Posts Tagged ‘Research’

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!

Here’s some cool info from the Business Insider’s chart of the day. Check out these charts from Nielsen analyzing the most popular apps on each Smartphone platform:

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“We are currently going through an infrastructural change in the mobile industry that will set up the next decade of innovation,” said Josh Levison, Practice Lead for Mobile and Gaming at IPG Emerging Media Lab. He was the speaker in our Intro class on Monday, April 12, 2010. I thought that mobile was going to be a big part of how we move forward in business, entertainment and information, but after hearing Josh’s fantastic presentation on Monday, I realize that I didn’t know the half of it!

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Part of the APOC program at USC features guest speakers who come to our classes to share their triumphs, mistakes and lessons they learned in building their online communities and businesses. I think this is one of the most beneficial parts of the program as every one of these people has answered all of our questions openly and honestly and have given us perspectives that we wouldn’t normally have as we enter the social media/online communities space.

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Take a look at today’s Business Insider Chart of the Day provided in an article on http://www.businessinsider.com by Nicholas Carlson and Kamelia Angelova.  In March 2008, Facebook was not the most popular social network; it was MySpace. Now, two years later, Facebook is beyond domination.

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Frank Magid, 1932-2010

Mr. Frank Magid passed away yesterday on Friday, February 5, 2010. He was the founder of Frank N. Magid Associates, a research and consulting company located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He started the company in 1956, and over the next 50 years, it became the premiere researching and consulting firm to the broadcasting and entertainment industries.

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Welcome to my year long journey through graduate school at USC’s Annenberg Program for Online Communities! APOC is a one-year graduate school program in new media, Internet marketing and online social networking sites. All year long, I’ll post highlights from my classes, current events that pertain to digital media, technology, branding and marketing and info on upcoming classes.

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