Startups – Social Media

3 Innovative Ways Startups Are Driving Results Over Social Media

BY  | July 15, 2013

Some small businesses are getting creative and earning their social media followers’ trust — and their dollars — by ditching the one-way hard sell that’s all too common on Facebook and Twitter.

They understand that social-media platforms are fertile ground for potentially lucrative two-way conversations with their target customers. To these companies, there’s much more to social marketing than peddling their brand story as bait for hollow likes, re-pins and re-tweets.


Here’s a look at three such businesses using inventive and effective social-media strategies to boost brand awareness, build relationships with customers and drive sales:

 Warby Parker’s ‘Home Try-On’ campaign lets customers get feedback from their social-media friends on which glasses they should purchase.

1. Warby Parker
Social strategy: Encouraging user-generated content that drives brand awareness.

Warby Parker, a New York City-based online seller of vintage-inspired eyeglasses and sunglasses, is using social media to reinvent how people shop for and purchase eyewear. It does this by shipping customers five pairs of frames that they select from Warby Parker’s website in packaging that encourages them to take pictures of themselves wearing the glasses and then post the shots on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts. Customers can take five full days to test the glasses before shipping them back and, the company hopes, placing an order.

The strategy behind the Home Try-On campaign is for shoppers to get feedback from their social-media friends and contacts on which pair fits them best, while generating a positive, social buzz around Warby Parker’s brand “in a natural, organic way,” says co-founder and co-CEO David Gilboa. Customers who post photos of themselves in frames are buying at twice the rate as those who don’t, he says.

Shoppers seeking opinions outside of their own social-media circles can submit pictures to Warby Parker’s Facebook page for additional feedback. Home Try-On participants have posted some 25,000 images on the company’s Facebook Timeline and more than 40,000 on Instagram since the promotion was started in February 2010.

“Don’t view social media as just another way to push your marketing messaging,” Gilboa advises. “Think of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as critical customer service gateways and take the time to respond to each and every customer who reaches out to you there. Each comment, photo and tweet gives you an opening to directly communicate with them on a meaningful, personalized basis that encourages brand loyalty.”

The founders of Pork Barrel BBQ created their own social-media platform for BBQ fanatics.

2. Pork Barrel BBQ 
Social strategy: Creating its own social community.

Who needs Facebook when you can invent your own social-media network specifically tailored to your target demographic? That’s what Heath Hall and Brett Thompson did in February 2011, creating Backyard BBQ, a social-media network for barbeque enthusiasts.

The co-founders of Pork Barrel BBQ, an Alexandria, Va.-based barbeque sauce, restaurant and catering company, noticed that barbeque fans from around the world were interacting on internet message boards and forums that didn’t allow them to share, comment on or like photos and videos. In response, the company developed a free online social space for grillers of all skill levels, from backyard beginners to competitive pit masters, so they can swap recipes, cook-off stories and pictures and videos from the pit.

Hall and Thompson invited legendary pit masters, such as Johnny Trigg, Pat Burke, Rod Gray and Melissa Cookston, to join the social network and help spread the word in their own social networks and grilling circles. Backyard BBQ has grown to 4,312 members from in the U.S. and in more than 20 different countries, Hall says, and it is driving “a significant amount of traffic” to the company’s main website where people can buy sauces and rubs.

From concept to launch, it took about six months for Hall and his Pork Barrel BBQ co-founder Brett Thompson to develop BBQ Backyard. They developed the platform using Ning, an online service that lets individuals and businesses quickly, relatively easily design, create and host their own custom social networks. Ning offers a 14-day free trial and basic monthly prices range between $25 and $99. Hall says it cost about $500 in all to get BBQ Backyard off the ground.

Pork Barrel BBQ has its own member profile on Backyard BBQ, of course, featuring blog posts, how-to cooking videos, recipes and promotional event photos. Hall encourages fellow small-business owners to launch their own specialized social networks “if there is a void in their particular market.” Hall says the benefits “can be enormous in terms of networking, spreading your brand message, learning about new opportunities and giving back to the community.”

Love oysters? Try the Mermaid Inn’s highly social iPhone app, Oysterpedia.

3. The Mermaid Inn 
Social strategy: Building a custom app that is informative and highly social.

The Mermaid Inn, which operates three popular seafood restaurants in New York City, launched its own aptly named, highly social iPhone app, Oysterpedia. It’s a quirky-cool, yet practical digital encyclopedia of more than 200 North American oysters that lets users discover, rate and share their favorite oysters on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The mouthwatering, image-rich app also offers a glossary of terms to help users appropriately describe an oyster’s origins, appearance and flavor profile (“beach cultured,” “brininess,” “meaty,” among others). A less informative, yet equally important feature is Oysterpedia’s “About” option, which includes a direct link to The Mermaid Inn’s website. There, visitors find the company’s latest social media promotions, including weekly “Social Media Monday” meal discounts, which are also advertised on the company’s Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

Adam Conrad, who manages the company’s social-media accounts, says the hope is that consumers who use the app will feel inspired to experiment and order new types of oysters, as well as order their favorite ones again. Ideally, they’ll also be moved to share their favorite oysters — and exactly where they slurped them down — with their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Conrad says the app, which is downloaded about 200 times a week, along with a frequently updated menu of daily and weekly social-media campaigns, has contributed to a notable uptick in The Mermaid Inn’s overall brand awareness and sales.

Conrad believes it’s critical for companies to dedicate an employee to their social-media marketing efforts to help ensure they’re continuously posting interesting images, videos and news. “Most importantly,” he says, “make sure they’re publicly responding to comments, tweets and posts several times a day, especially to negative comments. This lets consumers know that no matter what they say about your brand, you’re listening and responding swiftly and appropriately.”

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Mission Statement

Richard Branson on Crafting Your Mission Statement

By Richard Branson July 22, 2013

At some point during the launch of your startup, it’s likely that a potential investor will ask you about your company’s mission statement. Many business management experts would argue that this should be your company’s cornerstone, inspiring and informing your employees in the years ahead. I can’t agree. The Virgin Group does have a mission statement — one that is brief and to the point. In general, there is too much importance being placed on such statements, but it is interesting to see how they reflect common missteps in business.


Most mission statements are full of blah truisms and are anything but inspirational. A company’s employees don’t really need to be told that “The mission of XYZ Widgets is to make the best widgets in the world while providing excellent service.” They must think, “As opposed to what? Making the worst widgets and offering the lousiest service?” Such statements show that management lacks imagination, and perhaps in some cases, direction.


At the opposite end of the scale is the statement that fails through flowery waffling. An example: “Yahoo powers and delights our communities of users, advertisers and publishers – all of us united in creating indispensable experiences, and fueled by trust.” That sounds wonderful, but what does it mean? Whoever wrote it should try listening to the company’s CEO, Marissa Mayer, who said in a recent speech, “Yahoo is about making the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining.” It’s not perfect, but it would be a step in the right direction.

Related: Richard Branson on Taking the Leap Into Entrepreneurship

Some companies are not actually able to carry out their mission. The reasons can range from a disruption in the markets to a merger or acquisition, and then there are cases like Enron’s: Before the giant energy company went bankrupt in 2001, ruining the lives of tens of thousands of employees and investors, its vision and values statement was “Respect, integrity, communication and excellence.” Say no more!

While some mission statements consist of one vague statement, others are too long, which may reflect management’s lack of understanding of what a company really does. The Warwickshire Police recently produced a new mission statement; to the police chief’s dismay, the resulting 1,200-word screed gained the attention of the media and was nominated for the Golden Bull award “for excellence in gobbledygook” from the Plain English Campaign, a group that helps organizations to provide clear communications. Not only was the rambling epistle filled with buzzwords and jargon, but the word “crime” was not mentioned once.

Still other companies don’t know what differentiates them from their competition. The mission statement for the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers reads, “To discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases.” Well, you can’t argue with that, but surely this can be said of every drug company on the planet. Why would a person choose to buy Bristol-Myers’ products or invest in its stock, rather than its competitors’?

So that’s what not to do. If you are in a situation where you must write a mission statement, I think you should try for something closer to a heraldic motto than a speech. They were often simple because they had to fit across the bottom of a coat of arms, and they were long-lasting because they reflected a group’s deeper values.

When I was a boy, I was fascinated by such mottoes. One of my childhood heroes was the pilot Douglas Bader, who lost both his legs in a crash early in his career, but went on to fly fighter planes for the Royal Air Force during WWII. After seeing the movie “Reach for the Sky,” which told his heroic story, I remember asking my father about the RAF motto, “Per ardua ad astra.” When he told me that it meant, “Through adversity to the stars,” I thought the idea of battling one’s way to the stars at all costs was the most inspiring thing I’d ever heard. (It’s pretty similar to the “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear’s motto, “To infinity and beyond,” which some kids today think is pretty cool – especially some of my friends on the Virgin Galactic crew.)

Related: Richard Branson on How to Stay Inspired

A few years later, at Stowe School, I was taught the school’s motto, “Persto et praesto,” which means “I stand firm and I stand first.” This motto caused a lot of giggling among our group of adolescent schoolboys, but it was nevertheless excellent for guiding us forward into adult life. Brevity is certainly key, so try using Twitter’s 140-character template when you’re drafting your inspirational message. You need to explain your company’s purpose and outline expectations for internal and external clients alike. Make it unique to your company, make it memorable, keep it real and, just for fun, imagine it on the bottom of a coat of arms.

If we had to put ours on a coat of arms, Virgin’s would probably say something like, “Ipsum sine timore, consector,” which very loosely translated from the Latin means, “Screw it, let’s do it!”

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Online Ads

This Study Says People Aren’t Clicking On Online Ads

Falling like dominos, every major company on the web is succumbing to he pressure of a world that is moving from using computers to mobile phones and tablets.


First it was Microsoft, which this week reinforced the view that it was struggling with tablets by posting disappointing numbers. But alongside Facebook and Intel now even Google, which runs the Android operating system driving the very growth of mobile phones, also said this week that the difficulties of making money off advertising from smaller screens is a huge challenge.

The most successful brands remain those, such as Twitter and Instagram, which continue to largely avoid advertising all together. And the bad news for Google is that much of what its susccess is based upon is, by some measures, less effective than advertisers have thought anyway.

An academic study concluded that brand adverts in internet searches have “no short-term benefits”, and added that “returns from all other keywords are a fraction of conventional estimates.” The study’s author Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia tweeted, “Google won’t like this”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study concluded simply that as users become more familiar with the web, they get savvier at avoiding adverts. “New and infrequent users are positively influenced by ads but existing loyal users purchasing behavior is not influenced by paid search,” he found. With much of the web funded by advertising, and more advertising needed to make mobile pay, it seems that web business is becoming even more difficult.

Indeed, only Apple and Samsung have seriously profited from the move to mobile – both, as the makers of hardware, however, are in fundamentally different businesses to Google. Facebook, has come in for increasingly sharp criticism as it seeks to encourage more users to look at adverts for applications they don’t want, or at adverts that aren’t quite relevant. If too many happily married people see commercial content for divorce lawyers, or if big brands see their adverts next to groups abusing women, the site’s appeal rapidly abates. It underlines the challenges not only of all advertising online, but in particular the challenges facing brands that must adapt quickly to those shrinking screens.

Why Microsoft is struggling

The travails of Microsoft can be traced back to an act of foolish bravery on the company’s own part. After Windows 7, it realised that the rise of Apple would see a growing number of users wanting to have tablets as their main devices, and decided that the next version of Windows had to be as good on tablets as it is on PCs. Many critics believe that even if the company has achieved that, they still haven’t done anywhere near enough to challenge Apple or Samsung, which makes the most popular tablets using Google’s Android operating system.

That was why this week Microsoft took a $900million write down on its Surface tablets, the devices that were supposed to kickstart its bid to get into the area in which it is rapidly losing ground. The Windows 8 operating system, has yet to provide a serious tablet fillip for Microsoft, and has yet to stem the PC decline. Some analysts now fear for Microsoft’s whole strategy.

Google’s new search

The search giant’s results this week demonstrated two key things: it continues to be a dominant force on the web, and it has no serious rivals. But even it has been taken by surprise on mobile phones: it built the operating system that now accounts for the majority of all devices, and claimed that doing so would drive traffic to Google. So far so good, but on mobile Google is struggling to find a way to make the adverts that pay its wages attractive enough for users to click on.

And increasingly Google has designed products that look clean and elegant, and consequently lack the space for ugly adverts. It is adopting an approach that may well make it ever more dominant without making it ever more profitable.

In New York, Google shares fell and the company now looks less likely to break the psychologically important $1,000 barrier – but the market continues to believe that, thanks to driverless cars and more, profits will continue.

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Social Media Advertising

u.s. social ad forecast by ad format

BI Intelligence

It’s not difficult to understand the lure of social media advertising.


Social networks likeFacebook and Twitter are daily destinations for millions of consumers. Increasingly, their ad products offer targeting according to specific demographics, social connections, interests, and habits. 

As brands look across a fractured media landscape, where few digital properties offer any scale, social networks offer them an interesting proposition. 

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we analyze the state of social media advertising and where it is heading, offering a comprehensive guide and examination of the advertising ecosystems on Facebook and Twitter, offer a primer on Tumblr as an emerging ad medium, and detail how mobile is an important part of this story as mobile-friendly native ad formats fuel growth in the market.

Access The Full Report And Data By Signing Up For A Free Trial Today >>

Here’s an overview of some major players in the mobile advertising ecosystem:

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Digital Start-ups

Street Fight Daily: Startups Put Feet On The Street, The End of Local Advertising

21 JUNE 2013 BY 

A roundup of today’s big stories in hyperlocal content, commerce, and technology

smalltownDigital Start-Ups Face Unexpected Gauntlet of Door-to-Door Sales (Medium)
Local urban problems and the needs of small businesses are increasingly becoming inspiration for start-ups, and selling door-to-door — that icon of 1950s entrepreneurialism — is back with a new, digital face. Putting on a show for investors is one thing; facing off with an endless stream of bartenders and cash-register attendants over the shop counter is an entirely different proposition. Yet that’s exactly where many members of the newest crop of innovators are winding up as they try to bootstrap their billion-dollar ideas, one customer at a time.

How Facebook’s Rumored News Product Could Hurt Local Sites (Street Fight)
Matt Sokoloff: News websites dodged a bullet when Facebook didn’t announce a rumored RSS or news-in-your-news-feed product yesterday. If Facebook actually got serious about these plans, news websites could expect an even larger portion of their site’s traffic to be directed through the social network — and their brands could be endangered.

Why Advertising Dollars Are Shifting to Online Promotions (Second Street Lab)
Gordon Borrell: In 2007, local business started spending more on promotions and “owned media” — marketing channels that they control — than on classic advertising. And as the economy started to recover, they began spending a lot more. Promotions budgets, once relegated to things like coupons, windshield flyers and contests,  swelled to include things like website development, deal-of-the-day programs, loyalty clubs, and an array of techno-tasks that pushed SMBs into that vast digital cocktail party called social media.

Openings & New Hires at Square, Patch, LocalVox, Facebook and More (Street Fight)
Kelly Benish: Every two weeks, Search Influence’s Kelly Benish — who knows practically everyone in hyperlocal — covers some of the latest job changes taking place in this dynamic industry. Moves this edition include the closing of LivingSocial’s office in Seattle, a and exiting CTO at AOL’s Patch, and job openings at Yelp, Appstack, Google, and more.

Urban Airship’s Wallet Studio Helps Firms Create and Manage Apple Passbook and Google Wallet Cards(TheNextWeb)
Urban Airship, a specialist in delivering push notifications, location-based mobile marketing and building cards for Apple’s Passbook app, launched a cross-platform digital wallet solution today called Wallet Studio. The tool set enables businesses to easily create, launch and manage campaigns that integrate with Passbook and Google Wallet.

VIDEO: Why Brands Are Warming to Hyperlocal (Street Fight)
For large brands, the upside of local is often shrouded in operational headaches, and overshadowed by the complexities of coordinating a decentralized, and often chaotic, campaign. Thanks to the rapid adoption of mobile devices and new innovations among vendors however, brands’ attitude to local are starting to change.

Maps & Metros: Surviving And Thriving In Local Search (SearchEngineLand)
It’s extremely challenging right now to recommend new “advanced” SEO methods for local search within Google . Things in Google have been in flux, transitioning from the old Google Places to Google+ Local pages, and changes have been unpredictable and frequent. The local algorithms haven’t seemed to have had a whole lot of additions, necessarily, or as much as the key parts have perhaps had some weighting changes, resulting in relatively minor juggling of ranking factors, often in fairly marginal degrees.

How Saga Bypassed GPS to Log Your Life Without Killing Your Battery (GigaOm)
Seattle startup A.R.O. has figured out a way to do life logging with its Saga app without killing your phone’s battery. In fact, it uses less than 1 percent of it.

LevelUp’s Sales Deal with Heartland Payment: A Discussion with Heartland’s Sarah Owen (Local Onliner)
As traditional local media players begin to lose some of their prominence, the search for alternative local sales channels has become increasingly important. The first significant sales deal with a processor channel started with a pilot program last October between LevelUp, the Boston-based transaction marketing/loyalty company, and Heartland Payment Systems, which works with 250,000 merchants and is the fifth largest payment processing company.

Babberly Launches Hyperlocal Mobile Ad Platform (MediaPost)
Joining a crowded field of location-based social start-ups, Babberly this week is rolling out a “hyperlocal” mobile ad platform to connect merchants with current and potential customers in real-time. CEO Bobby Marhamat describes Babberly an “on-trend ‘local goes social’ solution.”

LBMA Podcast: The ‘SoLoMo Movement’ and the Power of Context (Street Fight)
In this week’s episode, Google wins the battle for Waze; Pandora thinks like an upstart and buys a radio station; iOS7 gets into location-based app recommendations; Coca-Cola partners with Spotify for PlaceLists. The resource of the week is “Contagious” by Jonah Berger, plus special guest Paul Mabray, founder of VinTank.

Localized Mobile Marketing Strategy

Consumer Brands Need A Localized Mobile Marketing Strategy

by , Jun 25, 2013, 8:00 AM

According to U.S. census data, 75% of consumer spending occurs within 15 miles of the average American’s front door.  Forrester Research studies have found that 90% of sales occur inside brick-and-mortar stores, with about half of those in-store sales influenced by online marketing and promotions. The opportunities for brick-and-mortar retailers to leverage online channels to drive more sales locally are clear, but what about brand manufacturers?  

Consumer brand manufacturers depend on brick-and-mortar retailers for the majority of their sales, yet without having a physical location themselves, how do these marketers capture a greater share of in-store revenue where the vast majority of consumer purchases are made?

To better understand the consumer brand opportunity, let’s first look at the retail sector where the shift to mobile marketing has been quite dramatic. Ninety-one percent of retailers have a mobile strategy in place according to Forrester Research and, and for good reason. Whether at work or at play, the majority of consumers today are always on and always connected via their smartphones and tablets. Retailers have begun to capitalize on this trend by optimizing ads around out-and-about shoppers physically near the retail advertiser’s store, benefitting from the frictionless opportunity in mobile to guide shoppers along the path to purchase.  

Does this mean that location-based advertising is only relevant to brick-and-mortar retailers, local services businesses and restaurants? Many marketers and agencies seem to share this view, but in fact, any product or service that is purchased locally has a local path to purchase — an opportunity that brand manufacturers can leverage to drive more sales.

Product inventory completes the path to purchase for consumer brands  

Product inventory has been the missing link to optimizing the mobile path to purchase for consumer brands. Consider your own shopping behavior:  

·      Say you’re a fan of Nike’s latest line of neon-colored running shoes, and you especially like the green ones. There are a number of retailers in your neighborhood that carry Nike, but do they have the exact model, color, size, fit and style that you want?

·      Or you just saw the ad for the new Tide Plus Febreze Freshness Sport, which you think is exactly what your kid’s soccer uniforms need. But does your regular grocery store carry this unique line extension among the dozens of other Tide line extensions? Maybe — maybe not?

The only way to find out is to try phoning stores to check on their inventory. You might get a quick and easy answer, or you could get the runaround and waste your time. You can simply go shopping and walk or drive around town trying a number of different stores. But what if you could immediately be directed to the right store? Or better yet, get that information after you express interest in the product by clicking the ad on your mobile device while you’re on the go to see several nearby locations that currently have the exact items you’re seeking in stock?  

This is a perfect example of how product inventory fills a void. Combining product inventory data with location-based mobile ads creates motivation for consumers to truly engage not only with clicks, but also with physical movement along the path to purchase, benefitting the shopper, the brand and the local retailer. So how does product inventory get integrated into marketing programs? This is where technology comes in. 

New technologies and mobile marketing platforms available today integrate with retailer inventory systems, allowing product marketers to hyperlocal advertise products based on real-time availability and providing a frictionless path to purchase for consumers. With these innovative new approaches, consumer brands can for the first time develop and implement a truly hyperlocal marketing strategy to increase product awareness, collect real path-to-purchase metrics and truly drive sales. Access to the real-time availability of products and brands on the shelves and hangers of hundreds-of-thousands of stores in the U.S. makes this possible — encompassing everything from clothing to electronics to health products and beverages.  

The result is a win for brands, retailers and consumers. Brands benefit from increased local awareness of their existing and new products combined with product availability data that motivates consumers to engage and become customers. Retailers get more local traffic in-store and increase sales. And consumers quickly and easily find exactly what they want at a convenient location where they can buy. If you’re a consumer brand marketer and have yet to develop a local marketing strategy, now is the time to start — or risk falling behind your competitors.

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Data – Mobile Industry

How Big Data Is Transforming The Mobile Industry
JOSH LUGER JUL. 16, 2013, 10:43 AM
global mobile data traffic by device

BI Intelligence

The world is awash in data.

CIBC, a Canadian bank, predicts that information-generation growth will increase 50 times over the next decade. IDC, a market research firm, similarly forecasts a 44-fold increase in data volumes between 2009 and 2020. Mobile is playing a large part in driving this explosion in data.

Apple upended the electronics business six years ago with the release of the iPhone. The iPhone ushered in an era when design, both of software and hardware, became the paramount concept in the tech world.

Could data be the paradigm that anchors the next revolution? Many think so. 

In a recent report from BI Intelligence on Big Data and Mobile, we define big data, examine mobile’s connection to it, analyze its potential, practical applications, and pitfalls, look at how it’s collected, and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about big data and mobile.

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