John Lawson, CEO of 3rd Power Outlet: ColderICE and Social Commerce

We’re all well aware that being successful at social media can spell success for your business as well.   This can be especially true if your business is in ecommerce.  By marrying social media with ecommerce, you can establish what has been coined as social commerce – and it can be the best of both worlds.  Listen in as John Lawson, a.k.a. ColderICE, joins Brent Leary for an in-depth discussion on the benefits of this concept.

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John Lawson, CEO of 3rd Power OutletSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your background before we jump into this whole area of social commerce?

John Lawson: I have been doing ecommerce since 2001. I started a business, basically a coffee table business, selling stuff on the Web primarily through eBay. Today I sell on eBay, Amazon and on my own web site, 3rd Power Outlet.

In the last few years, I started blogging on the industry of ecommerce specifically.  Traveling around the country just talking with people about this.

Small Business Trends: What is your definition of social commerce?

John Lawson: My definition of social commerce is actually marrying social media and the tools that are available to you with commerce.  Specifically, how you can actually support your buyer, find your buyer and get them to actually buy more.

Small Business Trends: Is social commerce just a natural extension of ecommerce with social integrated into it?

John Lawson: That is the way I look at it.

Small Business Trends: You created the ColderICE persona online.  How has all of that played into your ecommerce business?

John Lawson: I think it has been the other way around. I think it was my business, the education that I had and the experience that allowed the brand of ColderICE to expand. I really started with a knowledge base. I knew ecommerce and I started sharing that in social media with people.  Then suddenly, they started finding me.  They found me based on my experience and expertise.

It has been the other way around once I got all of these followers.  Now it is starting to pay off on the business side where people are like, “Okay, we are interested in what you have to say and what you have to sell.”

Small Business Trends: Were there any surprises as you were going through the process of creating the social brand and marrying it to your ecommerce business?

John Lawson: I actually started playing around with social media a whole lot. Talking about the experience; talking about what I liked and know about ecommerce. Then one day, I decided to create a video that was relative to our brand and what we do.

We created the video simply showing our customers how to use the product. One of the products we sold was the bandannas. I decided to just create a video showing how to fold a bandanna.  That video alone has generated over 220,000 views now.  We are still constantly getting orders based on how to fold the bandannas.  All from a video that I created a few years ago.

Small Business Trends: Now let’s talk a little bit about social commerce platforms. What are the big platforms? Traditional players like eBay and Amazon? Or Facebook, Apple. . .or it is all of the above?

John Lawson: Mark Zuckerberg made a very big statement last year where he said, “Fcommerce was the biggest thing that Facebook was going for.” Unfortunately the F ended up standing for something other than Facebook, we won’t go into that.

Let me make it very clear.  Social media as a platform for commerce is not mature enough. People do not necessary trust social platforms enough to pull out their wallet and buy a diamond ring.  We are waiting for that to mature.  That is why you have these other platforms like  eBay, Amazon and third party platforms.  Because they are trusted.

A lot of times you need to drive your traffic to a trusted site before a person will actually purchase. I think the term “social commerce,” the place where you buy at a social space, is still too new.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about mobile commerce and its impact on social commerce.  Does it have an impact on it?

John Lawson: We are looking at people right now like American Express who are doing something very unique with hashtags. They are allowing their users that have their card to marry that card to their tweets. If you tweet out a hashtag they will give you a discount on your card.  That discount will be from one of the manufactures of a major brand. This is some pretty fascinating stuff and we will see how this is going to work.  Now you are actually in a place where you are doing the “I am going to tweet and I am at this restaurant.”

Using the hashtag you will actually get a discount.  Not from the restaurant.  You will get a discount on the American Express card. That is the future.

Small Business Trends: Peer out to the future, maybe a year maybe two years from now.  Where will we be with social commerce?

John Lawson: I think the last missing link is that it should be integrated into our phone technology. I should not have to download anything or start anything.  I should be able to take a picture and go right to the site where it is advertised. Can you imagine that on the side of a bus or on the back of a service vehicle?  So that people can contact that service from every billboard? I think that you’re going to see this kind of messaging that is going to be easy to translate to every cell phone everywhere.

Small Business Trends: Where can people find out more about social commerce and about more of ColderICE?

John Lawson: Just search me.  “ColderICE,” one word. That is the easiest way, they will find me.

This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.