Thursday, April 10, 2008

That Was Fast!

I can't just stop blogging about marketing - did you really think I would? I didn't either! I've had this bizarre personal blog since 2001 called "Mindnumbing Thoughts" and lucky for me, it turns out the URL was available!

My new blog, the one that replaces this one is now live! Visit to subscribe to the feed, read up and get all the goods. This new blog will be focused on more general social media, online community building and of course, my own mindnumbing thoughts.

I hope I'll see you there!


Monday, February 18, 2008

Words that Drive Me Crazy

A rant, just because I feel like it... (find out who I'm blaming for my ornery mood at the end of this post).

Words matter, I know! But the abuse of short-hand terms makes me crazy. Web2.0 is classic abuse. It's become a catchall for anything "conversation related."

I abused the term platform back in 2001/02 while at a technology start-up. It's making a MASSIVE comeback to it's own detriment. It's so innocuous and generalized that it simply is a useless term. Let me ask you this...

  • Is Windows a platform?
  • Is Google?
  • Is Microsoft Office?
  • Is Facebook?
Yes, of course they are... so someone please tell me - what do you mean when you say platform?

Social Media Strategy
Using this phrase is 99.9% of the time a shield to mask the fact that we have no idea what to do next. We'd rather talk about our "Social Media Strategy" than discuss the fact that we don't control our messages anymore.

The "New" something
Regular readers should know by now that I'm a Seth Godin disciple. However, didn't we go through the "New New" thing ages ago? Didn't I read a book about that? Godin is talking about "The New Marketing" and Jaffe's agency is "a new marketing company." It's all shiny and new, isn't it? I'm not saying they aren't both absolutely RIGHT... but this post is about words and how they drive me nutso.

So Who is to Blame?
This is the 2nd ornery post and/or comment I've made on my blog since I started Joseph Jaffe's new book Join the Conversation. The guy is spot on and the book is brilliant. But it's putting me in a bad mood. He's partially to blame, and I'm going to tell him so when we eventually meet.

But Jaffe didn't make me write this blog... no... the catalyst was this podcast from 1to1Media. Anyone want to play a new marketing terms drinking game with me as we all listen? (Was that over the line?).

What words drive you crazy - please share!

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Tracking Buzz, WOM, Tweets and Such

I've had what seems like endless conversations lately about how to actually track and measure buzz, word of mouth, tweets and especially videos.

The raw numbers aren't too hard to come by, but the lack of any easy way to measure conversions and track users is seemingly impossible at this time. Outside a cookie that could follow users wherever they go, I'm stumped to a certain degree about how to get past superficial numbers like views.

Strikes me that someone will create and release a platform designed to manage all your social media much like existing systems that manage content (CMS) and e-mail marketing. I'm waiting and hoping one will be forthcoming. It would be great if that someone created something that was able to actually push content from a central repository, or even repurpose content right out of a CMS.

I came across one company that claims to have something. Anyone know these guys? I signed up for their free 14 day trial and took a peek at the web demo. Interesting stuff. Seems like a hosted, self-service version of something I saw from Buzzmetrics (I think it was Buzzmetrics) a few years ago.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

This is Big...

Facebook's announcement about a new JavaScript client library that will allow Facebook apps to be displayed on any website is big, really big.

What's bothering me are all the negative comments. What am I missing?

I think some of this has to do with Social Networking backlash that is certainly overdue at this point. Did you know that yesterday was "International Delete Your Myspace Account Day?" I'm sure someone is already cooking up a Facebook version. Hey, maybe they'll make it into a facebook app!

In any case, Larry's comment tipped me off to the backlash:

"When will this long national social nightmare end?"

Or even better, Mobilekick's Larry cheer:

"Smart, clever, whatever… facebook isn’t that tight, and I agree w/ larry iunno what all you lametards are on. When I am at a bar the college kids here say myspace, only *** are like “wee facebook.”"

Not all the comments were so sophisticated. Fabian said:

"I am not sure if anybody see it coming but it is brilliant. Facebook is becoming not just a platform but an online operating system. Now somebody needs to develop one of these apps that is actually worthwhile and not a toy. And Facebook needs to start making $$$$$$$$$$$ not just $$$"

Online operating system? I think Google is on that one too, aren't they? Either way, I believe this Facebook announcement is big.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Facebook Application Usage

I came across a chart in the WSJ this week that showed 'Top Friends' vs 'SuperPoke' on Facebook.

The numbers are astoundingly large. The top 3 in order are*:

  1. Top Friends 6.2 million users
  2. Movies 5.2 millon
  3. SuperPoke 3.6 million
What's even more incredible about these numbers is the penetration among all U.S. Facebook users. The Top Friends app has and 18.5% share. Amazing.

I realize everyone in "non-profit land" is trying to figure out how to use this marketing machine to find new donors and engage constituents - but I think the thing here is that these apps are all ego driven. Comparing yourself to others, listing your favorite songs and posting up funny graffiti for friends is one thing - these apps all appeal to our innate sense of "me, me me."

Whether you should (or even can) flip the model to make an application that is about your organization is still a big question in my own mind... but is something I've been doing more and more thinking about lately.

*Statistics source: Wall Street Journal/comScore Widget Metrix


Friday, October 12, 2007

A Tiny Bit More About Youtube

Here's a snap shot of referral traffic from youtube to our site. Notice the bump (youtube program went live) and the falloff.

Also notice (click the image to make it bigger) the conversion stats to our petition. Interesting that conversion is so much higher from /watch than from our profile. I need to take a closer look to see why - it's probably obvious!


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

YouTube Nonprofit Program - our experiences

Rick Christ from NPAdvisors e-mailed me to see if I had anything to share regarding our recent experience with the Youtube nonprofit program.

Here's what I told him:
We saw a tremendous jump in views to all of our videos - the highest we had ever had was 30,000 - the highest video now is more than 200,000. That's a lot of people watching an IRC produced video!

As predicted, there was very, very little donation or click through traffic from youtube, even following the launch. What little was traceable via clicks wasn't much.

We had been pushing our videos quite a bit as of late, so this served to jump start our efforts - we certainly do believe that Youtube (and other sites like it) are a great way to promote the work and issues that we're focused on - even if returns are hard or impossible to measure.

We had a huge increase in comments - something like 800 plus - and most of them either ignorant, stupid or just spam. We decided to remove only the worst offenders but may have to take additional action in the future which of course creates more staff time to handle it. It's not too bad right now, but we're keeping an eye on it. We don't want to shut off comments.

While you are here.. watch one of our vids:


Friday, September 28, 2007

Building a Community, Part I: Why Bother?

I am planning on doing a series of blog posts around a new (and until now, highly secretive) initiative that we are working on at the International Rescue Committee.

Full disclaimer, I’ll be as honest and open as possible, but please expect that I’ll reserve the right to gloss of some details and ideas that I feel could be too easily adapted by others, thereby reducing the effectiveness of what we are building, or planning to build.

Part I “Why bother building a community”

If I am being totally honest, the impetus for the creation of an online community at the IRC revolves around something I hinted at in an earlier post. The IRC needs a platform – a way to engage people, build their involvement beyond making donations and coming to various traditional fundraising events and volunteerism. And yes, we’re thinking of a younger demographic as well.

But past the IRC needing new sources of revenue, what the IRC really needs is a way to engage a community of people who care about what we’re up to in war zones in an open, honest dialogue about what they can do to help – and how the IRC will use their involvement to accomplish it’s mission of rescuing and rebuilding lives and communities.

So what is it?

Good question. My team and I have looked at what seems like every community being run by a non-profit. From the super basic of “we have an email newsletter, and that is community” to the uber-engaged organizations like Greenpeace and March of Dimes Share Your Story, there is a ton of variation and differences. And each one was created for different reasons. New ones seem to pop up ever day.

But before I go too deep, let me make a distinction. At the ORGANIZATIONAL level, every business whether it be for-profit or non-profit most certainly has a loosely defined “community.” It’s easy to join this community, sign up for their e-mail newsletter or give them a donation and just like that, you are part of a community. At that level, I guess I’m part of the New Balance community because I wear NB sneakers. Not a very deep connection, but still… loosely defined it is a community of sorts. And this is of course the problem with communities – the connection is often too loose, or based on a shallow or single transaction. It's too easy to take for granted the relationship you think you have with a supporter.

I’m not honestly all that interested in loose, brand communities. Despite the fact that Apple has created a movement and Nike rallies athletes everywhere to “Just Do It” – these communities of consumers aren’t really interacting with and for each other at any level other than as a consumer. We need to do better in order to affect real change in the world.

Nike created, an online community for soccer fans. DVDTalk is a thriving online community for people who love movies and DVD’s. Netflix is as well. Why can’t Blockbuster keep up and why are they shaking in their shoes… Netflix has built a huge community of people who can connect to each other around the movies they love. They can share RSS feeds and rate their favorite movies. That’s closer.

Even closer still is what I helped to build at the March of Dimes. The Share Your Story community was started as a way for us to reach out to a new audience (i.e. mother’s of premature babies). We had just shifted our focus to prematurity, and realized that there wasn’t a dominant community of moms sharing stories, helping each other and telling their stories. Babycenter and iVillage had basic message boards, but they were lost in a sea of other topics, none specific enough to really attract such a targeted set of women.

So we opened the doors a few years ago and let them meet each other, share their photos and tell their stories. Not only did the community build itself (today to the tune of 20,000 people), but it turns out that the community is enormously involved in fundraising. Going back to my original point about the impetus for creating community to drive fundraising I can say that we did imagine a day where the community would raise a few bucks, but never did we imagine to what scale it would contribute (my data is old, but I’m making an educated guess that “family teams” which were created along with the new online community now generates millions of dollars a year via WalkAmerica).

So why build a community? The answer is complex and yet so simple!

Build a community if you are interested in long term brand success – develop brand evangelisgts, loyal donors, advocates and employees. That’s why. Next comes the really hard part… how to do it.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Social Networks - The Fabric of My Life

The panel presentation at NY DMA today went well - I met some terrific folks from Save the Children, Doctors without Borders and even caught up with my old buddy Rob Prisament from the March of Dimes at lunch.

I've been wanting to explore and think more deeply my own personal use of social networking sites for a while, because I think something radical has been happening as these new tools and communication channels open up further and further.

It all started with my personal myspace page - some very old friends from High School were already there and we reconnected. What's interesting, is that we are still using the myspace tools to communicate and talk to each other. For whatever reason, those myspace friends have remained locked into myspace - even though I have IM and email info for each of them. Odd.

On LinkedIn, my profile has netted me quite a few contacts from past jobs - but again, much of the contact remains locked up inside that particular site. I can keep tabs and check in on folks without having to call or email them. It's odd again - having a personal connection with someone but not so personal that I ever really have to talk to them - but can know what they are up to.

On Facebook, an entirely new set of friends and colleagues have emerged - and further still, even more on twitter. Twitter may be the oddest - I find myself following certain friends and colleagues much closer than anyone else I know, but never really going any deeper than knowing that they are eating a burrito or seeing a concert.

What seems to be happening is that in addition to email, phone and "in real life" relationships, I'm developing a new set of relationships that are based on these new social networking sites and tools. That all said, I'm pretty selective - I tend to only add people I know and will even challenge someone via email or the site if I don't recognize them.

Bottom line though, I have some questions about all this and where it is going both personally and professionally.
  • What is a friend these days anyway?
    • I follow Lee Lefever and Beth Kanter's twitters and blogs - but have only met them once each in person. We skype and e-mail every so often. How does one define "friend" these days anyway?
    • I have some new RL (real life) friends in Trumbull who don't know me professionally but have stumbled on to my blog. They searched for me for whatever reason and followed a link to my various web pages and profiles and are able to learn more about me than they know from being my neighbor. That makes them really informed - Marc experts to some degree and certainly more informed than some people I've known for years! That's odd isn't it?
    • Just because someone knows my entire history, what books I'm reading and what I think about cheese - does that make them my friend? It just might!
    • And what if these "Marc Experts" don't have a myspace/facebook profile, or a blog I can read? They aren't reciprocating with enough information for the relationship to be balanced - and that isn't fair and can create awkward situations.
This applies to your fund-raising and marketing in one very, very important and distinctive way. Someone in your organization has to run your profile pages. This means that some bits of them will leak out into the narrative, copy and information. It seems to me that this is both a huge opportunity and a huge risk.

On the upside, it gives your staff a way to build stronger, personal relationships with large groups of "friends." It gives you an ear to the ground to see what is resonating and what's not in your appeals, messaging and creative. That's all good stuff.

But it also exposes you to some risk. If your profile pages explode with activity - how are you going to monitor them? What if they don't generate any money? How will you justify managing these sites/pages? That same person who now has a one to one voice with "friends" can also say dumb things.

Another question starts to emerge: "Who exactly then is the relationship with?" If a person adds herself to the IRC Myspace profile and trades e-mails with us (me currently), aren't they simultaneously building a relationship with the International Rescue Committee, and with Marc Sirkin? I think so.

What do you think about all of this?

And if you are reading this blog and don't have a Myspace/FB or LinkedIn profile yet... you really, really, really should. Create one and add me (I promise I'll either accept the invite or ask you who the heck you are!).


Monday, August 06, 2007

How to Handle the Web 2.0 Curve Ball

I'm speaking at the DMA's NY Nonprofit Conference this week, if you are coming, please say hello!

I finally found a reason to try out Slide Share, check out my presentation below.

My friend Rob Prisament who's at the March of Dimes is also doing session. He's talking about integration or some such nonsense :P


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oxfam Photo Petition

Darn these guys - coming up with all the great ideas (and then having the nerve to pull it off so perfectly!).

Oxfam America has joined a broad coalition of student groups, nongovernmental organizations, and Ethiopian community members, all calling on coffee roasters to help Ethiopian farmers make more off their most celebrated crop.
Check out the building array of photos on flickr (almost 200 as of this post) and my personal contribution as well.

I support Ethiopian Coffee Farmers

Take your photo and upload it now - this is a wonderful way to mobilize volunteers, advocates and donors.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How the New Web Transforms Your Organization

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."
Duh, right?

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!

I'd love to hear from you - comment away.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cut the Crap

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.

Oh yea...

... next year.


Social Marketing University

Looking for a great way to get out of the office and maybe even learn a new trick or two? My blogger friend Nedra Kline Weinreich is holding another terrific "Social Marketing University" training!

This time you'll be in lovely Washington DC on March 28-30th and because you are a faithful reader of this very blog, you can get an amazing discount (see details below)!

The details are posted on Squidoo (click for more)

The discount is here: $75 off registration: NPM75 (sweet!)

This looks to be an amazing learning opportunity - I hope I can get there myself!


Monday, November 13, 2006

Some More Thoughts on Social Networking

I've been reading all the great posts on today's carnival and have been absorbing everything and learning a lot- great job everyone!

Here's a nugget to chew on that's been festering in my head for a while.

When you sign up your organization for a social network, it's both YOU signing up and the organization. Problem is that it's YOU that approves friends, responds to emails and posts blogs. This may cause your organization some consternation (what! no approval process!).

It gets worse in worlds like Second Life I think. My avatar, Cram Doctorow is functioning as "me" in the virtual world, but also as the representative from LLS. Sure, I could create a "fake avatar" but that wouldn't be authentic - and based on my own strong opinion, if you aren't being authentic, you are making a big mistake.

I've thought hard about how to represent the organization on sites like Myspace and SL but haven't come up with any perfect answers yet. In most cases, you can sort of fix it but in others, you have to make decisions like:

  • What age to put
  • What sex to put
  • Is the organization married, single or divorced?
  • What to dress your avatar in when he/she/it is associated with your organization.

There's no perfect answer here, but I do think that you should at least consider a few things before slapping up a profile page on a networking site, or creating an avatar in SL.

Here are some starter questions. Please add more to the comments:
  • How will you answer those demographic questions? Age/status/sex of the organization or age of the person currently driving the profile?
  • How will you integrate comments and questions into your existing email flow?
  • What rules do you have of whom to accept as "friends" or not?
  • Whose voice will you use when posting blogs? Your own personal voice, a "media" safe version or a mixed up hybrid? This is a tough one!
  • If you have your own personal profile or avatar, will you both link it to your organization profile AND be transparent enough to be a friend of your own organization? This could be tricky if you aren't careful!
  • Do you put a general email address in, use your main work email address or use a personal address? I've done both and prefer to use a secondary email address.
Here are some specific examples of what we're actually doing:

Our LLS Myspace page says "57 years old." That's how old LLS is as an organization but I think that's pretty confusing. I personally respond to emails and comments and approval all our friends. I also post the occasional bulletin or blog, as myself. My own personal profile IS linked so folks can see who I am. We have no approval process on any of our Myspace pages. Two of the guys who work for me each manage Hike for Discovery and TNT.

On Second Life, I personally manage the group and answer emails (to my personal email address at that!). Donations come in to our group, but there has been confusion around my avatar vs. the group for some reason.

I think there is both a big opportunity and some risk for organizations who are jumping into these networks without thinking some of these issues through.

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