Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

When I entered the Annenberg Program on Online Communities (APOC) at USC in January 2010, I learned we didn’t have to write a thesis to complete our Master’s in Communication degrees. Instead, my fellow graduate students and I would have to conceptualize, build and launch a website, featuring an online community. The idea of this website would be based on everything we learned during our classes and through online research throughout the year of study.

Sounds easy, right? Not so much, actually. You see, due to the advancement in technology, what we learned about the social media space in January had changed dramatically by the time we started working on our final projects in late August. My APOC group, Ashlie, Tom, Josh, Scott and I had to think of an idea for a website that would not only be sustainable in the social media space when we launched in November but also appropriate in 2011 and beyond.

We brainstormed all kinds of ideas from reality television to gambling to sports to clothing. We knew we wanted to build a website with a simple, focused idea that targeted women. After a couple of weeks, we decided to build a website that focused on this simple idea: building an online community for people who wanted to brag about how much money they saved when they made a particular purchase.

Once we agreed on the idea, we worked together to developed the scope of the project, a Product Requirements Document (PRD), wireframes and a marketing plan. But the biggest hurdle was to find a web programmer to build it by the required deadline. We had to launch the website by Sunday, November 21, 2010 or the grade for our project would suffer dramatically.

Luckily, we found John, a very talented programmer, whom we hired to build the website for us. We then hired James, a brilliant graphic artist, to develop our logo and Tim, a creative web designer, to create the website design. The eight of us worked together throughout September and October making decisions on the following:

  • CMS or from scratch – we had to decide if we wanted to build our website on a content management system (CMS), like WordPress or Drupal or from scratch. We went back and forth for several weeks on the pros and cons and decided that it would be not only quicker if John could build it from scratch but also easier to add other elements in the future.
  • Shopping categories – yes to automotive, clothing, household items, etc., but no food categories.
  • Uploading photos – we wanted users to post images or photos but if they didn’t, we needed default images that would automatically appear for each category.
  • Login options – this was a big debate: Facebook and Twitter only login or add on-site registration? Due to the timing, we opted for FB and Twitter only but will add on-site registration when we launch V-2.
  • The Name – it took hours then days to find the right name and brand position for this website. Every great idea we had, the URL was already taken, and most of the not-so-great ideas that we had were taken. Then, Tom came up with SweetSaves.com, and the URL was surprisingly available, so we snatched it up.
  • Logo designs – we decided a gold coin going into a pink piggy bank best showcased the idea of saving money. “That’s a Sweet Deal” became our mantra and the rest of the brand positioning was created based on this idea.
  • Legal decisions – since we don’t want to get sued, we had to create solid terms and conditions, a privacy policy and community guidelines for our website that not only give helpful instructions how to use our website, but also protect our website from potential legal action.
  • Marketing – when to launch our marketing plan was a big question we faced toward the end of October. We wanted to make sure that our website was ready for the masses, since we knew that if people had a bad first experience on our website, they would not come back.

During the first two weeks in November, we tested the website and made changes. We also made decisions on what we need to do before the launch and what could wait until after launch. Then on Monday, November 15, 2010, a full six days before our deadline, we launched SweetSaves.com. The early feedback was very constructive, and we have a few elements to fix before we execute our initial marketing plans next week.

We think it will be perfect timing: everyone is taking advantage of the Black Friday deals over the weekend and will have plenty of savings to post on SweetSaves.com next week!

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If you didn’t think social media was important, you should now. For the first time in history, the amount of time people spent on Facebook was greater than the amount of time they spent on Google sites in the United States, according to the Business Insider. The period of measurement was August 2010:

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Our last ‘Introduction to Online Communities’ class was held on Monday, April 26, 2010 at Clearstone Venture Partners in Santa Monica. Former USC grad and Managing Partner William Quigley talked to us about venture capital and the best way to get it for a startup. As with our other guest speakers throughout the semester, William shared great insight on what I call the business of money and the Internet.

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There is no question that new technology tools provoke creative innovation. A clear example of this process is what has happened in the music industry over the last decade. Our Intro class speaker on Monday, April 19, 2010 was Scott Dinsdale, EVP of Sony Music Digital Operations, and he gave us a great overview of what was happening the music and entertainment industries and where they are headed. Here are some of the key points of our discussion:

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MySpace has announced that it is officially hosting a casting call for Fox’s hit television show, Glee. People between the ages of 16 and 26 can submit their audition video either by uploading their own pre-recorded video or choosing from a selection of MySpace Karaoke Glee hits on the Glee Auditions Official MySpace Profile. Participants can use these songs:

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Over the last two months, I’ve discussed the Annenberg Program on Online Communities with friends, family and former colleagues. It’s always interesting to hear their definition of what they believe that social media is. The most prevalent question that I’ve been asked is “when you graduate from APOC, are you just going to be building pages on Facebook or sending tweets on Twitter?” The answer to that question is ‘no, social media is so much more than just having a presence on Facebook and Twitter.’  So, one of my goals for this program is to educate people about what social media is, how it is changing day to day and how people can be a part of it each day.

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As I was reviewing the list of selected books for our Intro class’ book reports, I zeroed in on Dave Evans’ book, “Social Media Marketing: An Hour A Day” because of the title. I wanted to know how you could spend only an hour a day working on social media marketing and be successful. When the book arrived, I noticed that the guy on the front cover was working on a laptop and talking on the phone. As I looked more closely I wondered two things: 1) why was he talking on a phone and 2) why was he talking on what looks like a phone connected to a landline.

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