9 Quotes to Inspire Your Startup, from Esther Dyson

Esther Dyson Startup QuotesEsther Dyson is a board member and angel investor for a long list of startups. Her primary focus right now is on health technology (e.g. FitBit, Health Gauge, HealthEngage) and healthcare, but she also dabbles in aerospace, worldwide. By “dabbles”, we mean she went to Moscow and was trained as a backup cosmonaut. She has a Harvard degree in economics and cut her teeth as a fact-checker for Forbes before moving into a research and reporting role that gave her the foundation of knowledge she uses as an investor.

Dyson was one of the early investors in the online photo sharing surge, backing companies such as Flickr. As a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council she helps entrepreneurs scale up their businesses. In an interview with the BBC’s Tanya Beckett, Dyson said one of the greatest challenges for entrepreneurs is finding people who are better than they are who can help them mature and achieve their full potential.

“Always make new mistakes.”

“Think about what you’re doing and how the technology can enhance it. Don’t think about technology first.”

“From the business point of view—not to overstate it—intellectual property is dead; long live intellectual process. Long live service; long live performance.”

“Change means that what was before wasn’t perfect. People want things to be better.”

“A worker’s paradise is a consumer’s hell.”

“Without order, planning, predictability, central control, accountancy, instructions to underlings, obedience, discipline—without these things nothing fruitful can happen, because everything disintegrates. And yet—without the magnanimity of disorder, the happy abandon, the entrepreneurship venturing into the unknown and incalculable, without the risk and the gamble, the creative imagination rushing in where angels fear to tread—without this, life is a mockery and a disgrace.

“I don’t like wasting things and I don’t like redundant effort. It offends me when people do useless work.”

“It may not always be profitable at first for businesses to be online, but it is certainly going to be unprofitable not to be online.”

“The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect.”

-Esther Dyson, Investor

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Logo Design News This Week (4.8)

Another Friday, another look back at the past week’s news from the world of logo design. Here’s what caught our eye over the past seven days:

Firenza Logo DesignWe just happened to be traveling through Florence a month or so ago so we found this first item interesting. We stopped to see the David, the Battistero, and the Uffizi Gallery and saw lots of great arty stuff. We were impressed. The one thing we didn’t do was think, “Hey, this place needs a better logo.” But someone else did. Actually we quite like this new logo design (even though it doesn’t really capture the artistic feel of the city), which features the town’s name in several languages, with the Italian name “hidden” in the bold letters. Nice work, even if it probably wasn’t needed. The Branding Source points out the similarity to Prague’s multi-lingo logo.

Leaked! Is this the logo for Star Wars 7? We don’t think so, it’s a little too Tron 2.

Lviv Olympic Logo DesignFlorence wasn’t the only city to get a new logo. Lviv Ukraine is an applicant city for the 2022 Winter Olympics. (They just missed the optimal Olympic coverage news window by posting this now, instead of last month during the actual Winter Olympics). On the other hand, everyone in the Western World is talking about Ukraine right now, though, for all the wrong reasons. Back to the logo. So typical of an applicant city logo—Olympic colors, check. Mountains, check. Curvy moving font, check. Great design, um not so much. Especially when compared to the logos that finished after this one. You can see those here.

Another new city logo. Is Mississauga’s logo a paper clip? Funny quote from the article: “People forget, we’re a very young city. We’re the next Portland, we’re the next Barcelona. We are the future.” Um, about that… probably not.

New York FC Fan Logo DesignNew York’s Football Club announced a few weeks ago that they were open to ideas for their new club logo. This week they unveiled the two logos they like and gave interested fans the option to vote on their favorites. We like both logos and think either would work, but think the club missed a major opportunity when they didn’t go with this fan created option that features New York landmarks (the Chrysler Building and Brooklyn Bridge) in a nice shield. Or something like it. We’ll post the winner when we know it.



This may be the best logo-related letter ever. Worth reading every sarcastic letter.

Jana Sena Party Logo DesignThis new logo for the Jana Sena Party in India is hard to decipher. The party describes itself as revolutionary (they admire the work of Che Guevara). They use the six pointed star, which in the west is associated with Israel. The black, red, and white color scheme evoke the Nazi colors (which may be intentional as the party is described as nationalist with a social bent). The party platform is a bit nebulous, but if the logo is an indication, we might be able to guess where this is going.



Thrivent Financial Logo DesignAnother new logo that we like: Thrivent Financial. Thrivent began life as a non-profit for lutherans needing financial services. It has grown into a Fortune 500 organization and is ready to shed it’s “for lutherans” badge and welcome Christians of all denominations. The new logo is a nice heart/cross mix that recognizes the organization’s roots and expanding mission.

Google Women's Day Logo DesignGoogle came under some criticism this past week when someone figured out that more than 80% of the historical figures honored with a Google logo are men. Actually, this isn’t exactly surprising as the traditional roles filled by men and women up until the last few decades generally placed men in more notable roles (not making a judgment here about whether that was right or wrong, it just was). Ironically (or perhaps not) this week’s new Google logo was for International Women’s Day and features nearly 100 women. That should help even out the numbers. Click the link to see the video.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.

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9 Inspirational Quotes for Startups from the Cofounder and CEO of Dropbox, Drew Houston

Drew Houston Startup QuotesDrew Houston (pronounced like the NYC street, not the town in Texas) is the man we can thank for bringing us the cloud-based file-sharing service, Dropbox. This year his company brought in the funding that put it in the 10-figure club, and Houston with it.

Dropbox is Houston’s sixth startup. Of his earlier startup attempts, he says he was “ramen profitable” at best. He graduated from MIT a term early in 2006 and was invited back in 2013 as a commencement speaker. Though only in his early 30′s, his remarks for both new graduates and entrepreneurs are based in personal experience.

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.”

“Instead of trying to make your life perfect, give yourself the freedom to make it an adventure, and go ever upward.”

“The hardest-working people don’t work hard because they’re disciplined. They work hard because working on an exciting problem is fun.”

“Surrounding yourself with inspiring people is now just as important as being talented or working hard.”

“Where you live matters: there’s only one MIT. And there’s only one Hollywood and only one Silicon Valley. This isn’t a coincidence: for whatever you’re doing, there’s usually only one place where the top people go. You should go there. Don’t settle for anywhere else. Meeting my heroes and learning from them gave me a huge advantage. Your heroes are part of your circle too — follow them.”

“The most dangerous thought you can have as a creative person is that you know what you’re doing.”

“You need that hunger no matter what, because eventually the honeymoon period wears off. Somewhere between printing your business cards that say ‘founder’ on them and everything else you have to do, you realize, ‘Oh, actually this is a ton of work.’”

“A lot of times it’s an asset to not know everything about everything… A lot of really great, innovative things have happened when people just didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be possible.”

“You have to adopt a mindset that says, ‘Okay, in three months, I’ll need to know all this stuff, and then in six months there’s going to be a whole other set of things to know — again in a year, in five years.’ The tools will change, the knowledge will change, the worries will change.”

-Drew Houston, Cofounder & CEO, Dropbox

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Logo Design News This Week (4.7)

It’s time for the latest update full of news from the world of logo design. Here’s what caught our eye over the past seven days:

Olive Garden Logo DesignOlive Garden, the family friendly Italian restaurant chain that hipsters love to hate and Americans love to visit, unveiled a new logo this week. And the best thing we can say is that it is better than the old one. It’s not great. It lacks color and gives up some of the kitschy iconography of the old logo. But the last logo design was bad. Try embroidering the old logo on a golf shirt or printing in in black and white. Critics have come out in force. We tend to think that a lot of the hatred of the logo is misplaced hatred of the brand itself—it’s hip to hate Olive Garden. It’s not a great logo, but it is a step in the right direction.

Speaking of bad logos, check out this survey of neutered man logo designs (called sprites).

New Reebok Logo DesignLast week we mentioned that the new Reebok logo looked like an imperial star fighter. We stand by that remark (it does). This week we saw the short video about the brand transition away from marketing with superstars toward focusing on the single sport of fitness. Brands don’t usually undergo this kind of change when things are going well, so this is a signal that the brand was losing the battle with Nike, UnderArmor, and others. We doubt the new logo will do much to further the new brand position, but time will tell. We prefer the older logo—it was more unique.

The Fort Worth Vaqueros (soccer team) need a logo. Now’s your chance to vote on the one the team will reportedly use.

Kobe Bryant Logo PianoInteresting logo news item: apparently Kobe Bryant isn’t just good at basketball, he’s a pretty good pianist as well. He reportedly likes to sit down to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (a piece we never managed to master) to relieve stress. Yes, you read that right. Kobe can play the piano. And what does a guy with his own logo (courtesy of Nike) do when he buys a piano? He has someone make it in the shape of his logo. It’s good to be king, or the black mamba.

The Wall Street Journal hints that the new Fiat Chrysler logo is boring. They have a point.

St. David Google Logo DesignThis week Google didn’t change their logo in the United States, but Brazil got a logo for Carnival, while most of the British Isles saw a logo for Elizabeth Browning’s 208th birthday. We liked this logo, also shown in the United Kingdom, for St. David’s Day. St. David is the patron saint of Wales, though there is little evidence that he ever wore a top hat or shared tea with a dragon.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.



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The Problem with Most Startup Advice

The Problem with Startup AdviceIf you have even a passing interest in starting a new business, you’ve probably read a book, listened to a podcast, or scanned several blogs (or all three) looking for advice on how to do it right. We write a lot about this, so maybe that’s how you found us.

And you’ve probably come across a lot of startup advice like this: Hire fast, fire faster. Eat your own dogfood. Or, focus on the customer.

Sound familiar? We may even be guilty of it ourselves with our weekly posts of startup inspiration.

Here’s the problem: too much of it is obvious stuff.

If this kind of advice isn’t intuitive, maybe you should reconsider your plan for a startup…

Wait, focus on the customer? That’s ingenious. I was going to create products no one would want, but thanks to this business-saving advice, I’m going to focus on my customers. Wow!

See what we mean?

We got to thinking about this after reading Sarah Lacy’s review of Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing about Hard Things which she describes as the best book about starting a new business. Here’s an excerpt:

There is real, practical business advice in here that contradicts everything anyone else in the Valley will tell you.

An example: “Hire a worldclass team!” they say. “Make a wish list of who you want and go after them!” “A players only want to work with A players, so don’t hire B players.”

Wait a minute—you are saying I should try to hire great talent? Because I was just going to walk outside and yell that I had jobs available.

“Hire a worldclass team” is about as helpful as telling someone to “Try their hardest.” Anyone building a company likely already is, and if not, you telling them isn’t going to suddenly make them try harder.

You know what’s hard? Hiring a worldclass sales manager when you have a company that is trading at less than cash at the wake of the dot com bust. Astoundingly, the best sales managers in the world just weren’t returning Horowitz’s calls. So instead—in one of my favorite sections of the book—he describes hiring Mark Cranney.

It was a decision most of his board and his executive team were violently against. (Lesson to Horowitz: “No one else gets a vote.”) Cranney actively made people feel uncomfortable—not what you want in a sales guy. Horowitz describes him as physically looking like a perfect “square.” But he was a savant at how to build an effective sales team.

My favorite passage is when Horowitz sat down to explain to his cofounder—and to many, the face of the company—Andreessen why he was hiring him:

I let Marc open the conversation…by listing his issues with Cranney: doesn’t look or sound like a head of sales, went to a weak school, makes him uncomfortable. I listened very carefully and replied, “I agree with every single one of those isues. However, Mark Cranney is a sales savant. He has mastered sales to a level that far exceeds anybody that I have ever known. If he didn’t have the things wrong with him that you enumerated, he wouldn’t be willing to join a company that just traded at thirty-five cents per share; he’d be the CEO of IBM.” Marc’s reply came quickly: “Got it. Let’s hire him!”

That is the reality of how you hire as a startup CEO going through any degree of shit, which let’s face it, they all are. Unless you are Facebook, you can’t call whoever you want an offer them a job. (And truth be told, even Facebook doesn’t have a 100% batting average on hiring.) You have to find the person the best at the single unique skill you need and tolerate everything else that comes with them. The reason they aren’t running IBM despite their skills. That is helpful hiring advice.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Advice is like theory. And in theory, the theory works. In practice, things are a lot harder than that.


Photo credit: morganglines via photopin cc

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14 Inspirational Quotes for Startups and Small Business from Mark Suster

Mark Suster Startup QuotesMark Suster is a two-time entrepreneur (the founder of Koral and BuildOnline) turned venture capitalist (focused primarily on early stage tech companies). He joined Upfront Ventures in 2007 as a General Partner after selling his company to Salesforce.com. His background in computer networking and system modeling afforded him some enviable gigs abroad and he was able to get his MBA from the University of Chicago paid for by his employer. Of this time, he says, “I got to work for a three year period of time as a ‘strategy consultant,’ which meant I became a blackbelt in PowerPoint and Excel.”

If you aren’t following his blog, you are missing out on an endless treasure trove of knowledge for your startup. Suster’s posts are candid, witty, and exactly what new and aspiring “wantrapreneurs” need to hear from someone who’s been there. Here’s a sampling of some of his advice:

“The sign of a good entrepreneur is the ability to spot your mistakes, correct quickly, and not repeat the mistakes.”

“Start early, build relationships, make them a part of your business.”

“Trust your instincts—they will serve you well as an entrepreneur.”

“No, it’s not as bad as working in coal mines. But it is quite the roller coaster and the stress is real.”

“Choose your investors carefully. There are many bad investors out there.”

“Remember that if you choose to be an entrepreneur or to at least try—it’s stressful for everybody who does it. Your competitors have just as much angst as you do. You read their press releases and think that it’s all rainbows and lollipops at their offices. It’s not. You’re just reading their press bullshit.”

“You can read lots of books or blogs about being an entrepreneur but the truth is you’ll really only learn when you get out there and do it. The earlier you make your mistakes the quicker you can get on to building a great company.”

“I hate losing. I really hate losing. But you need to embrace losing if you want to learn. Channel your negative energy. Revisit why you lost. Ask for real and honest feedback. Don’t be defensive about it—try to really understand it. But also look beyond it to the hidden reasons you lost. And channel the lessons to your next competition.”

“We all find ourselves in the habit of working late, traveling too much and eating like crap. In your twenties it’s manageable. In your thirties it starts to catch up with you. When you hit 40, life changes. You need to get serious about finding a way to bring health & fitness into your life as an entrepreneur.”

“Passion isn’t enough. You need a set of innate skills that differentiate you from the thousands of others who set out on your similar journey.”

“I want to talk about Kool Aid. Yours. Don’t drink it. I know you’re thinking that you have your head on straight but I promise you the experience of finding yourself in this maelstrom will leave any first time entrepreneur spinning.”

“Tenacity is probably the most important attribute in an entrepreneur. It’s the person who never gives up—who never accepts ‘no’ for an answer.”

“I believe that integrity and honesty are very important to most venture capital investors. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they are required to make a lot of money.”

“Most serial entrepreneurs who are working on an early-stage concept know that whatever they’re working on in Year 1 is likely to be dramatically different than what they’re doing in Year 5.”

—Mark Suster, Entrepreneur and VC

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Logo Design News This Week (4.6)

Another week and another edition of Logo Design News This Week with our look back at everything that happened in the world of logo design. Here’s what caught our eye:

Iron Pigs Bacon Logo DesignWe love minor league baseball logos mostly for their weirdness and creativity. One of the teams we’ve mentioned before is the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. With a name like Iron Pigs, the logo opportunities are almost endless. So this week they unveiled a new bacon logo for the team. That’s not a bacon-themed logo, the logo is actually bacon. Mmmm… bacon. The new logo comes with a “first-of-its-kind” bacon-style piping down both legs of the pants. Seriously, what’s not to love about this logo? Or the bacon scented t-shirt?

Erie Seawolves Logo DesignThe Iron Pigs weren’t alone in their unveiling of a new logo this week. The Erie Seawolves, a AA League team marking their 20th anniversary celebrated with a nice new logo, but not bacon scented apparel.




Last week we told you about the controversy surrounding the new logo for Cape Town. This week the designer defends his work. Though the price is still way too high.

Wild Things Warner Logo DesignWe saw a bunch of links to this bunch of Warner Bros logo designs over the years. Designer Christian Annyas assembled this interesting collection. There have been literally hundreds of different executions of thirteen different logo variations—most vary only slightly, mostly with the background behind the iconic letters, or the colors of the letters themselves. The variation pictured here is one of the more unique executions (in our opinion anyway): it was the logo used for the movie Where The Wild Things Are and is styled to look something like a wild thing. Check out the whole collection here.


Earlier this year we told you about the new logo for the Academy Awards. With the Oscars coming up this Sunday, here’s a brief reminder of the reasons why.

Canada National Arts Centre Logo DesignCanada’s National Arts Council unveiled a new logo. This one is nice on several levels. The logo features abstract letter forms for N and A, but also looks like it might be a curtain parting at the start of a performance, or possibly a spotlight on a stage. It is a major simplification of the old logo and some nice work.


Reebok has a new logo. But it looks like an Imperial Shuttle.

Pendle Logo Design ControversyPendle Council adopted a new logo recently, but just decided to scrap the logo when someone pointed out that it looked very similar to a local “sex shop”, Lovehoney’s logo. Now we can understand not wanting to share a logo with a small company who’s brand may not be as reputable as say the local church. But honestly we fail to see the similarity. Yes they both include a heart and a little swirl, but no one will confuse the two—no one except some overly imaginative council busy bodies with too much time on their hands. Lovehoney has been a little, um, cheeky in their response, and offered a free “toy” to any of the councilors who might need to loosen up a little.

Steinbeck Google Logo DesignYesterday Google celebrated John Steinbeck’s 112th birthday with a new logo that featured many of the American author’s works and quotes from the various books. Of Mice and Men has long been a favorite of ours, but the quote from Travels with Charlie is a good one: “We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip. A trip takes us.” Check out the link above to see how the animation worked… and for all the quotes.

Did we miss anything? Let us know.

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8 Inspiring Quotes for Startups and Small Business from David Karp of Tumblr

David Karp Startup QuotesNot all thriving tech companies live in Silicon Valley. Tumblr is one of the most successful tech startups of the last few years and it came out of New York City. It’s the brain child of David Karp and his friend Marco Arment. Karp wanted to create a platform that offered a freer canvas for people to express themselves via social media. It was as simple as creating an intuitive short-form blog template, but Karp also wanted each user to be able to tailor the blog to fit their individual taste. His startup idea turned into Tumblr, which was bought by Yahoo last year for $1.1 billion, and today hosts more than 170 million blogs.

But that wasn’t Karp’s first entrepreneurial venture. He started coding at age 11 and was soon designing websites for local businesses. At the time he lied about his age, how many employees he had, and would even try to disguise his voice (making it lower) when he spoke to customers. At 17 he moved to Tokyo to work for UrbanBaby. Three years later he launched Tumblr.

It’s been argued that the difference between a Valley tech company and a NYC tech company comes down to aesthetic design. However, it could also be the striking personality difference between the typical West Coast entrepreneur and the East Coast’s David Karp. He definitely doesn’t sound like the quintessential Silicon Valley entrepreneur, and he’d probably be proud of that:

“Good products are built by people who want to use it themselves.”

“For every new feature we add, we take an old one out. A lot of big sites don’t do that, and it’s a problem. Twitter started as a beautifully simple product, but it’s now going the same route as Facebook. The drive to innovate can overencumber and destroy a product.”

“I want to build something I’d be happy to be employed by 10 years out.”

“There are enough people in this world like ready to screw you but if you really keep your head up and focus on the things you love you’re going to do wonderful things.”

“I think this is a rule for all large companies: You get to a point where you’re not nimble and you’re not focused. The people on the top are thinking about very different things, and people on the bottom and middle aren’t in the right place in the company to get anything done or to keep a team or a project focused. I can’t imagine being in that environment, where you just don’t know anyone you’re working with.”

“We’ve tried to keep as cheap and lean an operation as possible, but that’s not an original idea. That’s something you should take seriously because it puts you in a much easier position in so many ways. Even if you can raise money, every time you raise money you lost three months pushing out paperwork and getting it to close. It’s a real loss. It keeps our focus different.”

“Where I feel the most productive and engaged is when I’m buried in code, buried in some project, tweaking some designs.”

“Every feature has some maintenance cost, and having fewer features lets us focus on the ones we care about and make sure they work very well.”

-David Karp, founder of Tumblr

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Logo Design News This Week (4.5)

Another week has flown by and it’s time to take a look back at the latest news from the world of logo design. Here’s what caught our attention this week:

New Buccaneers Logo DesignBy far the biggest news of the week was the unveiling of an updated logo for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They didn’t get this much press when they played for the Super Bowl twelve years ago. The new logo features a meaner looking skull, and a cleaner layout. It looks great on the new helmet, complete with a first-of-its-kind chrome face mask—though on the samples we’ve seen, it’s a bit too big for the space. The team unveiled a new secondary logo as well—a cleaner ship logo  you can see at this link. Overall, it’s a nice update.


Another sports logo story: The New York Times writes about the huge hole in Olympic restrictions on corporate logos in the games.

Armada Football Club Logo DesignFlorida was rich pickings for stories about new logos. Across the state, Jacksonville’s new soccer team unveiled its logo this week. The Armada plays in the North American Soccer League. The logo was picked from more than 1200 submissions from fans (though we think the final logo may have been tweaked by a professional designer).



Is this the inspiration for the Seattle Seahawks logo?

New Unitarian Logo DesignWe really like this update to the Unitarian Universalist Association logo that was unveiled this week. The previous logo was of a flat, flaming chalice. The new logo is more like the stereotypical holy grail with a flaming torch inside. They’ve ditched the blue and made the logo a bright red. And they type is nicely simplified. While some may be disappointed that the logo no longer contains the traditional flat chalice, here’s a nice write up of how the logo may (or possible not) intentionally include a beacon, a symbol with historic ties to the Unitarian church.


And the logo controversy we told you about last week? Well that’s been settled. No new logo for Brantford.

Capetown Logo DesignAnother logo controversy is brewing over a new logo design that has cost a city “millions” of dollars. This one is in Cape Town, and despite the best efforts of a local newspaper, no one seems to know what this million dollar logo looks like. According to someone involved in creating the new logo, the city “wanted something fresh and new because Cape Town had made such great progress in recent years”. In our opinion, that’s a very bad reason to spend millions on a new logo. Click here to see what the paper said was the new logo (which was denied by the city). The logo shown here is the city’s current (or very recent) logo. Perhaps understandably, city leaders are not pleased with the criticism.

Gabriele Munter Google Logo DesignNo new Google logo designs in the United States, but we did notice this really nice one in Germany this week celebrating expressionist painter Gabriele Munter’s 137th birthday.


Did we miss anything? Let us know.


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More about Marketing on Facebook for Small Businesses

Late last year, we wrote about the difficulty that small businesses have trying to reach their customers on Facebook. Changes that Facebook has made to their algorithm over the past two years have made it increasingly impossible for small businesses to talk directly to their customers. Isn’t that what social media promised?

If you’ve struggled with how to engage with your customers on Facebook, you’ll want to watch this video from Veritasium as they break down what has been happening to marketers who rely on Facebook likes:



We’ve seen the very same thing with our Facebook traffic. Lots of likes from places where we do almost no business which drives down our engagement with actual customers and fans in the places we want to be. We’d much rather have 1500 fans who care about our content, than 9000 fakes who never see it and don’t really want to. Engagement, not likes, is the metric that matters here.

The problem brands have engaging with their fans isn’t limited to small businesses. It may even be worse for larger brands. Of the top 20 Facebook business pages (companies with the most likes) only six engage more than 1% of their fans with any given post. Only one reaches more than 2% of their audience. A recent post by Target, which has almost 23 million fans got 12 likes.

In a recent FEC filing, Facebook even admitted that as many as 11% of its accounts may be fake. We’d be willing to bet that those fake accounts are responsible for far more than 11% of all likes.

We’re not saying Facebook can’t be an effective channel for reaching your customers. We’ve seen several examples where it apparently is working. And small businesses may have a real advantage in reaching engaged customers. However, we’ll repeat this advice, if you’re going to market your startup on Facebook, you’ll want to use a service like GroSocial to help you create content that works. Seriously, these guys know what they’re doing and can help you out.

For everyone else, Facebook may become just another place online where you can see funny videos and follow what your friends are up to. Small businesses need not apply.


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