Four Ways to Benefit with Social Commerce

By Richard Bashara,
Community Moderator at SoftCity

We’ve all made big-ticket purchases before. It’s pretty difficult to just get up one morning and do.  It takes lots of phone calls and price comparisons before you can pinpoint what you want and can afford.  After a few back and forth conversations, the consumer usually has some good information on where to go for reviews, where the lowest prices are and who might have the best service and warranties.

That’s Social Commerce.

Today, we look at how simple interaction leads to a more secure and manageable environment to make purchases and engage customers via tools available on social commerce sites.

App Stores Remove Sales Roadblocks

Social Commerce websites should provide the tools you need to sell your software, or they aren’t doing it right.

There should be a secure payment processor and an automated system for downloads.  There should also be a way to monitor when and how sales are made.

For example, some sites encourage developers to utilize a dashboard for tracking statistics related to the actual activity a certain thread of comments receives.  Don’t speculate on traffic and try to force users into doing something, judge activity based on hard evidence and work on increasing the interactions that lead to sales conversions.

Suggestion Selling

Looking at Google and Facebook it is obvious that commerce is shifting to the predictive search, one that is done before the user realizes they wanted something.

You know another term for that?

It’s called suggestion selling and it has worked in the retail sector for years.  The more involved you are with the customer, the better your position to sell them something they did not know they wanted.  Google Instant attempts to do this as you type, but doesn’t personalize the experience the way Social Commerce can.

User Feedback

You’ll often hear the mantra “ask them what they want and give it to them.”  Is it really that easy?  That depends on the tools at your disposal.

For example, SoftCity lets a developer use a series of polls to determine what the market wants.  Even this type of passive interaction helps grant more control over the development cycle by providing data instead of guesswork.

Time gets spent listening and releasing software rather than perfecting.  The key point to take away from this is to not fear the openness of a social network.  As for your image, address those concerns publicly and brand yourself as someone who listens and cares.

You also shouldn’t have to deal with complex stats, simplify your reporting through the data available on a social commerce website that will have a targeted user community to engage:

1.       Crowd Source your research

2.       Keep track of  social interactions

Good social commerce websites will provide access to these stats (or a method to acquire them).

Spend Less Time Developing a Community, More Time Developing Software

If your end user interaction and sales are all done in one space, you have less to worry about and more time to spend developing and perfecting your software.  You don’t have to chase leads; they already exist in your social space.  Your more passionate power users can even use some of their influence to convert others to your cause.

Social commerce can be rewarding from all interactions – from the novice, the power user and of course the developer, regardless of size.


SoftCity is the first social commerce site dedicated to software. The site merges e-commerce with social media, creating a unique destination where software developers and users connect online.  Users can review software ratings and even chat with the developer before they make a purchase. SoftCity also hosts a constant stream of articles, discussions and comments from software enthusiasts and experts alike.  With each interaction, SoftDollars, are earned which can be used on the site for additional software discounts. Visit and become part of the first community for software enthusiasts.

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Bob WalshFour Ways to Benefit with Social Commerce

How to frighten a startup founder..?

Just whisper to them, “How is your market research going?”

Their eyes will widen, blood pressure rise and sweat will break out on their brow.

Of the very approximately two thousand startup founders I’ve talked with over the past 7 years, I can count on my fingers and toes the number who with premeditation did market research before they started coding. I didn’t. Twice. Yet, if I had to pick one factor out of all the possible indicators for startup success, it would be doing some decent market research before you build.

So, along those lines, I’d like a few minutes of your help with my market research on a new service, before I build it. Nothing to buy and no obligation, but the first 20 respondents will get free six-month memberships (regular price, $105) – it’s that important to me.

Please take just a few minutes and complete this survey:

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Bob WalshHow to frighten a startup founder..?

Time to start writing a new book…

I tend to write books when something in my life is very painful. My first book was dealing with the pain of all those non-programming things you have to do to sell commercial Windows desktop software; my last was getting my head around what a bootstrapping web startup needs to do.

The pain I’m feeling right now is huge and growing sharper day by day. Social media, Internet disruption, the Media Tsunami, infinite information and a thousand-fold increase in people and things wanting my attention is smashing into the old industrial ways I’ve depended on to be productive, make a living, get things done. It’s like watching the tide wash away the sandcastle you live in: increasingly, the ways to make value, communicate, get things done, build, connect don’t work. Or, they now work so badly they’ve become part of the problem: remember when people thought email would make individuals and companies more productive?

The New Productivity: Producing Value in the Internet/Social Age” is the working title. (I just bought :)). It will not be an Apress book. It might not be a physical book at all – it belongs on Kindle/iBooks/ePub. But I’m going to go out there and see who else is feeling this pain and try and find some answers above and beyond the millions of existing tips on the web on being “more productive.”

Comments, suggestions, sharing your pain in hopes I can find something that will help are most welcome on this post or via or@bobwalsh.

[photo credit]

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Bob WalshTime to start writing a new book…

35 Hands are better than 2

The Iron Law of running a startup or microISV is there’s never enough time to everything, especially the important but non-critical stuff. It takes lots and lots of time to do the strategic stuff – often you have to pump in some unknown number of hours just researching.

That’s why I’m excited by Fancy Hands – it’s fixed price virtual assistants for simple but time-consuming tasks. I recently used Fancy Hands (15 tasks per month for $35) to kick off two projects that have been stalled forever: engaging more with other startup bloggers and social media bloggers. Before you can engage, you have to know who to engage with – and that’s an easy task to hand off to someone else and get “good enough” results.

All it took was signing up with the service (FH uses Google Accounts for authentication), then send them an email for a task:

  • Name, email and blog URL and name for the top 25 Social Media Bloggers.
  • Name, email and blog URL and name for the top 25 software Startup Bloggers.
  • (something private)

Here’s something worth mentioning: total elapsed time between putting in these two requests (and a third) and getting results: 45 minutes. Put another way, for that 45 minutes it was like having 3 Bob VMs running in addition to yours truly.

Fancy Hands isn’t a virtual bookkeeper, fashion consultant or speechwriter: they focus on scheduling, web research, making appointments. But getting 15 of those things off your plate for the month is worth a lot more than $35 or the X hours it would take you. Here’s some of their most requested tasks:

  • Restaurant Reservations
  • Scheduling a car service / taxi pickup
  • Find the nearest place that has iPads in stock
  • Find the advertising rates (or contact info) for the top 10 [industry] blogs
  • Schedule a haircut with [stylist] on Friday after 1pm
  • Call [three bars] and find out if they have a private room available for rentals
  • Call [primarily offline company] and get the status of order number xyz
  • Find a couple upholsterer options near where I work
  • Call TD Bank and ask how many checks I can use for free on a standard personal account
  • Call some hotel and extend my stay for three nights instead of two

I’ve been cajoling Mason Levey to add a more technical track to deal with the real IT pains in my butt like:

  • Why are my iCal alarms doubled up?
  • What’s the best online service out there to let people fill in a short questionnaire and book my time?
  • A proven recipe for setting up 3 WordPress blogs on a new VPS.
  • Best current tool for winnowing out low value Twitter follows?
  • What’s the best automatic Twitter background maker out there?
  • What should my Facebook privacy settings be?

There’s a huge market out there for these kind of Internet-related tasks – not just startups and IT people, but all those hundreds of millions of people out there being pulled day by day and step by step into our net-centric world. Give Fancy Hands a try (and here’s a Guide on Fancy Hands with a nice discount code), and bug Mason to offer an IT track: it would be awesome!

(P.S – and if you can make any of those IT pains go away, let’s talk:

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Bob Walsh35 Hands are better than 2

Continuous Partial Exercise

I’m about 40 pounds overweight; worse, odds are good you are too.

If you are reading this you probably spend your days in front of a computer, your nights in front of a computer and year by year your weight is creeping up.

The old industrial way to stop looking so bovine was to go to a centralized facility on a regular schedule (a gym) and perform specific movements in a specific way. As an added bonus you might meet a someone attractive.

Worked for me 25 years ago; not so much now when I’m dealing with ten times more work, a hundred times more people and a thousand times more things clamoring for attention.

With apologies and kudos to Linda Stone and her meme of Continuous Partial Attention, Factory exercise is so 20th century. It’s time for Continuous Partial Exercise. Spend a few bucks and load up your iPhone with Hundred Pushups, Two Hundred Squats, Two Hundred Situps and for extra credit if you have a chinup bar, 20 Chinups. When you’ve been working for an hour or two, fire up one of these apps and do it.

Don’t have an iPhone or don’t like these apps? There are others. If all else fails, find a fitness site with a mobile interface.

If your manager asks what you are doing, tell them your lowering the company’s health care costs. If the office Mr. Negativity chimes in, tell him you’re planning to outlive him. If someone cute asks you, ask them to join in, or invite them to do some social group exercises like Robert Scoble is.

The point is use disruptive postindustrial technologies to disrupt some of that fat that’s dragging you down.

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Bob WalshContinuous Partial Exercise

Reducing Decision Fatigue

The brave new world we are building online has it’s share of brave new problems:

  • Does the Internet remain a level playing field or do large corporations “help” it by picking and choosing whose bits are more important (theirs)?
  • How do we deal with the Media Tsunami that is growing to truly apocalyptic size day by day?
  • Humans can only make so many decisions a day: after that our brains turn to mush. Between the web and social media, our supply of decisionmaking is wiped out before we start whatever we do to earn money.

He’s one answer to that last problem: reduce the number of trivial decisions you make each day by making checklists for all the routine stuff. Then instead of wasting XX decisions feeding the cats every day, you conserve those decisions for things that matter.

Thanks to MacRae Linton for turning me on to Checklist Wrangler today – it’s far from perfect, but if you pair a bluetooth mac keyboard to you iPhone, you can easily and quickly make checklist templates that will auto generate as you need them. Not a perfect solution, but it helps reduce decision fatigue.

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Bob WalshReducing Decision Fatigue

Useful or not?

As you may have noticed, I’ve been fairly quiet here of late. That’s changing, but as part of that change I need to know if continuing the weekly MicroISV Digest is of value to you. If it is, let me know, and please vote!

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Bob WalshUseful or not?

A small startup giveaway…

[ 4:31 PM PT – update: Carla just upped the ante to 6 from 4, so Karl, you’re in and there’s one more left.]

The one thing every self-respecting startup founder needs is snazzy new business cards, so let me pass on to you an offer from Carla San Gaspar at, an online printing company. The first four people to comment on this post will get 250 Die Cut Business Cards from, free.

These are real business cards, not the cheesy kind with “printed by Acme printer” on the back. Here’s the details:

  • 2 x 3.5”, 2 x 2” (square card) or 1.75 x 3.5” (slim card)
  • Die cutting options available: Rounded Corners, Leaf, Rounded One-Corner, Half-Circle Side, Circle.
  • Paper Type: 14pt Cardstock Gloss, Matte, or High Gloss; 13pt Cardstock Uncoated.
  • Color: 4Color Front, Blank Back; 4Color Front, Black Back; 4Color Both Sides.
  • Limited to US residents only  18 years old and above.

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Bob WalshA small startup giveaway…

What’s Twitter for if you’re a small software company?

Well, it’s not for sending out Tweets of version 2.31… 2.32…. 2.33. That’s insufferably boring and a waste of your time. Instead:

  1. Find things you can retweet that your customers will be interested in. Set aside a fixed amount of time a day to do this. Not to get too personal, but an iPad, Flipboard and Tweetings can turn answering the call of nature into productive social media time :).
  2. Congratulate your customers – if you are doing B2B or variations thereof, keep up with their news by creating a twitter list of your twittering customers and scan that. When they get excited, retweeting that news and reaching out to them puts you head and shoulders above other vendors.
  3. Reach out: watch for hashtag conversations (#) that you can join and add value to. Not hijack, not add noise, but add value.

(Need more ideas? Check out Kristin and I’s Twitter Survival Guide. It’s getting up there in Twitter years, but you’ll find the profiles from some major Twitter People useful.)

photo credit: 7son75

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Bob WalshWhat’s Twitter for if you’re a small software company?

5 Mistakes Developers make Selling to Developers

By Brian Noll
Code Complete Software

A few typical things can happen when developers sell and market development tools to other developers. Here are some things to be careful about:


OK, here is the deal.  It’s plain and simple, but sometimes forgotten.  Developers, engineers, and any scientific thinking person tend to reject outlandish marketing that overpromises.  Also, that same disgust and rejection is now directed towards “management speak”. How many sites, sales processes, and emails to prospects are still bathed in sports analogies, non sequitur solution selling, and ROI vagueness, It’s simple, in reality developers just want products to make their life easier.  Keep away from sensationalism and overstating the benefits of your product.  Keep it pragmatic, honest, direct, and understated.  Solicit both good and bad feedback.   This goes not only for marketing, but also for communication during the sales process.

Also, although you might think it is about closing, it is a sales person’s job to help discover issues.  As far as development tools go, all tools have issues.  All tools have problems.  Not sure if I should write this, but it is your job is get users to come to conclusion that your tool “sucks less”.  Even if you are lacking some features, if you are responsive and helpful, you can land a happy user.

Remove roadblocks

Make it as easy as possible for someone to get a look at your product.  As a general rule, remove roadblocks for trying your product.  If you can get the user experience in a web based sandbox without an install; do it.  If you have several registration pages with logins to get a build; remove it.  Make it as easy as possible for new users to get a look at the product and make it even easier to solicit feedback.  If you can solicit feedback from within the product; code it in, as it is much easier than soliciting an email response (if you capture email information).  You will have very little time to hold a prospective users attention, so make the most of the situation.

We get it.  You’re smart. We’re smart. Now about the order?

Monitor situations where the support and development team gets into conflicts over technical details.  Is your team responding like a cheery English mouse or more like the soup nazi from Seinfeld?  Sales can and should help monitor the situation.  Think about it, for every 1 response you get about an issue, there could be 5 to 10 silently suffering.  Make sure you aren’t dismissive of technical objections on the way to an order.  Make sure the response from your company doesn’t make them look technically challenged.  After all, they are possible customers. The company goal is to sell product, not to show how smart we are, although we sometimes can get confused.

Be responsive.

Think of your product as being completely like an open source project without the need for contributors to do the hard work of coding features.  Get responses.  If someone makes a feature request; respond.  Listen, ask more questions, survey, and solicit responses.  If you are able to turn those responses into product changes, you’ve empowered those users into loyal users.


I know it is the age or permissive marketing and spam, but it’s OK to send emails, especially if someone downloaded your product.   Pick up the phone and talk to those who respond via email or on your site.  Ask for a live chat via Skype or GoogleTalk with a customer who is having an issue.  Don’t worry as much about the finesse as the act itself.  Customers love to talk about their own experiences and not enough vendors reach out in friendly consultative ways.  After all, you are trying to improve the experience of using your product; not trying to necessarily close a deal.


Brian and Code Complete Software, which markets and sells some of the world’s best development tools, is sponsoring 30 six-month Scholarships for startups creating/selling products to developers. To apply for a free scholarship, just email me ( with your startup’s URL or a brief non-proprietary description of what your startup will be selling.

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Bob Walsh5 Mistakes Developers make Selling to Developers