Online Communities in the Pioneer Days

Written by on December 3rd, 2008

Pew Report

Life before MySpace, Facebook, YouTube

I was reading a report produced by the Pew Internet and American Life Project called, “A Portrait of Early Internet Adopters. Why People First Went Online and Whey they Stayed”.  The report by Amy Tracy Wells is  a quick read and a fun reminder of where online social networking got started.

Surveys conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project since 2000 have shown that the majority of people went online for personal reasons (50%), followed by work (31%) and school (19%).

Amy reminds us that the early roots of social networking started in BBSs (electronic bulletin board systems) and Usenet, chat rooms and threaded discussion software.  To access these systems one had to fire up a modem and wait!  A really fast modem in those days crawled.  When I lived in Telluride, Colorado in 1995, I remember waiting about 8 hours to download a new version of AOL’s software! (…More…)

Can Facebook Deliver Leads to Your Business? YES!

Written by on November 30th, 2008

Facebook Add

What would 580,000 advertising impressions do for your business?

Al Gore gets kidded for suggesting he invented the Internet.  Around my house I get teased for suggesting to my kids that I invented Facebook.

Back in 1996, I created an online community for students and called it StudentAccess.  We modeled the community around GeoCities and Tripod with a focus only on college students.  We provided a free home page, email address and photo upload.  We ran ads in student magazines around the country and anxiously waited for students to show up.  Nobody came!   Not only was it a total failure, but I ended up getting sued by Princeton Review for using the name Student Access! (They had a line of books called StudentAccess to Law, Medical, etc.)  Thirty thousand dollars later, we surrendered the URL studentaccess.com to Princeton Review and decided to focus in a different direction.

Fast forward 7 years and Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, which has become one of the largest – online communities in the world.    Enough old boy stories,  let’s get back to the reason you are reading this post. (…More…)

Your Website Should Provide an EXPERIENCE!

Written by on November 22nd, 2008

Do your visitors leave your website talking?

Four Bells

Jimmy Hendrix emblazoned in the minds of nearly every Boomer who listened to FM radio in the late sixties the phrase,  “Are You Experienced”.   A generation of youth wandered the country trying to figure out what experience Jimmy, the new king of Rock and Roll was talking about.  Was he talking about drugs, love or dropping out!

Later, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore put a new definition to experience in their book,  “The Experience Economy”.  This is one of my favorite books, a must read for ANY business professional.  In their book, Joseph and James remind businesses that consumers are willing to pay MORE for an experience. They point out examples of businesses that are in commodity markets who charge a premium price simply by adding a unique “experience”.  The lessons learned from this book could position you ahead of your competitors and ahead in your bank account too!

Stay with me, I’m going to give you an experience that will make you RICH! (…More…)

Huggies Integrates Online Marketing with Traditional Event Marketing For Fantastic RESULTS!

Written by on October 18th, 2008

6 things to keep in mind when building an integrated marketing strategy

Huggies and Alison Sweeney of Biggest Loser Huggies, a Kimberly Clark Company knocked the ball out of the park with a   well thought out and orchestrated B2C online and offline marketing campaign to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Huggies brand.

Targeted at the first generation of moms that probably wore Huggies as babies, the campaign was designed much like the TV program Seinfeld and to capture a video statement about moms everyday experiences as a mom.

Back in the old days, The Queen for The Day TV program (1956-1964) featuring 4 down on their luck moms who’s story would be “rated” by the audience “applause meter”. The winner, or better said, mom with the biggest loser story would be rewarded with a washing machine and new fangled appliance that would make their lives easier. It was a great marketing channel for brands to reach their target audience. The program ran for a total of 20 years on both radio and TV.

Today brand advertisers like Kimberly Clark are learning how they can reach a similar audience using traditional event marketing and online social media.   (…More…)

What If Your Sales Force and Distributors Disappeared Overnight?

Written by on October 15th, 2008

8 ways to protect your distribution channel in a down economy!

The once in a lifetime events occurring on Wall Street are making companies think about contingency plans for things they never thought could happen. The focus of this blog article is to talk about a situation where the channels you used to sell your products disappear. For example, what if:

  • Magazines, radio, TV and newspapers circulations were drastically reduced.  How would you reach customers
  • Your distributors (stores, small businesses, corporations) were driven out of business due to the recession
  • Energy prices rose so high you couldn’t afford to send your sales force on out of state trips

To deal with these questions I wanted to share with you how a company run by my brother Tom is facing some of these issues.

Tom is a world renowned glass artist and business man in Tucson, Arizona. Tom wandered into the desert Tom Philabaum Magic Carpetsway back in 1975 and found his home. Since that time he’s built a business (Philabaum Glass) around designing giant glass installations like the “Another Way To Fly” magic carpet installations at the Tucson International Airport, creating 50 pound hand built art vases that literally will break your back when you lift then and traditional consumer products like paper weights and company awards. His product range from tens of thousands of dollars to as little as one hundred dollars.   (…More…)

Social Media, Online Community & Web 2.0 Confuses Business Executives!

Written by on October 3rd, 2008

Social media, online community, Web 2.0 confuses business executives!

You want an Internet strategy but…..

One of the reasons I sold a company I founded in 1995 to create online communities for alumni associations, non profits and companies was to concentrate on helping organizations understand how they could use the Internet to acquire, communicate, retain and engage customers.  Most people we spoke with, likened the Internet as a puzzle they didn’t know where to get started with.

In the 12 years we were building online communities, (Internet Strategies Group) my sales force spent most of their time educating prospective customers why they needed to adopt online communities and social media. To help, I wrote white papers, held conferences, Webinars and books.  We looked at this as the cost of doing business and selling a product that people didn’t understand and didn’t know how it would provide an ROI.

So it’s was no surprise when I read a McKinsey Global Survey (fall 2007) that surveyed how businesses were using Web 2.0 tools and services showed business executives were struggling to figure out how these tools  will help them reach their goals.

The report found:

     • 42% thought they should have invested more
     • 24% thought they should have invested sooner
     • 40% of these companies are not using social networking, RSS, Podcasts, Wikis and blogs.

There are two reasons business leaders are not investing more in Web 2.0, social media and online communities:

     • Confusion
     • Internal focus    (…More…)

7 Ways to Reach Consumers Abandoning Landlines!

Written by on October 1st, 2008

How will you reach customers if 1 in 5 don’t have home phones?

rotary phoneA recent study by the Nielsen Company says that more than 20 million U.S. telephone households, (17 percent) are wireless substitutors (homes without landlines). Their study also uncovered another 5% of those surveyed as likely to drop their land line in the next 12 months.

This changing behavior is probably catching your organization off guard as the increase has occurred in just the past 4 years. While the study first reported in December, 2003 indicated just 4.2 percent had abandoned a home phone and replaced it with their cell phone, the study has shown a steady 3-4 percent increase year. Researchers are anticipating it to reach a tipping point and grow faster in the next couple of years. By the end of 2008, at current growth rates, that would put 1 out of 5 people out of touch from your customer service, sales reps, technicians’, surveyors, political campaigners and others.

A recent Jupiter Research also found that 12 percent of Internet users do not subscribe to land line phone service and nearly 2/3rds of them are 18-34 year olds. Worse, the same report suggests that another 12 percent of those surveyed indicated an intent to drop their home phone service. (That would represent 24% of this age group!)   (…More…)

Online Communities can HEAL the Wounds of War

Written by on September 21st, 2008

Iraqi FamilyThe American image around the world has just about reached the lowest point we can get. The war in Iraq and now the incredible mismanagement of Wall Street, banks and ethic issues created by businesses like Enron has tarnished our reputation, respectability and trust.

In the midst of the mind numbing deficit numbers (now 11+ trillion debt) that we are being forced to absorb I was thrilled to run across a story on the Daily Camera, a newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. Apparently 10 years ago, residents of DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, a sister city of Boulder, gave the city the Dushanbe Teahouse as a gift from their city. (I’m assuming their town is known for tea!) After a decade of discussion and fundraising the city of Boulder reciprocated with funding ($1,000,000) to develop a Cyber café in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The Café will feature food from both countries, books and information. If they do it right, it will become a powerful International relations tool. Kudo’s to the City of Boulder , it’s Mayor Shaun McGrath and it’s people for showing us how to use the Internet to bring people of different countries and cultures together!

Online Communities to bring Iraqi and American Families together

Reading their story, reminded me about an idea I floated to Congressman Dennis Kuncinich, from Ohio on April 8th 2003 soon after we started the war in Iraq. It was a concept I called, Adopt a War Effected Person or Family.    (…More…)

Internet TV Right for Your Organization?

Written by on September 6th, 2008

Libraries, Franchise, Retail, Distributors, Police, City Hall, Dentists, Sales, Real estate benefit!

The cable industry revolutionized the delivery of television programs by providing you 500+  channels.  Now the Internet is opening an opportunity for thousands, no millions of TV channels to deliver news and content to consumers computers and cell phones.

This is presenting opportunities for your organization to reach consumers to educate, inform, advertise and gather data. One of the more successful case studies I could share with you revolves around wine!   In my 30’s Jack Daniels gave me the courage to dance on tables. Today, I look forward to a glass of wine at the end of a long day to relax and slow down my brain!  It works.  (ask me later about my Wine diet!)

Probably the most successful way you can use Internet TV is to educate your customers. That’s the direction Gary Vaynerchuck took when he created Wine Library TV.  Like the Internet, wine can be a mysterious and confusing thing.  It has its own language.  Gary’s concept is simple.  He has a webcam pointed at him as he sits behind a table lined with bottles of wine, glasses and a bucket to spit out the wine he’s tasting.

It’s not a sophisticated presentation, but it works.  Gary is by no stretch of the imagination a Brad Pitt or your every day TV personality.  He not only looks like Joe Pesci, but he sounds like him too!  His rapid fire unscripted conversation gets the job done with minimal preparation or time.    He  demystifies  wine and helps consumers feel more comfortable and confident.  His reasoning?

  • The more his audience knows, they more they will buy
  • And when they buy, they will remember they guy who taught them and that they trust!

And it works. (…More…)

Lobster Fishermen Use Social Media & Internet Strategy to Bring in More Dough!

Written by on September 1st, 2008

Tips to use social media to increase profits!

The ridiculously high run up of gas prices in just one year is requiring even lobster fishermen to rethink how they do business.  When times get tough, the tough have to think smarter, not work harder, right?

In the past lobster fishermen were about as far removed from their customers as the Chinese worker who assembles the products you buy from Walmart.

Brendan and John Ready, lobster fishermen from Cape Elizabeth, Maine (both in their mid 20’s and college graduates) started using social media and their website as a strategic business tool to help them by pass the wholesale distribution system and go right to their customer.   Brendan and John decided to use the Internet to not only reach directly to consumers but also engage and involve them in their business.

To do that they built a website which they called, Catch a Piece of Maine. Their unique value proposition is built around creating an experience for their customers. They want to be your private lobster fisherman who works just for you and deliver your lobster to you via overnight delivery services. James Gilmore & Joseph Pine in their ground breaking book, The Experience Economy, suggested that people are looking for more than a commodity product and are willing to pay MORE for an experience that is tied in with the product.   The brothers understood this and decided to use the Internet to build a unique experience for their customers. (…More…)

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