As you might expect, we do daily searches across the web for the term ‘Social Commerce’. Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of results like this…

The company is Solavei.

First impression was that this was some sort of scam. Just the way the comments were posted, the fact that so many seemingly non-connected people were making the same posts, etc.  Indeed, do a search for ‘Solavei Scam’ and you’ll get quite a few results. Interestingly enough, some of those hits are infact people trying to get you to join Solavei! Smart, huh? They’ve cottoned on to the reality that many will see this as a scam and so will look to confirm or deny their suspicions. What better way to make a pitch!?!

The idea of Solavei is simple enough. Sign up to an unlimited mobile phone plan for $49 per month. Then, for every three people you get to sign up, you get earn $20. So, sign up 9 users and you’ve paid for phone bill for one month – & still have enough left over for a Frappucino!

Sounds like Amway, right? Well, ok, not Amway specifically but one of those pyramid selling schemes where the entire business model assumes that each user signs up many more and when they do so, they earn money in return. Sometimes, LOTS of money! Multi-level marketing is the proper name for it,  if we want to be politically correct.

And that’s pretty much exactly what it is.

BUT…isn’t it also a good example of Social Commerce?


We’re still not really sure how we feel about it. After all, our mission is to create genuine and sincere word of mouth across the social networks. Somehow this seems less than sincere. Then again, to be fair, anybody who’s inviting you to join the service is already a member themselves. So, you use it, you like, you invite me to share in this great service. What’s wrong with that? Sure, you’re getting paid for referring me (& then I can also get paid to refer others) but does the fact that everyone’s getting paid for a referral make it any less genuine? Maybe. Maybe not.

This is certainly not the first time that a company has paid a bounty for a new customer. Ever heard of affiliate marketing?

Maybe it’s just a fine line between Social Commerce and a Pyramid Scheme.

According to John Cook at Geek Wire, Solavei recently closed a $3.6 million round of funding, bringing the total raised to $7 million. That’s pretty serious! They also seem to have some serious people running the company, including a former US Congressman (should that make us feel safer or more wary?!?).

But that’s another weird thing about the team at Solavei – their key strengths seem to be that they were once somebodies. Of course, we all know that your previous work experience largely defines your value to the new company, but somehow it just seems odd to us that they’ve highlighted everybody’s former glory. Again, in the interest of fairness, we don’t know any of these folks by name or reputation so we’re certainly not suggesting they are anything but supremely qualified & skilled individuals. We’re just saying it sounds a bit odd.

So, take a blatantly obvious (& unapologetic) multi-level marketing business model, lead by a group of former somebodies, add the power of the social networks and what do you have?

You have something that sounds like a scam but infact may just be one of the smartest businesses around.  For us, the jury is still out.

If the product ROCKS! then we don’t really see anything wrong with the business model. If the product and service turns out to be a DOG, then I guess we’ll sit back and say, ‘It always sounded like a scam!’.


MDGadvertising recently created this interesting little infographic around the ROI of Social Media marketing, based on data from a number of different sources.

A few things that really interest us on this topic.

First of all, have you noticed how we are far more laser-focussed on the ROI in Social Media than we’ve ever really been with so many other forms of traditional advertising, like billboards, TV, radio, etc.

I recently read a ROI analysis of a billboard campaign for a specific model of car, where they declared that around 4% of new cars sold during this campaign were a direct result of the billboards. How do they know? Well, they asked the new car buyers. Any problem with that? Only one. Chances are there were other factors that impacted on their decision to buy – word of mouth from a friend, seeing an ad in newspaper, reading a review in an auto magazine, etc. Sure, the buyer still believes it was the billboard that closed the sale but in reality it probably only helped influence and reinforce the buying decision.

Truth is, many of these traditional forms of advertising are really geared more to brand/product awareness rather than directly creating a call to action – ie: a sale.

This infographic seems to suggest that maybe, at least amongst the Chief Marketing Officers surveyed, we’re now realising that social media ROI should consider much more than the pure sales it generates. 96% of CMOs said they are starting to look beyond pure sales & web metrics when assessing the value of social media marketing.

The second key observation for us is the statistic that says only 11% of businesses surveyed have been using social media marketing for 3 years or more. This a pretty new thing. Probably fair to say that if 90% of business has been using social media marketing for less than 3 years, many are still only dabbling, trying to find the best ways to use the tools.

That leads right into our third and final observation, for which there really is no statistic given here. Execution! How well are businesses executing their social media marketing strategy? If a campaign fails, is it because the tools are simply no good OR is it because they’re not using the tools the right way?

A spoon is generally considered a pretty useful tool for eating soup from a bowl – but not if you use the wrong end!?!

FYI – you may think this is just a silly analogy but a mate of ours actually went through exactly this situation when opening a hotel 2 years ago in a very remote location and having to train the F&B staff.

Of course you need to measure and analyse all you possibly can about your social media marketing campaigns – but just be realistic about your expectations, especially if you’ve only been using it for a short time. Don’t expect immediate success. Do expect to have to play around a bit before you start getting it right. Don’t blame the tools – but don’t blame the tradesman either. Give them both a chance to find the best way to work together.

Just to complete the food utensil analogy… now try taking that spoon from a 2 year old and giving her a pair of chopsticks to eat her dinner. Sounds pretty messy, right? Let her practise for a few years and she’ll probably do just fine.

There you go. It’s all about Spoons & Chopsticks!?!

Well, actually, the title of the book is Social Media Commerce for Dummies, but you know what they mean, right?

Marsha Collier made her name on eBay. She was a super successful seller and then went on to show others how to do it and has quickly become a real authority in the world of social media. She’s already published 40 books, most around the topic of eBay and business online. This is her latest.

When we tweeted a few days back Marsha told me it’s set for release on November 27, through Amazon.

Marsha’s another one of those handy people to follower on Twitter as she’s always digging up useful snippets in and around social commerce – @MarshaCollier

To Like or to Look? That is the question.

If Billy Shakespeare was around today, can you imagine how much he would have to say about this whole Facebook phenomenon – indeed, the entire social network ecosystem? We reckon he’d probably start with a jab at the now ubiquitous ‘Like’.

(Actually, if you read on in that quote, you’ll find a few more Facebook-esq analogies – ‘slings and arrows’, ‘outrageous fortunes’, ‘great pitch and moment’. Go on, get some culture into ya – Hamlet

Well, there’s an interesting article in the Search Engine Journal by Jake Filan from Kairay Media discussing the issue of Like Fraud (my words, not his).

Here’s the article – Facebook Ads: What Are You Really Paying For?

The key to success in Social Commerce is how effectively you can leverage your social networks. If your social network isn’t made up of genuine people and businesses, there’s not much to leverage.

Let’s be really clear on one thing – ‘Like’ is a Vanity Metric.

It might make you feel good to see how many people (or at least you think they’re people!?!) ‘Like’ your page, but what does it really mean?

It should really be called ‘Look’ – coz that’s what it is.

A ‘Like’ just means that someone has taken the time to ‘Look’ at your page. It’s only when you understand the reasons they came to look that you can really start classifying that Look as a Like.

Could it be that these people really only ‘Like’ you because they had the chance to win an iPod is they just clicked ‘Like’?

Is it just me, or is there something ironic about the guy who seemed to rebel against the very idea of the cool and popular kids and clubs (it must be true, I saw it in the movie!?!) building a feature into Facebook that infact encourages exactly that behaviour?

As with just about everything else in life, it’s not the quantity but the quality that really matters.

Getting Social! Keeping it Real!


PS: Thanks to Mari Smith for Tweeting the SFJ article. Follow @MariSmith to get lots more useful snippets.

Ok, so this post is not strictly speaking about Social Commerce BUT within a few minutes of playing with this FREE tool from Hubspot we couldn’t wait to tell the world about it.

(Hint! Hint! Please share this post with anyone you know who has a website!!)

Introducing…. Hubspot’s Marketing Grader

What does it do? Shows you how well you’re doing in 3 critical areas of your marketing funnel – the ToFu, the MoFu (not nearly as rude as you may think!?!) and the Analytics.

All you need to do is enter the url of your site and within just a few seconds, Hubspot analyses your site and gives you a report on what you’re doing right and most importantly, what you could be doing better.

It even goes as far as checking your Facebook, Twitter and Blog sites too.

Click here to take a look at our report –  SocialShout! Market Grader

Here’s a screen grab from our ToFu (Top of the Funnel) section…

See how they’ve given us a few ticks for our Blog but then they’ve highlighted how we’re not getting any follow up action on Twitter. Best of all, they offer some advice on how to fix it – in the form or a free eBook (and of course a short video teaser about how their paid service can help you!)


Seriously, we just think this is a great tool.

They also have a Tweet Grader and a Search Grader which are both free too!

Over the last year or so, we’ve downloaded plenty of their eBooks on various topics and generally found them packed with great information.

Now, we should tell you, these guys aren’t cheap. The basic plan starts at $200 per month. OUCH! (that’s the startup in us talking!). BUT…if you have a real business, $2,400 a year is nothing – especially when you look at some of their ROI Case Studies .

Do yourself a favour – go try Hubspot’s Marketing Grader now.

Do your friends a favour – share this post with them.

Do US a favour – come back again and read our next post!


PS: This is NOT a magical panacea to cure all your marketing ills! Of course, like all such instant tools, it has it’s limitations. BUT…if you’re new to concept of the marketing funnel, this is probably a pretty good place to start.

Statistics – The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures. ( Evan Esar)


Sorry. Just felt I had to start with that because as I was doing some research on this topic it really hit home how much the exact same statistics, when used in a different context, can be used to draw very different conclusions.

Anywhoooo, getting back to the point…

With more and more people using smart phones, these devices will be the key to success (or otherwise) in Social Commerce.

Feel free to disagree if you like, but I really can’t see it any other way.

This will be especially true here in Malaysia where eCommerce has still not really taken off but where almost 9 out of 10 mobile phones are smart (according to Gerard Tan at GFK Asia)

Now, to be fair, the ADMA Digital Yearbook 2011 reported Malaysia’s 25 million internet users spent over USD$29 billion online in 2010, so it seems a bit silly to say eCommerce is floundering. Nevertheless, if you look a bit further, this is mainly airline tickets (thanks to AirAsia) and hotel bookings. Want to buy anything else online in this part of the world, you’ll probably end up on Amazon and hope they’ll ship that particular item to you.

Trust me, we’ve been searching high and low to find strong eCommerce businesses in Malaysia to work with and I can assure you, it’s a pretty short list.

Malaysia isn’t exactly kicking ass when it comes to eCommerce.

BUT…where Malaysia DOES rise to the occasion is on smart phone penetration (as highlighted above) and the use of social networks, which some estimates put as high as 91% of the country’s internet users.

Hardly surprising then to see the numbers quoted by Elias Ghanem, PayPal’s Managing Director for South-East Asia & India last week in the Malay Mail. Here’s some key ones..

– Mobile Commerce to reach USD$1.1 Billion by 2015

– Mobile Commerce in 2011 was just shy of USD$150 Million (400% + increase on 2010)

– Mobile Shoppers median spend in 2011 was just over USD$150 (30% increase on 20100

Mobile’s Here. Social’s Here. Social Commerce? On the way!

Don’t believe me? Just look at the statistics!  😉

Remember the guy who was credited as finding the code for a ‘Want’ button at Facebook?

His name is Tom Waddington and he’s the Code Monkey (their words, not mine!) for a site called Cut Out + Keep – an online community for crafty and creative people to make and share step-by-step tutorials.

Well, he’s now reached out to Samantha Murphy over at Mashable to highlight that Facebook’s code actually uses the term ‘social commerce’. The suggestion being that this is a sign Facebook is talking it all very seriously.

image from Mashable

Great news for us (coz SocialShout! is all about social commerce) and good news for any of you reading this because you probably have an interest in the space too.

Still, it should hardly be surprising. After all, with the added pressure to drive revenues, especially since the IPO, bringing better commerce functions to the world’s leading social platform is pretty much a no brainer.

And it’s not like they were trying to keep it a secret. Not so long ago The Zuck came out and said…“If I had to guess, social commerce is the next area to really blow up”.

So it’s fair to say, social commerce is coming. The exciting news is that this space is still wide open for someone to become the market leader. Our belief is that the leader in social commerce can not really be one of the social networks – at least not so long as there are multiple social platforms on which people play (and there ALWAYS will be!!).

Right, then we’d better stop messing around here and get back to building then!


I’ve just been reading a report by Yellow Pages Australia on Social Media.

First point, THANK YOU for calling it a ‘report’! Seems like the good old ‘report’ has been superseded by the ‘White Paper’ these days.

Second point, is it just me or is there something slightly odd about Yellow Pages doing a White Paper?

Anyway, moving on, it’s a pretty detailed discussion on ‘What Australian people and businesses are doing with social media’. What’s most interesting to me is Yellow Pages is really part of the traditional marketing world. By publishing a report like this they are clearly making it known that they intend to be a player in the social media world too. Hats off to them for not just sitting back and waiting to become completely irrelevant!

One of key stats from this report for me is that although 62% of online Aussies use social networks, only 27% of small biz and 34% of medium biz have a social media presence. Their report also revealed that 79% of big biz has a social media presence.

So for me, 3 key comments/discussions/questions come out of this…

1. You need to go where the eyeballs are!

The first time I heard this phrase was from a guy called Gary Vaynerchuck who at the time was responding to a self-asked question about why businesses should care about social media. No need to really explain any further, right? It’s pretty self-explanatory. If people are spending time there, your business needs to be there too. It’s the same rationale that’s driven the ad business for ever. What’s different now is that we’ve realised traditional advertising may well be seen by lots of eyeballs, but it doesn’t really create any meaningful engagement. Social Networks give us the chance to have real conversations with our customers, not just throw a message at them like we used to.

2. Are people really looking to deal with business on the social networks?

This report says only 20% use social networks for commercial purposes. BUT the lines between our work time and social time are increasingly blurring. Take my Blackberry. In addition to my main work email account, it also hosts my personal email accounts. So, when that little red light starts flashing to tell me there’s a new message on Sunday afternoon while I sit on the sofa watching football, I reach for it. And what do you think I do if I see it’s a work email? I open it of course!! Now, I may not action it or even read it fully, but I sure as hell do open it! The same happens on Facebook or Twitter. Even if I’m there for personal time, if I see something relevant to my work life, you can be sure I’ll engage with it.

And don’t forget, consumers are more and more turning to their social networks for information and advice on what products & services to buy and use. They call it ‘social search’ and it’s a key factor in the high valuation investors have put on Facebook. The power of recommendation from a friend. Word of Mouth. Dare I say it…Social Commerce!!

3. How effective is this ‘presence’ they speak of?

Of the 1,951 businesses they interviewed for this survey, I’d love to know how many of them actually have a real, resonating presence on the social networks. Having a Facebook page may well qualify your business as being ‘on social media’, but it hardly makes for an engaged presence that can be key driver for your business.

What’s really exciting about this whole space of business and social networks is that it’s still all very new. There are no experts. There are no proven best practices that will guarantee you success. We’re all learning as we go. The important thing is that you at least get in the game.

Here’s a link to that report –

Even if you’re not interested in the Australian business/social media landscape, there’s lots of interesting stuff to get you thinking.

A final stat…

‘Males were twice as likely to report accessing social media in the toilet (6% for males, 3% for females’.



Sounds like it could be a title for a remake of a Three Stooges movie.

Social. Local. Mobile. That’s what it really stands for. It’s what all the experts – yes, the ever-present ‘they’ – say is the most important consideration for any business that wants to survive in the 2.0 world and beyond.

Obviously, we’re placing some big bets on SOCIAL (I guess our name might give it away, right?).

But here’s the thing with Social…there’s a lot of noise in here. We’re always hearing about how hard it is to break through the noise and clutter of the social network landscape. It’s why there are so many social media curation tools and services available. People need a way to find stuff that’s relevant and interesting to them. They don’t want to deal with all the clutter.

Social Commerce is HARD!

That’s where the Lo and the Mo come in.

Let’s take LOCAL first. By being local, there’s more chance that it will be relevant to you. Knowing that there’s a great Sale on at The Gap is good to know – but not if it’s only at The Gap on the East Coast and you’re on the West Coast. BUT, to find out about a shop in your local neighbourhood that is offering a discount or a special deal or even just something that’s really good value – that just may be relevant to you.

Now, for the real kicker – the Mo. MOBILE. It goes with you. (once again, the name kinda gives it away!?!) Wallet, Phone, Keys. That’s the mental checklist we all go through every time we leave the house, right? It won’t be long before that list is reduced to one…MOBILE. Your mobile device will be your Wallet and your Keys too. But that’s a little way in the future (though really, not too far away!). Still, even today, our mobile devices are with us pretty much all the time. Certainly, they’re with us when we shop.

So, when we talk about social commerce we really need to consider mobile too.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, Global Mobile Phone Penetration now sits at 87%. Mobile subscriptions have grown by over 500,000 each year for the past 3 years. In many countries, the penetration rate is well over 100% – USA (104%) ; Russia (153%) ; UK (123%). That means in all these countries everyone has more than one mobile phone.

Crazy, huh? It gets better…

In the United Arab Emirates, mobile penetration stands at 233%! That’s over 2.3 phones per person!

Now try telling me the future is not MOBILE!

After years of saying, ‘I really should…’, I finally bit the bullet last week and bought a pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones while in Hong Kong.

BTW – if you spend a lot of time on planes, I can really recommend them!

But what was really interesting was how they were trying to generate word of mouth for their product. Interesting because they’re trying both social and more traditional word of mouth.

The red card was inserted into the document folder type thing they give you with your receipt, warranty, etc inside. As you can see, they’re inviting me to go and Like their Facebook page for the chance to win – something.

Personally, I don’t think this is super effective. The official Bose fan page on Facebook has no mention this competition. When I type in Bose Hong Kong in Facebook search, I get nothing. So I have to assume I should be on the main Bose page, but it’s hard to be certain. Guys, really, throw me a bone!

Now the offline word of mouth tool is brilliant! Not sure how many French customers they really get in Hong Kong, but anyway, what it  says is, ‘Our customers are often asked about their Bose headphones by others. So, here’s a few cards you can hand out when asked.’

Great idea, huh?

If someone makes a comment about my headphones now, you can be sure I’ll whip out my special Bose card for them. Having the cards not only puts the idea in my head but also kinda makes me feel a bit important because I have something so special that it’s worthy of such a card.

They’ve even been smart enough to put the cards in a special pouch that stays inside your case. Again, two benefits – they’re always on hand AND always front of mind, every time I open the case.

So, kudos Bose on the offline strategy. Still some work to do on the social strategy, but thanks for trying.




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