May 2 - Social shopping site OpenSky is gaining traction with a formula that mixes friendship and celebrities with product endorsements -and makes no apologies for its commercial focus. Bobbi Rebell reports.
Connie Sherman doesn't just want to be "liked" on Facebook or favorited on Twitter- she wants to make a sale. Sherman is founder and Chief Cooling Officer of Hot Girls Pearls- jewelry meant to cool off women having hot flashes. Last year she starting putting her products on social shopping site OpenSky. SOUNDBITE: CONNIE SHERMAN, FOUNDER AND CHIEF COOLING OFFICER, HOT GIRLS PEARLS (ENGLISH) SAYING "It's a social platform with people who want to buy. It's not just hi! How are you today? I like your pearls- it is more I am interested in purchasing these." Sites like Facebook have dual missions- on the surface serving communities who want to share personal news and photos with their friends- while also creating content for advertisers- marketing that is often unwanted. But many small businesses have tried to use social media but have failed to get meaningful results. One site appears to have made the right connection. OpenSky is gaining traction with their single focus- sales. Small businesses can advertise on Facebook- but they can sell on OpenSky. OpenSky- is itself a small business startup- founded by veteran entrepreneur John Caplan. OpenSky takes elements of social networks like Facebook and Twitter- and puts a celebrity endorsed retail twist on them. Members can follow friends, celebrities or even a merchants' store to find products. SOUNDBITE: JOHN CAPLAN, FOUNDER & CEO, OPENSKY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We've seen that an OpenSky follower is 27 times more likely to buy from a small business on OpenSky than a Facebook fan is. So, if you think about how much time small businesses have spent on Facebook aggregating connections and likes, that our little business is actually more powerful for small business than Facebook is." REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The social aspect is key here. So for Hot Girls Pearls they have about 500 followers on OpenSky. When they launch a new product, those followers are notified, who can then pass it on to their friends, and from there the hope is that it spreads virally. " At OpenSky- products also get noticed when "insiders" -celebrities who get a cut- endorse them. "The View" host Joy Behar endorsed Hot Girls Pearls: SOUNDBITE: CONNIE SHERMAN, FOUNDER AND CHIEF COOLING OFFICER, HOT GIRLS PEARLS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It wouldn't really be normal to somebody who never heard of anything like them to just go and say menopause pearls or hot flash pearls or something -who would think?" SOUNDBITE: JOHN CAPLAN, FOUNDER & CEO, OPENSKY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "When Bobby Flay loves an item on OpenSky over a million people discover it in their feeds. That's the express train to success for a small business. " OpenSky also provides feedback to convert shoppers to buyers: SOUNDBITE: JOHN CAPLAN, FOUNDER & CEO, OPENSKY (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Every small business on OpenSky gets access to all of the data about their business. How many followers they have, how many views, who is loving the products they are sharing. What zip code their buyers come from. It's complete transparency. " OpenSky only has about 70 employees- but in only a couple years has amassed almost 3 million members- and is now launching a new marketplace for small merchants.