Common New Media Crimes: The Launch

Maybe it’s because I’m a Virgo, and prefer careful, tiered approaches with achievable goals–but nothing drives me crazier than a “do everything, be everywhere, ” approach to web strategy.

Big organizations with substantial resources have a habit of “going big” on the web. But does it work? Most of the time, no. In this respect, smaller orgs actually stand to benefit. They often share a more specialized sphere of influence, and are accustomed to focusing limited resources on gaining traction in that arena. But even smaller nonprofits commit the occasional new media crime.

New media crime #1: The BIG website launch

Most likely to be heard, one week out: “We’re launching a major, one-stop-shop website on the issue of ________ on April 22nd. We need a press release, and possibly, a press conference. Can someone seen if there’s room at the National Press Club that day?”

Most likely to be heard three months later: “The website hasn’t been updated in a month. Can someone change the photo on the homepage? I don’t care what–just find something on iStockphoto.”

The solution: Try backing away from the “launch” concept. It places too much emphasis on the first day and not enough on the critical weeks and months that follow. And really, in the wake of new media and community participation, a brand new website doesn’t have too much to offer on day #1 (or even week #1, for that matter).

Most websites benefit from a phased-in build-out of features and community management tools. Afterall, many of your enhancements will depend on your audience. What is the most trafficked area of your site? What tools can you build out to meet the needs of your organization (political goals, membership goals, etc)? What feedback are you getting from community members/visitors?

Resist your Director’s need to publicize your new site far and wide. Instead, suggest a press release around a major website-related accomplishment. (Besides, we all know that no major news outlet is going to cover the launch of a campaign website.)

Television Does YouTube: Tavis Smiley Edition

Recently, I noted on Twitter that Tavis Smiley’s YouTube videos didn’t quite “crack the code” when it came to producing effective (read: engaging) social media.

Tavis Smiley on Twitter

I’ve noticed that, next to corporate lawyers and sleepy government agencies, television shows have the hardest time adapting to social media. I’m not sure why, but I have some ideas.

1. It worked on television, it’ll look great on YouTube! Effects and snazzy promos are nice, but they don’t look so hot on my crowded computer screen. With multiple windows open, an online video takes up less than a quarter of my screen’s real estate. (And for goodness sake, don’t use YouTube for TV commercials!)

2. Television personalities, like Oprah, behave on YouTube like they do on television. Scripted, polished, full makeup, etc. But social media is the great equalizer, and this medium is at its most effective in accidental, unscripted moments, like this simple Katie Couric clip.

3. Television is both push and pull. Online video is all pull. Every second has to offer the viewer value. YouTube videos produced by television shows often lack value. When you’re talking about celebrity video blogging, as is the case with Tavis Smiley, the primary value will be getting to know that person better. Tavis strives to do this by answering viewer questions, but the format triggers TV-like responses. See for yourself:

Folks at PBS might want to try filming Smiley in unscripted, impromptu situations. Like when he’s discussing that day’s show with his staff. Or talking to a guest backstage. My theory is that television personalities are hard-wired to act a certain way in front of a camera, and unfortunately, that persona does not translate well online. It’s great to see Tavis Smiley, the television personality, on YouTube. But I’d rather see Tavis Smiley, the man, on YouTube.

Case Study: Building an Online Brand, GameJew-style

Defining success is important, but it shouldn’t always be about high traffic, viral growth, and mainstream pick-up. The case study below reveals how building a small, but passionate, online community of supporters can have a far greater impact than going for instant mass appeal.

Jonathan Mann is the GameJew. (Watch the first episode of GameJew, released May 2006.) In the past two years, Mann has built an online community around two of his greatest loves–music and gaming.

How did he do it? Well, as far as I can tell, there are two key reasons:

1. Working really, really hard, producing lots of original songwriting, videos.

2. Being 100% authentic. (There is only one GameJew. Think about that.)


I contacted Mann to learn about his stats, and how he measures success. He writes:

My community is pretty tiny, in all honesty. I had about 400 or so subscribers at GameJew, and so far about 65 have signed up to the more “web 2.0-y” mannmade.tv ..

But down at the far reaches of Chris Anderson’s long tail is the fanbase. The early adopters. The core supporters. Folks who should be considered social media GOLD. Mann continues:

…what’s interesting for me is that despite not really having the numberss (most of my videos do well under 5,000 views! that sucks!), it would seem that the “right” people have been watching my stuff.

In fact, Mann’s audience landed him some amazing new opportunities. Two examples:

  • A GameJew fan named Robert, arranged for Jonathan to participate in an artist residency in his hometown of Vienna (“The Vienna trip happened because a guy, Robert, who’s now a friend, became a huge fan and basically hooked me up with this artist residency.”)
  • The folks at 1up.com hired Jonathan to produce singing video game reviews, after becoming big fans of Jonathan’s homebrewed video series.

What’s the future for GameJew?

My plan as of now is to get an online store up and running, where I can sell my music, then try to leverage some of the progress and connections I’ve made through gamejew into 1. more paying gigs and 2. something involving my non-video game music. Beyond that, it’s hard to say.

I’ve written here before about brand evangelism, about how we build a community of passionate supporters online. Businesses and organizations should looks to artists like GameJew for inspiration.

Judging by the comment threads on his videos (“You are amazing!”), I’m pretty sure Jonathan will find success.

You can find Jonathan at MannMade.tv, GameJew.com, and www.jonathanmann.tumblr.com

Axioms for (Online) Organizers

Received a handy little book of Axioms for Organizers, by Fred Ross Sr. Great source of inspiration when you’re faced with drafting yet another mass email, or attempting to set up a Facebook group or ignite a Flickr photo petition.

Online organizing is derived from grassroots organizing, and they share many of the same tenets. A few of my favorites below.

1. An organizer is a leader who does not lead but gets behind the people and pushes.

2. Don’t waste time fighting the competition: use that time to fight the issues and win and that will take care of the competition.

3. 90 percent of organizing is follow-up.

4. A good organizer must be able to charge an issue with a supreme sense of urgency.

5. How can you move others unless you are moved yourself?

6. The organizer tries to turn each person she meets into a temporary organizer.

7. When you are tempted to make a statement, ask a question.

8. Reminding is the essence of organizing.

9. When you find “live wires” put them to work immediately. Find something they can do–any little thing–get them started and ready to do more, or you’ll lose them for the cause.

10. The way to break monotony is with motion and emotion.

11. The initial convert often determines the character of the organization.

I especially like that last one. What do you early converts look like? What inspires them? Therein lies the heart and soul of what you’re trying to build online.

SXSWi notes: Dooce and Mighty Girl

On Sunday at SXSWi, I dropped in on Heather Armstrong  (aka Dooce) and Maggie Mason (Mighty Girl) presenting their 12-step guide to  content boundaries. Some folks have already blogged about this here, and here.

I arrived to the panel late, but a few points stuck out.

  • Create a style guide for tones. Are you light-hearted, serious, alarmist, wonky, or funny? With social media, you can be all these things! But consistency is important. Spend some time sketching out a style guide for tones. Is your Flickr account playful or whimsical? Your website, authoritative? Your blog, snarky or investigative?
  • Publish for the readers you want, not the ones you have. For nonprofits, try profiling your ultimate activist or supporter. What are their interests? What excites them? How can you attract their attention in this increasingly crowded playing field? Sometimes, these questions are best answered by looking around at your staff. How did they get involved in your organization, and what excites them about their work?
  • Follow the Fun. You have to do what you’re excited and passionate about. Lack of authenticity is the kiss of death in social media. Blog posts that are written with that spark–the animation of an author’s own curiousity–will always outperform posts written on a deadline. You simply can’t fake passion.

Notes from “Top 10 Worst Social Media Ad Campaigns”

This was an enjoyable, voting-enabled panel that featured some of the panelists’ picks for worst ad campaigns on the web. Listen to a complete podcast of the session here. A few of my favorites below:

Molson’s poorly-conceived Facebook contest (slide pictured here) teaches us the following: If you have bad marketing to start with, it’ll be even worse on social media.

Carlton Beer’s “Big Ad” goes viral on YouTube, but no one remembers the brand’s name. Lesson: Integrate your product/cause with social media content. Don’t hide your brand!

HP’s campaign paying consumers to promote their digital cameras, creating what Jarvis called “human splogs.” Lesson: You can’t buy brand evangelism. Instead, you should take that money and invest it in better products/content. Check out the results of this kind of marketing in the YouTube below.

The now defunct, “All I want for Christmas is a PSP” a fake blog by a marketer posing as a consumer, backfired when bloggers swarmed the site and posted hundreds of negative comments. One comment summed it up nicely, “Good job turning consumers off your product.” Lesson: DON’T LIE

A member of the audience asked about the difference between secrecy and lying. Panelists suggested that campaigns with a built-in disclosure plan can succeed in social media. Afterall, sometimes the fiction is fun. There’s a difference between teasing and lying. There’s also a difference between lying and a punchline.

The panel closed the session by noting three basic trends in social media advertising:
1) Not surprisingly, advertisers are acting like asses;
2) Advertisers are trying to fake-out audience by posing as consumers, fans, etc;
3) Trying to corrupt us, taking authentic voice we have online and trying to buy it (Jarvis: “I think pay-per-post is EVIL.”)

Other blog posts on the panel:

Nonprofit Translation of “Knowing Your Audience”

Finally getting around to converting some of these Google Doc notes into a coherent blog post. First up, “Knowing Your Audience,” a Saturday morning panel of six guys from the online music and film sharing biz, including Seesmic’s Loic Le Meur.

To me, there’s not much difference between selling your own music and convincing folks to contribute to your cause. It’s about engaging supporters and building a fan base (aka, community). Below are some rough, but slightly edited, highlights:

There is layer of people who are as passionate about playing the music you love as you are about your music. (Nonprofit translation: There is a layer of people who are as passionate about supporting your cause as you are about your work/mission/organization.)

People not only want to hear music and see the art, they want to know the artist. They want to talk to them. Deepak Chopra sold 14 million copies of his book. He doesn’t need to talk to his fans but he does it because it makes a difference and reaches new people. It’s not about technology, it’s about people connecting. (Nonprofit translation: People not only want to contribute to your cause, they want to know the people behind the cause. That includes people who benefit from this work, as well as the staff/members who execute)

The idea behind cultivating “true fans” is that people need to feel like they’re not just a transaction for the moment, but that they’re really part of your family. (No translation needed. ‘Nuff said.)

How important are new, innovative marketing tools for pushing out content? McGlamery: Technology needs to make artist-to-fan interactions more natural. (Nonprofit translation: Your websites and social media properties need to facilitate natural collaboration and interactions between you and supporters)

Moral of the story: Gather your core fanbase, plan for day in court, pay attention to outcome and respond accordingly.

Also, check out Long Station’s notes from this same panel.