INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
How a Birthday Gift Changed into a Winning Startup – Story of Social Champ
Sameer Ahmed Khan, founder of Social Champ tells us about social media management.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: Thank you for asking. The family is all in good health and doing fine. We did have Covid in our family. However, we are all lucky that they healed and are now well in health.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Social Champ.
Sameer Ahmed Khan: I’m the co-founder & CEO at Social Champ. Social Champ is a social media management tool that can help you publish, analyze, and engage with your audience on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google My Business. I also run Facebook Developer Circle Lead: Karachi; I often speak on events organized by TEDx, Microsoft, Nokia, Facebook, IEEE, USAID, and others in numerous universities, podcasts, and webinars.
Previously I ran three startups:
- Educating Dreams
I also bootstrapped by running “OuzelSystems” – a software consultancy firm. I’m a Computer Science graduate, former Nokia Developer Champion, Microsoft Certified Professional & Specialist, Microsoft Community Speaker, and former Microsoft Student Partner.
Social Champ Inc. was not meant to be a startup initially. We never thought a weekend project that we made for personal use to market our 3rd startup, “RemindZap,” would be so much loved by the users. We tried to implement a concept called “The Art of Repeating” by Guy Kawasaki, which made all the difference. It started as a tool that I wanted to create to solve my problems, but as it turned out, many other people shared the same issues and were interested in my solution!
The story is this: I was focused on our startup, “OuzelSystems,” and wasn’t much involved in social media. I didn’t exist on Twitter. Most of my tweets were published after midnight and therefore didn’t have practically any visibility. However, with time my strategy changed, and I started checking out my timeline to see who is tweeting on Twitter. Next, I deleted my previous posts manually and tweeted again so that a specific person could see my tweet. And it worked! But I also wanted to learn, so I started reading. On the top of my list was “The Art of Social Media” by Guy Kawasaki & Peg Fitzpatrick, which gave me confidence that “The Art of Repeating” is a proven strategy. I quickly Googled platforms that allow republishing a post in a much quicker way – and found none that did.
My search results were disappointing, and that’s when the idea of a small web app, which would allow me to repeat my tweets, came to my mind. I shared the idea with one of my close friends – Zohaib Ahmed Shakir – who promised to make such an app before my birthday and present it as a gift. So, we spent many weekends together, working on my idea, and managed to finish it before my birthday! Once it was ready, I shared it with an e-magazine, “TechJuice,” which later gave feedback that recommended using my app forever.
All this was very promising, so guess what I did next? I contacted Guy Kawasaki, asked for his feedback… and received his suggestions to my tweets and emails (actually, many of them). Eventually, we added more features that users requested, and thus “Social Champ” came into full swing. Now that I think of it, we never did have an official launch day – it was launched when I started using it for the first time, and since then, it has been growing and evolving based on user feedback. I am also very proud to say that “Social Champ” was lucky enough to be mentioned by Guy Kawasaki in his presentation titled “How to Audit Your Personal Marketing”.
How does Social Champ innovate?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: We are the users of the product. We innovate by figuring out essential features for us as a business and those similar to us. Then we create those features to help us grow. Design is one of the key components we focus on. Every feature is designed to keep it simple and easy to use. Our company is customer-centric, and we genuinely focus on product-led growth.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business, and how are you coping?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: We are lucky as coronavirus didn’t affect us much as it involved many businesses, and I think that is because of the different types of companies that our customers run. For example, hotels in Germany churned because they were cutting their expenses; however, health companies in the U.S were booming as they needed more help to automate their social media.
We did see a halt in our user growth, and that could be because many medium-sized agencies used Social Champ, and when they lose their clients, we lose the agencies. Our company started contacting the customers who churned and offered them limited-time free access to the product to help customers in hard times, in an attempt to give back and support them in hard times. We also provided one-on-one free consultations to our customers.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: We were lucky we didn’t have to go through those difficult choices as we had raised another seeding round during the pandemic time.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: We are great fans of ChartMogul, HeapAnalytics, Google Analytics, FullStory, etc. However, we had been using these even before the pandemic.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: Our main competitors are Buffer, Hootsuite, and Agorapulse.
In the early days, we used to fear these tools. Even now, when we see customers moving from Buffer and Hootsuite to our platform and supporting/evangelizing our product to their audience, it’s an outstanding achievement. The good thing about social media is that it’s always changing, and that keeps all the companies to keep innovating and help users. Our vision is to help businesses grow by bringing them tools to scale their business.
Your final thoughts?
Sameer Ahmed Khan: It’s been an incredible journey so far. If you are a new startup or entrepreneur, my advice is to learn to be uncomfortable and seek others’ help. The world doesn’t revolve around startups, so don’t expect mentors and coaches to come to you. Instead, you should be the one looking and seeking help from them. Keep growing and learning. It’s a great rollercoaster kind of a journey.
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