eCommerce On Saturday: What Should Jews Do?

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B&H Photo and Video, one of the largest non-chain photo and video equipment store in the United States closes their doors to observe the Jewish day of rest. Simply put, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

I first heard about this in Webtribution.com’s article “E-Commerce: Religion Versus Revenue“. The author of the blog, Kieran Hawe, was on the hunt for a camera this past Saturday and came across the following message:

Please note that B&H does not process web orders from Friday evening to Saturday evening!

Kudos to B&H for religious observance, but what about the 100’s of other Jewish eCommerce sites that happen to keep their online stores open on weekends. I decided to do a little research of my own… I am quoting sensitive opinions so please, read this with an open mind…

Jewish Weekends 101: What is Allowed On ‘Shabbat’?

Shabbat (Hebrew: shabbat; Yiddish, shabbos; “rest” or “cessation”) is the day of rest in Judaism and lasts from sundown Friday until Saturday night. About a month ago, someone posted the following question on TheYeshivaWorld.com: “Does anyone know what’s a Jew to do about selling via an e-commerce website on Shabbat?” Overall, the response remained consistent. “The website can be available for browsing, but NO buying,” but this was no a universally shared opinion.

On the other hand, Nicholas Zamiska, previously a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, provides an opposing opinion. He published an article on Hashkafah.com in which he concluded that “Technically speaking, the vendor’s monetary acquisition, happens on a weekday so there is no issue”  (Rabbi Heinemenn). Web sites don’t process transactions on Saturdays…no money changes hands, so the sites should be able to remain open.

These are simply 2 different opinions. It all boils down to the companies choice and the ability to rationalize “religion vs. revenue” when a company could potentially be missing out on millions of dollars.

What Is There To Lose?

Some websites simply can’t give up selling on Jewish holidays. “One of my hottest business days was on Rosh Hashana,” says Rabbi Mayer Pasternak, creator of JewishMusic.com. Considering it’s one of the most important holidays of the Jewish year, this wasn’t an easy decision for him. “I felt a twinge of guilt, coming back and there were a couple hundred orders.” (Hashkafah.com) But that’s simply not the case with B&H Photo and Video. Owned by Herman Schreiber, an observant Jew, they decided to close both their store and website purchases on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Of the 1,500+ employees, Jews and non-Jews both support this decision. Richard Spiess, 34, a salesman at B&H for 2 1/2 years, said there are some advantages to being non-Jewish in such a heavily Jewish environment. “We get a lot of nice holidays off,” he said. (Post-Gazette.com) The employees may be happy about this, but this is still a huge loss for the company.

I had the chance to speak to one of their employees earlier today. Joshua Grashin, a Search Engine Marketing Optimizer at B&H for the past 2 years also agress that “it’s great to have holidays off”, but adds that he believes Herman’s decision actually improves the companies image in the public eye. “At first I thought that is must hurt them in some way becuse they’re literally closed for a 7th of the week which can add up over the course of a year. But the more people I talk to, the more I realize its something that people universally respect. People are fine with it because they still know they’re getting the best service. They respect their religious decision to close, to the point that they view B&H as a respectable company –  a company that has ideals! And any company that has ideals will directly relate to the business as a whole.”

To get an idea of what they’re missing out on, B&H serves over 11,000 customers daily, while a considerable amount of the company business comes from their website (sales, affiliate ads, etc.)  “The amount of money lost during the 24 hour +/- time period of Shabbat is significant, however it is obvious the owners of the business could care less about the lost revenue and focus more on their core religious beliefs and principals,” says Kieran Hawe, Co-Founder of Hawe Digital and  previously Sr. Director of Online of Online Marketing at Folica.com. This does wonders for their repuation. In fact,  Sergey Brin, President and co-founder of Google, said that B&H “happens to be my favorite camera equipment store.” (Google Q3 Earnings Call Transcript) Whether he relates to their ideals or not, there’s no doubt that this is a decision everyone respects.

In Coclusion

It’s apparent there are two strong opposing opinions. Based on Nicholas’s article, you can remain open without worrying about fiscal transactions occuring on Shabbat. On the other, you can maintain a stricter approach. Simply shut down and in return, come off as a business built on strong convictions and values. The choice is ultimately yours to make.

Posted under Blogs, Events, Jewish Marketing, Online Marketing

What Are The Top Twitter Tools?

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LinkedIn, Digg, Facebook, YouTube and Blogging are mainstream social media tools. On top of that list, Twitter comes in as one of the most often written about social media tools. Commonly, popular tools end up having tools built to help make them more eficient. Then tools are built to agregate those tools, and then bloggers come along and write about the “Top Tools” our there. I’ll be honest, there have been 100’s of posts claiming that they “KNOW” the top twitter tools. Unfortunately, there are 100’s of tools out there which makes it that much harder to make Tweeting a more efficient and profitable process. I have had an (@RedRussak) account for the purpose spreading the word on article, products and events. Unfortunately, I have only touched the very tip of the iceberg, but feel after I finish writing this article, that may change.

Mashable.com published an article in Fall 2007, full of 60+ Twitter tools. In Spring 2008, they published 140+ more tools, adding more to the cluttered tool list. Around the same time, TopRankBlog.com (aka: MarketingBlog.com…my “competition”), put together their own list of 5 New Twitter Tools You Should Know About.  Finally, I came across a recently updated and short list of essential twitter tools. Senior Director of Online Marketing at Folica.com, Kieran Hawe has had over 10+ years of online marketing experience, and over 2+ years of Twitter experience under the alias “@khawe“. He has tried just about every Twitter tool out there, and ove time has settled on a list of current Twitter tools he prefers to use through out his day. Coming directly from his blog Webtribution.com, here’s Kieran’s List:

  • iPhone: When i first got my iPhone I started using Twitterrific, but slowly became annoyed with its UX and functionality. I tried a couple of other apps but eventually settled on TwitterFon – which I have been using ever since.
  • BlackBerry: Since I have an iPhone the need to use my BlackBerry on a regular basis has diminished. However, the only app I have used – and would recommend – is TwitterBerry.
  • Desktop Client: I was a big fan of Twirl for a long time but eventually moved on to TweetDeck. TweetDeck has been fairly stable for me since I started using it, plus the grouping of friends and UI really can’t be beat.
  • URL Shortener: You can’t use Twitter on a regular basis and not have a preferred URL shortener – mine is Bit.ly. Bit.ly provides the basic functionality you need but with click tracking, great tool to see which of your tweets people are actually interested in.
  • Twitter Management: Since I have multiple Twitter accounts (personal, professional, etc) I use SplitTweet to manage them all – great tool to send out one Tweet to any / all accounts without logging into each one separately.
  • Page Tweet: Say you are reading something on a website that you feel your Twitter audience would appreciate / like, instead of copying the URL and title of the article I use TwitThis to automatically share the contents with my followers.
  • WordPress Plugin: I have used just about every Twitter WordPress plugin out there and have had some issue or another with all of them. The Twitter Tools plugin isn’t perfect but it does what I need (auto post to Twitter blog posts and pull in Twitter feeds) and is fairly stable.

Something that hasn’t been mentioned is that you can interface your facebook status with twitter if you want to spread the word across both networks. It works and helps drive traffic. That’s my 2 cents. I have a feeling there are going to be new twitter tool “top 10 lists” as more supportive tools are created. For now, test the Tools and follow me on Twitter @RedRussak.

Posted under Blogs, Online Marketing, Social Networks

This post was written by Joshua Russak on February 20, 2009

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Using WordPress To Grow Your Business

Is there really a need to build small business sites from scratch anymore? As internet standards develop, there are “tools” that are becoming the basis of almost every site built. If you are a small business owner with a “limited” budget or simply a blogger, there are technologies out there that are both cheap and easy, yet 100% effective in creating a strong online presence.


wordpresslogoWordPress – The Ultimate Content Management System (CMS)

I was recently approached by HP to write about “Using WordPress to Grow Small Businesses” for their Logoworks: Inside Small Business blog . This is a loaded topic, which makes it all the more fun to write about! For those of you who don’t know, WordPress is  a very powerful Content Management Systems (aka: CMSa computer application used to create, edit, manage, search and publish various kinds of digital media and electronic text.“)

WordPress was originally designed as blogging platform, but WordPress’s community continued to expand and its uses continued to evolve. If you wanted to setup a portfolio, news/magazine, or e-commerce site – WordPress could handle the job. And best part? It’s Free!!  Steve Bruner, of Slipfire.com, built his entire business on creating WordPress websites.  “WordPress lets us get a full-featured website up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to build one from scratch” says Steve.  “The benefits of content management, built in SEO, easy feature expansion via plugins, a short learning curve for the user and one of the largest, most supportive communities on the web makes choosing WordPress a no-brainer”. An example of a few major sites that use WordPress:

For a complete list, check out the WordPress Showcase.  WordPress is a popular CMS for a broad range of businesses, meeting and exceeding their needs.


Top 5 Reasons To Use WordPress for Your Small Business

Just to give you a better idea of the demand for WordPress, last week oDesk (an online staffing marketplace and management platform) published What’s Hot? Skills with Fastest Growing Demand in 2008, and  based on job/project listings WordPress came out on top with a 427% increase since last year.

Don Campbell, founder of Expand2Web, says “WordPress is an ideal choice for small business websites.” With a background largely involved in Silicon Valley,  he started his company to help Small Business Owners build efficient and strong website and get a steady stream of new customers from Google/Yahoo searches. He  are his Top 5 Reasons To Use WordPress for Your Small Business Website:

  1. SEO – WordPress provides good search engine optimization (SEO) right out of the box. There are a few tweaks you need to make, but there are many seo benefits that WordPress provides for free. In fact Google’s own Matt Cutts says WordPress is “made to do SEO well” in this video: Matt Cutts gives tips to small business owners.
  2. Content – it is easy to update content on your website without knowing HTML.  Do you hate the idea of having to learn to use a complex HTML editor tool like Dreamweaver? Do you have to “ask” your webmaster every time you want to make a small change to your website? Well no longer – once WordPress is set up for you, you can easily create new pages or edit existing pages using a simple rich text editor.
  3. Extensions – There is a thriving ecosystem of developers creating themes and plug-ins – imagine free design themes, or the ability to extend your website with polls, contact forms, ratings or hundreds of other cool features without having to hire a web developer.
  4. Support – If you do have problems, or want to add very custom features, it is easy to find support and developers who can help you. There are literally thousands of WordPress developers out there. And there are so many people writing about WordPress that help is only a Google search away!
  5. One-click-installation – Quick installs are provided by many hosting providers, including Bluehost, 1and1 and GoDaddy.

Don Campbell and Steve Bruner use Worpdress for all of their clients because of these 5 reasons and more. The list goes on, but the point is simple: It’s Efficient and Effective!


Best WordPress Plugins

It’s important to elaborate on just how strong and vast WordPress Extensions are. Kieran Hawe, Sr. Director of Online Marketing at Folica Inc., (previously Director of SEO at MTV Networks) said it best: “The real value of using WordPress are the enormous amounts of plugins available to help you manage, promote and do just about anything else with your blog.”  He published a list of the Best WordPress Plugins covering anything and everything. I suggest you check it out. A few of my favorites include:

  • All in One SEO Pack: Optimizes your WordPress website for Search Engines. Automatically optimizes your titles for search engines, generates META tags automatically, avoids the typical duplicate content found on site. Override any title and set any META description and any META keywords you want. You can fine-tune everything, Backward-Compatibility with many other plugins, like Auto Meta, Ultimate Tag Warrior and others.
  • Lighter Menus: Lighter Menus creates drop-down menus instead of the regular admin menus of the WordPress interface, so that you can browse items with one click and work on your website in a much more usable environment.
  • Enhanced WP-ContactForm: WP Contact Form is a drop in form for users to contact you. In the message it sends to you it gives the page the user visited before the contact page, as well as the original outside referrer. It can be implemented on a page or a post.
  • Google XML Sitemaps: This plugin will generate a sitemaps.org compatible sitemap of your website which is supported by Ask.com, Google, MSN Search and YAHOO.
  • WordPress Automatic Upgrade: Usually you have to go to your hosting company in order to upgrade your site – not with this plugin which takes care of the upgrade automatically.

For more information on WordPress plugins and development visit Yoast.com.


Deciding if WordPress is Right For Your Business? Other CMS’s?

I recently attended an Ultra Light Startup group that put together a panel on Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS).  Experts representing different CMS’s, including WordPress, went head-to-head discussing the pro’s and con’s for small business using their services. I caught the panel on tape and if you need help deciding on a CMS, watch the video on YouTube. Even more noteworthy, the article I wrote about that event was picked up by the well know online publisher SmashingMagazine (<–They’re website is built on WordPress).

If you’re serious about WordPress for your Small Business needs, check out Don Campbells “WordPress for Small Business Websites” where he explores WordPress as a content management system for small business websites, including video tutorials on how to set up WordPress for yourself quickly to manage your small business website. You can also sign up for his free newsletter. Steve Bruner of Slipfire.com is another great person to contact if you’re considering WordPress. In terms of reading I suggest the blog of WordPress’s founding developer, Matt Mullenweg and also the WordPress Blog itself. By the time you’re done with all this reading, you’ll be a “WP-Pro”.

Feel free to contact me with any questions and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction. You can contact me from my blog MarketingBlog.NET (also built on WordPress). Now go, sign up for WordPress and create an online presence for your company!


Article Posted by Joshua ‘The Red’ Russak on HP Logoworks – Inside Small Business Blog:

*If you have questions about hosting, go here for hosting help.

Posted under Blogs, Online Marketing, Ultra Light Startups