Lessons Learned About Social Media & Business by Entrepreneur David Eckoff, Part 1

David Eckoff, Pickoff Sports

David Eckoff

Our interview this week spotlights David Eckoff, entrepreneur, online consumer business specialist and social media guru. Check out Part 2 of our David Eckoff interview to learn more about his start as an entrepreneur and to get his advice about how to start a business.

David Eckoff has played an integral part of successful online ventures at Rivals.com, RealNetworks and Turner Broadcasting. He’s also advised Silicon Valley standouts Ustream and Zazzle.com.

This week he is in Atlanta, New York and San Francisco, demoing his new online service, Pickoff, a a new type of social game that better meets the needs of sports fans. I took some time to get his advice on how entrepreneurs should use social media and what’s important when developing new products.

1. Think of social media as a cocktail party

Eckoff says that companies focus too much on themselves and their marketing messages when using social media.

“If you were at a cocktail party and introduced yourself, ‘Hi I’m John, I sell insurance. Let me tell you about our insurance products.’ how would most people respond? They’d run away!”

Instead, he urges business to use social media as a tool for developing relationships with people..

Be genuinely interested in other people and get to know them,” Eckoff advised.  Don’t immediately hit them up for business, which is the digital equivalent of putting a flyer under the windshield wiper of a person’s car. Few people like that.”

Taking a lead from Dale Carnegie (Eckoff was an instructor of the Dale Carnegie Course). he recommends applying this principle from Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” in social media and in life:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

2. Launch early and often; Fail fast and cheap

Eckoff had the opportunity to spend a day with Marissa Mayer, then VP at Google (and now CEO of Yahoo) to learn how Google does product development. She says she advised getting to market fast and getting customer feedback. In a nutshell: launch early and often, get customer feedback and iterate.

Eckoff suggest, don’t worry about creating the perfect product. From a practical perspective, it’s impossible. It’s expensive. And it takes too much time. Instead, get to market fast with a minimal viable product and get feedback from customers..

“For our Pickoff Sports app, we got to market fast with a minimal viable product.” Eckoff said. “It enabled us to get into the game and to start getting the most important thing, feedback from our customers about what they want and don’t want.”

Eckoff noted the advice of Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, said “If you’re not totally embarrassed by your product when you first release it, you waited too long.”

3. Use Twitter Search

Eckoff stressed the importance of listening to your customers and what they have to say. He notes that Twitter’s Search functionality is a great tool for discovery. You can easily find out what people are saying about the subjects you are interested in and it’s totally free. Used right, Twitter search can be an effective way to start building relationships with people who matter to your business.

“Start with Twitter search, it can be a great way to find people talking about the subjects you are interested in,” Eckoff said. “From there show some genuine interest in people and join the conversation.”

4. Manage Cash Flow Carefully

Eckoff was previously a financial analyst. He says if you’re an entrepreneur, you must carefully manage your cash flow. Your mission is to have enough cash to last you until you reach cash flow positive.

“Run out of cash, and your startup dies,” Eckoff said. “I see too many startups spend cash on silly things. Don’t spend cash on anything unnecessary.”

Eckoff has put all this advice into his new company that is building online games for sports fans. The company’s initial game, called “Pickoff” enables sports fans to have all the fun of fantasy sports without all the hard work and time. ”Fans pick the sports game winners each week and compete with their Facebook friends to show who knows more about sports,” Eckoff said. “Our unexpected discovery is that it makes watching games on TV even more fun. Come play today, we’d love to hear what you think.” It’s easy to sign up for the game on Facebook. Give it a try and let Eckoff know what you think at: Pickoff Sports. You can message Eckoff on Twitter at: @davideckoff and @pickoffsports

To read more about David Eckoff and his start as an entrepreneur, check out Part 2 of our interview.