I stumbled on to this post about a guy and his wife who tried Second Life out and had a good laugh. I always have a little more room in my day for a good cynic.
Yesterday I downloaded something called Second Life. It is like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, except you can't shoot anyone, and you can't hit people. You just walk around. There are no prostitutes, and everything costs real money, and you can't rob anyone to get money. You have to use your credit card, with real money, to buy fake money to use in the game. It's not actually like Grand Theft Auto at all.
After reading Castronova's book "Synthetic Worlds," I went in search of a good follow up book. I found exactly what I was looking for in "Got Game - How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever" by Beck & Wade. This book is now a few years old but has a few stunning observations (based on a lot of survey and research data) that is very much worth sharing.
I'm only going to pull one one single point from the book to highlight here - but would definitely recommend that if you are either a gamer, or a manger, you get this book now and read it! It's worth a look even if you don't agree or are confused or dubious about some of the research as I was. Much of the premise is that "gamers" are going to be a very, very different breed of worker and manager. The book at one point draws an analogy to the 60's - a generational gap. However, this gap is more about gamers vs. non-gamers than age differences.
The biggest thing that had me thinking about is general mentality around failure. I'm sure you've worked with people who refuse to fail at any level and will spin and push the facts to always make it appear that they haven't failed. Take a look at politicians, or your boss, when was the last time they failed at something and happily admitted it and moved on?
If you are a gamer or parent of one, you'll understand this quickly. Take any game from Zelda to Rainbow Six to Madden Football. Failure ("Game Over") is temporary. Not only can I hit the reset button or simply create multiple save points as I play - I'm actually rewarded for failing; every time I fail, I learn one more clue to my ultimate success.
So failure is good! When we fail in playing a game all that happens is that we learn to jump or double jump over a mushroom, find a secret sword or figure out how to exploit the Bears defense.
What the book points out is that there is an entire generation (a LARGE generation at that) of people think that the way to success is through repeated failure.
Personally, I buy this in a big way and think that this is going to have a large impact as the power shifts from the older, non-gamer generation to the younger, gamer generation. I can already see it happening can't you?
In case you are wondering, here's what I'm playing these days:
I've been toying around with Yahoo! Pipes - a very slick, very cool way to aggregate all sorts of information from different sources. I built a VERY basic feed aggregator and published it to Squidoo (scroll down towards the bottom). This mashup capability allows me to integrate 4 different feeds and then push them through another web site - pretty slick!
My little demo aggregates 2 main IRC feeds, our flickr feed and our myspace blog feed. Check it out.
I was feeling left out, and now I just feel a burden. I'm not even sure that I know 5 people to pass this on to and this entire thing will probably die with me here and now. In fact, I'm going to tag 5 famous/celebrity/author bloggers just for the heck of it.
Thanks Nick Rice (whoever you are - good to meet you).
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SO FAR FROM VISITORS TO YOUR BLOG I've learned that people actually read this blog! I've gotten speaking gigs, offers to write articles and some great comments.
IF SOMEONE OFFERED TO PAY FOR A COURSE (OR MORE) FOR YOU, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I'd do one of two things: 1) Tony Robbins Live 2) Take a bunch of philosophy courses
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH WHAT YOU HAVE ACHEIVED IN 2006? Actually, yes. I'm one of those sickos who plans out all their goals at the beginning of the year - I did them all last year, and more. Well, actually the one goal I didn't achieve was to rebuild and relaunch The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's web site.
HAS BLOGGING CHANGED YOUR LIFE IN ANY WAY? Certainly. It's given me a voice and has I believe helped me get my latest job at The International Rescue Committee which if you don't know is a pretty cool organization that is doing some pretty amazing work (I'm guessing you don't know, which is part of the reason they hired me).
IF YOU COULD MEET THE ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD THAT YOU TRULY ADMIRE, WHO WOULD THAT BE? This is going to sound silly, but my answer is Kevin Smith. In fact, he's one of the bloggers I'm tagging with this post. Kevin's sense of humor and authenticity is something I constantly look at as a model. If Kevin were a company, that's be one f**king transparent organization (sorry, I think it's a rule that you always drop an "F" bomb when discussing Kevin Smith.
I spent the afternoon yesterday with Seth Godin and a collection of very impressive non-profits discussing "How the New Web Transforms Your Organization." I'm really, really sorry you all couldn't be there. I've done two other Seth Godin seminars in the past, and each time I come away with a few pages of notes and noodles about what I should be doing.
If you haven't read any of his books or read his blog regularly, you should start there. I take for granted that everyone knows about permission marketing, purple cows and such.
I can quickly summarize the afternoon and Seth's core in one sentence. It's a message that comes down to a very simple premise but one that comes with some very difficult organizational choices that you'll have to make if you buy into the dogma.
"Marketers do not have the right to interrupt you."
Think again. Behind that statement is a set of strategies and tactics that will force you to confront the core of how your organization makes money. Running TV, radio and print ads, sending direct mail and spam like e-mail campaigns are dead ends.
Instead, you'll need to start looking at your "members/donors/whatevers" not as things you own, but relationships you have.
You don't "own" email addresses, you BORROW them.
You don't have the right to send me one more e-mail that isn't authentic, personal and relevant.
If you don't get this premise, then your "members/donors/whatevers" will simply go away.
The core of Seth's argument centers around permission. The way you get permission is by "dating." The analogy is a good one and one worth exploring briefly.
Here it is from a guy's perspective:
You see cute girl on the subway every day
You flirt a bit
One day, you sit next to her because the seat isn't taken
You make small talk about the weather and notice that she's listening to Sheryl Crow on her iPod
You burn bootleg Sheryl Crow CD give to her one day in passing
She thanks you with a big smile and you ask her if he is interested in coffee -she says yes!
After coffee, you ask her to see a movie and she says yes again!
6 months later you are seriously dating
Assuming you don't screw it up smart guy, you are married in a year
You have your first child 2 years later
You celebrate your 50th anniversary 47 years later (at which Sheryl Crow is playing)
Notice what didn't happen first in my example... what you didn't do was you didn't ask her to marry you the first, second or even third time you saw her. This works because:
It's authentic (you are acting like a real human being)
Personal (how sweet was the Sheryl Crow move?)
Relevant (she was looking for the right guy to come along)
Ok, so what does this mean for non-profit marketers? Let's start by looking at what we currently do with "our" email lists. I'll be the first to say it, we spam the hell out of those lists. I'm guilty of it, and you are guilty of it.
I think what we need is a new model of building permission.
Make permission is the foundation for your donor pyramid.
What this means is that at the top of your funnel, you need to work extra hard to build permission. But here's where it gets tricky - having permission IS NOT the right to ask for more money! It's permission to communicate with your "members/donors/whatevers" only where you have something authentic, personal and relevant to say to them.
It means that you have to create an entirely new way to think about cultivation.
Here's a sample of how any typical NPO might currently treat you:
You sign an online petition to save the whales, reform immigration policy or stem-cell research
You get an automated generic thank you (you never hear from the NPO again about how or if your signature helped affect change)
A few months later, you get an email newsletter with generic information about mission, personal stories and a small ask for a donation
You ignore it, but do not unsubscribe
A month later, you get another generic newsletter, you ignore it
Three months later, you get a printed quarterly newsletter (you must have entered your address when signing that petition). You glance at it, but trash it.
A few weeks later, you get a direct mail piece from that same organization. It includes mailing labels, but you chuckle because the last time you sent a letter was NEVER. Everyone you know is on email and you pay your bills online.
You start getting direct mail pieces from other organizations that are sort of just like the one that you signed the petition for. What's going on here?
You get the next monthly email newsletter and finally fed up, you click unsubscribe.
The next month, you get the latest edition of that same email newsletter and while you hate to do it, you click the report as spam button in your email software.
So what's the solution? Strategically, it's pretty obvious but the trick is how and where you start to build a permission list. When I was at the March of Dimes, we built an amazing list of moms of premature babies through our Share Your Story web site. Those names were off-limits as I personally developed relationships with many of the moms themselves. The results were astounding - loyalty, money raised through family teams and in-person reunions.
I don't have all the answers but here is a list of stuff that I'm working on...
Mining our email list for folks who signed up but have never made a gift - and figuring out what else we can ask them for (cause money isn't it)
Looking at our Advocacy communications strategy and and making sure we don't jump to asking for money too quickly
Looking for folks who'd be interested in blogging about us
Building a list of folks who really want a conversation with us directly
Looking at alternative ways to engage folks - on sites like myspace, facebook, Second Life and others
I know that many of you don't buy all this and that you are convinced that all you need to do is buy one more list or send one more letter and you will be able to continue to grow your organization. I don't believe you!
It feels like I've been beating the "authenticity" drum for ages (I have) and that folks just don't seem to get it. Either that or they are a bunch of posers.
After watching Obama on 60 minutes and reading the first few chapters of his latest book, I believe that this guy is the real thing. What's left to be seen is if he can be a real person running a presidential campaign.
This terrific blog post has more on the subject, and Obama's opportunity.
“Building a ‘genuine relationship’ with your supporter base online doesn’t mean simply writing the same boring emails, but writing them yourself. No, it means writing to your supporters from the campaign trail in the same way that you might write to your spouse (without the smoochy stuff) or to a close friend: tell them the exciting things you experienced that day, what they made you think of, a joke you heard, and what occurred to you is really at stake. Some emails could be four pages, and some could be four sentences. Maybe sometimes you should just send a picture you snapped yourself. If you write to people like that, I promise you, they will go nuts."
I'm not making any political statements with this post - I'm simply reiterating to all you non-profit marketing types that authenticity should be job #1 - everything else comes next.
Yes, I'm a bit schizo regarding Second Life - but there is no doubting that there is something interesting going on which needs to be explored...
And so with huge thanks to the folks at Better World Island and Riversong Garden, the IRC has it's first ever presence in Second Life as part of the NMConnect Media Arts Symposium. At the last possible minute, space was made available to us and Riversong was able to get an installation up and running. The artwork is actually from a trade show display being shown this week in Las Vegas at the Project show.
If you are a Second Life user, you can visit the installation (this is a SLURL link that will launch Second Life directly.
I made a very short video (pass it around after making some comments please):
07. Yes, leverage past experiences, but don't harp on it. People get sick of "when I was at company xyz, we did things this way" pretty fast.
06. Process works. Really, believe me - I'm a total convert. Weekly meetings, goal setting, tracking progress etc... it's all good!
05. Measure stuff. I've learned my lesson that not everything is measurable, but even so - once you start regularly looking at your progress in quantifiable terms you will see things that you couldn't have possibly seen before. Develop a dashboard and distribute it widely!
04. Not having money in the budget is NOT a good excuse for not doing something. Nothing happens until someone does something. Figure it out and get going.
03. Don't "big things up" - say you have a great idea that will set the world on fire, raise a ton of money or bring your organization lots of publicity. The LAST thing you should do is start selling the idea up the chain of command. Instead, figure out a way to small the idea down into chunks and get something launched fast.
02. Experiment a lot (refer to #3 - small things down and get going already!)
01. Execution is more important than strategy. If you aren't moving your feet, you aren't getting anywhere. That's NOT an excuse to ignore strategy by the way :)
Great set of posts over at the latest non-profit carnival, hosted by Nancy Schwartz and her great blog "Getting Attention." The main jist is that we as marketers need to cut the crap and talk with people and not at them. That's my take for what it's worth. I wonder when Madison Ave is going to get a clue. I'd guess in about never months and never days. Speaking of which...
I'm watching the Super Bowl as I type this. So far, it's been an amazing game with some of the most horrible, terrible commercials in a long, long time. It is also sporting one of the worst halftime show in the history of halftime shows. Was Prince singing a Foo Fighters song? Times must be tough dude.
As for the commercials - the only one I liked so far is the one where the two guys were playing rock, paper or scissors and the one guy threw a real rock into other guys face. No idea what they were wanting me to buy - but next time you play me I'd recommend ducking. Low five!
Advertisers should try cutting the crap already. Stop talking at me for god sakes.
Now... I need to log into Myspace and process all the questions and our new friends. After that, I'll check and see if anyone on Facebook has responded to my post looking for virtual volunteers.
Are my blog posts becoming more and more cynical? Please let me know if you want more of that, or prefer the kinder, gentler version.
With lots of new found reading time on Metro North, I've been catching up quickly on my reading materials...
Citizen Marketer is a quick, important read if you are like me, interested in how marketers are approaching user generated content. Lots has been written about this book, and although I've found lots more reading time, I haven't yet found more time to blog or do analysis on stuff. In any case, this is a very worthy read.
I also managed to finish The Blind Side, a stunningly good read about a mixture of unlikely topics: College football, Pro football, the educational system and how important family is. It's 4.5 stars on Amazon should tell you how good the book is - but don't take my word, go get it from your library and read it yourself.