All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

5 Ways to Use Snapchat to Target Millennials

Once just a hangout for teenagers, Snapchat has matured into an engaging and effective social media platform. If you’re trying to reach a younger demographic, it’s somewhere you probably want to be.

“Snapchat is the best channel to reach young people, as they count for more than two-thirds of its audience and are very active users,” said Melissa Sanchot, head of marketing and communication at

Snapchat is its own world, though, and using it for marketing and advertising means working creatively with its unique features. With that in mind, here are five ways you can use it to interact with your audience, find new customers, and build your brand.

1. Engage Directly

Snapchat users typically are highly motivated and engaged, and you’ll want to find ways to use that engagement to your advantage.

“It’s a way to leverage instantness,” Sanchot told the E-Commerce Times. “Let’s say you’re a clothes brand and you’re wondering which fabric is the best for your next collection. You can directly ask your followers and have immediate responses.”

Updating your content regularly gives users a reason to interact with you and enhances their direct engagement with your brand.

“Snapchat users are engaging with the app at a very high rate,” observed Dario Sheikh, strategic partnership manager at Bidalgo.

“They use it throughout the day. While its user base is relatively small, it has a highly relevant user base that’s engaging with the app on a regular basis at a high frequency,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

2. Influence the Influencers

One of the key features of Snapchat is the ability it offers to reach the followers of influential users. The ability to work with influencers expands your scope, so that your message travels far beyond those who directly follow your brand.

“It’s an incredible channel for influencers strategy,” noted MakeMeReach’s Sanchot. “You can ask followers to post stories using your product, and make viral campaigns at very low cost.”

3. Make Use of Filters

Snapchat offers various filters to business that want to promote their brand, their location, a particular event or a promotion. Experiment with these filters, since they’re a way of personalizing your message and getting it out there — not just to your followers, but to the followers of your followers.

“It’s a really organic way for your users to self-advertise your business or your offering to their Snapchat followers,” said Sheikh. “It’s a great way for your own users to be brand advocates within their own network.”

4. Tell Your Story

Snapchat allows you to use video, photos and text to tell the story of your company. Just remember that it’s a casual, informal platform. Don’t worry about using perfect photos, and avoid any sense of staging, preplanning, or even official messaging.

Snapchat works best for telling behind-the-scenes stories — giving a personal and authentic glimpse into the workings of your company and brand.

5. Be Snappy

If there’s one thing that’s unique to Snapchat, it’s the ephemeral nature of snaps and stories. Make use of the fleeting nature of these posts, encouraging quick and direct engagement.

That might mean offering coupon codes to be used almost immediately, or telling stories that are as close to real time as possible.

“You only have a day to get your message across and make an impact, which means marketers are pushed to make ads more fleeting and creative,” remarked Elizabeth Closmore, global head of product evangelism at Sprinklr.

Snapchat’s Unique Style

Most importantly, make sure to use the unique marketing and advertising features of Snapchat, and create content that’s designed specifically for this platform. In particular, Snapchat users like to do things, and to engage them you have to be fun and interactive.

“The ads on Snapchat can be — and have to be — focused on actions to take: product to buy, events to go, things to do,” said Sanchot. “You can’t be descriptive — it’s not enough.”

In other words, become familiar with the language and rhythm of Snapchat, and use that awareness to your advantage.

“Snapchat ads are not one-size-fits-all-social-networks,” Closmore told the E-Commerce Times.

“Marketers can’t necessarily copy and paste their Facebook and Twitter strategies onto Snapchat, she pointed out. As such, Snapchat demands that brands create fresh content for its platform and really become familiar with its unique language and style.”

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

New Checklist Guides B2B Marketing Automation Platform Purchases

Four Quadrant this week released its Marketing Automation Buyer’s Checklist for companies seeking to purchase a B2B marketing automation platform, or MAP.

The checklist has eight major categories for evaluation and more than 35 subcategories. It lists more than 100 questions buyers should ask to make an informed assessment of MAP vendors’ offerings.

The checklist covers expected business outcomes from MAPs, who and what the MAP should support, the integration capabilities the MAP should have, and what APIs the MAP should offer out of the box.

The checklist also covers the following must-have MAP capabilities:

  • Demand generation and account-based marketing
  • Personalization
  • E-commerce
  • Email
  • Social media
  • UI/UX
  • Reporting
  • Analytics

The MAP checklist lets businesses establish a predictable model that documents the following:

  • Each stage of the parking and sales funnel
  • Lead sources
  • Quantities and values at each state
  • Movement between stages
  • Velocity of movement between stages
  • Contribution of marketing at each stage in the sales cycle

Companies of any size can use the checklist, because they “all have the same problem,” said Peter Buscemi, founder of Four Quadrant.

“The only difference is scale,” he told CRM Buyer. “There is at least one person in any organization performing some or all of these tasks, but usually not efficiently, effectively or in a scalable manner.”

Breaking It Down

The section on who and what the MAP supports has more than 20 questions to ensure the user purchases the right solution.

The must-have capabilities section has more than 15 questions; the social media capabilities section has more than 10; the UI/UX capabilities section lists eight; the reporting capabilities section and the must-have analytics sections each have more than 10 questions; and there are 15 questions in the must-have integration and API capabilities section.

The Lure of MAPs

Fifty-one percent of all companies that participated in an Emailmonday
survey indicated they were using marketing automation, and 58 percent of B2B companies planned to adopt the technology, Buscemi pointed out.

MAPs automate manual tasks and minimize human error around content creation, management and personalization, campaign scheduling and execution, data hygiene, and communication with sales.

They combine multiple criteria, helping enterprises gain a multichannel view of prospects.

They also help align sales and marketing efforts, which long has been an issue in enterprises.

Lay the Groundwork First

“Any size organization [must] have an integrated sales and marketing plan,” Buscemi said. They must understand the process of creating leads and converting them to customers before investing in a MAP.

“Sometimes marketing owns the sales process — in e-commerce situations — and sometimes sales is performed by inside or field sales people,” Buscemi explained. “In either scenario, there’s no reason for marketing to generate a lead unless there’s a high probability that the lead will result in a customer.”

Once that process is understood, a company can invest in a MAP to reduce human error, to scale, and to build a sales pipeline that converts to revenue.

“A bottom-up approach focused on functionality misses a more important step for all size businesses: What’s the business goal?” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“Companies should start with the business case and then look at what technologies they need,” she told CRM Buyer.

Competition and the growth of cloud and freemium solutions “enables even SMBs to make small marketing investments and get ROI,” Wettemann said.

Nucleus is “seeing a lot of pilot projects at large firms that help marketers test the impact their projects have on revenue before making a big commitment,” she noted.

Data silos continue to be “one of the biggest challenges marketers face today,” Wettemann added, “so keeping the big picture and integration in mind is important.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

FTC Confirms Probe Into Equifax Data Breach

In a rare move, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Thursday confirmed that it has opened an investigation into the data breach at Equifax that compromised the sensitive personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers.

The FTC announcement came less than a week after Equifax revealed that an unknown party had gained access to names, addresses, Social Security Numbers and other data belonging to nearly half the U.S. population. An unknown number of Canadian and UK consumers were directly impacted by the breach as well.

Along with personal information, the attackers stole more than 209,000 customer credit card numbers and nearly 190,000 credit dispute files.

Equifax hired an outside cybersecurity firm to investigate and contacted law enforcement to look into the incident, it said.

Twisting the Knife?

Equifax triggered a severe backlash following news of the breach for what critics have characterized as an attempt to make money from consumers seeking to find out if their identities were stolen, and to prevent them from participating in any future legal action against the firm.

Offers to sell the stolen consumer information reportedly have turned up on the Dark Web.

“The FTC typically does not comment on ongoing investigations,” said Peter Kaplan, acting director, public affairs.

“However in light of the intense public interest and potential impact of the matter, I can confirm that FTC staff is investigating the Equifax data breach,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The agency also warned consumers to be on the alert for phone scams — for example, someone pretending to be from Equifax in an effort to trick people into providing personal data.

No Patch

The Apache Software Foundation on Thursday confirmed that the data breach was due to Equifax’s failure to patch a vulnerability related to Apache Struts, an open source framework for creating enterprise-level Java Web applications.

Apache Struts powers Internet of Things and front and back-end applications for many of the leading technology service providers, telecoms, financial institutions and government agencies.

The unpatched vulnerability was linked to CVE-2017-9805, based on an analyst report that was traced to information reportedly provided by an Equifax source.

Under Fire

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blasted Equifax on the floor of the U.S. Senate, calling the incident one the “most egregious examples of corporate malfeasance since Enron,” and called for Senate hearings on the matter. He also demanded resignations from the CEO and board members if immediate reforms are not implemented.

“When you’re a credit agency like Equifax, you have two principal jobs: calculating and reporting accurate credit scores, and protecting the sensitive information of individuals that are funneled through that process,” he said. “Equifax stunningly and epically failed to perform one of its two essential duties as a company, to protect the sensitive information of the people in its files.”

Possible Legal Action

Equifax faces potential legal liability on a couple of fronts, said Seth Berman, a former Department of Justice attorney who now specializes in cybersecurity issues at the Nutter law firm.

The FTC has broad authority to investigate data breaches, he told the E-Commerce Times, particularly given the fact that Equifax is a credit reporting agency that deals with consumer finances, and also since Equifax has been caught up in past investigations by the agency.

State attorneys general also will look into the breach, Berman said, noting that New York AG Eric Schneiderman already has announced an investigation.

Equifax could see a spate of class action civil suits from consumers and shareholders, as well as a probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“More often than not, we are seeing breaches as a result of an organization’s failure to implement Security 101 principles — proper patch management, secure software development, processes and procedures,” said Leigh Anne Galloway, cybersecurity resilience officer at Positive Technologies.

“It’s the basic things that organizations fail to do again and again,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

A number of Apache Struts vulnerabilities recently have been identified, Galloway noted, including a number of flaws Cisco uncovered in the open source framework just a week ago.

In the Equifax case, attackers were allowed to execute arbitrary code on a server by manipulating the Content-Type HTTP header, she said.

FTC Settlement

Equifax and other companies in 2012 agreed to pay US$1.6 million to settle the FTC’s charges that the company had sold lists of customers who were late on their mortgage payments.

Equifax itself agreed to pay $393,000 to settle claims that it sold data from 17,000 prescreened late-paying consumers to firms, including Direct Lending Source, which then resold that information to other firms.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

The Vision Thing

Salesforce earlier this year introduced its Einstein Vision capability, an idea with a lot of promise but not a great deal of precedent. Who had applications that could see, and how would this be used?

For decades, we’ve been content with scanning documents and analyzing them with optical character recognition tools, or we’ve used bar codes and QR codes — but it all came down to recognizing simple symbols.

Suddenly there was something much closer to human reading that needed explaining. Visual Search, introduced with Einstein Vision, gives customers the ability to photograph things and use them in searches for products and services. Vendors can use it to identify things in processes that didn’t have analogs before.

For instance, with Einstein Vision, marketers can quickly can analyze photos for presence of brand images and understand how brands are perceived and used. With a picture, you don’t have to rely on your gut or your experience, however faulty they might be.

Vision services also can be used in product identification to give service reps a way to evaluate possible service issues before dispatch, so that the right resources can be sent.

Marketplace Diffusion

All of this leverages existing customer technologies, mostly in handheld devices. This is important, because it reduces the time it takes to diffuse the solution throughout the marketplace.

If, for instance, these vision solutions required special cameras or a wired connection, it would take far longer to diffuse the solution through a customer base. Or maybe the solution, however useful it is, might never make it to market.

The Einstein Vision announcement whetted appetites with its ability to recognize photos and logos, and Salesforce anticipated it would be able to provide applications to support visual search, brand detection and product ID in short order — which it did last month for its Social Studio.

Recognizing that social itself has become a visually oriented medium, it was logical for Salesforce to add vision recognition to the mix, and that’s what it delivered by adding Einstein Vision to Social Studio.

Social Trendspotting

So what does this buy you? Well in marketing and service, it can mean a lot. Right now the solution is just available for Twitter — but with it, marketers and service people can search their streams for images that tell them something about their brand, products or customers’ experiences.

Finding your brand or logo in a stream, for instance, might give you reason to try to understand the context. What do the words that go with the pictures say? The sentiment, which also could be analyzed by Salesforce, might convey happiness or the opposite in each case, prompting different actions from a vendor.

Seeing a brand or product with a negative sentiment might kick off a service outreach. At the same time, unambiguous displays of logos or branding, say at an event, can tell a vendor how well sponsorship ads are performing.

Other insights are possible too. Sorting through a social stream, for instance, can provide basic research into potential trends.

If a noticeable percentage of your customers can be seen doing, eating or having something, it might indicate the early stages of a trend. Of course, none of this raw data is enough to make investments in, but it serves as level one research that you can test. This beats relying on your gut or thinking you know the customer. Everybody knows the customer… but well enough to make an investment?

So, the first version of AI-powered vision recognition from Salesforce is out there, and I expect it will be one of the many new ideas that get coverage at Dreamforce. I wouldn’t put it past Salesforce to announce more uses for it, or at least to announce a road map.

Going Into Overdrive

Two MIT professors, McAfee and Brynjolfsson, a few years ago alerted us to the reality that the tech revolution was about to go into overdrive. Their reasoning was simple: We build on top of prior successes, and at this point there’s a lot to build on.

Because of this organic growth, we really can’t forecast the uses and applications of these developments, the professors said, but we know uses can and will be invented.

To simplify with a concrete example, there were no computer programmers until there were computers. That makes sense to us today — but if you lived in the late 1940s, those words might have looked like modern English but they would have made no sense.

We’re at it again. Disruption is all around us, but history teaches us that we shouldn’t fear the future. Organic growth has a way of working itself out.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at

Here’s all the crazy hardware presented at HAX’s 10th demo day

We stopped by HAX’s demo day at the San Francisco Mint to check out all the hardware startups in the accelerator’s 10th batch. Many of the startups showcased creative combinations of hardware and software, particularly machine learning, to improve upon legacy services and outdated business models.

HAX is known for its expertise in prototyping and manufacturing in China. The companies aided by HAX receive dedicated resources to address the unique challenges faced by hardware startup founders.