March 14, 2015

Q&A with Manny Ruiz, the man behind Hispanicize

Manny Ruiz founded Hispanicize in 2010, and has grown it into the largest gathering for U.S. Hispanics of its kind. The weeklong conference opens Monday in downtown Miami.

HispanicizeBy Nancy Dahlberg /

As Hispanicize opens Monday for its sixth annual weeklong event packed with workshops, speakers, awards and concerts all featuring U.S. Latinos, a lot of people may not know the unusual entrepreneurial journey of the man behind it all.

Hispanicize is the largest U.S. Hispanic social media and entertainment event of its kind, specializing in marketing, media, film and music, said its founder, Manny Ruiz. “What people really love about Hispanicize is that we are the one event that is laser-focused on the aspirations, opportunities and challenges of the U.S. Hispanic.”

Ruiz’s father was an early Cuban exile and his mother is a second-generation Cuban American: “I was born and raised in Little Havana and Hialeah, as blue collar as you can get. … My family didn’t have much in Cuba and they didn’t have anything in Miami either, [but] their work ethic has stayed with me … and kept me grounded.”

Today, Ruiz, 45, is the chairman and founder of the Hispanicize brand of platforms that include the annual Hispanicize event, the Latina Mom Bloggers network, Being Latino, Hispanicize Wire and the Hispanic PR Blog.

Before building his current grouping of media properties, Ruiz founded, led and sold Hispanic PR Wire for $5.5 million in 2008. In thinking about what his next project would be, he was inspired by South by Southwest, the big annual music, film and entrepreneurship event in Austin, Texas. The first Hispanicize was in 2010.

But here are some things you may not know about Ruiz. He almost flunked his senior year at Miami Southwest Senior High — twice.

“The shocking part of my second senior year was that despite a horrible academic record — I was 10 spots away from graduating last of my second senior year class — my high school principal believed in my investigative journalism work on the school newspaper so much she nominated me to be our high school’s [Miami Herald] Silver Knight representative for journalism,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz said he was moved to pursue journalism — he was affectionately known as “Geraldo“ in high school — after his middle school experience attending a corrupt and drug-ridden private school, Miami Aerospace Academy. It was ultimately the power of the press that got the place shut down, he said.

He then stoked that journalistic passion at Miami Southwest and later at Miami Dade College, which will install him next month in the MDC Alumni Hall of Fame, and at the Miami Herald before transitioning into marketing, online media and entrepreneurship.

The Miami Herald talked with Ruiz about his unusual entrepreneurial journey and plans for the 2015 Hispanicize, which opens Monday at the InterContinental Miami with an expected record attendance of more than 2,000. Here are excerpts of the conversation:

Continue reading "Q&A with Manny Ruiz, the man behind Hispanicize" »

July 30, 2014

Running a social media contest? Our top five tips.

Echo herald blog supersocial (1)

By Susan Linning

SusanLinning_001 rt2So you want to run a contest on social media??  Isn’t that interesting.  Everyone else wants to do the same thing.  And they want their contest to be way more successful than yours – producing more likes, higher engagement, increased brand recognition and awareness and more…well…sales.

What’s the value of running a Facebook contest? How will a contest help a business market itself? How do I make my contest different?  How do I make it stand out in a sea of rhetoric? 

We hear it over and over. Business owners know the importance of having a solid social media presence, but many are still trying to understand the benefits of running contests.

Review our top five tips, below, and get your brand’s contest to the top of the list, with the highest engagement, traffic and likes/new fans/followers. 

 1.      Choose the Type of Contest that Meets Your Goals

What kind of contest best suits your goals, objectives and target market?

 Sweepstakes  - Anyone can enter by simply by liking your page and/or supplying their email address.  These contests quickly build likes and your email distribution list (marketing’s holy grail). They also provide a huge boost to brand awareness. Prize is critical.

Vote Contests - Get consumer feedback. Let your fans/followers choose your next product tag line, product offering, logo, t-shirt design or just enjoy the increased engagement with fans voting on a fun idea. 

Photo Caption Contests - Ask entrants to caption an image you choose. This is a simple, engaging way to get people talking and sharing your photo and it also increases brand awareness and page likes. 

Essay Contests - Get specific feedback on your products and/or services.  Require entrants to write a few words on a topic you choose (i.e. Why would your mother love spending Mother’s Day at “Her Favorite Beauty Bar”?).  This provides a better understanding of why clients come to your spa/salon, what they value, etc.  Prize is critical, as the entry method is more complicated and time consuming. 

Photo Contests – Increase user generated content by asking entrants to submit a photo of themselves using/wearing/trying your product, or before/after images of the use of your product/service.  The entries to this contest can later be used for blog material, website information, etc.

 2.     Contest Prize is Often Key

The contest prize often determines the contest’s success.  Most people will first determine if the prize merits the time and energy required for entry.  If you have a high-value prize (over about $300), the more you can require from contest participants.  If your prize is lower-value ($50 - $300), the contest requirements must be simple and entry must be easy.

If your prize is on the less expensive end, it is wise to have the contest run over the short-term (no more than two weeks).  For a high-value prize, your contest can run for weeks and even months.  

It’s beneficial to your business and brand to make your prize brand-related.  That means giving away gift cards for your products or services.  And while the retail value of the prize might be $500, the cost to you is obviously far less. This isn’t true for those contest prizes that are third party purchases (iPad, AMEX gift card, air travel, etc.).

3.     Make Contest Entry Simple

Complicated entry process = guaranteed fewer participants.  Make your contest stupid-proof.  Advice you can take to the bank:  most people are impatient and don’t want to spend much time thinking about your contest.  Dumb down the contest entry to make it achievable for a kindergartner.  ;)

 4.     Promote the Contest

Spread the word about your contest. Use Facebook promoted posts, FB ads and ask fans/followers to share the contest on their personal pages.  Add a contest promo banner/cover image on FB, TW and G+ pages.  Cross promote the contest on all social media platforms, websites and through dedicated email blasts.  Create a unique hashtag for your contest (critical for Instagram contests):   #JumpingJackFlashContest  #BoiseGreatGiveaway

 5.     Post Contest Follow Up

Send an email that includes all entries to those who participate in the contest.  Later, post and email an image of the winning entry or a photo of the prize.  Follow up with posts on all social media platforms showing winner receiving prize or the gift certificate being mailed, etc.  Post teasers for future contests to keep momentum going and fans/followers engaged. 

 Why run a contest anyway, you might ask?  Here, we give you the skinny:

1. Get more fans, followers

2. Increase brand awareness

3. Generate new emails and leads

4. Develop user-generated content (UGC)

5. Crowdsource your product development

6. Impact sales

7. Launch a new product or promote an event

8. Obtain greater insight into your fans’ and followers’ preferences, opinions

9. Drive more traffic to your ecommerce store

10.  Exposure.  Exposure.  Exposure.

Susan Linning is president of ECHO SOCIAL MEDIA + MARKETING of Miami, which develops and executes social media and integrated marketing strategies, creating custom content and maintaining pages on social media platforms. ECHO also provides blogging and copy-writing services.

Search this blog for past columns by Susan Linning.


February 02, 2014

5 ways to start conversations online to gain, retain customers

By Tasha Cunningham

TashaFor years, people have been socializing online. Whether it’s on dating sites to find a potential mate or visiting a retail store online in search of the perfect product, consumers spend a considerable amount of time expressing their opinions, making purchases and connecting with others on the Web. In fact, in just one minute in 2013, a whopping $83,000 in purchases were made on Amazon, 1.8 million likes were posted on Facebook, 278,000 tweets were sent on Twitter and 216,000 photos were shared on Instagram, according to Qmee, a site that offers the public cash rewards for searching online. The firm compiled data from PC Mag, Business Insider and other sites to create a composite of what happens online in 60 seconds.

For the small business owner, the flurry of online activity presents a good opportunity to find and retain customers by starting conversations online. Many entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by marketing their businesses online. There are millions of sites to post information, create profiles and share product pictures. Making sense of it all can be tough. But not to worry, free tools combined with sound marketing strategies can make starting and sustaining online conversations easy.

1. Use free social media monitoring tools to listen. One of the most effective ways to track conversations online is by using a monitoring tool. For small business owners, the cost of some monitoring services can be pricy. But there a number of free tools you can use to check out what consumers are saying about any topic, including your brand and that of your competition on the Internet. Check out Cyfe (, SocialMention ( and HootSuite ( to get started.

When looking for conversations using a monitoring tool, be sure to search for a keyword or topic with and without the hashtag (#). This will allow you to track the terms on sites like Twitter and Instagram where hashtags are used often.

2. Take advantage of LinkedIn Mentions. This tool gives you the chance to mention a company or person in an update and then notify them that you’ve talked about them on LinkedIn. It’s simple to use and allows you to connect and start conversations with consumers who may have interest in your product or service.

Here’s how it works: Select someone else’s update you would like to comment on. Click on the “Comment” link and type @. Then start typing a name in the box. A list of potential people or companies you can mention will pop up. Click a name from the list and start typing your message. The person or company mentioned in your message will receive an e-mail alert about the mention.

3. Check out Twitter Conversations. You may have noticed that for a while now, Twitter has been making it easier for people to connect. One of the newest tools is Conversations. It’s essentially a vertical blue line that you’ll see connecting a thread between two or more people. You can select a conversation and then join it by replying to someone in the thread. Your reply will only be seen by your followers and the person you replied to, but it’s a great way to gauge the types of conversations on Twitter that are relevant to your business.

4. Explore Instagram Direct. If your company is using Instagram to market online, you might want to try Instagram Direct, a new feature that allows users to share content with specific people or groups in private conversations. To use it, click on the “Direct” icon in the top corner of your homepage, select a user or group of users to share your content with and you’re done. Once you’ve shared your content, private threads can occur on the image or video, but only the people you’ve shared it with will see it. But Instagram users can also block users from sending you direct content, so make sure what you’re sharing is useful and engaging.

5. Look out for the Facebook Conversations Group. Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it will forming the Facebook Conversations Group, a unit of the company aimed at building products designed to help make it easier for people to converse online. Facebook’s recently acquired team that developed Branch, a social discussion startup backed by the founders of Twitter. The Branch team will lead the group. In the meantime, check out Branch by visiting

Tasha Cunningham is a principal in the Cunningham Group, a communications firm with offices in Miami and Orlando.



3 More Free Tools to Help Facilitate Customer Conversations Online

Finding easy ways to converse with and engage your customers online doesn’t have to be a chore! If you read my column in today’s Miami Herald, you saw that there are great free tools out there to help you get started. Here are three more that you can add to your online marketing arsenal! 

  1. Don’t forget about Tumblr. Tumblr is one of the fastest growing social networking sites around. It is very similar to sites like Facebook and Twitter, but with a few key differences that you can use to your advantage. First, posting content from just about anywhere is pretty easy. You can text updates from your mobile phone and the site has a bookmarklet that allows you to post literally anything you come across on the Internet. Next, interact with others by reposting their Tumblr content is quick with a button that lets you re-blog anything you find on someone else’s Tumblr. Check it out here –

 Get people talking about your brand on Pinterest. Sharing pictures of your products or your employees in action is an effective tactic for engaging with potential customers on Pinterest. If you post images on your website, make sure that you add a “Pin It” button so that your customers can share your photos on their Pinterest pages.

  1. Promote others while promoting your business.  Remember that you’re trying to start conversations with potential customers online. One of the best ways to do that is to engage with their content. Like other people’s posts, comment on their pictures and favorite their content to get your business noticed.

Connect with Tasha on Twitter @MediaPRBranding. 

January 18, 2014

UM's PhilADthropy marketing marathon to help nonprofits; application deadline Jan. 24

PhilThe University of Miami School of Communication is seeking nonprofit organizations to work with students during its 5th annual PhilADthropy advertising event.

During this 25-hour ad-a-thon that will be Feb. 7-8, UM communications students will provide free advertising and creative services to local nonprofits. Nonprofits can apply online at; the application deadline is Friday, Jan. 24.

The Feb. 7 event begins with earch selected nonprofit presenting its mission and goals and then working with its team of students to formulate a plan. The students then spend the next 24 hours creating advertising collateral for their clients. The nonprofits return Saturday morning to see teams present their work.

Published Jan. 18, 2014

January 13, 2014

Does your business need a Wiki page? Here's how

By Tasha Cunningham

TashaHave you ever considered creating a Wikipedia page for your small business?

Wikipedia is undoubtedly one of the most popular websites. In fact, Wikipedia is the sixth most visited website on the Internet.

The multilingual online encyclopedia includes over 4.3 million articles in English alone. There is no advertising, and the site is free to use. The site is controlled by volunteer editors who review and edit each article submitted. The number of volunteer editors has fallen nearly 40 percent since 2007, according to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota, which means that fewer editors now have more pages to edit.

Anyone can edit an article on Wikipedia. But the myriad of rules that govern what types of articles can be created, how they are edited and what you can do if you are disputing what’s written is lengthy and often confusing. Nonetheless, many small businesses have tried to create Wikipedia pages about their companies, but not many have been successful in their endeavors.

Here’s what you need to know to help you navigate the world of Wikipedia if you’re considering it.

1. Your company may not be ‘notable’ enough.

One of the rules on Wikipedia that is very clear is who qualifies for a page. Not everyone can have one. Each Wikipedia must be “notable.” Among other things, notability is tied to the amount of media attention your company has received. So if your business has not been written about in the national media, your chances of developing a page that doesn’t get flagged for deletion aren’t good. Your business could be the most prominent, making millions of dollars and serving thousands of customers each year, but if your company hasn’t been mentioned on major news outlet, Wikipedia doesn’t consider it notable enough to warrant a page.

So before you set about creating your page, seek out new coverage from reputable media organizations. Think major magazines, national television news programs and respected industry publications, not your company blog, press releases you send out or your Twitter page.

• For more on Wikipedia’s notability guidelines, visit:

2. Wikipedia is not an online directory or review site.

Wikipedia requires all pages to be written in a neutral point of view, so self-promotion isn’t tolerated. Every fact you site on your page should be backed up by a source to bolster credibility. Also, remember that Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, not an online directory or review site. Therefore, proffering your opinion about how great your company is or attempting to disparage your competition on your page will most likely get you flagged by a volunteer editor, who will in turn delete your page.

• To read Wikipedia’s neutrality policy, check out:

3. Be wary of who writes your page.

Businesses offering to develop a Wikipedia page for a fee are now more prolific than ever. Purveyors of these for-hire services claim to be experts in the site’s rules to get pages created and charge a fee for doing it.

“It is difficult and time consuming for non-experts, like small business owners to learn all for the requirements and technical jargon required for creating a Wikipedia,” said Alex Konanykhin, CEO of “Firms like ours know the rules that govern Wikipedia's writing style, their format, content inclusion criteria and other rules.”

But while businesses like WikiExperts, MyWikiPro and others are proliferating at a rapid rate, Wikipedia is leery of pages written by public relations professionals on behalf of clients, paid writers and the like because it goes against their policy of neutrality. Wikipedia’s editors recently discovered thousands of pages written by one PR firm, prompting many to ask whether the site is really written by editors-for-hire and not unbiased volunteers.

Before enlisting the services of firm to write your page for you, try doing it yourself first. Make sure you can back up each of the facts with a reputable source. Be sure to create an account before you upload your page content, too.

4. Talk before EditING

Once you’ve uploaded your page to Wikipedia, you might want to edit it — that is, change the wording of your article — at some point. Don’t edit the page directly. Instead, go to the “Talk” page of the entry. Each page uploaded to Wikipedia has a discussion section where you can post ideas about what you think should be edited. For a specific edit, post a request. In it, post links to your reputable sources and provide an explanation of why the edit will help to improve the page. Be sure to sign your posts with your account name. A Wikipedia editor will see your request and either post it or not.

• To find out more about how Wikipedia Talk pages work, visit:

5. Avoid ‘edit wars’

Not everyone agrees with every edit on a page, so if you’ve managed to get a Wikipedia on your company accepted by the site, you can expect that others will have an opinion about it. If you see that false information is being posted on your page that is defamatory, don’t edit it. Instead, post on the “Talk” page of the entry and bring it to the attention of the site’s editors. Engaging in a war by editing what others post on the page could get you banned from the site and your page deleted.

• To learn more about Wikipedia’s policy on “edit-warring,” check out:

Still think having your own Wikipedia is right for you? Read on


Does Your Business Need a Wikipedia Page?

If you’re considering creating a Wikipedia page for your business after reading my article in today’s Business Monday, here are few more tips that will help you during the process.

  • 1.       Keep it simple. 

Remember that Wikipedia isn’t a vehicle for promoting your business, so you will need to get the facts about your business across without sounding like you’re pitching a sale. The best way to do this is to remove any wording that could be construed as touting your company.

  • 2.       Don’t announce your Wikipedia page. 

If you’ve managed to get an approved Wikipedia page for your business, don’t call attention to it. Your page will show up in search results and that’s really all you need. By making a formal announcement of your page or linking it to your website in any way, you may come under fire from Wikipedia’s editors and your page could be deleted.

  • 3.       Create your own Wiki. 

“Wiki” comes from the Hawaiian word for “quick” and isn’t limited to just Wikipedia. In fact, one alternative to having a Wikipedia page for your business is to create one yourself that you control. Online tools like Wikia (, and WikiDot (  are good places to start. 

Tasha Cunningham is a principal in the Cunningham Group, a communications firm with offices in Miami and Orlando.



December 21, 2013

Santa Claus selects mxHero ToolBox to streamline abundant holiday emails

Hot off the presses! The winner of most creative holiday-themed press release goes to LAB Miami member MxHero. Happy holidays to all from Starting Gate.


ThD49XVPNDNOME, Alaska (PRWEB) December 21, 2013 -- After a long and contemplative selection process, the Office of Santa Claus (OSC) is proud to announce today that it has selected the MxHero ToolBox ( as its official email communication partner starting this Christmas 2013. Given Santa's unique requirements and demands of Christmas season, the selection process focused on ease-of-use, scalability, availability of key features, and ability of the email platform to integrate with 3rd parties.

When asked what drove the ultimate decision, Santa said, "All I wanted for Christmas was one email platform that provides me all the advanced bells and whistles that I need when I communicate with my millions of fans. With mxHero Toolbox, I finally have that - for free and with unlimited messages!"

MxheromxHero offers a number of features that are perfect for someone like Santa who needs to communicate with multitude of fans individually while keeping up with a very busy schedule. Total Tracking with Read Receipts capability finally allows you to know right away when Santa reads and clicks on your email (which he always does). Private Delivery allows Santa to email many fans individually at the same time without having to use that pesky bcc line. Send Later feature allows him to draft responses at any time and then send them at the best possible moment.

Alex Panagides, CEO of mxHero, said "mxHero has always held Santa in high regard. Fulfilling deepest wishes of our customers in a user-friendly manner is our company motto. We are proud to be able to support an operation as massive as Santa's and we have many more surprises up our sleeve in the New Year."

To stay firmly planted on the “Nice List, “mxHero is also making a number of its Google Apps Marketplace features available to Santa's Elf Workshop as well, including Hero Security and custom Email Footers.

Email Toolbox can be downloaded for free from It is currently available in English, Spanish and Portuguese language translations. MxHero's Google Apps products are available at

So give it a try, grab the mxHero Toolbox Chrome Extension and send an email to santa(at)mxhero(dot)com. And be sure to turn on Read Receipts to know when he reads it!

About Santa

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and simply "Santa", is a mythical figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins who, in many Western cultures, is said to bring gifts to the homes of the good children on December 24, the night before Christmas.

About mxHero

mxHero is an email enhancement platform and app store that gives companies, service providers and end users powerful new ways to control, use and analyze email. Apps developed for mxHero’s platform work with any email management program, including Gmail and Microsoft Exchange. More than 5,500 companies with 350,000 users have added mxHero to their email capabilities.


December 09, 2013

What's changing in social media in 2014? Read on...

By Tasha Cunningham

TashaThe New Year is less than a month away! For small business owners, now is the perfect time to take a look at improving online marketing and social media strategies for 2014 when major changes to popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest will affect customer acquisition, retention and engagement on the Web. Read on to find out what’s changing and how to take advantage of these new features.

Facebook: star ratings

Facebook is testing the waters and entering the review and rating business. Based on a five-star scale, ratings are slated to appear at the top of a company’s Facebook page next to the name of the business. Right now, business ratings are only available to a small group of users who log in to Facebook from their desktops. According to Facebook, star ratings are being extended from mobile to desktop so that users can more easily discover businesses. Star ratings were launched back in early 2012 on mobile with Facebook’s “Nearby” feature. But sometime in 2014, star ratings will be prominently displayed on a business page’s timeline and as a preview in the news feed. The implication for small businesses could be significant as their use of Facebook shifts from a promotional tool for products and services to a customer service portal where things like answering questions, handling dissatisfied patrons and resolving disputes will come to the forefront.

Twitter: @MagicRecs

This is an interesting Twitter experiment designed to help users decide who to follow. The account is operated by Twitter and sends its followers recommendations on whom to follow and spotlights tweets to check out. Now users can actually manage the recommendations they receive, which show up in their Twitter inboxes. Users can send messages to the account letting Twitter know if their recommendations are good or in some cases, bad. If you follow the page, send a message with the word “help” and you’ll receive a response with a list of the ways you can manage recommendations.

For small-business owners, following @MagicRecs is a great way to find out what Twitter recommends and gain exposure to new customers along the way. To check it out, follow @MagicRecs or get more information here.

Google +: Google + Shared Endorsements

Officially launched on Nov. 11, “Google + Shared Endorsements” is a new feature designed that allows people who endorse or review websites, businesses or products using Google + to share their ratings, profile pages and comments in organic search results and paid ads. It aims to personalize search and give businesses the opportunity to showcase consumer confidence. Keep in mind that “Shared Endorsements” is a controversial feature because many have protested having their images used in search results without compensation and its advantages to business owners remains to be seen. For more information on Shared Endorsements, click here.

Instagram: advertising

Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing social network, will soon debut targeted advertising. Last month, the site began giving users an idea of what the ads will look like during a one-week testing period. Photos and videos that contain advertisements will appear with a “Sponsored” label alerting users to the fact they are viewing an ad and not user-generated content. For more information on how Instagram advertising will work, click here.

LinkedIn: ‘showcase pages’

Last month, LinkedIn introduced a new feature that allows brands to focus their content to specific audiences. “Showcase pages” are essentially extensions of “company pages” but designed to give businesses the ability to create specific pages for a new division, project, business unit or initiative within a company. “Showcase pages” don’t operate like LinkedIn “company pages” or “groups.” For example, “showcase pages” don’t have tabs for “products and services.” The intent is to focus on the specific initiative, business unit or division that are being showcased, not a company as a whole. In terms of “groups,” the major difference is that companies can control all content on a “showcase page,” while an administrator controls content for a LinkedIn “group.”

“Showcase pages” offer small businesses an opportunity to increase awareness about a specific project or initiative, and they comes with the ability to advertise, which is something that is not available on “company pages.” Businesses can also advertise on “showcase pages” by purchasing “follower ads” and “sponsored updates” that will make the pages posts and content available to people who are not following the page. For more information on LinkedIn “showcase pages,” click here.

Pinterest: ‘Place Pins’

Pinterest recently launched a new feature called “Place Pins” designed to help people discover new places. Pinterest users can pin their favorite businesses like restaurants, boutiques and bookstores. When a user pins a place, a map that shows the specific location of the business is overlaid on the pin. Users are able to pin multiple locations on one map, which can help the platform’s primarily female audience plan vacations, birthdays and even girls’ nights out. Details on the business, such as the phone number, street address and website are included in the pin.

The implications of this new feature are huge for small business owners when you consider that according to Pinterest, there are over 750 million pins of destinations on the platform. Small businesses should not ignore the potential of Place Pins in 2014. For more information on Pinterest Place Pins, click here.

STARTING GATE EXTRA: More changes coming to social media in 2014

Major changes are coming to your favorite social media networks like Facebook and Twitter in 2014. If you read my column in this morning’s paper, you now have an overview of many of them. Here is a list of a few more you should be on the lookout for in the New Year.

  1. 1.       Twitter Cards. Twitter recently launched Twitter Cards, a new feature that allows you to attach different types of media to your Tweets that are linked to the content you post. It requires you to add a few lines of HTML code to your website where your content is housed. But it can be done in four easy steps. There are eight types of “cards” you can attach to a tweet including a gallery card, which gives you the opportunity to showcase a collection of photos and a product card that allows you to showcase a particular product. For more information, check out
  1. 2.       Larger Photos on Facebook. Facebook recently began allowing users to upload larger photos in their status updates, which is great for small business owners with products to promote. Previously, photos uploaded to Facebook had to be a maximum of 604 pixels. The allowable size has increased almost 20 perfect to 720 pixels. Check it out here -
  1. 3.       Google Helpouts. Helpouts by Google is a new service launched last month that connects you with one-on-one professional help using Google’s video-chatting technology. Although it was just launched last month, there are more than 1,000 providers on the Helpouts. While many offer help for free, some providers charge fees that range from $1 a minute and up. To use the service, you must have a Google + account. Helpout topics are expansive and range from beauty and music to technology and business. For more information, log on to -


Tasha Cunningham is a principal in the Cunningham Group, an award-winning communications firm with offices in Miami and Orlando. She writes about how small-business owners can leverage social media and other online tools to grow their companies.


November 11, 2013

Social Media Club South Florida turns five years young, holding celebration event Tuesday

By Christine de la Huerta

SmcTime flies when you spend so much of it online!  This fall, Social Media Club South Florida (SMCSF) turns five years young.  From its humble beginnings, the founders simply wished to create a space for like-minded people to connect.  Somehow, the club grew into much more than that.

Today, SMCSF is one of the largest chapters in the country.

Social Media Club South Florida aims to raise awareness and educate local professionals and students about the value of emerging social media tools for marketing communications, public relations, customer service, recruitment, knowledge sharing and more. The club promotes social media as an essential communications tool, working alongside traditional media to improve the exposure, efficiency, and prospects of all organizations. This applies to commercial, not-for-profit, educational and governmental institutions. To meet these growing needs, SMCSF holds monthly meetings and disseminates information to engage participants in social media, including presentations from social media enthusiasts, open discussions, and networking opportunities.

One such opportunity has arrived this week as SMCSF celebrates its 5-year anniversary. 

On Nov. 12 at The LAB Miami, SMCSF is hosting a celebratory meet-up: "Stop Faking It!"  The program will reveal a myriad of  dos and don'ts in social media when it comes to authenticity. Why should you choose real followers over fake ones? How can companies and individuals alike truly create a an authentic online brand presence?  How do genuine engagement and grounded grassroots initiatives gather speed to benefit your bottom line? These topics and much more will be addressed while the panel answers questions and invites audience participation.

The panel discussion will feature local notables from the social media club circles, including:
* Craig Agranoff @lapp, Co-founder,
* Gary Bahadur, CEO, KRAA Security
* Maria de los Angeles @vicequeenmaria, Freelance Multimedia Storyteller
* Janie Sederberg @janiec, Executive Vice President, Brand Experience at ONE Sotheby's International Realty
* Grant Stern @grantstern, Owner, Morningside Mortgage Corporation 

Please visit the event page on Facebook for more information. 

Christine de la Huerta is vice president of rbb Public Relations and a board member of the Social Media Club of South Florida.


November 08, 2013

The mobile explosion theme of WebCongress Miami

WebCongress, a two-day digital marketing and media conference, kicked off Thursday with some sage advice — from a 13-year-old.

“Get a head start. When I’m 23 I will already have 10 years experience starting companies,” says Jordan Casey from Waterford, Ireland. He began learning to code when he was 9, and has already launched several video games under his Casey Games company. Most recently he launched TeachWare, a cloud-based “modern student management” platform. He is the youngest app developer in Europe, according to Apple.

Jordan says being a young tech entrepreneur has its perks: Not only did he get a head start, but his age draws media attention to his products. He’s become a geek celebrity so he gets to travel to great places where he is asked to speak, he says. But there are disadvantages, too, such as finding the balance — work, school and playing with his friends. He also said he is not always taken seriously by investors — but that’s changing.

WebcongressJordan is a young member of the digital generation or Generation C, a generation that Bing Chen (pictured here), a YouTube executive, says cares most about creation, curation, content and connection. Reaching that market was the focus of most of the speakers and panelists presenting at WebCongress, now in its second year in Miami

Speakers from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Blackberry and others and executives from brands such as the Miami Marlins addressed the trends and shared advice to the audience of several hundred marketers, social media specialists, developers and entrepreneurs at the James L. Knight Center. There were some common threads: Social media is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Advertising must be personal, targeted and tell a story — brands that get this now will end up on the right side of history. And it’s all about creating content worth sharing — even going viral — but that’s not as easy as it sounds, and takes strategic planning. (Hint, beyond cats, it’s often the how-to videos that do well.)

“The most important way to make an ad is to not make an ad. You tell stories, you don’t sell,” said Chen of YouTube. He shared the example of Dove. Its sales rose 1 percent — a third of its annual growth — after just one YouTube video.

About 40 percent of YouTube’s users access videos via mobile, and projections show mobile taking the lead in a few short years. By 2020, the number of mobile devices is expected to be 10 billion, said Cindy Krum of MobileMoxie. We are on the brink of a mobile explosion — and consequently an explosion of big data — and it goes way beyond phones with Google Glass and watches and other devices coming aboard, she said. “You should be gathering as much data about your customers as you can — even if you do not know what you are going to do with it yet because it’s cheap to store.”

Later in the day, the discussion turned inward – about developing our local tech community. More regional collaboration and a focus on developing our talent pool are important ingredients, the panel said. “There needs to be a lot more involvement of private companies in the ecosystem,” said Auston Bunsen, CTO of Yet many don’t know about the successes we have had, the panel noted. “Believe in Miami, put your foot down as an entrepreneur and build your company here,” said Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet.

Ouali Benmeziane, founder and CEO of WebCongress, started the conference in Spain several years ago and now has teams in Spain, Colombia and Miami. He plans to bring more workshops to Miami in addition to the annual event.

Day one closed with presentations by Venture Hive startups and an “App Circus,” a global contest held in multiple cities. After the companies presented their apps, the judges named Hair Construction’s app, StyleZ, the winner. The app, which provides a menu of modern hairstyles to choose from and connections to stylists in your area that have the recipe to give you that hair style, and Hair Construction disrupt a very traditional industry, Nabyl Charania of Rokk3r Labs, one of the judges. Then, many of the attendees headed to the free TigerDirect Tech Summit and Holiday Party that lasted until midnight at Marlins Park. WebCongress continues Friday at Venture Hive with small-group workshops on topics such as SEO for Mobile, Workshop Analytics and Real-Time Cross Marketing.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.

Photo above: Bing Chen, Global Creative, Development and Management Lead for YouTube speaks to WebCongress at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami on Thursday. On the screen is an image of Talia Joy Castellano, a 13-year-old cancer patient who inspired millions with her unfailingly upbeat makeup tutorials on YouTube, Talia died recently. Photo by PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Above, Robert Hacker of GH Capital, and Jordan Casey, the 13-year-old founder of Casey Games and TeachWare from Waterford, Ireland, discuss Jordan's business model for TeachWare, a platform for students and teachers. After Jordan answered questions about his premise, potential market, competition, risks, marketing strategy, scaling his business and more, Hacker said Jordan seemed to understand business better than a lot of adults he's worked with. Jordan said he would next like to explore incorporating video games into education. 



Posted Nov. 8, 2013


November 06, 2013

Four sales tips for startups

By Mark Crofton 

MHJC picAnybody who starts their own company is constantly selling. Sales, however, often gets a bad rap, or at best, the wrong rap. Many think it’s a dirty word. However, sales done the right way leads to happy customers and successful startups. Here’s a few things I’ve learned in my sales career.

1)     Sales is about process, not golf.

People think selling is about glad-handing or schmoozing customers on the golf course. Sales, and to a greater degree, sales management, is nothing so exciting. It is, in fact, all about process. You need a goal (sales target, quota) a way to incent your salespeople (commissions work nicely) and a cadence (forecast calls, deal reviews, etc). Define a process, make sure everyone knows the expectations and, here’s the tough part: stick to it religiously.

2)     Hope is not a strategy*

Salespeople  need to be optimists. You get told “no” much more than “yes.” Yet, sometimes that optimism goes too far. We believe a deal will close, because we want it to. To ensure it does, test every opportunity by asking four questions:

-          Are we talking with the person who decides (decides, not influences)?

-          Is there budget for our product, service (not budget in general, but in specific for the project we are addressing)?

-          Have we vanquished the competition?

-          Do we have a date to sign the contract? (“Around the end of next month” is NOT a date)

Unless, you know the answers to these questions you shouldn’t console yourself with the hope that the deal will close.

3)     Nobody cares about how cool your product is.

I’ve had many entrepreneurs tell me that their sales are going to take off because their product has a feature that is soooo much better than anything else. Here’s the simple truth: nobody cares about your features, they don’t care about how nice your interface is, they certainly don’t care how well coded your software is. What they do care about is what your product or service can do to solve their problem. Say you develop a new jet airplane that can get me to San Francisco an hour faster. I don’t care how fast your jet is, I care that I have an hour more with customers or that I can get home faster to see my family. Focus on your customers’ needs, not on your product.

4)     People buy, not companies.

A corollary to the above is that you need to solve a person’s problems, not just a company’s.  After all, it’s a person who will sign the contract and cut the check. What is the “win” for the person who is deciding? If you’re telling me that you can save money by cutting staff in the accounting department with your new software, and I am the one who hired and have managed the accounting team for the past five years, do you think that’s gonna move me to buy? Now, if you tell me that I can redeploy those folks to higher value work, fine. Understand the buyer’s motivation and needs, and express the benefits of your product in terms of a win for the person you are talking to.

Do all of the above and focus on your customers’ long-term success, and you’ll be well on your way to driving long-term sales for your startup.

*This is the title of a great book on selling into big accounts. Worth the read.

Mark Crofton is a vice president of sales at SAP. He has held prior roles in M&A and post-merger integration and has previously worked at strategy consulting and venture capital firms. He is active in the Miami entrepreneurial  community and has advised several startups.