Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blog has moved

I have moved my blog to my own domain using Wordpress.

Please come to

I'm posting articles and content regularly there.

Come join the conversation at


George Tran
Author of "The Social Marketing Manifesto"
Success Strategies for Small Businesses using Social Media

Monday, April 6, 2009

How is Twitter Making Money?

I've always wondered how Twitter is going to monetize. Twitter is now being used everywhere by a lot of people from Restaurant owners, to celebrities to politicians. Some people; like Obama have many thousands of followers...many of whom use SMS(text messaging) to receive their Tweets. As a technologist, I know sending SMS messages costs anywhere from .5 to 2 cents per SMS. When you add this up among the millions of messages sent...this adds up to an astronomical number. Not to mention the bandwidth, infrastructure and employee costs of running the service - all with no apparent revenue model.

One guess is they will be using their website to draw advertising and possibly piggy back on the tweets...but, the 140 character limit really makes marketing very hard to fit with the tweet.

Well, today I found the answer: They are selling a co-branded device with Motorolla called the "Wingman." It comes with a subscription service for 2 years at beween $29 to $39/m. The Wingman is pretty cool. It has real time connections with other tweets so you can see where other people talking about the topic you're interested, and where they are tweeting from (if they are tweeting from the Wingman).

My concern is, why would I want to carry yet ANOTHER device when I have an iphone with cool iphone apps? Why wouldn't someone just build a cool iPhone app to stream Tweets that link into the Twitter API? I use Twitterific on my iTouch to read my Tweets when I am not at my computer.

You can read more about the Wingman by going to Wired:


George Tran
Author of "The Social Marketing Manifesto"
Success Strategies for Small Businesses using Social Media

Monday, March 30, 2009

Could this be the "Next Big Thing" in internet marketing?

The discovery of the "Squeeze page" with a opt-in revolutionized marketing online. This important concept created companies like aWeber and 1Shop as this allows marketers to build a mailing list.

Here are key components of the Squeeze page.

- the intro/sales letter
- the bribe
- the sequential autoresponder and/or mailing list for mailing out offers.

Typically, the bribe comes in the form of an ebook/report.

The problem with this is:

1) eBooks are often not read.
2) eBooks can be forwarded to friends (thus bypassing the opt-in)
3) People give bogus email addresses.

Don't get me wrong. The opt-in concept works and is very powerful. But, what do you think of the idea of instead of sending your users an email with the e-book, sending them to a HIGH QUALITY/VALUE 7 to 14 day e-course instead that is linked with your community website via your squeeze page?

Doing so would get you some interesting consequences:

1) the e-course can not be sent to friends.

2) the viewer will naturally want to tell their friends about it and have them share the experience/learning...which makes for a NATURAL viral engine. You don't even have to pay them for the referral.

3) You are training your users to come to your community site daily for the next 2 weeks. If they see a high degree of activity and value - they will naturally want to be more involved in the community.

4) Regardless whether the client provided a good or bad email address....they will still consume your content and come to value your community...and may eventually join as a paid member.

The key to making this work then is building a HIGH quality 7 day e-course for your free opt-ins. One worth talking about. One worth sharing. At the end of each module, you will say, "If this has helped you, then share it with your friends. Click on the link below to invite your friends so they can experience this e-course also."

If you perfect this system, I believe you should get an unbelievable explosion in client referrals naturally..without needing to pay them an affiliate commission.

Essentially, like Michelle MacPhearson's where she offers an incredible value ebook that is worth passing around, this concept also builds your list and member opt-ins. Social Media Marketing with Michelle MacPhearson.

The second part to make this all work is the e-course opt-in technology tied to a community website. I am working on this to be included on our platform to make the whole process integrated.

What do you think of the concept? I dub it "viral opt-in ecourse".

If you like this article, please re-tweet it:

"Could this be the next big thing in internet marketing by the guy who created 1Shoppingcart?"


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Twitter Best Practices

Twitter has gotten a lot of press lately. A lot of people are new to Twitter and are somewhat confused about how to use Twitter.

I've been on Twitter for quite some time and I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on Do's and Don'ts of Twitter.

Twitter Do Nots

* Don't use it as a vehicle to spam your followers. This is not like a mailing list. People want to know more about you, and what you do throughout your, news, ideas you want to share. I've followed (and subsequently unfollowed) a number of internet marketers and found their practice not to my liking. Most of their tweets are: "I'm selling my stuff for 50% today only." "Buy more of my stuff here". "Buy more of Bob's stuff (I am making a commission from this link)".

This is the quickest way to turn people off. It really shows your followers (and would be followers) your true colors. These people are not about growing their social capital (and good will) but are in it for a quick buck.

* Don't over tweet. While some people are too shy to tweet, some go overboard. Sending 10+ tweets a day tend to wear your followers out. Keep to the relevance of your topic. It's one thing is you are using it to keep in touch with your friends and family, it's another as a marketing/corporate communication tool.

If you have relevant and helpful things to tweet about, by all means.

All I am saying is...respect your follower's time. Take a few minutes to ask yourself "is there value in this tweet for my followers?"

* Don't Spam Follow. There's a growing practice of people Following others with the hope of getting a reciprocal follow. It's not a collectible card game people. The people who do this thinks that having a few thousand people following them means big bucks in their bank account....I don't believe that this is a wise strategy. I would rather real people follow me rather than an artificial crowd of "bots". It's just me.

* Keep your Follow list small. I actually read and care about the people I follow. When I see someone following 3000 people...I know they are not serious about the people they are following. How can you? If it takes you 1 second to read one tweet...and if everyone on average tweets once per day, that's 3000 seconds PER DAY or 500 minutes (over 8 hours) to read. This seems like you're not real or genuine.

Twittering Done The Right Way
Now let's talk about how to use Twitter the Right way; especially to grow your business and make money.

* Share real content and value with your followers. For example, "I've found this really cool widget that saved me a lot of time.." By sharing this sort of information, your followers will come to appreciate and respect your tweets.

* Keep it balanced. Balance your tweets between heavy information with light tweets...for example, "I'm heading out to lunch with Paul. Paul's a great guy who specializes in...."

* Give people credit. Sing other people's praise. If someone does something cool, tweet about it. They will appreciate it, and may in turn follow you.

* Comment often on other people's posts. People like to know their tweets are being heard. It's amazing how much engagement you can ignite by just commenting on someone's tweet. Try it.

* Produce content. Write blogs. Submit your stuff to e-zines. Post on newsgroups, Ning, Facebook groups, etc. Put a twitter signature so people can follow you. In fact, it might be better to just put a twitter link than your website. Add it to your email signature

* Ask questions. Enage your followers. If you are at a supermarket and can't decide between product A vs Product B...tweet about it. "I am looking for...what do you think ?" "I can't decide...which do you think?"

* The world's a stage. Try to make your tweets funny or interesting...Again, give your followers value.

* Have a detailed Bio. Give concise and relevant information about who you are in your bio. Specifically what industry you belong to. What your interests are. Answer this question: "why should I follow you?"

* Post once in a while. Put a reminder on your calendar to post once a week. It really only takes less than 2 minutes when you make a habit of doing it. If you are a beginner...just post something mundane. Like "I am heading out to the supermarket" It's OK.

* Be sure to link to Facebook and Linkedin. Most people are on Facebook and Linkedin these days. Be sure to use the Apps within Facebook and Linkedin to connect your tweets so that tweets from Twitter automatically updates to your Facebook account so your friends on Facebook can see it too.

* Ask people to re-tweet your posts. If you write a newsletter or a blog and you think the content is worth spreading, then pre-make a Tweet for your readers and ask them to "re-tweet" your post to their subscribers. Check out the bottom of this article if you don't know what "re-tweeting" means. (Thanks to Michael Rubin.

Summary: Twitter Best Practices

It's pretty simple really, follow Jesus' Golden Rule: Do onto other's what you want others to do onto yourself.

Imagine chatting with a group of friends or business associates. Ask yourself, "would my comments be appropriate in this group?" If so, tweet it. For example, "Wow, I saw Iron Man, it was a great movie." would be appreciated.

Another suggestion you might want to try is to follow some people who I consider have high social equity on Twitter. Follow these people:

Mari Smith: (I love her tweets!)
Robert Grant:
Kirt Christensen:
John Reese:

Do what successful people do. Copy these people's best practice.

Finally, don't force yourself to tweet. Do what comes natural. I sometimes go for days without tweeting. Some times, I tweet 3-5 times a day. It's all good.

Do you have any other ideas or suggestions? Please add to this post.

You can follow me on Twitter at:

Please help me spread this post.
Please "Pay it Forward". If you find this useful, please re-tweet this in your twitter blog:

"Great article about Twitter Best Practices:"

Friday, February 20, 2009

Economic Stimulus for small business

This is slightly off topic, but somewhat relevant.

I am concerned about our economy in the coming years, and the direction it's heading. One way I feel Obama can help turn this around is instead of "handouts" or tax breaks which does very little but (in my opinion) gets us more of the same thing that got us into trouble in the first place....spending without real production increase. We need to focus on value creation...not wealth creation.

Instead of handouts, why not inject 10 to 100 billion of zero interest LOANS to the banking system that is specifically set aside for lending for small business and start ups. These are loans TO the banks...this means, the bank has to be left holding the bag if they underwrite bad loans. The money is then lent out to small businesses at a low 1 to 3%. Should the business fail...the money is still owed by the person taking out the everyone has a risk and stake in the game. No "free money".

The reason I suggest giving the money to the banking system instead of having the "SBA" handle the loans is because in my opinion, private institutions are a lot more efficient and better at handling this than bureaucracies government institutions are known for. Banks have existing infrastructures for loan underwriting and servicing, and the 1-3% mark up is their profit and payment for underwriting the loans. It is still (in my opinion) a lot cheaper than rebuilding the infrastructure for the SBA to support this program. The banks are also the ones at risk as they still owe the government the money if the loans go bad.

Small business is what America was founded on. The land of opportunity. Anyone with the will, fortitude and persistence can start their own company and have as much a chance as anyone. Small business is where there are huge opportunity for job creation and value creation. We should go back to actually making things and selling them (as oppose to mostly being consumers of things as we currently are).

With money made available to small business and start ups, these new companies will be hiring people, invest in computers, buying capital assets and other things that will genuinely stimulate the economy.

Some people may argue "but 95% of small businesses fail within their first 5 years?" That's because the people quoting this are not looking at the statistics with deep introspection. While it is true that many small businesses fail, many people have half baked business plans, lack of capital, and sometimes register companies and not follow through.

As part of this "small business stimulus" package, we should also boost up small business education programs and business reviews. These are often provided by local Chambers of Commerce. In Oregon, we have SCORE - a great resource for anyone wanting to get help starting their own company. These types of organizations can dramatically increase the chance of success for many would be entrepreneurs.

Look, even in the WORST case scenario...even if these ventures is no worse than the government giving free handouts to average citizens (as it currently propose to do anyway)....but at least to people who are doing the best they can to further themselves and our country by starting their own company.

I don't have all the answers and possible angles of this idea...but it's just an idea that seems to make a whole lot more sense than what's currently proposed.

Would love to hear your input.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Book is done!

Well, after a long absence, I am back.

The long awaited book; "The Social Marketing Manifesto" is finally done. I will be sending out a broadcast to my list at Everyone on my list will receive an UNLIMITED REPRINT/RESALE rights copy of my book.

Please give me your feedback, opinions, and testimonials as a comment on this blog. It would be greatly appreciated and I will incorporate your feedback into improving the book.

Thank you.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

10 Things to Look for in a Social Membership website Solution

Most social network solutions are advertising based revenue. While this works for companies like Facebook and MySpace, a more realistic revenue model would be to use a hybrid social network but with membership fees instead.

If you are looking for a membership solution, here are 10 things to look out for. Of course, these are just my opinions and I'm sure there are other features I haven't thought of. Ideally, your solution should have some, and preferably all of these.

1) Easy Installation and Management - Yet flexible and powerful
The solution should be easy to install and setup. Most open source solutions are relatively easy, although you will likely require a “geek” to install in on your own server.

The assumption here is that you have your own server. If not, it is fairly inexpensive to rent a server. Virtual servers can go for as low as $59 per month. Do a search on “web collocation” to find a good host provider. I’ve used, and they are a pretty good outfit.

Make sure that once installed, the software is easy to configure and customize. In other words, you can change your logo, set up new membership packages on your own without needing a geek to do it for you.

Hosted solutions in general are easier to install and all you need to do is to customize it.

2) Easy and Convenient User Experience
Some solutions are prettier on the eyes than others. Also, your solution ideally should make the users feel comfortable and be intuitive. Users should not feel lost, or overwhelmed with too many things on the screen.

In some instances, it is better to have "too little" items present than too much as people can get easily confused and intimidated. If users feel frustrated or confused, they will be more likely to leave your membership site.

You should look for a solution that has an intuitive user experience.

3) Social Media
As of 2008, videos are becoming common place. Your solution should be able to support streaming videos. Videos are useful for teaching concepts and ideas, or just talking to people. You could record a tutorial video teaching people on the perfect golf swing and make these available for "members only".

Simularly, your users will want to upload their own videos too. Your system should ideally support this also.

Of course, videos come at a heavy price. You will need to properly plan for server space to support this. Videos need to be re-encoded to support streaming format...and encoding takes tremendous server resources. Not to mention the disk space required to store all these as well as the bandwidth to support it. For a smaller membership site, a single server could serve this purpose, but for larger networks, you will likely need to build a cluster to handle load balancing.

Having a hosted solution will negate the need to worry about these concerns. The trick is to find the right solution that support this.

4) Customizable
Make sure the solution you selected can be customized to support your business needs.
There are two axis of customization you need to investigate: Image and functional.

With an image customization axis, you have a degree of control on the layout, the colors, the images you can customize to fit your image brand and site’s appeal.

With a functional customization axis, you have control over the feature set of your solution. For example, if the solution does not support a shopping cart, and if it is important for your business, that you can have that function programmed in. Most Open Source solutions support this, although some off the shelf software does not.

While both axis of customization are important, you will need to prioritize what is more important for your business model. Of course, the ideal solution will have high customization in both but you will more likely have to pay for it in the price tag.

5) Integrates a detailed Member Profile and Search function
Make sure your solution supports the Web 2.0 paradigm and the ideals of a social network. People expect these features in their solutions. It strengthens the building of bonds and community. Most membership solutions are based on the old "BBS" forum structure (for those who are not familiar, BBS stands for a Bulletin Board System as popularized in the 80's and 90's).

Having a detained member profile allows members to put in a detailed write up about who they are, what they want, what they are looking for and a way for others to connect with them….much like Facebook. Unfortunately with many existing membership software solutions, they fall short on this area as their focus is in the membership access control, and not on the user experience.

Ideally, members can locate each other based on interest, location, industry, and profession…to mention a few criteria.

6) Integrated e-Commerce
Perhaps you sell books, CDs or DVDs. Why not have these available on your membership site for your members to purchase. Better yet, why not have the ability to offer "members only" prices that are substantially cheaper than "retail"? This gives people an incentive to become a paying member.

It is even more important to have this function integrated if your system supports an integrated affiliate tracking system. This way, when a member buys something, the referring member gets paid a commission.

7) Event Calendar and Registration
This feature is important for someone operating an information marketing/seminar company, event promotions such as concerts or conferences. Having an integrated system for your members to buy tickets right from your social membership site, and track commission is a powerful way to market your events.

Having an integrated event calendar means you don’t have to wait for your web master to update your event calendar all the time.

8) Integrates an affiliate tracking and payout system
Having an integrated affiliate tracking system is a powerful and effective way to grow your social network as it gives your users a financial incentive to refer their friends and associates to your network.

Imagine saying to your members, "refer your friends to join our network. Should they decide to buy a product from us, come to one of our events or upgrade to premium membership, we will pay you a commission."

Unfortunately, very few membership systems have this feature.

9) Classifieds/Reverse Classifieds
Ideally, your solution offers a classifieds system for your members to post ads. This gives your members…particularly your paid premium members an incentive to stick with your network….and gives your free members an incentive to be premium members so they can post ads and gain clients from your network.

Some systems support a Reverse Classifieds system where members can post “I am looking for” ads. Why is this cool? Imagine if you can have a place for your members to post ads such as “I am looking for an investor”, “I need tickets to next week’s Madonna Concert”, “I need to find a mentor in Marketing”.

10) Free and Paid Member hybrid
Most systems fall into one category or the other;

if it is a free network, it is called a social network - like Facebok and Ning.

if it is paid, it is called a membership network.

An ideal solution is one that supports both a free member and a paid member. This way, your network can grow by attracting free members and then upgrade these to become paid members. Ideally, your solution should also support multiple membership package definitions such that each package has its own access rules ie. "who has access to what".

Other Considerations

In addition to these features, you should also keep in mind the following important infrastructure considerations.

Scalable Secure Server Maintenance and Backup
If done right, your network will grow. Be careful that your server can handle your growth from 10 people to 10,000 people…or more. Make sure your hardware has a RAID drive array so it can still be operational should you experience a drive failure. Without this, even if you have a backup…restoring from a down drive can take you offline for days...and this could destroy your business.

You will also need to install a firewall. Most solutions will require you to store your client’s credit card numbers on your own system (so you can charge them month after month). This also means your system will be a target for hackers. You will need to hacker proof your system to ensure maximum security. It is advisable to hire someone familiar with internet security to audit your site.

Of course, backups are crucial. Your solution should have a backup solution that is NOT backed up to the same drive as your main machine. This is because should you experience a drive failure, having the backup on the same drive will be disastrous.

On of the benefits of using a hosted solution such as Ning is that you don’t have to worry about this. Frankly it’s a pain in the behind to deal with this and it is not a productive use of your time and energy.

Ongoing Maintenance and Development
This is the most important part of the puzzle and often the most neglected. Companies treat their software as one off projects. This is not true. When deploying a solution, be sure to have a budget for maintenance and bug fixes. Not all software is 100% bug free, if you use Open Source…you may run into bugs and need to hire people to fix it.

Also, keep in mind that your needs (as well as the needs of your customers and the environment) often change. Companies often hire a team to deploy a solution and let the team go, then 6 months later; realize they need some other feature. It is difficult to track down the same team as they may have moved onto other projects.

This is one argument in favor of hosted solutions as they will always be there to handle your needs as they change.

If you are looking for an affordable, yet powerful social membership platform, you might want to check out our solution at It has most of the features described here and you can get started with as little as $2.