal here.  I appreciate that it is a centralized way for customers to share thoughts about my business.  I also think the information they compile provides a fair and verified representation of my business to visitors of 17thandRiggs.com.  As a regular online shopper, I feel that combining financial and management information, website history and polices coupled with interactive customers’ reviews is a genius way to prove that you are a reputable company to deal with and give shoppers a good idea of what they can expect from the experience.  I also think the level of transparency it provides is invaluable in instilling confidence in visitors to our site and helping us convert them into customers.

We want to thank Rebecca for this interview. If you have any specific questions for Rebecca, please leave a comment and we will make sure we get them answered.  Also just for full disclosure, Rebecca somehow married one of my partner’s in KikScore, Raj.  My wife and I wonder every time we see Raj & Rebecca, what was Rebecca thinking!!!

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How you respond to customer issues is important… anyone can be reading!

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

While researching a couple of issues from a recent KikScore customer signup,  the importance of a quick and informative response to current and would be customers became critically evident.  As a small business, you need to educate your customers so they have confidence in the product you are providing, and also share information in layman’s terms to alleviate confusion and not tech-speak your customers into oblivion.

I struggle with this balance while straddling the technical and marketing role at KikScore (and in my day job too).   Your customer base doesn’t share the in-depth knowledge that your team has on the inner-workings of your system, and thus you need to take a step back when responding to a customer inquiry/issue and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.   This entails not only empathizing with the issue at hand, but also providing deeper context surrounding the potential resolution/fix to the customer’s concern and conveying that back to them in a timely and informative manner.

In the world of social media today, any response you share with customers (and prospects) can (and most likely will) be posted or passed along the internet waves and will have an impact on not only the legitimacy of your business/product but also on its future branding potential.

SocialSmallBiz is doing a series on customer support and social media and the intertwining of each.  A fantastic quote to live by, for ANY small business owner “It Takes Months to Find a Customer… seconds to lose one”

How do you handle your customer inquiries and responses?  Please share your best practices and lessons learned with us.

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Small Business Interview with History In Action Toy's Sterling Ashby

Monday, March 8th, 2010

We met Sterling Ashby at the KikScore sponsored Social Commerce Camp DC and he has a very intriguing story that any small business would be interested in hearing.  Sterling is a lawyer by trade (like a couple of us at KikScore), but his real passion is his business that sells children’s toys that are based on real-life American heroes. Using real heroes from history, Sterling has created a series of action figures for children that are fun, can be positive role models, and whose real-life stories awaken both a child’s imagination and appeal to the kid within us all. History in Action Toys was born from this.  He now sells these highly popular action figures online at www.hiatoys.com. I can tell you when my two month old gets a little bigger, I am buying some action figures from Sterling’s site!

In this 5 minute small business video interview of Sterling, we cover a wide range of issues including:

1) the challenges of having a business online;

2) crowdsourcing  marketing and ideas;

3) building buzz on Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels for your  online store and business;

4) a few of the tips that Sterling learned from Social Commerce Camp; and

5) a few examples of real life heroes that Sterling now offers as action figures at HIA Toys that the community should check out.

Please tell us your thoughts on this interview in the comments section below.

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Social Commerce Camp DC Wrap-Up, Summary and Presentation Slides

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Social Media Assassins at KikScore's Social Commerce Camp DCSwami Shashi B taking pictures and chatting at a packed house at Social Commerce Camp DC sponsored by KikScore and Network Solutions

Shashi B talking social media at KikScore's and Network Solutions sold out Social Commerce Camp DC

Shashi B talking social media at KikScore's and Network Solutions Social Commerce Camp DC

Social Commerce Camp DC speakers and Sponsors Network Solutions, KikScore and MyBusinessAssistant

Social Commerce Camp DC speakers and Sponsors Network Solutions, KikScore and MyBusinessAssistant

Last Saturday morning, KikScore, Network Solutions, and MyBusinessAssistant.com put on the first ever Social Commerce Camp DC at the downtown offices of Mayer Brown.  The event actually sold out after receiving considerable coverage in a number of places like  Techcocktail the Washington ExaminerWomenGrowBusinessand GrowSmartBusiness. More than 70 small businesses, social media enthusiasts and online sellers showed up for networking and learning.  The event featured three sessions from social media experts that included practical tips for using various social media tools, a real case study of social commerce success and great PR tips for small business. Pictures of the event, including the post-SCCDC Chipolte run, can be found here.

The morning got kicked off with some early networking, a great breakfast provided by the sponsors and everyone’s excitement about being in the absolutely gorgeous town hall conference room overlooking 19th Street.  After some introductory remarks, Network Solutions’ Shashi B got Social Commerce Camp DC going with his rousing, often funny and super useful Social Media 101 for Small Business. Check out Shashi’s slides below that cover a range of subjects on social media including the basics of a small business social media plan which are: 1) Set up Google Alerts about your business, industry and your own name; 2) Start participating in conversations; 3) Become a content publisher via Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, Facebook etc 4) Claim you business on Yelp; 5) Encourage customers to review you and 6) Start using videos.

After a quick networking break, Steve Fisher and Mike Doughtery began the second session with an energetic and highly informative case study presentation on Creating a Killer Social Commerce Website Experience.  It featured the very interesting discussion of their launch and promotion of the movie Browncoats: Redemption. Steve and Mike got the audience engaged as they walked through the basic components of building a successful social commerce experience which are: 1) Social Shopping; 2) Ratings & Reviews; 3) Recommendations & Referrals; 4) Forums & Communities; 5) Social Media; and 6) Social advertising.

After setting the baseline for the audience of the basics of the social commerce experience, Mike highlighted how the Browncoats: Redemption experience used a 6 step strategy to create awareness and buzz around the movie.  The 6 steps were: 1)   Establish your goals; 2) Build the community; 3) Give them good content; 4) Get them involved; 5) Get them investing and 6) Share the success.  Check out their slides and the embedded video clips in them for more on the highly anticipated movie, their case study and these 6 steps:

The final session of the day featured the very highly regarded PR and social media specialist, Shonali Burke, who gave the attendees a great hands-on tutorial on PR Best Practices for Small Business. Shonali stressed that so much of PR today for small business is about relationships, presenting yourself in a consistent and presentable manner through your various online and offline channels.  The audience got great tips on tools to use to get to know their customers better with survey tools like Survey Monkey along with good press release tools like Pitch Engine.  Here are Shonali’s highly informative slides:

Some quick final thoughts.  We think it was a great first event and thank all of the participants and speakers.   Check out the hastag #sccdc on Twitter for the stream and conversation about the Social Commerce DC.  Lastly, look out as the next Social Commerce Camp will be in Denver later this spring.  In the meantime, we encourage all participants to keep up the good vibes and connect with each other! Also please check out the KikScore (SCCDC’s sponsor!) website out. We would love comments/feedback/thoughts on our new look and feel.  We encourage you to sign up for our service if you have a business online. Its completely free.  Try us out.

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Has the Bad Economy Driven Social Media Growth By Small Businesses?

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

As you all know, we at KikScore are passionate about small business.  We take every opportunity to hype small business as much as we can.  Well a very interesting study was released last week about the state of American small businesses.   The very informative  Small Business Success Index (SBSI), sponsored by Network Solutions and the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business had some interesting findings  (The SBSI can be found at www.growsmartbusiness.com).  In particular, there are some very informative findings in the study about the growth of social media use and adoption by small businesses over the last year and especially during the time of our rough economy.  Here are just a few of the key findings in that area:

  • Social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12% to 24% in the last year.
  • 75% surveyed have a company page on a social networking site
  • 61% use social media for identifying and attracting new customers
  • 57% have built a network through a site like LinkedIn
  • 45% expect social media to be profitable in the next twelve months

What may this mean?  One theory is that as we went through the rough economic times over the last 18 months, small business may have decided to slow down traditional spending on marketing and focused on devoting more time and resources on using free marketing tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  While we know that these are not really “free”, because there is a precious value that is associated with the time that small businesses spent using these tools, nevertheless the low cost marketing alternatives that these tools offer may have really proved to be great options during leaner times.  And that is could very well be why we are seeing this growth in small business social media adoption.

I can tell you this, at KikScore as we have described in some previous posts social media has really been the core driving force of our marketing efforts and it will continue to be in the future. As an example, everyone of the links to the tools mentioned above actually goes to a KikScore social media property.  In fact, just yesterday we set up a Flickr page.  We have used each of these tools instead of spending our precious cash on traditional marketing efforts.  The SBSI findings seem to indicate that we are part of a growing group of businesses that are doing just that.

I do wonder whether these trends will continue as the economy hopefully starts to pick up.  What do you think is the reasons behind this growth in social media that was found in the study?

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