Starting a Social Networking Application Business
Interview with Dan Morris, Owner of My Audio Bio
Music forms the background of some of most memorable experiences. Dan Morris recognized this, and started a business helping people share their life stories through the music they love.
Interview with Dan Morris, Owner of My Audio Bio.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
An online autobiographical catalogue of its users musical histories, My Audio Bio connects people from across the country by encouraging users to assemble playlists of stories to share with friends. Tapping into the idea of 'music as a universal language,' My Audio Bio has set out to inspire individual expression through musical tastes, experiences and emotions. It is fully integrated with Facebook - users can share and tag friends to their playlists, stories, pictures, and videos. My Audio Bio also gives users the option to easily follow other music lovers' profiles like Twitter and rate their favorite playlists and stories. Unlike other music-based social media sites such as MySpace and Pure Volume, My Audio Bio operates as a platform for the individual versus a means to promote. Linked to Last.FM, songs will be recognized by the site and artwork imported for use in stories.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I've always has a passion for business development and marketing strategy. Before My Audio Bio, I was part owner and marketing director of an Atlanta-based web development firm called Bottlecap. I am currently a partner and the marketing director at Ambient Plus Studio, the largest photo studio in Atlanta.
How did you come up with your business idea?
Being involved in the process of launching clients' websites and iPhone apps, innovative ideas were always kicked around at the office. Driving in one day the idea sparked -- what if you could capture history, memories and stories related to music? What if you could do it leveraging Facebook and incorporating an iPhone app? These were things that both music fanatic and music fan alike would not only connect with, but also enjoy.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
I do not currently, but have in the past. Working from home can save time and provide a lower stress environment, but has its drawbacks. When you work from home it is difficult to discipline yourself to know when it is time to shut down and spend time with the Family. Ultimately, I needed to physically separate family from business and have a more structured workspace. It has been better on both sides.
Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?
My wife, who is well connected in the music industry, serves as the Media Director and partner at My Audio Bio. We have casually collaborated over the years and work well together. We are an exception to the rule, though. Outside of rare (and well thought out) exceptions, I do not recommend working with family. I have tried it in the past; there are just too many personal factors that are not conducive to good business.
Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Have you found social marketing to be of help to you?
Absolutely. Using Twitter supported by a Facebook fan page and blog have provided a way to maintain and communicate to our growing customer base.
For business, Twitter is replacing often highly-ineffective email blasts. Instead of sending email out unsolicited in hopes that your audience doesn't "opt-out", people interested in your company now can "opt IN" by simply following/friending the company. Social media is a direct line to your customers and prospects, something that demands you keep the content fresh and relevant.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Identify your strengths and weakness, and then surround yourself with people you can trust. I am the classic "idea guy". I love the excitement of new concepts -- everything from business ideas to marketing campaigns. In business, creative people need to rely on numbers and infrastructure people. Having a wide range of skill sets will help determine if an idea is worth pursuing and in turn help make it a success. A great book called "The 10 Faces of Innovation" by Tom Kelley tackles the delicate nature of this process, and tells us why to avoid playing devil's advocate.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
The overwhelming response from the people that embraced the concept right out of the gate was amazing. We anticipated that there would be a lot of music fans utilizing the site, but the response by teens and casual music fans was a validating bonus. My Audio Bio attracts users because they have life stories based in music, as well as those who are entertained simply by browsing other users and artist's stories, a concept underscored in much thanks to Facebook Connect.
That being said; our biggest challenge has been time. In the fast paced world of micro blogging it is difficult to get people to take a moment to relay meaningful content. Everyone wants to share and be shared with, but they want to do it as quickly as possible. My Audio Bio is creating incentives for users to spend time on their content, while making the process as streamlined as possible.
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