When Artists Take the Wheel And Embrace Innovation…. Singer Lily Allen on “Twitter Hunt”

May 6, 2009

The following is a guest post by Christie LaBarca.  Christie is an avid music fan.  She attends Hunter College in NYC and hopes to one day work as a lawyer in the music and entertainment industry.

It’s no secret that the music industry has been highly resistant towards technology.   We all know that if record companies spent as much time embracing the internet as they did fighting it, they would be in a lot better shape than they are right now.  It’s not just about the piracy and the p2p networks, but also about communication methods.  Music artists and fans can now connect in a way that was not possible before.  Social media networks are the key.  Facebook, MySpace, Twitter….they allow a reciprocal relationship between the artist and the fan.

1760769-1British singer Lily Allen is a prime example. Through MySpace, the singer successfully established herself to an audience that might not have heard her music otherwise.   In fact, when she was first signed to her record label, they had other priorities.  They were catering to Coldplay and other big named artists.  Meanwhile Allen was busy setting up her MySpace account and posting the demos she created with the little money the label gave to her.  MySpace users quickly caught onto her music and before a few months she developed a fan base.  By keeping in contact with fans and responding to them regularly, this fan base grew even larger.   This, obviously, caught the attention of her label.   Her fan base was already established.

Allen has continued to use social networks to connect with fans and generate buzz.   During her U.S. tour, that ended two weeks ago, she organized scavenger hunts via Twitter.  Before each show she hid three pairs of tickets in the vicinity of the venue she was playing.  She sent clues out on Twitter, which allowed fans to access the clues from the mobile phone and quickly attempt to figure out where the tickets were hidden.   The clues were written mostly in clever riddles that would be familiar to locals.  Clearly, the singer did her research for each city….for Washington DC, one of the clues was, “A gate made of water, but where will we fix em? A bed made of flowers where they f***ed it for nixon .”

In Los Angeles, Allen hung two on a tree tickets outside of Victoria’s Secret at the Grove.  As soon as she posted the tweet, a guy walking by on his iPhone stopped in his tracks and looked up at her.  He asked when she wrote it, and she responded “thirty-seconds ago.” This type of endeavor is really something unique that artists were unable to do before.  Fan interaction has been taken to an entire new level due to social media and this is essential for artists.  Music isn’t selling as well as it used to, now music fans are looking for more than the music itself, they are looking for an experience, and this is how the music industry will make money in the future.

How did the Twitter Hunt help Lily Allen? It’s responsive.  It got people talking, it got her fans talking…word of mouth is the strongest promotion anyone can ask for.  Every audience member at her shows knew about her ongoing Twitter Hunt.  Everyone wanted to be a part of it. They all sat glued to their phones waiting to see what the next clue was, even if they already got tickets, waiting to see if they would get a Twitter response.  She kept people interested.  She kept her fans interested, all by being responsive and engaging in technology.

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What do your Customers Want? Ask them

February 19, 2009

pdre042052The days of focus groups, hiring expensive business consultants, conducting mass surveys, and spending countless amounts of money designing and redesigning products that go nowhere are all but over.  We are officially connected. Connected with each other, with other businesses, and with the customer.

Whether you are a small business owner struggling to find more business or a CEO who is comfortable with your current market position, you can always learn from your customers.  Don’t ever let yourself be tricked into thinking that because you know the company so well, you know best what to do next.  Because you don’t.

First, think about who talks to your customers the most.  You have a customer service department that solves their problems, a sales team that helps them answer questions and make a purchase, and maybe a group of brand ambassadors that communicates with potential customers and advocates.  They are all in a better position than you to create real change in the customers’ eyes.

Listen to what they have to say. Create a suggestion box and give them credit (maybe cash) if one of their suggestions gets implemented.  Hold weekly meetings for them to voice their opinions.  Allow them a forum for open communication between various departments.  Create teams to develop these new ideas.

Start a blog that you use to communicate directly to a community of your customers or clients.  Tell them what you are working on, how you are solving their problems, and who you are working with.  And constantly ask for their feedback.  They will be quick to tell you where you are going right and even quicker to tell you where you are going wrong.  But as many companies that have already done this have seen, they will show you where you can improve and thank you for actually making the effort.

Use various social networks to solve problems and open the lines of communicationTwitter accounts can be used for customer service just like JetBlue, Zappos, and Comcast have done.  A Facebook page can be used for idea and strategy discussion.  Make the customers feel like they have a real ownership interest in the company.  They will reward you for it.

Starting today, you won’t have to come up with any new ideas on your own.  All you have to do is implement some or all of the strategies above and let the people do the talking.  Then just sit back and relax, make the decisions as they come, and enjoy a more powerful business; a business supported and backed by a community of evangelists.

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Lend a Finger Follow Up

February 2, 2009

et-fingerHow do you define success? Depending on the venture, there are always going to be a variety of goals and tools to use as measurement. Do you calculate the ROI of a project, or set small goals and consider achieving each one a success? It all depends.

Last week I posted a blog of significant importance to me. It was about my father, who had died of cancer, and the little steps that we can all take to help others. To read that post, click here and view the Lend a Finger Campaign.

I was not completely sure what I was looking to achieve with the post, but I did have some goals. I obviously wanted it to be a well written piece, one that sincerely related my thoughts to anyone who read it. I also wanted a lot of people to see it, more so than my average blog post. And after that, everything was gravy.

Well, after a few days of calculating stats and viewing the comments and emails of everyone who read it, I consider the post an incredible success. And I wanted to thank everyone for their help, though I can’t name you each individually, for helping to spread the message.

Many of my followers were quick to comment and retweet on Twitter, this lead to a lot of visitors and a large number of new followers, for which I am gracious. A surprising number of people used the sharing tools to share it on Facebook, which relayed the message to all of my friends and family. This brought in an overwhelming amount of emails and phone calls about the post.

After taking a look at the number of visitors to the Lend a Finger post, it is easy to see that when you are sincere and you have something interesting to say, others will take notice. My traffic from the day it went live through the weekend was 7-8 times higher than usual. I added this Twitpic of my stats on the day of the post.

Additionally, I was moved by the number of people who told me that they had or they planned on donating to cancer research and care, many in my father’s name. A quick mental calculation, of course I don’t know exact numbers, seems to show that 10-15 people donated to various charities that day after reading the blog.

I wish to thank everyone for their continued support. Know that if you got in touch with me that day, you moved me. If you helped relay the message, I appreciate it more than words can say. Because of the overwhelming feedback, I plan to use this blog as an outlet to bring to light many more things that we can do to help. I hope you will join me in the fight to make the world a better place.

To receive more information in the future, add my blog to your blog reader, or subscribe to receive updates in your email.

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Monetize Twitter then Monetize Everything Else

December 19, 2008

twitter-birdMonetizing the social web.  It’s the hot topic headed into 2009.  How can Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and countless other online services begin to see real revenue and profitability?  And how can they do that without ruining the user experience and creating too much confusion on the websites?

For those familiar with social networks, those who use them daily, it is a constant debate.  From the business end, we can see that value of these networks, and the amount of information they hold, so we know there is money there somewhere.  From the usability end, we can see that attempts to use advertisers and third party publishers have had some negative effects on the cleanliness and function of the interface.  So what to do?

Well, I am not here to answer all the questions.  But I thought I would try my hand at just one.  How can Twitter make money?

I noticed a few days ago that Twitter announced that they were hiring a VP of Business Operations with one clear task, monetize Twitter.  Chances are that I will not get that job.  But if I did, here is what I would try:

1.    Charge Third Party Developers.  Twitter is a great service, and its easy to use.  Developers noticed this right away.  Many tools have come out that made Twitter more accessible from anywhere on and off the web.  Set fees to develop applications and programs that are used in conjunction with Twitter.

2.    Rotate Ads Right of Screen.  The Twitter interface is so clean that many people think ads would ruin the experience.  But as far as I can see, rotating long sidebar ads on the right side of the screen would take nothing away.  Ads can be targeted based on activity (updates, who you follow, @replies).  Show a new ad every time the page is reloaded.

3.    Sell Twitter Software.  Twitter has many uses.  In an office setting, I can see it as a means of communication that surpasses those that we use today.  Why not sell Twitter software to companies for a monthly or yearly fee.  Let them customize the design, add all their employees, and operate it on a different site (businessname.twitter.com).

4.    Twitter Marketing Accounts.  Create a new type of account, for marketers, that you have to pay for.  A marketer account allows you to send updates to a targeted market of Twitter users once or twice daily.  These will show up like normal updates on a person’s home page, but there will be a limited amount so the intrusion is negligible.

5.    Paid Twitter Ad-ons.  Similar to the Twitter Software idea, Twitter could add new services to their existing tool that one would have to sign up and pay for.  Call this a Twitter Pro Account if that is what works.  These could include a news section, forums, directories, finance that allow you to group Tweets together and display headline style information.  This is more valuable simply because it would be easier to classify information.  Charge a one-time upgrade fee or a yearly subscription that is so small that we all sign up.

So there are five things that I would do my first day on the job.  Who will get the job? Will they like my ideas?  Will they follow them?  Will they ever read or hear them?  Whatever happens, this is an important step in monetizing the social web.  And all other networks can be aware of these ideas and use them in their own way.  Prove to us that your inflated values make sense and that your products will bring us further than we ever anticipated.

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