Featured articles – Socialmedia.biz http://socialmedia.biz Social media business strategies blog Sun, 25 Mar 2018 22:10:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://socialmedia.biz/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/cropped-favicon-socialmedia-512-32x32.png Featured articles – Socialmedia.biz http://socialmedia.biz 32 32 Book review: ‘Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups’ http://socialmedia.biz/2017/07/19/book-review-angel-how-to-invest-in-technology-startups/ Wed, 19 Jul 2017 20:10:39 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=29029 Continue reading ]]> angel

Title: “Angel: How to Invest in Technology Startups—Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor Who Turned $100,000 into $100,000,000″
Author: Jason Calacanis
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Release date: July 18, 2017 on Amazon (hardcover & Kindle), in bookstores and at angelthebook

JD LasicaWith Silicon Valley at the center of tech culture – and much of pop culture these days – you might be tempted to get in on the startup action. Not founding a startup but investing in one … or a dozen … or, as Jason Calacanis advises in his new book “Angel,” investing $1.5 million in 50 startups over a three-year span.

Now that’s a bold and provocative set of marching orders. Which is what we have come to expect from Calacanis, the Brooklyn-bred journalist turned entrepreneur turned podcast impresario—and one of the top five angel investors in the world.

“Angel,” Calacanis’ first book, went on sale Tuesday. It’s brash, candid and opinionated, much like the author, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the dry and oh-so-serious angel investing tomes that have preceded it.

More important, “Angel” is a fun, practical, accessible, rigorous and smart tutorial on how you, too, can become a gazillionaire—assuming you have the requisite stomach for startup flameouts, countless meetings and the likely downsizing of your bank account.

The formula for successful investing

As anyone who has spent serious time investing in startups knows, it’s often more art than science. If it were science, then algorithm-powered robots would make the best investors.

But that’s not how it works. So Calacanis provides the formula, you provide the gut, and in five to 10 years we’ll see how you do.

Your instructions begin with plunking down ten $1,000 investments as part of a follow-the-leader angel syndicate, followed by “making twenty $25,000 bets and quadrupling down on the winners with a $100,000 follow-on investment.” As a result, no investment in your portfolio is more than 1.25 to 2.5 percent of your net worth. Smart.

The author shares some hilarious spot-on anecdotes, as when he jabs ‘the precious little snowflakes from Y Combinator’

Jason—and he is one of those eponymous one-name wonders who’s a recognizable brand on just about every social platform: @Jason on Twitter, Jason on Instagram, etc.—warns readers that this is not an endeavor for the faint of heart. The regimen includes meeting with twenty-five founders per month at the outset—“thousands of meetings,” all told—in addition to regular meetings with fellow investors. New investors must learn to say “not yet”—investorspeak for “no.”

“Angel” covers all the major bases. Calacanis outlines cap table basics, deal memos, due diligence, the pros and cons of joining startup boards, how angel syndicates work, how to identify businesses that scale, the right questions to pose to founders, the importance of traction, how to determine a reasonable valuation, the value of information rights (monthly updates from the founding team) and the No. 1 rule: Invest in the founders, not in the idea.

Along the way, the author shares some hilarious spot-on anecdotes, as when he jabs “the precious little snowflakes from Y Combinator” who think they’re so special that the normal investment rules don’t apply to them.

Predicting the future

I always like to have a bit of fun with my fellow Bay Area tech enthusiasts’ predictions, as when I reviewed Robert Scoble’s book “The Fourth Transformation” in December. Scoble spoke at Calacanis’ Launch Scale gathering last November and predicted we’ll all be wearing mixed-reality headsets within 12 months. (Spoiler alert: We won’t.)

I give Jason credit for having the cojones to take these stabs at how the future will unfold. Here are four of Calacanis’ provocative prognostications in “Angel” and my reactions—go ahead, play along at home!

  • “The jobpocalypse is coming [and] it includes the elimination of most white-collar jobs we were told were careers, like being a lawyer, doctor, teacher, accountant, pilot, journalist, or—wait for it—a software engineer.” (No, no, no, possibly, unlikely, no and perhaps.)
  • “In another ten years, you will look into a retina scanner at checkout and carry no money or credit cards.” (Not a chance, if Jason means most of us and not just techies.)
  • “People don’t just want to give up car ownership, they never want to even be in possession of one!” (Not remotely true, outside of a handful of urban enclaves.)
  • “Instead of a Starbucks on every other corner in a city, there will be a [robotic] Cafe X machine in the lobby of every building on the block.” (Very unlikely. While Silicon Valley exalts automation and prizes productivity, most people will still crave interactions with other people rather than meekly accept the advent of our robot overlords.)

This is half the fun of reading “Angel.” You’re making bets on how to read cultural signposts and social megatrends. Angel investors will either go with the flow while sitting around the bargaining table (he calls it Groupthink, I call it Sheepthink) or you’ll go your own idiosyncratic way.

And in the end, whether you agree with how Calacanis reads the tea leaves or not, the bottom line is that he has an impressive track record as an investor. He has built a portfolio worth more than $150 million, much of it because he hit an inside straight with an early investment in Uber: He invested $25,000 in Uber when it was valued at $5 million, and it’s now worth somewhere between $50 billion and $70 billion.

I always include some feedback for the author in my book reviews, so here are two nitpicks: I would have liked to have seen “Angel” explain the shortcomings of some of the newfangled investment vehicles like equity crowdfunding that a lot of first-timers might naturally gravitate toward. And an old-fashioned index for the book wouldn’t hurt, either.

Four possible end-game scenarios

When all is said and done, if you read “Angel” and follow Calacanis’ prescriptions for successful angel investing, what will be the outcome for all your trouble? There are four possible scenarios, he writes (pages 269-272) if you’re really serious about this and not just taking a flyer on a diverting new hobby:

  • You get back less than you invested.
  • You break about even.
  • You get two to five times what you invested.
  • You score returns of 5x or more—perhaps even “200 or 300 or 400 times your money” because you placed your bet on a future “unicorn.” Congrats, you’ve hit the lottery, many times over!

So, who’s a good candidate for being a successful angel investor? Calacanis describes the ideal investors as those with assets of $5 million to $10 million who are willing to risk 10 to 20 percent of their net worth. (“If you lose it all or make back half, you’ll be fine,” he writes.)

Are there waves and waves of wannabe angels waiting in the wings?

Personally, I’m skeptical that there are waves and waves of wannabe angels waiting in the wings, as it were. Yes, there are lots of one-percenters out there, and yes, there are lots of rich folks who would love to get in the game. But how many of them will actually go through the rigors of a proverbial Camp Lejeune, the Marine Corps base camp that separates the wusses from the warriors? How many will have the patience for taking thousands of meetings? Perhaps I’m hanging out with the wrong group of rich people, but most millionaires I know are incredibly risk averse and already have the wherewithal to send their kids to the best colleges, leave them a trust fund and buy a big ol’ boat.

I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope there are thousands of people who buy “Angel,” take its lessons to heart and help launch the next wave of disruptive tech innovation.

Calacanis has provided a detailed roadmap. Now who will be brave and foolhardy enough to take up the quest?

Disclaimer: Jason and I are longtime friends and I shot the photo of him that appears on the book jacket of “Angel.” 

J.D. Lasica, an entrepreneur, author and former book editor at the Sacramento Bee (among many other things), releases his book reviews under a Creative Commons license; his reviews may be republished with attribution.


Book review: The Age of Context captures the pulse of new tech

JD Lasica’s book reviews

8 creative ways to use customer feedback to improve your business http://socialmedia.biz/2017/06/14/8-creative-ways-to-use-customer-feedback-to-improve-your-business/ Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:43:27 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=29006 Continue reading ]]> suggestion-box

Lindsay Bremner / Creative Commons BY

How to evaluate & act on the information you gather

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, Web publishers, email specialists

Post by Megan Totka

MeganTotkaCustomer feedback is the most valuable information your business can collect. It tells you what your customers like and don’t like, who your best customers are, and where you are failing. It’s also a great predictor of future success.

The real value of customer feedback lies in what you do with the information. Here’s how you can evaluate and act on the info you gather.

Fix product issues

1A pattern of product issue dissatisfaction may indicate a problem with your product or simply a problem with your advertising. If you’re over-promising what your product can do, your customers will be disappointed. Before you build a reputation of dishonest dealings, you can fix it by improving your product to meet expectations or by making your messaging align more closely with your product capabilities. Make sure you run your product past a group of beta testers at each stage of release.

Find your evangelists

A Net Promoter Score survey helps you understand how customers feel about your business

2Personal recommendations are powerful. Sending a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey helps you understand how customers feel about your business, and whether they are likely to recommend your business to others or buy from you again. It can also help you identify your most enthusiastic supporters and detractors. Figure out ways to show your promoters plenty of love, and they’ll become your best native advertisers. Conversely, once you find your detractors, figure out commonalities amongst this audience to see if you can turn them into promoters, or at least minimize the possible damage they might do to your business with negative word of mouth. At a minimum, don’t forget to let your customers know how you are using their feedback to improve your product or business.

Fine-tune new directions

3Who knows what they want better than your customers? Take a page out of Frito-Lay’s marketing strategy and ask for input. The Lay’s Do Us a Flavor contest asks consumers for flavor ideas and collects some pretty wild suggestions. Three winners are chosen and their flavors hit the shelves. The contest winners collect a substantial prize, and so does the company. The contest shows how deeply the business values their customers, and the hype surrounding the new flavors raises awareness and boosts sales.

Know when to pivot

4Small pivots are not uncommon in successful businesses. Companies that use customer feedback to adapt to the market and adjust course are more likely to succeed over the long run.

Build on your best features

5Your customers will tell you exactly what you’re doing right, and your future success depends on adding to the features your customers like best. Companies that continually surprise and delight customers build a reputation around their best features, the unique selling points that make them stand out.

Spot trends

6Your customers are always looking for the next thing to grab their attention, and if you don’t know what the next thing is, your competition will. Customer feedback offers insight into improvements your customers want to see, and what they are interested in. If your next offering anticipates their desires, you have a much better opportunity to build customer loyalty.

Respond faster

7By monitoring real time reporting as customers respond to a survey, you can respond instantly to comments and issues, taking customer service to a new level.

Inform your marketing

8How your customers respond to marketing offers is also a form of customer feedback. If you’re not seeing the click-through or conversion rates you’d like to, you may need to tweak your wording or better target your email lists. Using feedback (or lack of same), you can fine-tune your marketing efforts for higher ROI.

Your customers are a gold mine of information, and it’s up to you to monitor and analyze your data to continually improve your business. No business today can afford to stagnate. To be successful in this competitive market, you must be in constant motion, building on your most attractive features and improving your worst.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.
Takeaways from Launch Scale 2016 http://socialmedia.biz/2016/11/16/takeaways-from-launchscale-2016/ Wed, 16 Nov 2016 23:48:23 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28795 Continue reading ]]> Jason Calacanis & David Sacks

Launch founder Jason Calacanis chats with Zenefits CEO David Sacks at LaunchScale. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Solid advice for startup founders, from startup founders

Target audience: Startup founders and teams, entrepreneurs, angel investors, VCs, businesses, brands, digital marketers, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaAs regular readers of Socialmedia.biz know, I’ve attended every Launch conference and every TechCrunch Disrupt conference since the very first one back in 2007. And the past couple of years, I’ve attended Launch Scale, a free invitation-only event put on by Jason Calacanis to provide startup founders with insights from industry leaders and fellow founders. (I’m the co-founder and CEO of Cruiseable.)

This year’s event, held Monday and Tuesday at BeSpoke in Westfield Centre in San Francisco, drew a few hundred founders to hear speakers such as angels/VCs Christine Tsai, Josh Elman, Cyan Banister, Jonathon Triest, CEOs David Sacks of Zenefits, Glenn Kelman of Redfin, Stacey Ferreira of Forge, James Siminoff of Ring, Mei Siauw of LeadIQ, author/futurist Robert Scoble and others.

Here are a few highlights and takeaways that founders who weren’t able to attend should find useful.

cyan banister

Cyan Banister: “Don’t be afraid to change, but don’t change too drastically.” (Photo by JD Lasica)

Foundational advice for startup success

Cyan Banister of Founders Fund offered some basic foundational advice to startups: Establish milestones — it’s good to have “big hairy goals.”

Begin by understanding what you’re trying to accomplish. “What do you stand for? Write it down!”

It’s not all about the numbers — don’t forget to reward employees and your brand ambassadors, especially those who go above and beyond. Give people responsibility and ownership.

Be open to criticism from your team members. Take the feedback and try to become a better leader.
— Cyan Banister

Do weekly check-ins. Enable 360-degree feedback and make sure you listen to criticism from your team members. “Take the feedback and try to become a better leader,” she said.

Be stingy with titles, or be flat with your organizational hierarchy. “Don’t hand them out like candy. It hurts them when they move on and can’t get another job because they have a title they haven’t earned.”

Delegate. Trust others to help you drive success. “Too many (direct) reports equals death.” Once you get past a half dozen or two folks who report to you, it’s time to figure out how to spread out the responsibilities.

Study your competition. “Pick things from other companies that you love and put them into your own company,” she said. “But you can’t just copy and paste, because you’re not Tony Hsieh and Zappos.” Hsieh famously said, “Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes.”

Iterate. Don’t pivot wildly. “Don’t be afraid to change, but don’t change too drastically and rip everything up, which creates distrust.”

Don’t routinely discard employees who aren’t superstars. “If there’s a trap door beneath your chair, you’ll create a culture of fear. I don’t recommend making your employees scared.” On the other hand, if your employees are expecting a 9-to-5 culture, “they might as well go to IBM or Cisco.”

jason demant

Jason Demant of Bento discusses the company’s successful business model change. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Trump, Clinton and free speech

David Sacks, former founder of Yammer and now CEO of Zenefits, answered Jason’s question about Trump’s election this way: “The country is very polarized right now. The last thing you want to do is bring that polarization into your company.”

And while the speakers criticized those in Silicon Valley seeking to punish billionaire Peter Thiel for his support and financial backing of Donald Trump, their criticism (interestingly) drew no applause. Thiel has free speech rights, but so do the rest of us, and his being the valley’s top apologist for Trump was a disgrace. If companies want to distance themselves from Trump’s racism and misogyny by distancing themselves from Thiel, that’s their right. It is, however, a difficult issue that the valley is still working through.

Practical advice for gaining traction

Jason Demant, founder-CEO of Bento, gave an enlightening talk about the startup’s pivot from a consumer play to its new business model as a B2B2C. Bento was selling ready-made Bento boxes for $11 when it turned out that it cost $30 all told to produce and deliver. Demant ultimately had to run the numbers himself instead of relying on outside experts to do so, and so they pivoted so that they now provide instant meals for a number of already established brands like Zesty and Caviar.

I asked Demant if the change from a B2C to a B2B2C company affected Bento’s go to market strategy and he said absolutely, it’s completely different now, and in the short term you won’t be seeing Bento branding in their marketing.

“It’s hard to let go of your vision,” he said. “But after we made the pivot, the team began to speak a common language with clear goals. We can now talk about margins and have a scoreboard of how we’re doing. And the current investors  have more confidence in the company.”

Mei Siauw of Indonesia, co-founder and CEO of freemium software LeadIQ, had several suggestions on lead generation:

First impressions make a big difference, so try to personalize everything. Up your email game. “Happy users refer others,” she said. “Put a GIF inside your email to make it less boring.”

Be aggressive with your marketing. LeadIQ began asking for users’ phone numbers. Sign-ups dropped, but those who did register wound up converting at a 13 percent rate vs. 3.6 percent rate beforehand.

Edgar Blazona, founder and CEO of BenchMade Modern, said his startup learned not to send newcomers to their home page but to a “how it works” landing page that educates them about how they can order custom sofas online.

Craig Zingerline, CEO of Votion, said it’s critical to give new customers a frictionless onboarding process. “Give them more information about your company. Give them a quick start guide, with tips and tricks. We’ve created 5-minute videos and the click-through rates are very high. This has been a game changer for us.”

“Make it easy for them to get in touch with you,” he adds. Votion uses Intercom as their online chat service, and they capture 61% of the email addresses of people who reach out to them via chat.

And, critically, make sure you respond within 15 minutes of their initial query, even if it’s just to say, “I’ll get back to you every 30 minutes until we have an answer.” Zingerline says, “It really goes a long way. We try to establish this as part of our DNA.”


Robert Scoble during his talk on mixed reality. (Photo by JD Lasica)

Keeping it real: ‘Crush your competitors’

Matt Ocko, managing partner of dcvc, had some no-nonsense advice: “A well-run company has no irreplaceable parts. No one is indispensable.”

And: “VCs don’t own your life,” so keep things in perspective. “Don’t enter a ‘doom loop’ by making overly aggressive promises you can’t keep.”

Dr. Adir Shiffman, an Australian serial tech startup founder, investor and executive chairman of the global athlete analytics company Catapult Sports, also offered a take-no-prisoners call to arms: “If you want to become and remain the No. 1 brand in the world in your sector, crush your competitors.” Don’t play nice or try to forge strategic partnerships with them.

Use ruses, he said. Get your competitors to waste resources. Confuse them with misinformation. Outflank them — don’t take them head on.

Patents? “They’re a great shield but a terrible sword,” Shiffman said, “They may help you sell the company but they’re not going to help you win in the market.”

Robert Scoble, co-author of the new book The Fourth Transformation, also gave a fascinating talk about “mixed reality”: the intersection of augmented reality and virtual reality. I’ll be writing a review here soon so I’ll incorporate his talk into that review.

Lots to chew over. If there was one piece of feedback I’d offer to the program organizers for next year, it would be to get more actionable — to get over the fear of promoting for-profit companies, to foster more conversations on stage about how to reduce costs through outsourcing payroll, HR, accounting, PR, marketing surveys, etc., etc. to third parties. Even the chat with David Sacks gave no insights into why a startup might benefit from using Zenefits.

Meantime, keep an eye out for the next Launch Festival, the biggest, best and baddest startup conference in the world, coming in March 2017 (dates not yet announced).

Harambe Live: Secrets to blowing up your company’s social channels http://socialmedia.biz/2016/09/27/harambe-live-secrets-to-blowing-up-your-companys-social-channels/ Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:30:50 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28706 Continue reading ]]>

Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla that became the biggest Internet meme of 2016, is now the subject of a tribute and viral marketing event.

Kickstarter campaign aims to create world’s biggest ‘gorilla marketing’ event

This is the third of a series on modern viral marketing techniques extolled by Vincent Dignan of the United Kingdom. Also see:

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaViral marketer Vincent Dignan is on a 100-date world tour right now, teaching companies how to blow up their social channels.

A good start would be paying attention to — or, better yet, attending — a brilliantly weird, outlandish, one-of-a- kind event in London next month: “Harambe Live: The world’s biggest live tribute to the gorilla that captured the internet’s hearts.” It’s a meme-heavy presentation that combines the two things Vincent is passionate about: social media and Harambe the gorilla. (Register here.)

Whatever your thoughts on the unfortunate demise of Harambe, the western lowlands gorilla who was shot dead after a child fell into his enclosure in the Cincinnati Zoo, there’s no denying he’s the most talked-about internet phenomenon of 2016.

Kickstarter campaign to support workshop begins today

This event, which will be held in East London on Oct. 27 if the event meets its crowdfunding goal, will explore:

  • How the Harambe meme spread, and how you can use learnings for your own startup or business to reach key influencers
  • Memes and meme culture: How can something as throwaway and misunderstood have such a rabid following online?
  • Lessons of vitality that musicians, brands or anyone who runs their own startup can take to apply to their own viral marketing efforts
Vincent Dignan: "Anything Harambe gets major clicks and traffic from social media, so the honeypot is there for this to draw a lot of traffic."

Vincent Dignan: “Anything Harambe gets major clicks and traffic from social media, so the honeypot is there for this to draw a lot of traffic.”

Host Vincent Dignan promises “a breakthrough event validating the idea that memes are a cultural phenomenon that can no longer be ignored — and a trend that will only grow over time.”

See the Harambe Live Kickstarter campaign. (If the campaign’s goal isn’t reached, you’re not charged. But trust me, it will be.)

Don’t expect a traditional dull workshop. The event will showcase strategies and tips on how to make an idea go viral. Several tiers of tickets are for sale, from 15 pounds for general admission to VIP tickets, which include limited-edition T-shirts and unlimited banana daiquiri cocktails, rumored to be Harambe’s favorite, Vincent assures us.

Meme that refuses to die comes to London as a marketing workshop

Harambe caption

Harambe continues to be a hot topic online long after his death in May.

What possessed Dignan to host such a spectacle? He says London has become a hotbed for enterprising new tech startups. “However, the failure rate is still catastrophically high, mainly because businesses don’t get the initial traffic or customers to attract investors or revenue to break even.”

That’s where viral memes come in. It’s a tactic that “allows a company to reach a wide range of people at low cost,” he says. “This event utilises* the growth of the most famous meme of 2016 (Harambe) to show businesses how it’s done. It’s also somewhat quirky in the fact that it’s a Kickstarter campaign and shows the potential of the Kickstarter platform to fund ideas that wouldn’t have been possible not so long ago.”

He adds: “Anything Harambe gets major clicks and traffic from social media, so the honeypot is there for this to draw a lot of traffic. I’ll share the article across my 150k Twitter network and 200k network of Facebook groups.”

If you’re interested in covering the event for Socialmedia.biz, or even live-blogging it, let me know. (There won’t be any live video streams of the event.) If you’re interested in interviewing Vincent for your publication or blog, here’s his contact info:

Vincent Dignan
Twitter: @vincentdignan

* Vincent is a Brit so we’ll let him spell it this way.

Essential viral marketing tools http://socialmedia.biz/2016/09/26/essential-viral-marketing-tools/ Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:31:13 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28720 Continue reading ]]>

Hillary Clinton’s “Between 2 Ferns” interview got 9.2 million downloads in its first four days and is one of the top viral videos on Ruzzit.com this week.

This is the second in a series on modern viral marketing techniques extolled by Vincent Dignan of the United Kingdom. Also see:

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, PR pros, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaLast week I wrote about a 90-minute workshop on viral marketing put on by Vincent Dignan, a marketing consultant from the UK who seems especially plugged into modern Internet culture.

While that article mapped out 10 rules of branding for your startup or small business, today I’d like to share some of the nonproprietary tools that you can use to advance your campaign, enhance your brand or earn kudos from your client.

Here are a handful of the best ones Vincent mentioned, some of which I’ve used to good effect:

  • You know that timeliness — topicality — dramatically increases engagement on the Web, right? Welcome to the Internet is a Facebook page that scrapes the Web for brand memes, enhancing your likelihood of getting shares. With 2.6 million likes, it has a pretty good pulse on subjects that are top of mind to the digital generation, and while it hasn’t been updated since June 30, you can find similar meme pages throughout Facebook and elsewhere.
  • Here’s another topical resource, and perhaps a better one: Ruzzit.com, a site that aggregates viral content, whether it’s a video, image or text. It even had a video up about the death of Florida Marlins ace Marlins Jose Fernandez a few hours after his fatal boating accident this past weekend.


With Snip.ly you can add a call-to-action to every link you share, helping you drive conversions through content curation.
  • Snip.ly lets you add a popup, at the bottom left of the screen, to link back to your site when you’re sharing others’ content.
  • Later.com bills itself as “the simpler way to plan your visual content marketing” by letting you schedule and manage your Instagram posts. You can also schedule Instagram posts with Buffergram.
  • Websta.me/hot will help you find the day’s most widely used hashtags (yes, hashtags go viral, too).


TextCutie: Get creative with images and words on your smartphone.
  • Canva is a cool design program (go ahead, scrawl across the page with your mouse, it’s fun) and TextCutie is a mobile app that lets you add words to an image you want to share.
  • People, even strangers, are much more likely to interact with you one on one via email rather than by using social media. charlieapp.com, type in anyone’s email addy and find all of their social accounts. The trick is finding those email addresses. I use Clearbit. Vincent pointed to Email Hunter (150 email addresses in their database) and Norbert, which starts at $10/day.
  • Do you have an email list? kickbox.io will scan your list and help you “clean” your list by getting rid of broken email addresses. Cost: $10 to verify 1,000 email addresses.
  • Discover.ly helps you connect your social followings across platforms. See mutual Facebook friends on LinkedIn. See LinkedIn work information on Facebook. See Facebook and LinkedIn connections on Twitter. You get the idea.
  • Charlieapp combs through hundreds of sources and automatically sends you a one-page briefing on people you’re going to meet with — before you see them.
  • Heads up, journalists and bloggers: Typosaurus will scan your site and point out any spelling errors — for free. Alas, it will only tell you the results one page at a time.
  • Instagram: Are you using the ol’ “Double-tap if you agree!” trick?

Not all of these are free, but many of them are free or low-cost. There are lots, lots more tools and tips, but you’ll have to sign up for one of Vincent’s workshops.

What other viral marketing tools are in your bag of tricks?

10 rules of branding for your startup or small biz http://socialmedia.biz/2016/09/19/rules-of-branding-for-your-startup-or-small-biz/ Mon, 19 Sep 2016 07:08:50 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28689 Continue reading ]]> Vincent-at-preso

Vincent Dignan at his “Growth Hack Your Sales” workshop in San Francisco (photo by JD Lasica).

Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, PR pros, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaLast month I attended one of the most eye-opening startup marketing/growth hacking talks I’ve seen in years, so I wanted to share some highlights for you in a short multi-part series. (I used to do this a lot more often before launching a startup!)

The event, called “Growth Hack Your Sales & Personal Branding!” and held at Galvanize in San Francisco’s SoMa, drew about 70 attendees. It was part of a multi-pronged series of presentations put on by digital marketing wunderkind Vincent Dignan, who proved his social chops by raising $95,516 on Indiegogo for the series of digital guides, “secret sauce” courses and client consultations he provides.

Vincent, who’s young enough to pass for a teenager (and may well be for all I know), is constantly online and his writings have garnered more than 150 million page views and 50 million visitors. The lad is British but has a serious case of Silicon Valley fever, so hopes to move to the U.S. next year. (He’s also available to speak at conferences, and I highly recommend him.)

This event promised “a step-by-step guide of growth hacking methods & tactics for getting users, traffic and revenue,” and who could resist that?

Vincent’s 148-slide presentation flew by too fast for the attendees to dive in too deeply, but he seemed to have his finger on the pulse of millennials and the next generation of post-mass media consumers. Here are some nuggets I thought you’d like especially valuable.

10 rules of personal branding

Vincent conveyed these 10 rules of “personal branding,” which is less about personal branding and more about building a brand for your startup, small business or client’s company:

  1. No one cares about you.
  2. People only care about what you give to them or do for them.
  3. Be everywhere but choose text, video, photos (or all three)
  4. Use influencers but don’t rely on them
  5. Building your brand is 10% content, 90% distribution
  6. 1 in 5 good posts is all you need for people to remember
  7. Copy until you develop your own style
  8. Never say no to public appearances
  9. Scale worldwide as soon as possible
  10. Be vulnerable: say what people are really feeling.

Vincent Dignan in San Francisco
Vincent at an earlier workshop in San Francisco.

The main takeaways here (and I’m extrapolating from what I remember of Vincent’s points) are that it’s easy to mistake personal storytelling and transparency for self-absorption. Don’t focus on the job you’re doing or how much you’re producing. Focus on your users or customers and how you’re going to improve their lives/save them time/help them meet their goals.

We live in a multimedia, multi-format, multi-screen world, so don’t just focus on writing a text-based blog. The next generation of users/customers (don’t call them consumers) are especially absorbed by rich visuals. Engage with people in their own (visual) language.

Influencers can help you spread your message. But a lot of campaigns that rely on social media influencers come up short because the A-listers don’t have sufficient and ongoing buy-in to your product, service or cause.

Don’t rely on the assumption, “If you create great content, they will come.” They may not. You have to work, work, work to get the word out across multiple distribution channels. Build your email list. Build a devoted following and show thought leadership on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Not every post you create has to be a home run. But don’t create one middling, muddled post after another on the theory that quantity is more important than quality. It’s not.

In a hat tip to Andy Warhol (to say nothing of Picasso and Steve Jobs), Vincent advised us to copy and steal at first. Your own voice and style will come in time.

You’re your brand’s best ambassador, so take advantage of opportunities to appear before relevant audiences. Be proactive and approach event and conference organizers six months or more before their next event in your sector.

I wouldn’t recommend this to every startup or business, especially if you haven’t achieved product-market fit yet, but Vincent’s advice is to try to scale globally sooner rather than later by using tools such as Twitter and Eventbrite.

And finally, I’ve been talking about the power of “being vulnerable” in my own public appearances for nearly a decade. Authenticity is the coin of the realm. Remove the mask, discard the filters, share what’s true and genuine.

Vincent Dignan in NYC
Vincent at a growth hacking/personal branding workshop in New York.

More growth hacking tips

You might also like Vincent’s presentation “How to Attract Humans” at Startup Britain in 2015.

And if you’re in the SF Bay Area, you should check out the outstanding talks available at Galvanize SF. I’ll be attending “How to Go from 0 to 4 Million Users in 1 Year” next Tuesday.

And Vincent will be speaking the same night at London Startup Marketing on “Let’s solve your startup marketing problems…50 Key Growth Hacks To Scale Your Business.”

7 ways to generate a Facebook following for your small business http://socialmedia.biz/2016/08/04/7-ways-to-generate-a-facebook-following-for-your-small-business/ Thu, 04 Aug 2016 09:32:40 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28641 Continue reading ]]> facebook-emoticons

Post by Megan Totka

MeganTotkaSmall businesses can support their online marketing activities through a presence on Facebook, such as a Facebook page. In fact, a survey by Hubspot found that 84 percent of respondents expect small businesses to have a presence on Facebook. If you don’t have a page for your small business yet, it’s past time. Don’t underestimate the importance of a Facebook page and growing your community — you can use Facebook to promote your business on a daily basis.

Growing your business does have its challenges, especially as more and more businesses are creating pages and competing for likes. There are many ways businesses fail on social media. Instead of letting that happen, take a look at these 7 ways to generate a Facebook following and convert likes into more business.

Add photos and videos

Facebook has an easy-to-use photo and video upload function – so take advantage of it. Show off your small business, the products you sell and the services you offer. Use it to connect with your fans, too, through videos of yourself and your team and answer common questions with video how-tos.

Ask a question

Use the status updates function to get your fans talking by asking a question. Consider true/false questions or ask for advice so people have the opportunity to chance and help or give their opinion.

Keep in relevant

It’s great to focus on your small business, yet it’s smart to inject some personality to your page by posting and sharing off-topic from time to time. Focus mostly on what is happening within your business and aim to share primarily relevant content for your audience.

Promote your small business Facebook page

Include your Facebook page URL on your website, blog, business cards and even your email signature. Add it to marketing materials you distribute, too. You need to tell people about your page and encourage them to visit it if you want to grow your following.

Be consistent

Have a consistent presence on Facebook; don’t disappear for weeks. This doesn’t mean you have to be logged on and engaging your followers 24/7, it just means your fans need to know that you are there. Take the time to answer questions and participate in conversations with your community. Set a schedule for posting and don’t sway away from it.

Blog about your Facebook page

Chances are you have a small business blog. Make sure you mention your Facebook page in a blog post. Explain the benefits of liking your page and joining your community. Whether you are promoting your business at a local level or targeting people around the country, consider offering incentives for people who like your page. Good ideas are a one-time coupon or special deal unique for your followers only.

Get involved

It’s smart to like other Facebook pages that are related to your industry. Take the time to join in discussions on those pages. It will get people who are interested in your industry to notice your business and likely head to your page and like it, too.

You may have a solid marketing strategy, but it’s really important to make sure you’re an effective Facebook marketer. Facebook is home to millions of active small-business pages, so it’s smart to take some steps to ensure your page doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

How do you get your small business Facebook page noticed?

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com.
Why influencer marketing is an essential part of brand marketing strategy http://socialmedia.biz/2016/05/11/why-influencer-marketing-is-an-essential-part-of-brand-marketing-strategy/ Wed, 11 May 2016 14:13:45 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28527 Continue reading ]]>

Photo Courtesy of Buzzoole

New strategy provides proven effectiveness in reaching target audiences & increasing engagement

Ayelet NoffThe days of classic marketing strategies are far behind us. While big companies still choose to spend big bucks on commercial ads online, on TV, on billboards, and in magazines, this method is losing its efficacy. Consumers are bombarded by so many ads daily that they have learned to completely tune them out.  Even worse, consumers are often experiencing “ad fatigue”, causing them to form negative perceptions of brands due to overexposure to their ads.

So what does this mean for brands? Clearly, companies have taken note of the changing field of marketing and are turning to alternatives. In the field of commercial advertising, this means persistently changing up content and images, as well as employing targeted advertising to gain users’ continuous attention.

Though these are sometimes effective methods to combat consumer’s fatigue, the cost of display advertising is so high, that frankly, for some companies it just isn’t worth it. In fact, many brands are changing their marketing strategies all-together to focus on other advertising methods.

Buzzoole, a self-service Influencer Marketing Platform, recently conducted a survey of the over 200 brands on their platform (full disclosure: Buzzoole is a Blonde 2.0 client). The results indicate that companies are planning to shift their marketing budget in the upcoming year, with a mere 6% of companies planning to focus their investment on display advertising. On the other hand, the standout marketing strategy that the majority of companies wish to focus on is influencer marketing (30%). Moreover, the survey revealed that a large majority (65%) of brands are planning on increasing their budget for influencer marketing.

So Why Are More Brands Using Influencer Marketing?

According to Fabrizio Perrone, the CEO and founder of Buzzoole, the reason more brands are using influencer marketing is because: “Companies see the value of influencer marketing as a more effective method of reaching their target audience at a far more affordable price.” Moreover he argues that: “The results of these surveys fall in line with an overarching trend, indicating that companies are shifting from old-fashioned advertisements to more modern techniques, such as influencer marketing.”

How effective is this method? Well, influencer marketing is a great way for brands to reach a target audience without burning them out in the way that display ads often do. Using “normal” people on social media to promote a brand is often viewed as more natural, genuine, and credible. Moreover, users tend to trust these social media experts because they view their opinion as unbiased and real.

A marketing platform like Buzzoole makes creating an influencer campaign extremely simple by automating the entire process of identifying, connecting, engaging, delivering, and measuring valuable influencer marketing campaigns. The Buzzoole team also developed a unique algorithm that analyzes online conversations and identifies how influential users are within specific topics, giving brands the tools to target their audience.

Consumers are becoming smarter and less naive when it comes to advertising, and brands are going to have to keep up. While online advertising, PR, and paid search are all still vital elements of a company’s marketing strategy, adopting new methods such as influencer marketing is a great way to reach their audience in a subtle yet effective way.

Mobile app stats & growth trends you need to know (infographic) http://socialmedia.biz/2016/04/12/mobile-app-stats-growth-trends-infographic/ Tue, 12 Apr 2016 10:10:22 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28495 Continue reading ]]> Post by Andrew Gazdecki
CEO at Bizness Apps

Financial forecasters expect the mobile app industry to double over the next four years. As the evidence has indicated for some time, the mobile industry is exploding with growth. Such a large potential for growth suggests that mobile stakeholders need research, and more research, to buttress their decision-making.

So we’ve done some homework and gathered the data to show you where the most growth is coming from in the app industry.

Both the iOS and Android platforms are projected to grow substantially by 2020, and as mobile technology continues to evolve, the potential for companies of all sizes to get involved in mobile sooner than later has never been more important.

Bizness Apps crunched the numbers based on app economy forecasts by popular app metrics site App Annie, so check out the infographic below to see the results:


For a deeper dive, read the entire report here:


Advice for startups: Focus on your super-fans http://socialmedia.biz/2016/03/04/advice-for-startups-focus-on-your-super-fans/ Fri, 04 Mar 2016 23:58:55 +0000 http://socialmedia.biz/?p=28457 Continue reading ]]> taylor-swift
Taylor Swift brought fans to her house, baked them cookies and invited them to her concerts for free, said Jordan Stone, CEO of Huckle.

At Launch Festival, a top marketer discusses the importance of engaging your top brand advocates

Target audience: Startups, entrepreneurs, businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, SEO specialists, educators, journalists, Web publishers.

JD LasicaAt the 2016 Launch Festival, which is wrapping up today with an estimated 15,000 attendees, startup founders and teams got some solid, down-to-earth advice from Jordan Stone, the CEO of Huckle.

A lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to please everyone. But you don’t really want to make all your customers happy. You want to focus on the 1 percent most engaged users of your product and make them ecstatic. And then you want to find another 100, 1,000, 10,000 users just like them. Otherwise, your product development will be all over the map before you get to product-market fit.

“Focus on the 1 percent,” Stone said on stage in the Cowell Theatre at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. “Take your customer base and go to the top 1 percent that’s obsessed with your product. Focus on the super users instead of the casuals.”

How to identify them? Find a tool that gives you access to granular customer metrics, he said. There are plenty in the market. Don’t just look at them as demographics. Drill down to see your top customers or users in the top cities using your product, then find out who those people are — and engage them.

Communicate with them through SMS, email, Twitter, FB, push notifications. “Make sure they hear personally from someone on your team,” Stone said.

Jordan Stone, CEO of Huckle, at the Launch Festival this week (Photo by JD Lasica).

Next, publicly identify, empower and reward a select few. One time-honored way to do so is with a points system or leaderboard. “Make those super-fans feel special, give them something to brag about,” he said. “Offer them rewards and experiences that money can’t buy.”

One extreme example he cited was his work with singer Taylor Swift, who has been known for the lengths to which she goes to make her fans happy. “We brought some of them to her house. She baked them cookies. She invited them to her concerts for free.”

Don’t do this in a vacuum. Let the other 99 percent know about it, he suggested. Stoke their FOMO (fear of missing out). Offer something exclusive to the top 100 contributors to your website each month.

Finally, while you should engage and participate in social media, Stone said, make sure you drive them to your site. “Have ownership over your entire community, Own the data. Don’t put all your eggs in the Facebook or Twitter baskets.”

I asked Stone about the approach put forward by Rob Fuggetta in his book Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers Into a Powerful Marketing Force that you should leverage fans’ enthusiasm for your product — but don’t compensate them, or else you’ll tarnish their evangelism.

Stone said startups need to start small and reward their super-fans any way they can — with prizes, T-shirts, giveaways, tickets, access to events, etc. But that once you get to 100 or more super-fans, “then don’t pay them.” Because you’re on your way.