We were thinking about choosing some great social media ecommerce apps that would help our readers better integrate social media with their online store and bring additional benefits in the form of better traffic and higher sales. Luckily, we met Tim Sae Koo, who gladly told us about the social engagement application he is a founder of – Tint. Below is the interview in which Tim talks about the application and his entrepreneurship experience.
Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today. Today we are going to talk to a young yet very successful and ambitious tech entrepreneur, Tim Sae Koo. Tim is a founder of startup called Tint which is a tool that helps site aggregate curate and display all social media feeds in one place. By now it is being used by more than 40 000 brands around the world as well as celebrities such as Tony Braxton and Danity Kane. Tim was recently named one of the top 50 San-Francisco Bay area startups to watch in 2014. Tint seems to be very valuable and promising tool for online businesses, so let’s find out more about this company and people behind it.
Hello Tim, very nice to have you today for the interview, thank you for finding the time and coming to us. The first question will be: can you run us through your journey to date? What did you do before founding Tint and how did the idea come up?
Thank you so much Elena for having me, thank you everyone for listing in and I am happy to share our journey as well as some of our business learnings with everybody today. In regards to your first question, in terms of what has been happening through our journey to date and what I did before founding Tint. I was not anticipating to be an entrepreneur, I think, before. When I was young, I remember the first thing which I wanted to do, I told my parents was: “I wanna be a president of the United States”. When I grew up, I started interning at politician offices, understanding that industry, and one thing which really frustrated me was even though it was all about helping people and solving their problems, it was quite difficult to do that because there was a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of red tape in order to resolve something I felt I could resolve. So with that being said I decided to think about pursuing my own business, my own company someday, because I will be able to take control and move forward with solving problems.
So I went to the University of Southern California, Los Angeles and decided to study entrepreneurship there, and then during my entrepreneurship courses I took a class that challenged us to come up with the business idea as quickly as possible throughout that semester and then pursue as much as you can coming up with the business plan, trying to figure out if you can talk to customers and what they say . And that was the first time when I decided to come up with the idea of social media aggregation, and what happened was that I was in consumer space creating another products, but it was very similar technology and throughout that class that is how I decided to come up with the idea of social media aggregation.
I worked on it about a year after I graduated, and it didn’t quite work out as I anticipated as a lot of ideas usually happen, and I decided to maneuver into B2B space and really selling this technology to businesses and brands today which is being taking off ever since. But that pretty much summarizes what I was doing before, how I got where I am today; and it all was through mistakes , experiences that you never expect to happen and then it happens that way.
Could you tell us a bit more about Tint application? What does it do, what is its future? Where will it be, in your opinion, several years down the road?
Tint is all about aggregating social content out of the social web and be able to display it anywhere you want. It’s all about utilizing all the social content that you as a brand are sharing or your fans are sharing about you and be able to leverage that by pulling it all in one place, being able to moderate which one you want to display and, finally, display all that social content on any website, any mobile app, any TV screen inside retail store, restaurants, to any big projector walls at events. So basically, what it does is digital display; we want it to integrate social content onto there, so you can engage your audiences. Where we potentially see this in the future is really on any digital display from small mobile apps that you see on your phone today to, maybe, even on ad units on websites, because right now when you see ad units right now on the website they are pretty static. What if we integrate it with social content and allow people a kind of see these ad units from the eyes of the social content. And then even later on we potentially foresee it like on big digital big boards, on freeways, or game stadiums, or the place where you can put the content on, we want to be that medium, that platform that can leverage social content and display it on there.
From several years down the line we potentially, you know, our platform is about how to leverage social content for maximum usage. So can we potentially not only look at it, because right now if you put on the website, if you put it on the TV screen, all you do is just kind of look at it, you can click on it sometimes, but what else can we do with that? One big innovation we are testing out today is leap motion, so leap motion allows you to use your hands as a remote control, so next time when you go to the retail store, you see social content on TV screen, you don’t have just sit there or stand there and watch it, you can actually potentially move it around with your hands, pinch it or drag it. So this is kind of a big idea down the road — having all the social content, what can you do with it instead of just like being on the social network, can we put it on TV screens; if it on TV screens, can we not just stare at it, but interact with it with your hands, with your body. That is kind of a big idea we potentially see later down the road.
You have worked with some big-name musical artists and famous people who have utilized your application. Could you tell us about them, who were they and how did you approach these big labels and artists?
Sure, what funny was, when we were first working on the previous product from the consumer side there was a manager from the celebrity agency who reached out to us and said: “I like your technology , but we want it on our site, we want it on our celebrity site, who was Tony Braxton, and she said that if you give us this technology, we will utilize it because our website is really static, really boring, it is very hard and difficult to update new content there.” And that is when we saw the idea: “Ok, maybe it is a business idea here, so we pave it into this space.” From there we had other celebrities like Miranda Kerr, who is a Victoria Secret model, to Chris Bosh and Richard Sherman, who an NFL and NBA players, to the Lumeneers pop band, we had Queen Latifah, 50 Cent — and all of these celebrities are using it in different ways, but the main ways have been utilizing it by putting on the website, and the main thing is that they realize that content creation is really difficult , difficult to create and difficult to update manually, but rather if you use it on your social network, you are pretty much creating content every day — on Instagram, on Twitter — these are all content that your fans would love to see, but instead of shooting them out to different networks how about we put it all on one branded website where people can find me and interact with all social content that I am creating all around social web. So this is one big way celebrities are using us.
Queen Latifah and Lumineers pop band are utilizing us for what we call hashtag contest. So they have big following and they want to engage with them more and launch something like Lumineers when launced new single, they actually used Tint to aggregate all the content for the hashtag that represents lyrics in one of a new single and they said: “Hey, anybody who takes a picture of what this lyrics means to them could potentially win free tickets to my next concert.” So really engage with the audience during these social media contests and be able to display them on the website.
I think you have a lot of experience in this field, how to write a converting pitch about your product or service? Email letter structure, for example? What things to include and what to avoid in such letter?
Absolutely, these celebrities and these big brands that we have today — it wasn’t easy, just take a lot of crafting to get their attention to sell them on the product. I think the main tips, the three things that I would say for the audiences today is one: always remember what is in it for the customer or your client, so really catering a pitch towards what is valuable for them, don’t really talk about the features, rather if you talk about the features, explain why it is beneficial for them.
The second thing I would say is to keep the email or the pitch short and concise; the last thing that anybody wants is to open a very long email, because it just takes too long and you don’t have much time today to read long emails. So keep it short and concise. And the last one, I would say, don’t underestimate the power of the subject line, so the subject line, keep it very unique, the last thing I want to see from someone pitching me is a very generic subject line, but if you cater it, put the brand name, put there actual name, talking about something that is very intriguing, something that is so unique that you’d also be surprised about the click through rate of the email. So I think these are three main things that are hard to convert, these pitches into actual sales for your customers.
Some marketers say it is wise to include short video there, does such trick work, how do you think?
Yeah, certainly, when we started the company, obviously, we didn’t have a video, but I decided to create one ourselves. Yeah, I included that, and that actually converts more, because, I guess, for me or a for a lot of people out there, we don’t like to read as much, we just would like to be shown exactly what the product is, what the product can do for you, so having I would say like a 60-to-90-second video suffices in terms of just understanding what is in it for them, and get them intrigue into reply back to the email and say like: “Ok, let’s make a meeting or a short call.”
Among our listeners there are a lot of ecommerce owners. Do you have any case at hand about how Tint helped ecommerce store to dramatically increase business performance? If so, could you tell about such case in a few words right now?
So typically, what we see is a lot of ecommerce brands utilize us, and what we have done in terms of case studies is an average about 10-percent increase in traffic when they integrate Tint onto their website, 20-percent increase in time spent on site, and about 12-percent decrease in bounce rate. So the reason why you can see increase in traffic is if you do decide to integrate social content onto your website, whether on the home page or on subnavigation page, it will entice your consumers and visitors to come up on the daily basis to see what new content you have, especially hashtag contest, when you tell your audiences you use a hashtag you will be able to shop on my website, they get really excited and want to come back and see: “Did I show up on the website, did I make it on the website?”, this is how you can increase the traffic. In terms of time increase spent on site — what happens is when you have a lot of content and a lot of engaging visual content on your website which were all about, you can imagine people kind of scrolling through your content, kind of sifting your new content and trying find and see new content throughout the website . So what it does – it increases time spent on site and engagement on your site, and that leads me into the next part – which is decrease in bounce rate, this decrease in bounce rate means that when people land on your site, they see this new social content — very visual, very relevant, very recent — and that will be a great way to engage them with your site versus just leaving your site immediately.
One example I can share with you is a big brand Travelocity. They ran a hashtag contest with us called #iWannaGo and basically they said: “anybody who wants to join in, use hashtag #iWannaGo and tell where you want to go around the world for a trip, and the best photo or the best reason will win a free trip around the world for 30 000 dollars or something like that. And they used the platform to aggregate that content and display on the website. What they got – their hashtag usage increased about like 50 percent to 100 percent from if they didn’t’ use it and about 20 000 post entries that equated about 40 000 000 social impressions on the social web, and then, obviously, because of so many posts coming in, their hashtag was trending, and what we did – we added fuel to the fire, because when people see everything on their website they want to join in, the want to know who else is participating . That was a very successful campaign, and we only hope to replicate them more with other ecommerce owners who want to do hashtag contents, hashtag campaigns or really aggregate social content to provide good relevant recent content all around social web.
Later on, Tim told us about additional new function that Tint has — call to action feature for e-commerce brands that allows to add a SHOP NOW, or BUY HERE call to action link on the bottom of each of the social hashtag content coming in (check the examples here).
How to implement your solution? Is it easy for non-tech people?
This is very easy for any non-technical person. I, myself, as CEO I am not technical, so when I started to build it, I knew that it had to be as easy for me as a non-technical person to be able to utilize this. So this is one of our main advantages between us and our competitors, it is actually a very easy out-of-the-box, self-service solution, and any non-technical people, especially marketers or social media marketers are our direct customers, because they can just come in here, create it and then all you need to do is connect some feeds. You can moderate which one you want to display, you can choose a theme and then all you have to do is to grab a bit of code and give it to your developer. And then he will be able to just put it in or you can just put it on your WordPress site, into your Shopify site, whatever site you own, and then just be able to integrate it very easily. And then once you do integrate it, the most successful place we have seen have been on the bottom half of the splash page or on your front page. So not necessarily on the top of your home page because it is the most important part to attract customers, but on the bottom. It’s like you have attracted them, and then you show them all the social content — hashtag content or your own branded content – that is where we see a lot of success because people will be able to engage with it, people understand like: “I want to join in the conversation, because if I join, I can shop on the site”, so this is where we see as the most successful areas to implement Tint on the websites.
Did you study SEO benefits which adding Tint feature gives to the site?
Yes, so right now because our platform from technical site is an html embed, it doesn’t affect SEO. It doesn’t harm it nor benefit it, it is just an additional feature that allows you to really engage with your audiences. But as we move forward though, this is a definitely big thing, because if you have a lot of content, can we figure out ways to index that and provide SEO benefits for our customers, so this is something we look into. Right now it is just an additional feature that doesn’t harm not benefit your SEO.
What are top three methods of content marketing which worked the best for Tint promotion?
Actually, content marketing was one of our main reasons how we were able to grow from zero to what we are today. When we first set up to build the company, we knew that content marketing would be the key, because people like to read content, and we have a lot of good content that we learned during our journey, that we can pass on to our users or our readers. So the three tings that I always say for any bloggers or people who are in content marketing: first thing, make sure you SEO it, figure out what keywords you want to blog about and really optimize the blog post for those keywords, and if you do that, Google or any search engine will reward you for being very relevant for specific keywords. Before you start a blog post, research what keywords you want to be really good at and then wrap around the topic around that.
The second thing, I would say, is make it fun to read with a story and provide practical tips; the last thing someone wants to read is just like someone who writes something just for the sake of writing. Usually when I write (I have been on a lot of content now) and it’s all about crafting a story behind it, a fun introduction to it, get people hooked and then at the end I want to summarize practical tips that they can take away, so if they forgot everything they read previously, all that they have to do is to remember last few things I mention as a summary.
And the last thing, I would say, the summary — diversifying the topic. So on our blog right now we have around 150 blog posts right now, and they are all very diversified in terms of whether it will be social media industry that we blog about or startup lessons that we have endured to any practical advice that we picked up or life hacks we have learned. One of our the most popular blog posts have been how to find an email address in less than 2 minutes, and so I found a hack around it and it has been really helpful for a lot of our readers and our customers as well. So diversifying the topic, not just about the industry you are in but like startup lessons or life hacks you have learned during your journey will be very beneficial.
What are you most excited about in the digital marketing at the moment?
Digital marketers for us are actually direct target market for us, they are decision makers for us. So we working with the digital marketers, because they are always at the forefront figuring out what technology can merge and work together to really reach and engage the audiences and customers actively.
They all see the value of social when I talk to them and they sometimes start to brainstorm with me like: “Does this technology work with that?” or “Can we merge these two platforms together?” Just yesterday someone mailed me and said: “Hey, I like your technology and use it on my site, did you know maybe you can possible use this on the landing pages, so when people are creating landing pages today they are kind of static, why don’t you integrate more social content into that because people like content? Why don’t you partner up with us or other landing page companies out there to merge technologies together to really give their audiences and customers great experience?
And then other benefit I like about digital marketers is when I talk to digital marketers, they can mention to me: “Have you thought about integrating with Microsoft Connect or with leap motion?”, and that is when I started to figuring out like: “Oh, there is potential here where you may not just sit, and stand and watch social content, but really interact with it”, so that is why I like working with digital marketers, they are always aware about what cutting edge technologies are and start brainstorm with me how we can merge together or work together.
Where do you go for great ideas on online marketing of your brand? Online sources and personas you follow?
Yes, of course, I usually read a lot Social Media Examiner, because I am in the industry, I am all about just to understand from social side what marketing techniques, online marketing techniques are on the social web. I like reading Inc. Magazine a lot — they provide very practical tips for me which I really like. I also read ClickZ, what they do – they diversify a lot of topics for me not only for the social side but also maybe SEO side as well, so I really like that. And, finally, there are a lot of people I follow as well: Seth Godin, he has very very practical tips on life hacks, but also marketing techniques which I really enjoy as well. So these are the main four I like to go to a lot.
I assume you get to deal with enormous amount of information every day to stay on top of everything, including the news and innovations. What is your personal list of favorite productivity apps? And what apps on your phone you love the most?
Yeah, I love that question. So the one main which I always use on the daily basis is Flipboard, that is just my favorite, because I am all about content, content aggregation and then utilizing this content in a very easy to read or display format, and actually Flipboard was one of my main inspiration to create Tint today, so I am on Flipboard on the daily basis just reading and catching upon the news also in a very visual and appealing way. And then another one I usually try to go to is Quora, I take Quora a lot just to stay up- to-date with startup news, because I am in the industry, I watch the TED Talks on the TED app a lot, SoundCloud, and use Venmo.com to trade money and send money when I owe people money. Here is a new app I have just tried out called Humin, they are relatively new and they are in beta, but take a look if you can, basically what they are trying to do is what Mailbox did for email, they try to do it for your phone app. So they are trying to make your phone app more social, more visual, more smart instead of just keeping numbers and display information they are kind of aggregating all the social data from Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and they are able to visualize it more on the phone app which is kind of interesting, so take a look at that!
Thank you very much for the interview, it was a great pleasure to talk to you, and I think that our listeners have also learned a lot from what you have said.