Author Archives: Ken Yeung

About Ken Yeung

Editor-in-Chief of and an accomplished interactive producer in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area interested in all things in tech and marketing. Whether its gadgets or startups or related issues, he's eager to learn about it. From attending local and national conferences to appearing at events, parties, and other meetups, Ken is interested in sharing what he sees. Oh, and he's an accomplished photographer too, having been commissioned by Mashable, TechCrunch, TechSet, SXSW, BlogWorld, and many more.

ChirpifyOne of the most highly asked questions of any startup is “how are you going to make money?” This is true for any new company–you can’t just give away your stuff for free. Sooner or later, you’re going to need to find a way to monetize whatever you’re using. In marketing speak, we’re asking for the Return on Investment  (ROI). So when businesses want to use social media services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, they’re going to want to know what’s their bottom line. It’s fine to stick content on there, but how will it wind up being a good use of their money?

This is the exact issue that plagues some people when thinking about Twitter. Right now, the only means the average business has to monetize their Twitter strategy is through promoted tweets. But maybe that’s not enough…sure we know that Twitter is making money through their firehose and partnerships with other companies behind-the-scenes, but for brands eager to fully embrace the power of Twitter, they need another way to tap into their bottom line. And that’s where Chirpify comes into play…

Chirpify is a Twitter commerce platform developed out of Upstart Labs in Portland, Oregon by Chris Teso. Formerly known as Sell Simply, this new Twitter commerce engine will enable direct (person-to-person) payments, donations and retail sales transactions to occur right through the use of Twitter. I had a chance to speak with Mr. Teso for this post and as a person who worked in an interactive agency for a while, it’s interesting to hear about the philosophy behind Chirpify and his thoughts on how businesses would use this in conjunction with Twitter. But before we get into the insights and thought about Chirpify, let’s delve deeper into understanding how it works…

About ChirpifyChirpify is a monetization platform that integrates directly with PayPal in order to offer secure transactions on Twitter. In order to initiate payment or purchase, all one needs to do is to reply to a tweet using the following format: “@brandname buy product” or “@charity donate $5 to cause“. As mentioned earlier, there are three types of things that Chirpify can do for you: Twitter commerce, Twitter direct payments, and Twitter fundraising.

Twitter commerce

In this situation, this is an e-commerce type of situation where a small business might use this in lieu of, say, Square or Venmo to process payments for transactions. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an ideal payment mechanism for large, established brands, but if the Creme Brulee cart here in San Francisco or your local lunch truck was on Twitter and both parties were signed up to Chirpify and PayPal,  you could easily and simply pay for your purchase simply by tweeting them and receipts would be sent to both parties. Other uses include purchases that one might make off of Craigslist or other small one-time transactions. Whether this can scale for franchise establishments like Starbucks or at Macy’s or Best Buy remains to be seen–and might prove to be quite difficult to do, especially with the logistics.

Twitter direct payments

Perhaps more for the individual than the commerce functionality, but this basically follows along the same premise, instead of a consumer-to-business, it’s more consumer-to-consumer. You’re at a bar and your friend asks to spot you some money for some drinks. To pay you back, your friend could simply tweet you and their PayPal account would transfer that stated amount into your PayPal.

Twitter fundraising

Here is something that seems to be promising, especially in light of Square’s recent involvement in the political scene with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. For anyone who wants to set up a fundraising campaign, Chirpify offers them this added option. It doesn’t have to be political in nature. It can be healthcare focused, nature and conservation, social change, etc. and it will help easily capture more funds instead of worrying about people losing interest just because they only have a credit card on hand. If people can’t give money via Twitter, a link may also be provided to a page where they can donate. I believe that white labeling is also an option for those who don’t want to have the Chirpify branding.

What’s the purpose of setting up this platform now? Mr. Teso believes it’s because “brands, retailers, politicians, celebrities, and individuals have spent the past six years using Twitter to build communities and brand affinity, so why not allow them to sell on Twitter directly?” And it makes a lot of sense. Chirpify doesn’t believe that it will run afoul of any Twitter terms of use policy, but just to be safe, they’ve been communicating with the API and development team at Twitter to keep them abreast of any developments.

Chirpify back-end interfaceFor businesses interested in using this service, they won’t have to worry about there being yet another system that they need to adopt separately. Chirpify offers deep integration with existing e-commerce applications including Magento for back-end fulfillment, listing, and transaction management. But, if you do need an e-commerce back-end with reporting, then you can use Chirpify’s system as well–they have a dashboard that can help. To begin using it, merchants need to simply click the “list on Twitter” button that they’ll find in their dashboard when drafting an item listing for sale. Inbound sales information will appear as either an email or part of the merchant’s back-end system and as a direct message on Twitter. You can specify the quantity of the products you’re selling and set the price that you want people to buy at. And you can also charge shipping & handling as well, but for the purpose of convenience and simplicity, Chirpify will only allow you set a flat rate for shipping & handling–if you wanted to set up anything based on where the buyer actually is, it’s going to need more logistical planning (i.e., it’s not as simple as you might think). Oh, and depending on the type of program you’re running with Chirpify, they’ll take a percentage cut of the sales you make.

Chirpify tweetsSo from the buyer’s perspective, what’s going to happen is that in their stream, they’re going to see a tweet kind of like the one shown on the left here. Then, if the buyer wants to get it, all they need to is to reply back with the word “Buy” and their PayPal account will send the payment to the seller. Now, I know what you’re thinking: why would I want to have my public tweets be telling people what I’m ordering? That’s a good question and Chirpify has a system in place where you could send a direct message to Chirpify and they would play the middle man to facilitate the transaction without it ever being a public tweet. And what happens if you decide to buy something and you never get it? Is it a matter of caveat emptor or buyer beware? Nope, Chirpify says that with PayPal’s buyer protection in place, you will have a guarantee that your money is safely transacted–otherwise, you’ll get it back.

But what happens if you don’t have a Chirpify or PayPal account and someone transmits money to you or you send money to someone who isn’t set up for the transaction? Well if they are on Twitter, an tweet will be sent to them saying that you have sent them money and they need to access it through an included link.

Today, Chirpify has launched its Twitter commerce platform and is ready for people to take it for a spin. It’s received some initial seed funding from the Upstart Labs incubator, but for the most part has been bootstrapped. Currently, they have at least one major company as a merchant customer, Powerbar, and they’re looking for more. Could this become the biggest competitor to Square and all the rest in the industry? Will Chirpify decide to disrupt the way payments are done and could they be the pioneer in finally breaking through in monetizing tweets on Twitter?

There’s only one way to find out.

GetSatisfaction Love Your Customers AwardsIn an effort to leverage the power of love this Valentine’s Day, the great folks at GetSatisfaction today released the winners/recipients of the 2012 Love Your Customers Awards. GetSatisfaction is an online community software company designed to get people talking with the brands and help move the conversation along. With the Love Your Customers awards, the team hopes that it will help recognize and celebrate what they call “daring feats of customer empowerment and support”. Brands awarded will have demonstrated continued excellence in social support, marketing, and “general community awesomeness” (their words)–everything that GetSatisfaction promotes on their site and what their software is designed to achieve.

The timing of this award is anything but coincidental. This on the heels of the most recent Community Manager Appreciation Day and also the release of their insight survey about community management–they surveyed some of the top community managers in the industry to help determine what are some emerging trends on the horizon. You can view the entire presentation here on SlideShare.

But let’s get back to the awards…GetSatisfaction looked over 64,000 communities to find the most shining examples of caring community managers and happy customers and from their results, they came up with the following 13 awards:

The Put a Ring on It Award: StumbleUpon
While GetSatisfaction loves their customers, the rationale behind this award is based on StumbleUpon’s demonstration  to support one of their customers propose to his girlfriend through an elaborate setup.

The “It Takes a Village” Award: Pampers
According to GetSatisfaction, Pampers’ community displays an honest, candid, and personal attitude towards their customers and make it a “safe space” for discussion.

The Lead by Example Award: Carmex–Paul Woelbing, President of Carma Labs
When the company was founded in the 1930s, its founder Alfred Woelbing recognized the importance of good customer service. 75 years later, this tradition of caring for customers as if they were  small business continues.

The Instant Gratification Award: IZEA
IZEA connects social media publishers with advertisers allowing them to monetize their activity. Through the IZEA GetSatisfaction community, publishers can find a four-year old, indexed knowledge base to find the answer to virtually any question quickly.

The Flippin’ Awesome Mobile Support Award: Flipboard
Flipboard knew that their customers are all mobile and knew it needed to come up with a way to integrate support into the in-app browsing experience. The result is direct access to all their user guides, a bustling community, and a last resort contact form. Quick resolution times and more time spent inside the app!

The Richard Simmons Award for Unwavering Motivational Support and Cheerleading Excellence: MapMyFitness
Clearly the longest award name ever…but in this award, the MapMyFitness community is passionate about improving their health and getting into shape. The service’s support team knows that every customer interaction is a chance to inspire one of their customers to take an extra step or ride an extra mile. So their service staff goes the extra mile no matter how detailed or specific the needs.

The Uber Fan Award for Best Customer Champions Ever-Ever: OMGPOP
OMGPOP has a great group of vocal brand ambassadors who are passionate about the gaming platform. Using these champions, newbies and other users with problems and questions will be helped just like OMGPOP employees. Since launching this initiative, OMGPOP has seen an 80% decrease in daily support requests.

The International Language of Love Award: Yola
Yola helps businesses around the globe build professional websites in any language. It’s fitting then that Yola’s customers often need support in their preferred language. Rather than going the automated translation route, Yola invested in 6 different communities in French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Italian, and English and has fluent speakers managing each one taking into account local customs, colloquials, and cultural sensitivity.

The Ringmaster of the Year Award: Mozilla Messaging, Roland Tanglao and Team
Roland Tanglao isn’t an ordinary community lead: in addition to taming community of 133,000 customers, he’s passionate about helping other community managers succeed. Roland is always there to help.

The Grace Under Fire Award: AMC Theatres
When the moment of a social media crisis strikes, being slow to respond to it can mean the difference between “chaos and pandemonium”. That’s why AMC Theatre’s social media team is ready. They’ve been successful in stemming the tide of negative sentiment arising from a backlash regarding increased ticket prices. As a result, while they didn’t change back the prices, dozens of their customers helped spread AMC’s response and allowed them to get their message out there beyond the community “walls”

The All Hands Award for Employee Engagement: Box
More than 100 Box employees are active in their customer community, lending expertise from across the company, empowering any employee to be a spokesperson. It’s absolutely clear that the team at Box plays by the first rule of social business: people want to connect with people, not businesses.

The Mum’s The Word Award: Kiddicare
Kiddicare, the UK’s largest online retailer of baby gear, used their GetSatisfacation community to ask mums what they wanted out of a mobile site and the on-the-go shopping experience. Using this same community and GetSatisfacation, Kiddicare was able to cut inbound support requests by email down by 30% and also raise First Call Resolution from 60% to 98%!

The Lifetime Achievement Award for Exceptional Customer Support: Intuit’s
When dealing with sensitive financial information, it’s absolutely important that your customers know you can be trusted. embraced the trust-building power of community early on and continues to rinforce trust by resolving problems quickly and genuinely engaging with customers, going so far as implementing multiple product changes based on their feedback.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2012 Love Your Customers Awards from GetSatisfacation. It’s nice to know that there are businesses out there that care about their customers.

Women like dating playboys.Update 4:30 PM PST: Got confirmation from Uber SF–they’re stocking up the cars with all the roses that they have now, but it is indeed a “while supplies last” kind of deal. Get your Uber fast!

Update 4:26 PM PST: Looks like Uber is already giving out the roses to their passengers, but according to CrunchFund’s MG Seigler, they’ve already given their roses out. No word yet on whether the drivers will refill their rose supply throughout the night. Either way, beware that quantities are (unfortunately) limited.

Original article: If you happen to catch a ride with Uber tonight, you’ll be receiving a pretty special surprise, at least for your significant other.  For one night only (this year), all San Francisco Uber riders will receive a red rose from their driver. It doesn’t matter if you’re loving or hating Valentine’s Day, whether you’re going on a date or trying to find a date–Uber is more interested in thanking you and wants you to be their Valentine’s.

So what are you to do with the rose? Really? You need it to be spelled out for you? Well here’s what Uber suggests: when you hop into your car, take the rose and give it to your special person. But if you don’t? Simple…

Don’t have anyone to give your rose to? That’s a problem that can be solved as soon as you get out the car. Find a sexy-somebody, deliver your smoothest line and a pretty red rose and boom! you’ve got plans for the evening.

There’s even a special bonus to tonight’s festivities…if you tweet a photo of you with your rose and send it to @Uber_SF along with your best pick-up line (uh oh) in 140 characters and Uber will give you a $5 credit. But the best pick-up line as awarded by their community manager, will receive a $50 credit to their account!

If you aren’t in the San Francisco Bay Area and can’t take advantage of this, you can check to see if any of the other participating cities are doing anything creative for Valentine’s Day. In a quick glance, I see that New York City is participating in this same offer, but with different rules. Make sure you check Uber’s blog to find out what other specials they’re doing for tonight.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Microsoft AdvertisingSocial media has helped give rise to the voice of the people. It’s the consumer’s weapon. So it’s no surprise that businesses and brands are eager to try and break through an invisible barrier to find a way to have their messages be a part of the global conversation. Right now, the social media promise that brands need to make to consumers is that they’re listening. They have a presence and can feed information and answer customer service questions without being too pushy. But being a community manager probably only appeases the marketing and sales people for so long. Now they’re eager to try and find a way to get into actually selling products to new customers. So how exactly can marketers be creative and innovative enough to actually get customers to convert from thinking about your product to actually buying it? Well that’s going to be a bit problematic because in a recent poll by Harris Interactive for Digitas, 55% of social media users are not comfortable with giving out their credit card over the social network.

Social Commerce

The phenomenon known as social commerce is estimated to reach $30 billion globally in the next five years, according to Booz & Company.   But in the Harris Interactive poll, more than half of those social media users polled said that they wouldn’t want to give their credit card information to a known brand through a secure payment process on networks like Twitter or Facebook. But this statistic shouldn’t scare brands away from at least trying to sell their products using social means. The same Harris poll indicates that 34% of social media users would be more likely to share information about a purchase they made on a social media site with friends than one made on a traditional e-commerce site–so if someone bought a cell phone from T-Mobile on Facebook, they would be more inclined to spread that news versus if they bought it off of eBay or T-Mobile’s website directly. I’m sure that the social features already built into Facebook and Twitter factors into that. And if you don’t think that friends can’t influence social commerce, the Harris poll says that 75% of users indicate that they’d be more inclined to purchase a product or service that a friend openly endorses–defined as a blog post about their purchase or endorsement compared to a simple “like” or “follow”. Getting the customer’s friends involved and voicing their opinions can sway the buying behavior.

Microsoft Windows 7 People Powered Stories CampaignSo how can businesses get their customers’ friends to write about their product without being unduly influenced? Well this is something Microsoft is going to try and tackle head on with their new People Powered Stories (PPS) service. First reported by ReadWriteWeb’s Dave Copeland, the software giant announced during Social Media Week, that they would be releasing a new advertising (?) platform that will “incorporate user reviews and comments into social media sites.” In their plug for this new service, Microsoft testified that their People Powered Stories service really works–they tested it with a targeted Windows 7 advertising campaign to back-to-school shoppers and claimed it increased “purchase intent” by 6.3% and boosted “believability” and brand awareness.

By using PPS, you, as the advertiser, can import user ratings and reviews about your product right into a rich brand ad. The hope is that PPS will give marketers the ability to create ads that will share powerful stories and create brand relevancy beyond a “like” or “follow” — and with it, the authenticity and believability of real people’s stories. Through a partnership with customer-brand conversation platform Bazaarvoice, PPS will give advertisers the ability to use Microsoft’s social and engaged audiences across multiple screens and serve contextual and relevant ads that will be both targeted and measurable, more than what is available by any other service provider.

Is Microsoft’s People Powered Stories going to succeed? It might, but it will depend on how many publishers and social networks will use their display ads (note it’s not the text ads that you’ll see on search results). Microsoft has surely been making a push for the past few years about helping to declutter search by saying Bing will provide much more relevant results than with Google, so this contextual advertising platform has some promise to it. But, as ReadWriteWeb comments, this Microsoft announcement does not specify how exactly PPS will be different from other services. What will companies like Argyle Social and Wildfire Interactive have to say in response to this initiative? And Facebook already has a sponsored stories section out there that advertisers could take advantage of and Twitter currently offers promoted tweets that will allow people to specify who should see the tweet by interest and geographic region. It will be interesting to see this adoption by brands, but it is noted that Microsoft would probably be the first large company to offer a social media advertising program, beating out Google and even Yahoo (although their search is taken from Microsoft).

Jennifer Creegan, Microsoft’s General Manager for Display Advertising Experiences at Microsoft Advertising (phew! That’s a long title…), believes that PPS will help inch the advertising industry closer to unlocking the potential of social commerce and advertising. I agree with her that the impact of social advertising is beyond a simple “like” or a “follow” and needs to be in an area that the social ad can offer some measurable impact. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft studies the impact of these new ads and whether people will find them helpful and valuable, or annoying, a nuisance, and creepy.

But Microsoft is listening…let them know what you think either in the comments below or on their post.

Image Credit: Imille

Red rover, red rover...Several big moves were announced this morning by some of the leading technology publications around Silicon Valley: TechCrunch, GigaOm, and The Next Web. Such moves aren’t necessarily shocking, but it’s always interesting to see where these journalists will go–I, quite frankly, associate them most of the time with their publication and it takes a really long time to come to grips that they are now with a new publication. Nevertheless, change happens and this seems to be a good type of change.

In our first move of the day, TechCrunch’s European reporter, Robin Wauters, will be leaving the publication after more than three years on the job with 3,700 posts under his belt. He’ll be moving over to manage the European affairs with The Next Web as their European Editor–coincidentally, this is where he started out in tech publishing as a contributor. It’ll be great to read his posts about the tech scene there across the Atlantic to understand what cool startups to pay attention to. The Next Web’s CEO, Zee Kane, welcomed Mr. Wauters on board by saying:

Robin brings years of experience, a vast network of relationships worldwide and great ties with EU and US investors, accelerators, incubators and co-working spaces. He’s also a mentor at Founder Institute and Seedcamp with years of hands-on experience advising and working for startups, both venture-backed and bootstrapped.

You should read both Mr. Wauters and The Next Web’s post — it definitely seems like someone welcoming an old friend back home. Seems to be a new day for TNW!

Back on TechCrunch…while they lost one European writer, they gain another. Ingrid Lunden has just been brought on board as their new writer where she’ll be covering mobile, digital media, and breaking tech news (isn’t that what everyone covers?). Along with the European editor, Mike Butcher, Ms. Lunden will be writing posts about the continent’s tech startups and companies. And not one to disappoint, TechCrunch has pulled the “one more thing” out of their bag of tricks and managed to pry away Colleen Taylor from GigaOm. Ms. Taylor, an aptly described “rising star” in the tech journalist world will be the new dedicated TechCrunch TV reporter. In his post, TechCrunch editor Erick Schonfeld mentions that they’ve been looking for a long time for someone to take over the anchor role (I remember when they used to have someone there, but seems to have fallen through). With Ms. Taylor at the helm of TC TV, I’m sure that we’re going to get some great and hard-hitting interviews with the movers and shakers, entrepreneurs, and the news makers.

Lastly, one other move (albeit not recent) was related to TechCrunch. I wrote about this briefly in a post from the first-ever PandoMonthly event, but Greg Kumparak, a TC writer who covered mobile and gadgets, has left the tech pub to move to PandoDaily and work with editor and founder, Sarah Lacy. Mr. Kumparak will be in charge of the news around the incubators and accelerators and cover startups demo’ing their wares at Demo Days.

We wish everyone much success and congratulations on their move!

Photo Credit: Red rover, red rover by honeybunched/Flickr