One of the most useful pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from my mentors is “You rock. Don’t be so uncomfortable calling yourself an expert.” I hate talking about myself – it always feels like an exercise in self-aggrandizement, even if I’m just saying “Yeah, I guess I make a pretty good cup of coffee.” So every time I have to come up with any sort of bio, I agonize over it way more than I should, worrying that I’m not quite dialing the mixture of  my skills, knowledge and expertise with my punk/rock ‘n’ roll/DIY/gearhead roots and attitude.

Anyway, I had to write a new bio this week. Here’s my rough draft:

“Surj is a seasoned, passionate ecommerce devotee with experience in many industries. An online marketing generalist with deep experience in all forms of customer acquisition and retention, he’s most passionate about email marketing, search marketing, and affiliate programs. A die-hard gearhead, if he’s not contemplating his latest world domination perfect customer acquisition plan, Surj is most likely riding his motorbike in search of good rock ‘n’ roll or coffee.”

Aw crap, I forgot “Likes to play poker, but not very well.”

Go Smile, where I’m General Manager of eCommerce, was featured in the Jill’s Steals and Deals segment of the Today Show in late 2010. Obviously, this was huge in many ways – the traffic spike was unbelievable. The website was almost instantly brought to its knees.

I’d been talking to the folks at Infused Commerce about their Facebook Store solution, and reached out to them to see if we could get something live quickly enough to help serve the massive number of folks coming to the site as a result of the Today Show deal. Keep in mind, this was short term demand – the deal was supposed to last 24 hours, and although we had upgraded our servers in preparation for the traffic, it wasn’t enough. We were turning away site visitors – a bad experience for would-be customers, and a loss of opportunity in terms of new customers, email signups and brand reputation.

Incredibly, the guys at Infused were able to get our Facebook shop live within hours. We posted the link on our temporary home page, and by the end of the day had processed a huge number of orders through the Facebook store – almost twenty times our normal daily website order volume in a single day. The launch was a resounding success, and really helped mitigate the poor experience experienced by some folks having issues ordering on the main site.

Unfortunately, due to some issues we ran into while trying to integrate with our fulfillment partner (who will remain nameless) we had to take the store down temporarily. We thought it’d be down for a few weeks at the most, but due to a an ridiculous comedy of delays and freakouts from the fulfillment company, it took months to make the integration happen.

We finally launched the Go Smile Facebook store again last week. We haven’t been pushing it much just yet – taking a few orders and watching for issues with the fulfillment integration. But I’m planning some excellent campaigns very soon – this is a powerful tool to drive not only orders and revenue, but fan count and engagement. More to come on that soon.

Right now, the Infused Facebook shop application works in typical product feed fashion – very simple. The store itself is a Flash app that lives in an FBML tab on your company’s Facebook page. If you’ve sold stuff or advertised on Amazon, you’ll be able to set up your Facebook shop in your sleep. The Infused team sets up the store with your brand colors – you just need to provide some basic files like a logo and a “front door” image along with your product feed, and you’re ready to roll. The orders are pulled from a secure URL. Easy peasy.

I can’t say enough nice things about the Infused team. While the curent beta version of the Facebook shop sports a pretty basic feature set, they’re moving fast – they’ve made vast improvements to the product since I first talked to them a few months ago. There are other companies doing this, but it’s been a pleasure working with them. It’s a classic startup story – they’re new and hungry, with a small agile team capable of moving very quickly. Their customer service has been excellent, and they’re attentive to our needs. They eat up feature requests like candy, and in some cases stuff I’ve asked for has shown up a few hours later! The pricing is excellent, too – less than most companies give up to affiliates, and there’s no commitment.

Small brands – this is an easy, effective way to make your Facebook page a powerful tool in your customer acquisition toolbox. The buy-in is very small, and implementation is incredibly easy and fast. Do it now!

Surj Gish attending SMX West← Check out my spiffy badge – I just registered for SMX West. Are you going? Let me know and we’ll hang out.

I’m looking forward to this conference. I went last year, and it was very good: good sessions, good folks, and a good time watching Steve Ballmer get a little nutty in the keynote conversation with Danny Sullivan.

Last week, I noticed that I’d been blessed with The Gift of The New Twitter. Since I go to my Twitter page about as often as I go to church, I may have had it for a while and just not noticed. For shame!

Anyway, the first thing I noticed was that my carefully crafted, super-rockin’ Twitter background was compromised. My background was designed to work in the left 190 pixels or so, but now, even with my browser window at full screen, it’s barely getting full exposure. My primary machine is a 15″ MacBook Pro with a resolution of 1440×900 – not exactly a narrow screen – so I’ll need to rework it.

There’s a more comprehensive writeup over (with PSD files!) over at Mashable, but basically new Twitter starts at a minimum width of 920 pixels and maxes out at 1040 pixels, compared to old Twitter’s static width of 763 pixels. The timeline is 540 pixels wide, with the right area (your tweets, followers/following, who to follow, etc) expanding from 380 to 500 pixels depending on available browser window width.

I think the new Twitter page layout is a real improvement, in particular the bigger emphasis on “who to follow.” For many casual users, it’ll give them a bit more functionality and perhaps keep them using the Twitter website instead of an app – something I’m sure the Twitter folks are eager to encourage. But in the end, I just don’t care all that much. I use Tweetie and Tweetdeck on my laptops and Twitter for iPhone on my phone, so it won’t change how I use the service. However, Twitter is taking is taking ownership of their own pages a bit more. The vast expanse of wide open space for branding your with a Twitter background image will be less visible now – we’ll all have to be a bit more thoughtful how we use the available space.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician