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Monday, May 27, 2013

We've Moved!

Thanks to the success and attention this site has seen it was determined that the site needed to move to a more formal and cleaner medium.  As a result, all of the site's content has been transferred to a new URL which will be used for all future posts:

Thanks for checking out the Modern Marketing Review - Hope to see you on the new site!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kickstarter: The merger of Fundraising and Social Media

Kickstarter Campaign Image
By now most everyone has heard of it:  It is a site that allows people to fund creative projects that might otherwise not get enough attention.  The site has led to millions of dollars in donations to projects, that without the kindness of friends, family and strangers could have never happened.  It is the online community speaking with their wallets about what should be created, and what projects are not really worth making happen.  The impact of projects going viral and of social media on projects cannot be understated, those that have been successful play off of the media, link through various websites, share their projects on Facebook and Twitter, and fully engage with the online community.

Impressively, almost half of all Kickstarter campaigns get fully funded.  And of those that do get funded 94% get over funded.  Considering the average project asks for roughly $5,000 dollars, and the average donation $71, there is a lot of opportunity to create something great.  However, it is an all or nothing game.

Projects either receive 100% or more funding, or their creators, and their projects, get squat.  Further, projects are entirely limited to creative projects in arts, design, film, food, and music.  That means campaigns to raise money for a cancer foundation, sports team, to pay off college loans, are all out of luck.  However, the site will let individuals and businesses use Kickstarter funds to create something that might be used to support one of the aforementioned donor seekers, such as funding a video creation for a non-profit, or an arts program for cancer patients.

What makes a successful Kickstarter campaign?  Well, there is a lot of literature on that topic, on which I couldn't hope to divulge meaningfully here.  But the basics lie in proper presentation, appropriate rewards, and successful networking online.

Design SketchA proper presentation means making the project page delightful to the eye, visionary, and well thought out.  Obviously typos and incoherent statements detract from the page viewers enthusiasm about the project, for why should anyone support a project that doesn't even care to edit its own work.  But further, the page needs to shine.  A well developed video can make the world of difference.  It can show the potential donor how important this project is, why they should care, and that they can trust you to see it through.  Professionalism and creativity dominate this aspect of any campaign.

Appropriate awards are also essential to a campaigns success.  Designing price points that appeal to a variety of donors, from those who would like to submit a small contribution from $1-$25, and to those who might want to single handedly fund the entire project.  However, rewards are also restricted in what can be provided.  All rewards must be produced directly by the project creator, cannot be financial incentives, coupons, or discounts, cannot be given out in quantities of 10 or more, and cannot be raffle, lottery, or sweepstakes tickets.  Further, drugs, alcohol and nutrition supplements are not allowed.   This poses an extra burden on the project creator, but also provides opportunities to really engage with supports of the project.  For instance if the project is to design a revolutionary stapler, you can offer anyone who contributes $25 a free stapler, and anyone who offers $200+ design art and a discussion with the design team (lets hope this is one really really cool stapler).

Early Bird RewardsPopular are early bird rewards in which only the first 10 - 20 donors of a certain price point can get the reward.  This supports the viral effect because there is an urgency to support the project.  Those who miss out on the best deals are still drawn to the product and can consider donating for a lesser reward.

Online networking serves as the keystone to a successful campaign.  For, none of any of this matters unless people actually get to see the project.  There are too many projects on the site for it to feature them all, so again the work lies with the project creator.  By coordinating well in advance with those involved in the project, and notifying anyone and everyone well in advance of the project even going up, you increase your odds of getting additional support.  Creating a Facebook event, a Twitter count down, an Instagram preview, all enable fans and friends to see not only what is going on, but how much effort and care you've given a project.  It cannot be understated how important it is for people to see how much you care, for if you do not care, why should they!  Further, be sure to share your video on other sites than just Kickstarter.  If you go through all that effort, more people should see it!

There are a few more concerns that every campaign needs to be aware of as well.  Kickstarter takes 5% from every project, and posts a warning that up to 5% more could be taken in payment processing fees. On top of that, the project owner will have to ship rewards out to the donors.  Remember, you only incur these costs if the project is picked up, but be sure to include them in your funding goal so you don't find yourself 10-15% below budget.

Best of Luck!

Additional reading on how to make a Kickstarter campaign successful:
Income Diary
Boston University

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lessons Learned from Social Media Marketing with the UCSD Sailing

Through experimentation of different forms of social media with the sailing team there are clear lessons to be learned that have guided more recent posts.  The communities that contribute to each social media site and the feedback on content are the crucial elements from which success can be gauged and content tailored to suit the audiences tastes.

On Facebook, pictures draw many times the number of views and likes as a similar post without an image.  Further, posts that interact with or include other teams and/or members of the sailing team's community drive up engagement drastically.  Our proud proclamation of having stolen a uniform from UC Irvine got a lot of attention, as did a photo that we dug out from the team's archives.  This content not only drew attention from our own communities, but also from the broader communities that were involved.  In the case of the stolen uniform, we attracted not only our own team and UC Irvine's, but also from competitors from throughout the conference.  The photo from the team's archives reached the individuals who were present in the photo and started a discussion of the context of the photo and the good times.

This type of post is replicable in a larger corporation.  For any large brand name, posting about a non-profit event they are sponsoring, or choosing to support one team over another in a sport competition, makes that brand part of a broader community and draws much more attention to their posts.  By being a perpetually seen as part of many of these external communities the brand draws attention to itself as an authority and symbol of these communities from which can build reputation.  This can drive sales as members from those communities buy into the lifestyle which the brand supports.

On another note there has come to be an expectation of lulls of attention and engagement on the page in-between big events, regardless of the cleverness or creativity of a post.  As much as I and others have tried to drive engagement in times when it seemed very few people were visiting the team's page, it seemed very challenging to drive traffic unless there was an event for which the community could gather around with a mix of interest and support.  It seemed having both was crucial.  This challenges the notion of the claim that simply having "Great Content" is enough to ensure an active following.  While I admit a handful of the posts on the site are not thrilling, by and large the content is interesting to the sailing team's community.  However, in order to drive people to engage with it, the content needed to rally support from the team's community.  For instance, sometimes, despite posts after sailing races (regattas) had finished included the results and a photo of the event, it was more typical for the posts before and during the event to attract as much if not more attention and engagement.  These earlier posts called on followers to send their wishes for good wind and good luck for the team through the infamous "Like" button.  It seemed followers were more enthused to do this than to comment on the team's overall performance after the event (Though I hope this wasn't because our results were letting them down!).

Twitter has been more of an uphill battle.  The forum is complicated, especially for a club sports team.  Though the team now has more followers, it is unclear what Twitter offers to the team and its community, especially considering that the sailing world simply does not depend on, or engage with the medium.  Unlike my previous comments about Facebook, there is little to no opportunity for rapid interaction with other schools or communities, let alone clear ways for people to support the team on the site.  As the sailing team's reach is so limited by having few followers (most of which are businesses and not people anyway) its reach is comparatively pitiful.  To compound on that, Twitter feeds are constantly updated, so even when the occasional post is made, it is likely drowned out by others activities.

This suggests that Twitter is largely a winners-win medium.  Those who invest a lot of time and energy into posting, favorite-ing, re-tweeting, tagging, and hash-tagging followers and relevant ideas about their posts can see a following and community grow and expand.  This in turn can result in engagement with other communities, building a brand's image and shaping the lifestyle a brand develops. For a student run club sports team, this is simply unrealistic.

From a review of the team's success the online data continues to show more use and engagement of all of the team's online media (sans the Zombie Sailing Team, may it rest in peace), showing continual increases in traffic and engagement.  There are more followers and more likes than ever on both Facebook and Twitter, as well as consistently higher and higher numbers of views of each post, indicating not only that people are actually engaging with the content with likes and comments, but also not blocking or ignoring the team when it comes up on their news feed.  Additionally the Facebook page has served to draw more individuals to actually come out and try sailing, in other words, we now have a measurable ROI for the page.  Also on Facebook the statistic, "Number of People Talking about This" seems to be holding constant between 20 and 25, jumping to over 50 when there are events, up from static period during the season of around 15, which spiked to 35, and total likes is up to over 165 and climbing.  On the whole, our posts seem to be reaching more and more people as a result.  All of this will likely crash down to near nothing over the next three months as the season has ended and summer arrives, but it is a great benchmark for when we start again in the fall.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Social Media and Online Marketing in China

What of international business or those looking to expand into China?  How can a corporation access that massive population in a world where Facebook isn't even legal and Twitter is hardly used?  Simply put things are different in China.  Yet the opportunities in Social Media and online marketing inside the great firewall remain just as great, if not greater than in the US.  Properly managed a brand can gain access to almost 600 million active social media users in China, compared to the nearly 140 million unique monthly users on Facebook.  That being said, a brand has to play by new rules and engage with new mediums to succeed.But first, to get a scope of how massive social media is and what the comparable sites are.

There are an estimated 91% of Chinese citizens who use the Internet (or netizens) have social media accounts, compared to only 67% in the US.  And on the top 10 sites, there are over 3 billion individual accounts (obviously some individuals have multiple accounts).  And its growing.  In 2012 there was a 60% increase in the volume of social sharing in China alone.  The majority, 57%, of users are male, and the largest age group of users is the 26-30 age group, followed by the 31-35 year old group.

There are several Facebook-esque sites.  The most popular being Renren (translated to people people), Pengyou (friend), and Kaixin (Happy).  Next are the Chinese Twitter sites Tencent Weibo (Tencent Micro Blog) and Sina Weibo (New-Wave Micro Blog).  Equivalent to YouTube is China's Important to know, Micro Blogging, the largest form of social activity in China, falls into a variety of definitions.  Mostly it can be seen as small and random as a Twitter post, or become what you might be familiar with as a long Facebook post, that may or may not have a reoccurring theme or purpose.

And while these sites are censored and followed by the government, it is relatively free compared to what many might expect.  Much of the usage on the site is apolitical in nature and unrestricted, nothing like what one might imagine when they think of the great firewall of China.  The homegrown sites have worked with the government and have produced a state-approved environment that is thriving, though the use of pseudo names is still quite common for privacy reasons.

For corporations this means leveraging local and learning how these sites are used and how to get their consumer's attention.  Some of the primary reasons for the large use of social media include the strains of rural to urban migration on families that have been separated.  The sites serve as a way to keep up and stay connected while families are apart in some cases for almost a year at a time.  The desire for connectedness of the one child generation is another factor as well as the desire for non-state run media and information.  Playing on these motivators can make opportunities for business to engage with the users' experience and attract attention.

But how the platforms are used also needs to be considered.  Youku (Chinese YouTube), is used more for professional length or pirated videos than it is for short comic moments as seen in the US.  It is more broadly seen as a form of online television that for some age groups may have entirely replaced the government controlled CCTV.  This means the concept of "going viral" in China needs to be reevaluated and content needs to be restructured to suit the audience it is reaching.

Also, Weibo (Chinese Twitter), allows for the posting of images and videos in addition to text.  And its use is largely through mobile devices (50% of use, as compared to only 20% of use in the US on Twitter).  Also of worthy consideration is that the measly 140 character limit that also occurs in Weibo is much more powerful in the Chinese language where a character can stand for a word.  Seeing these opportunities in the same way one sees Twitter would be a grave mistake.  This is what gives Weibo reputation of being a Micro Blog as opposed to quick updates and snippets of information.  Further, Chinese social media sites are more demographic specific with certain sites attracting certain kinds of users.  For instance the users of Renren tend to be more college aged students and Kaixin is geared more towards young professionals.   Using each of these sites to target specific individuals can prove extremely profitable as a corporation can avoid blanket statements geared towards attracting all their users and localize their posts.  Giving certain incentives to poorer students, and portraying a certain image to young professionals

Perhaps most powerful is many Chinese users experience the internet as social media.  When they go online it is simply to engage with their internet communities and they are unlikely to go outside of those networks and sites.  For a brand to miss out on that conversation, and learn about what they can improve about their products or services is a failure to adapt to the changing business climate.  Roughly 40% of Chinese internet users identify instant message as their number one priority in internet usage.  This also correlates with the trend that Chinese social media users are far more likely to rely on advice from friends and family online as for which products to buy and services to use.   

One of the greatest struggles with social media in China is the fact that the metrics for engagement are essentially non-existent.  There is no Google ad-sense, or other website tracking service in China.  That means engagement must be tracked using what is seen on the page and following conversations about the brand.  It requires more man power but allows for a more intense and localized campaign.

But promotion, clarification of misinformation, answering questions, and deterring crisis is what social media in China is all about.  It take much more man power and attention than campaigns run in the US. And with only 23% of businesses currently using it, there is still a ton of space to be claimed and attention to be had.

China's Top 10 Social Media Sites
Social Media in China: The Same, but Different
China: Ten Things You Should Know About an Online Superpower
Why you need social media marketing … in China
China Daily: Talking it up online
McKinsey Quarterly: Understanding social media in China