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Social Media

Fidgetstick - Under New Management

As you may recall, I sun-setted my social network for adventurous people, Fidgetstick, after a few years of trying to figure out how to build a business out of a verticalised social network.

The lessons were plentiful, the mistakes were hilariously obvious, the product was crap, the intent was genuine, the execution sadly lacking.

Mobile technology was nascent, social platforms were not so widely adopted. Timing was wrong. I didn't have the technical, design or product skills I have now. I didn't truly connect with the market.

But I have some unfinished business, and to address that I realised that someone else would need to continue my mission - their mission, with some help and guidance. 

I'm pleased to say that someone will be my younger brother Ben

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He's a young, passionate adventure sports enthusiast - kayaker, climber, activity instructor, long boarder. He's a little illiterate (excuse his text speak, I will knock it out of him). Mostly, he's passionate, honest and determined and for me that's good enough. Everything else can be learned.

Ben inherits an existing community of 12,000+ adventurous people that are on Facebook and will reignite the activity around curation and distribution of the best adventure-sports related content from around the web, topical discussion and leverage the power of community to return value to its members - through exclusive offers, discounts, prizes etc. that community members will delight in.

As Ben gathers insights from his own experience and from interactions with the community, we'll start to plan what the next version of Fidgetstick should become... 

A community hub?
A store?
A micro-site?
A tool?
An information repository?
A media sharing site?
A product?
An app?
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Right now, we're not guessing. But we are hoping that by restarting the conversation, getting excited about the outdoors, being adventurous, pushing the boundaries, scaring ourselves, trying new things with new people, we'll figure out what challenges lie ahead. and how technical solutions can help.

If you have any thoughts, tweet @fidgetstick  or 'like' the facebook page and join the conversation.

 

The Future of Social Networks

Social networks will be like air, in that they will permeate everything that we do online AND offline. We'll look at the underlying technologies that will make this possible, how it will evolve, and the business models that will support it.

Charlene Li, Thought Leader of Altimeter Group

This was a great video, from SXSWi 2009 which, believe it or not, actually took place a year ago. Hell, a whole year! That's donkey's in digital terms. I revisited it, to refresh what Charlene was talking about and to compare to trends that are happening right now to see if her view is being realised.

Firstly, Charlene talks about the reasons why social networks will become part of the very essence of our being. "Like Air", what a statement! The three things Charlene says will make social networks like air; Identity,  Contacts and Activities. These are the core things that make us social and what Charlene believes will make the inevitable integration of Social Networks a logical step, not the wishful thinking of network creators looking to make a buck out of becoming the "Facebook".

So how is this reflected in Social Networking a year on?

Identity - the ability to determine, as an individual, which "persona" we allow the public to see has developed to the extent that, through niche social networks, we can put on our different hats on demand. You're a gadget lover - you GDGT it, you're a movie lover - you Flixter it, you're a music lover - you Myspace like crazy, you are a professional - you are definitely LinkedIn and more relevantly, you're adventurous so you Fidgetstick it. You identify with one or any number of these social networks and so you create an identity that mirrors those networks values and culture. This is still in it's infancy, but we are seeing a global trend that this is increasing.

Contacts - Your contacts, the people you interact with in real or digital life, are a huge influence of your decision to join a new social network and keep returning to existing ones. You choose to or are persuaded to interact with certain people, whether professionally or personally, and by doing so you go to where those people hang out - special interest social networks. That's how we grow, we seek out influencers, celeb's, role models, mentors, investors, friends - relationships - that enhance us and enable us to achieve our goals.

Activities - We do stuff. We may not do enough of the things we like - it's a common fault, but social networks when applied correctly, are an enabler. Through networking we can meet people, companies, get information, receive benefits that can enable us to do more. As social networks grow, their ability to leverage influence over commercial enterprises empowers members to do more exponentially. This is a positive trend and a direct sign that social networks can be a natural way of life for positive people that look for enablers and opportunity to do what they want to do.

Charlene also talks about how the "aggregator" of these multi-faceted networks will evolve. We don't just go to a Facebook, or a Myspace, or a Friendster (remember the days...). No, we go to all of them with purpose. The aggregator Charlene was referring to is Facebook. Through Facebook Connect, the most pioneering social evolution mechanism I have ever seen, is the tool that has empowered network creators to fit seamlessly within the framework that is "Social Networking". And now we know where we fit in, it's easy to communicate with potential members - we're not having the "are you a new Facebook" conversation. We're having the "We are to {insert niche area} as Myspace is to Music" conversation. People get that and if you create a well branded, engaged and interested community, they will join.

Now, it's clear we're a million miles away from the "air-like" nature of social networks. There's much work to be done by Network Creators and advocates of the online social framework, but we are on our way. We've perhaps cast the lines and some very eager people are pushing the boat from it's moorings. Personally, I'm looking forward to getting the sails up and really opening her up.

Ning U-Turns - How to let your developer community down and piss people off.

This week has been quite interesting for me, since new Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal announced that following a strategic review, Ning would be announcing the demise of all free networks in the next 3 months (see Techcrunch article here)

Well, what a surprise as this is exactly what we were trying to tell Ning to avoid 18 months ago when they alienated all serious network creators by removing all source code access to Ning sites. 

Here I chat about our experience with Fidgetstick/ and how we dealt with the Ning Curve Balls we have come to love knocking around the park.

How will Social Networking evolve in the future?

I got together with a few friends from one of the biggest digital agencies in world, we had a few beers and started talking about the way the structure of purpose of social networks is changing. In particular how this has created an opportunity for our adventure sports community, Fidgetstick/ to fill a very big gap in the market. A couple of players are in game, but it's there for the taking...

Anyway, here's the video...

Tools I Use - SocialOomph

Here's the first of a new topic theme I've decided to start running. As my online career develops, I find that I am trying out and using more and more online tools to improve my productivity, efficiency and effectiveness in social media, content generation and ways of reaching my target target audience.

The first tool I've decided to review is something that has become part of my core Twitter strategy. The tool is called SocialOomph.

Social Oomph is an incredibly sophisticated toolkit of features and functionality that help you to manage your Twitter (and other social media containers) activity. The site is free to join and the basic features are free. There is a "professional" upgrade that is $29.97 per month.

So, I'll start with the basic account, which actually contains an unbelievable amount of functionality and for general Twitter users wanting to improve the frequency and volume of their tweets, this is the perfect way to start.

You can access multiple Twitter accounts through the basic dashboard, to configure an auto-response DM to new followers, decide if you want to auto follow people who follow you, you can choose to vet new followers and auto-unfollow people who choose not to follow you back. You can also request a periodic digest of all the @replies you get, so you don't have to keep looking.

One of the best features of this system is the ability to pre-compose and schedule tweets. Now, it is a subject that is bound to rouse the sceptics, but in my opinion when used alongside organic and spontaneous personal tweets, this is very powerful. 

It is important when using twitter or most other social platforms to be regular and consistent to get the most from them. When you're time limited, it can be very difficult to do this. Scheduling tweets is a great way to get over this problem and ensure a round the clock supply of short communication from you to your followers. But, now for a WARNING and some Tips.

Warning - don't abuse this system. If you schedule a load of recurring tweets of the same junk content, not only will people stop following you, you'll also get a big slap from our friends at Twitter. Big NO NO!

It is important that if you are scheduling tweets you put in the same amount of time and consideration to the value of what you are putting out there and have a solid idea of what you are trying to achieve through your tweets before you even start.

Nail that, and you're off to a flying start. Your scheduled tweets need to be written and quality controlled by you in the same way you do when tweeting normally, you just do it in one go. Maybe spend 30 minutes to and hour per day do this and you'll have followers beating down the door to connect with you.

The "Professional Upgrade" package introduces other platforms and integration, such as posting to Facebook Accounts, posting and scheduling blog accounts and more in depth rummaging through twitter lists and Twitter users with "Influence". All great stuff, but I'm convinced you'll find the basic package enough to get your juices flowing initially with bags of features thrown in.

Social Oomph - power Twitter tool

My 2010 Predictions - Retail, the Internet, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Wave

OK, so I'm hardly Mystic Meg and I've not really got a track record for predictions of this nature but nonetheless, I'm going to stick my two pennies worth in and talk a little bit about what I think is going to happen in 2010 - a year that will go down in my life story as one of intense activity, personal development and growth (I think I'm maxxed-out at 6'2", so I mean networking growth).

LinkedIn & Twitter

Since I quit my job in November and launched a social media offensive, well, not all that offensive - more mild intrigue, I have managed to convince over 500 people to listen to my personal tweets (@r3trosteve) and about 2000 people to read the tweets of a community obsessed by adventure (@fidgetstick). My Linked In Account has gone from 0 to 150-ish fantastically experienced, high quality professionals from which I have great aspirations for the potential opportunities for collaboration that will arise next year. Rest assured both of these channels will continue to be pressed, pulled, pushed and tested by me in my pursuit of a killer network of like-minded, interesting and often humorous people. 

Next year, I think we'll see these two sites crush it. Yes, I just said crush it. LinkedIn has impressed me a lot as a really valuable professional service with interesting social features being released more and more, and especially with the opening up of the API. I think that as trends suggest social media uptake is growing faster in the older generations, one network which must benefit from this will be LinkedIn. I mean, LinkedIn will mean 1. death of crappy recruitment sites, 2. death of the paper CV, and 3. professionals have NO excuse for not developing their network and personal brand to safeguard their future.

Twitter will be mainstream, no doubt. We'll see member numbers continue to increase exponentially and app developers will continue to create new and intriguing "real time search" apps. The biggest problem will be filtering the hobbyist apps (not saying all are bad) from the one's with a real purpose and a real value. API integration into larger containers will be more prevalent, and maybe they'll regain ground on Facebook connect as the 3rd party user ID system of choice.

Facebook

Facebook's growth will slow throughout 2010. As the behemoth that it has become, this will cause outrage amongst the tweeters and bloggers and they will be signalling the fall of an empire. Especially as Facebook continue to fall foul of suspected mal-treatment of members with the implementation of more initiatives that compromise member security and trust, whilst in the pursuit of all conquering growth and distribution.

Facebook will be the 3rd party ID of choice, why wouldn't they be, as nearly every user of any web site will already have Facebook ID. This in turn will lead to more and more cross platform integration with Facebook, with sites leveraging the Facebook platform, the social graph and other social media technologies to grow their own user base. Less and less activity will actually take place on www.facebook.com and it is this activity that will ensure that the doom mongers eat their apple mouse mats.

Social Media & Retail

Social media will go from a "nice to have" or "really should do but don't have time/don't get it/don't want it" to a "must have" and an integral part of the marketing mix. I came from an industry that for years talked about Point of Purchase being the most successful sales converting advertising medium, way better than the results and ROI obtained from ATL marketing, in particular. We've all heard it: "70% of purchasing decisions are made in-store". Well, this assumes;

1. That purchases are being made in store and;

2. That this isn't changing

In 2010, the consumer will have an idea about what they want to purchase, they'll get a referral or series of referrals from a friend or someone in their network who they trust. They'll go to a store to "feel" the product, play with it, hold it, use it. If they are not sold on service & price (value) there and then and both will have to be damn good to achieve it, the consumer knows they can just go home, hit the web and probably find it for a better price and get it with free delivery to the door anyway.

Well, this is a whole new ball game and Point of Purchase will now become dependant on the integration with social media; in-store collateral referring to fan page polls on Facebook, special interest or niche communities that rate and review products where the members are considered experts. If this is communicated in store and stores get their service levels/pricing mix right, then they could win. So long as they or the brands have continued to invest in live product display and security.

Social Networks

Some large niche social networks are going to crush it next year. 2009  saw the launch of GDGT and that network is going to grow and own the tech gadget community space. Fidgetstick/ with a fair wind and a whole load of game is going to do everything I want it to achieve in connecting adventurous people and helping them get off their backsides and onto the trails, rivers, mountains, beaches and waters around the world. We will see other social networks that will be launched, will grow and succeed in lower tier niches than the really big boys - they will leverage API integration and cross platform connectivity and exploit the social graph to co-exist harmoniously in the land of the giants.

Content

We are going to have content coming out of our ears, it will be produced in droves and we will struggle for a while to cope with the noise and diversity of quality. Social bookmarking will come into it's own, with Digg continuing to grow and cement themselves as the generic bookmarking leader. Entering the circle of value in 2010, will be the niche communities that will assist in the content filtering, sifting through the noise their specific category and enabling the cream to rise to the top. Video will be bigger than ever.

Others to Watch

ODesk - as the message of outsourcing continues to reach farther and farther a field and the providers of these services, especially in the Phillipines and Vietnam, but also India, China and Russia develop their technical, communication and customer service skills, more people will delve in. ODesk will be the platform that continues to lead the way.

Google Wave - so much has been said about the Wave throughout 2009. Far from evolving into the Tsunami we were expecting, Google Wave commentators have been vocal in their scepticism and dissapointment of this revolutionary platform. Well, I think that this could change in 2010. At Fidgetstick/ we're already seeing the value of the collaborative tool that GW represents, allowing us to work as a team with ease from all parts of the world. GW relies on mass participation to be truely valuable. Before this can happen, people need to figure out its value for themselves and Google need to get to work sorting out the bugs and illogical UI features. I have high hopes for this puppy and we will be working on Wave API integration in 2010. 

I am so excited about what 2010 will bring, and this post barely scratches the surface of what I think will be the comings and goings of the world I know over the next 12 months. Please feel free to comment on any of my predictions/insights or feel free to leave your own below. 

Thanks to you all for following my stuff, I really appreciate it and I look forward to sharing an awesome 2010 with you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Starting Fidgetstick or any new Social Network

Fidgetstick 1.0 was launched very softly in January 2009. We created the site at a time when the three of us who were working together on Fidgetstick/ were also working hard through tough economic times, to maintain our busy day jobs as well. This constraint effected many decisions that we made at the time, and these decisions are the same that everyone who is just starting out with a new technology venture will have to make. 

  • How will your team be structured? 
  • What technology will you use? 
  • How will you make the best use of your time? 
  • Where will you get your moolah and how much do you need?


So, our launch product was in effect, a summary of all our decisions, based on our constraints at that time. This was often a compromise against the bigger picture, the vision that I had for this new community. In the next few video blogs, I'm going to talk about some of these subjects. I'm going to tell you what my thought process was, what decisions we made and what we learned from them. What our challenges have been and what they are likely to be in the future. Hopefully, you'll relate to some of these and perhaps can also apply some of our learnings to your next venture. Perhaps you'll also be encouraged to connect with me and check out our community as we grow through 2010.

Video Blog 1 - Team Structure Intro

 

Meet Fidgetstick/ Founder - R3trosteve - An introduction

Here's my first video blog cast (so keep an open mind!), which I've split into two parts. I skirt around the things that drive me as an entrepreneur, from family stuff to work related. I wanted to share my thoughts and motivations that guide everything that I do so that I can reach other people who maybe going through the same issues, such as alcoholism, cancer, life change.

In addition, I try and get across how all of these things led me to form a community of people, to which life has a special meaning; to be adventurous, active and challenging through adventure sports participation and trying new things.

Have a listen, to both parts if you can bear it. I'd love to hear what you think and

As most of those crummy TV channels say..."If you are effected by any of the issues contained in this video blog" .... well, get in touch. You know how and I would love to help if I can.

Did You Know

This is another official update to the original "Shift Happens" video. This completely new Fall 2009 version includes facts and stats focusing on the changing media landscape, including convergence...

Mindblowing - keeping the whole thing real.

The dawn of a new era - R3trosteve flies the nest

A momentous occasion in my world, as I have now left the security of a "day job" to concentrate my time, effort and the little cash that I have on evolving, developing and growing my my internet based businesses.

Madman? Crazy? 

Perhaps. But this is now my moment, everything I have been dreaming about since I was a teenager - having the independence, responsibility and freedom to control my own destiny and career rather than relying on the abilities - and often inabilities - of others.

In my mind, this is the perfect time to be starting out. That said, I'm not just starting out. I have created and tested a concept that I believe will work, whilst maintaining by day job, and and am now able to put the learnings from that into a distinct strategic plan for the future. One that hopefully, as the economy climbs out of the sespit it is in, will only serve to strengthen and solidify the work me and my team put in now.

So, what am I working on?

Fidgetstick/ - adventure sports community


The main part of my time over the next 6 months will be spent on the redesign, redevelopment and relaunch of Fidgetstick/ (www.fidgetstick.com). Fidgetstick/ is an online community for adventurous people who love to take part in adventure sports and activities or believe they should be taking part and for whatever reason, can't do it enough, want to try new things or want to improve in different areas.

Fidgetstick/ is a noble gesture, one that stands for something greater than just a quick fix internet business. The team at Fidgetstick/ and our community believes that adventure sports are a symptom of a greater human need - to live a varied and adventurous lifestyle. A lifestyle that involves taking risks, reaching for something big and doing it with the best of intentions.

 

  • Connections - Fidgetstick/ aims to make it really easy and intuitive to connect with people of similar interests - such that those connections assist you in achieving your own adventure goals and those of others. 
  • Participation - On a more macro scale those connections will assist in improving participation - through the forming of social connections and sharing resources such as equipment, knowledge and training. Fidgetstick/ will work tirelessly to breakdown the barriers to participation and retention.
  • Content - Increase in participation leads to an increase in content generation, sharing and distribution - articles, photos, videos, blogs, forums, reviews etc. The valuable content will attract new members through search and viral means, creating a culture of growth and continuous improvement.

 

It all starts with getting out there (in the big wide world) and taking part, mucking in, having a go, challenging yourself and others. Break sweat, scare yourself and then come back and tell the community all about it.

The site will give information through community generated content or provide routes to the best information through the thousands of poor quality sources that exist. Fidgetstick/ will become the first port of call for adventure sports enthusiasts seeking information. 

Fidgetstick/ needs to be a sustainable business entity in order to grow and survive, no question about that. Through the correct setup and planning, we have created a model that doesn't rely on traditional CPM/CPC ad campaigns in order to generate revenue. We have multiple revenue streams available, that can be activated at different stages, according to the growth and development of the site. 

In these early days, it is imperative that our cause gets the backing from the commercial world. Such is the is the potential benefit to our corporate sponsors, we are encouraged and deeply grateful for the support we have received so far - but it can't end there. If your company wants to get behind our crusade, then now is the perfect time. Contact me for more information about how you can get involved steve@fidgetstick.com. 

I am so excited about what lies ahead for this community and the team can't wait to get the Fidgetstick/ 2.0 site out there. We've had a lot of positive feedback about the current site, but this will blow that out of the water in every way.

 

Other Projects 

Well, it's a bit early to goo into any great detail. Needless to say, I will be a busy boy. I am also working on a couple of other projects in the online gaming and traditional marketing services (with a twist!) industries. Watch this space for more updates.

So, there we go. All change in my world - what's going on in your world? I would love to hear your thoughts on what I've done, am doing and what you plan to do to live a more interesting, varied and personally gratifying life. Hit me back!

 

R3trosteve

 

 

Reciprocity Rules - social media and business clash head on

It is quite clear that, since the dawn of time, businesses have had the luxury of not having the "burden" of a reciprocal relationship with their customers. We have seen, time and time again, how companies tell you what to buy and how to act. And we got sick of it. All hail the social reaction ans let's get ready for a revolution still to come.

You will not be able to consider investing your marketing budget in advertising, if it is not community spirited and socially acceptable. If it doesn't get blocked, it will get rejected and ultimately it will be pointless. Your communication with customers will be reciprocal, to the extent that they will even create your advertisements for you.

In a Digg style way, no adverts will be seen that don't achieve at least a minimum acceptance level, governed by the communities rating of those ads. Those that show the best ROI, will be the content led creation of adverts which have evolved in real time, through such technology as the Google Wave, resulting in a meshing of ideas from a community that contribute and take purchasing actions simultaneously.

This means that certain ads will live on, in the medium of collaborative conversation and in effect, a story; and others will die before they've even begun as the communication is not reciprocated by the community and therefore does not achieve even the basic level criteria of acceptance. But that's cool. Don't waste your time on it. Refine your subject matter and move on to the next conversation.

The thing business will have to first grasp (as believe it or not, they still don't) is that the old way just don't cut it no more. The second thing is how to leverage the fact that they've now realised (and perhaps others haven't) and therefore have a competitive advantage, an edge. By discovering the most effective ways to communicate everyday, relentlessly and consistently with their customers and their competitions customers, whilst they're still trying to think up the next story to tell their declining market.

Businesses will have to make the resources available to fulfill the demand of their customers and feed their hunger for more valuable interaction, and those that are prepared to try (yes, and to fail) but to adapt and try again will be the champions. We all love a winner, and we all love an underdog - and for once, it's a level playing field. Damn, that's exciting as we get ready for quality, service and product excellence to shine brightest and more luminescent than we've ever experienced before.

Social Media in the future

I was reading an interview with Stuart Foster, an East Coast blogger and social media strategist. One of the questions and associated responses struck a chord with me and got me thinking…

Brett Borders:"What are some predictions for the future of social media? What are two or three things that you think will happen?" 

Stuart Foster: “We’ll stop talking about social media for one. Social solutions will just be integrated into business in general. Models will change and rules will be broken…but social media will eventually go the way of email and just be integrated into everyday aspects of business."

Right now, Social Media, in its meaning as a form of online collaboration, is a movement of tremendous impact. As is typical with any serious changing of attitudes and behavior, you have the full and wide spectrum of advocates and skeptics. The vast chasm in between, represents the ebb and flow of discussion which takes place as the “convincors” take on the “convincees”, in a high profile duel of words and demonstration of strength. The result being; to determine if this movement and its associated PR, hype or buzz will become accepted in the mainstream or rebuffed to the curb like a discarded sweet wrapper. The former meaning that many “Social Media Gurus” will have to find a new Guru topic, as they pray on the uninformed and uninitiated.

The truth is that Social Media has always been around, in its various forms and guises, with the medium of communication simply evolving to become more effective and more useful to those who choose to act socially. The main point of contention is that the tools are simply becoming so effective, that those who have traditionally migrated around, finding loopholes that allow them to act under the radar of the social eye, find themselves backed into a corner with no-where to hide. And they don’t like it, at all.

In my mind – I want to be compared and contrasted to the competition. It gives me valuable insight and focus into continually improving my products and services. I can’t stand the responses I hear from Brand Marketers and Company Owners that want to control the social environment to such an extent that they want to be the only one taking part. They are blinkered and the net result is that their product suffers and as a result, so does the customer.

I truly hope that, as Stuart suggests, Social Media becomes a way of operating that is natural and expected from a business perspective, not a marketing add on or “nice to have”. I think it is inevitable, as community leaders in all areas stand up and be counted, by pioneering the community voice and forcing the change. It’s just a matter of time…

 

How to measure social media ROI

There are a few people within the social media arena, specifically where related to sports participation. Amy Martin, from Digital Royalty, is one that I think talks some sense. Here's a short video in which she talks about how to measure your Social Media performance. 

In my view, this is all pretty obvious when you think about it, and I guess the best theories are. What they manage to do is focus you on your objectives and specific targets, things you've probably dabbled with in the past, chopped and changed, but make you realise that only a sustained and consistent series of metrics, relevant to your goal, is the only way to successfully measure performance.

That performance is called ROI (or Return on Influence). This is an interesting concept for those who usually refer to ROI as Return on Investment, but fundamentally it is the same thing. You have invested in your social media strategy and plan, you invest in the actions that are integral to that plan and the expenses that come with it. You want to know and you should know how that investment is performing against your goals and objectives. 

If you don't measure it from the start, how can you ever improve it?

courtesy of Digital Royalty

Social Network survey - to pay or not to pay?

I Recently conducted a small, limited sample survey on some of our members to look at general views regarding subscription memberships to niche community sites. The findings weren't exactly unpredictable, but were insightful in the power ferocity with which views were expressed.

When asked how members felt about being asked to pay for something they originally were receiving for free, the response was fairly unanimous -
"it would be an extremely poor choice to charge for a fledgling service that was once free. rupert murdoch is proposing to start charging for internet news sites to make them cost effective. with the plethora of sites available for free he is just guaranteeing that his customers seek alternatives - damn it where is spellchecker!"

"think the difficulty with charging for an online community like ***** is that people can get the same stuff and same services elsewhere for free- with twitter, facebook etc etc. I probably wouldn't want to pay a subscription for it as I feel like with a bit of research I could find the stuff on there myself..."

"I would unsubscribe"

But when asked how they would feel about paying and receiving MORE (more being left open to interpretation) the tone changed a bit:

"the benefit would have to be tangible and almost universally attractive to each customer regardless of preference. any fee no matter how notional creates a barrier between the customer and the provider that is hard to overcome. when supermarkets charge for carrier bags, albeit only a penny, people will prefer to save the money and carry their goods. it is not the actual cost as it is miniscule, rather the knowledge that one is spending more than they need to. in poole town centre a £1 shop opended. several months later a 90p shop opened opposite and the 99p shop actually closed as all their customers sought the cheaper alternative."

"Of course, that is better but again it would really depend on what I would be getting and how frequently I would use it."

"I would be interested to find out what the value of the subscription would be, it would have to justify itself."

So the challenge is, if you are considering moving to a "freemium" model or subscription based service, to clearly distinguish between what is for Free and what has enough perceived value and use to be deemed chargeable. Not only is it about quality though. Timing is key, as timing could be the difference between a commodity or an item of great personal relevance, value and demand.

Interestingly, when asked what types of things people would perceive as Premium upgrade benefits, i.e. something worth a subscription fee, a high percentage (73%) voted for "exclusive discounts", whereas 66.7% voted for Free Stuff. This demonstrates, while not a significant difference between the two, that there is an inherent propensity to buy (with discounts) over getting freebies, largely due to the realistic idea that you get what you pay for, and what you don't, well frankly, it's hit and miss.

In fact, many of the comments about freebies were mixed - people like to receive a nice surprise for sure, if it is relevant and of intrinsic value to them personally - TIP: put someone's initials or name on something and it immediately becomes personally valuable, otherwise it ends up as landfill and the hidden environmentalist within us surfaces and attacks the freebie giver for their wastage. Ungrateful so & so's. No not really. It is easy to litter the planet and pepper valuable members of communities with free guff and people know this, so you must adhere to the three R's - Relevant, Relevancy, Relevance.

Is it a sign of the economic times that the members view on using subscriptions to raise money for charitable causes is not entirely supportive (<20%). Or is the question mark purely over the medium of collection - lacking creativity and inspiration? An interesting side topic.

And so how much is a "sensible" amount to charge for a member subscription? A significantly high proportion in comparison with any other suggestions, was £1-3.00 per month. This may not seem like a lot, and in reality, it probably isn't. It does signify the mental barrier you have to get over to move a free member to paying subscriber, not to mention the amount of comparable value to must deliver month on month, year on year, in return for this.

Is it worth it? It depends. It depends obviously on the size of your community. If you've got a half decent sized community, you're probably looking at 100,000 members. So that's £100,000 - £300,000 per month in revenue. That's a solid mainstay of cash every month which not only can you reinvest, spend, keep your bank manager happy with, but you can also borrow against such a solid revenue stream. This may hinder your growth, however, if you are not of a suitable size and you have limited capital to spend on promotion, marketing and member recruitment.

Perhaps you should consider other options for obtaining revenue directly out of your members, such as tip jars - a way to reward content providers, virtual or synthetic currency systems, or even affiliate partnerships where your community benefits from the spending habits of your members.

My favourite is the virtual currency and tip jar methods, and we are going to look at implementing that on Fidgetstick/ If you've got any tips on that, let me know!

Social Networking Sites for SPORTS

Firstly, I want to give a massive "biggup" stateside to fellow blogger, Jason Peck. I've followed Jason's blog for a while now and in terms of social media insight related to sports he's a must follow. Check out his feed "Take a Peck"

A few of his blog posts and countless others now have listed in their 10's, 25's, 50's and even 300's social networking sites and specifically those related to sports. You can see Jason's 25+ and 50 lists.

I'm gonna concentrate on a measly 5 sites that I think you should know about and consider going through the torment of putting in username, password etc. etc. again!

So here they are;

1. GrindTV
GrindTV are one of the big boys, with some major weight behind them in the shape of Yahoo!. An edgy, urban feel to the styling, they have quite a youth orientated skatey following. Some pretty cool features are used within the site, in particular, we like the athlete biog pages and the ability to follow them. Nice to feel like Shaun White is your mate and the Holly Beck videos are a thing of beauty!

2. Moredirt
Moredirt is a nice mountainbike rider community, largely UK focussed. They've grown steadily over the last 2 years and have a really slick design and interface. The forum is full of good banter and their trail directory is cool, where you can select your local trails for your profile.

3. Mpora.TV
Part of Factory Media, Mpora.TV is the place to go for Action and Extreme sports videos. With 50,000+ members and all the clout of their massive paper magazines, they are a force to be reckoned with. You have to put up with a bit of advertising on each video, but the quality os good and you can share their content around the web which is great when you find a gem of a film you just cant keep to yourself.

4. Shred Union
Shred Union is a funky stateside community of snowboarders. The site has some neat features, such as its snow days log where you diarise any trips you make in search of fluffy white powder. The site creators are really down to earth guys, I've come to know them and they're really open to new ideas and opportunities to grow and improve the site. This is a big recommend, particulalry as these die harders built this site from scratch and as such, it's got a real sense of individuality and character. I wrote another review on this site too, check it out.

5. MySportProfiler
MySportProfiler is pretty new, I was introduced to it at the Outdoor Show in Friedrichshafen by a freelance designer for Nike. And it's pretty impressive. Think LinkedIn meets Sports Recruitment International and voila. It's oriented towards people who work in the sports industry and profiles are geared towards industry networking and career searching. It's styling is very 2.0 and already has some pretty prominent players and some of the really big boys on board and I'm tipping to be pretty big. It's got quite a European flavour to it, with a big following in France and Italy, but I think will do well in the UK too.

So there they are, worth a few minutes of your time to have a look and decide if the sites angle or niche is the right fit for you.

You can find links to all of these in the links section on Fidgetstick/ too.

Laterz.

Social Media tools for your Business - Part 1 - Facebook

Choosing Social Media tools for you or your business, it's a real minefield. there are many right ways and there are many wrong ways. The fun bit, is that while one thing may be right for one person or company, that may not apply to another person. Hmmmm. So where to start? We certainly can't tell where to finish - wow what a minefield of hypotheses that would be (maybe another post there, I think...). Let's look at my online presence as an example....

OK, so you've got me here, on Blogger {note: now squarespace}. This is where my main blog is hosted. But as you'll come to learn, successful social media strategy does not rely on an "all eggs in one basket" approach. In fact, quite the opposite and the key is ensuring that your profile is being seen by the right mix of volume and relevance. No, that's not the name of a new drum 'n bass setup, but I mean the difference between 'generic mass market' and 'targeted niches'.

For instance, and I'll use these examples a fair bit because they're the talk of the town at the moment, you will undoubtedly invest in a Facebook and a Twitter profile. Why? Because they get the most hits, they are the most talked about and they are sooo easy to use. But as everyone else is doing the same thing, it will take some considerable time and/or money and/or luck to make it pay - in the traditional sense. I'm not saying you shouldn't invest that time and money, but you should do it wisely and with a wider strategic Social Media plan in mind.

So, I have these pages;

Facebook
Twitter

I mainly use Facebook as a personal page, to keep in contact with old and current friends. I have a Fan Page and a Group page for Fidgetstick/ here too;

Fidgetstick/ on Facebook - Fan page, Group page

To be honest, because I mainly use Facebook for personal reasons, I haven't spent much time using it to promote my business. Sometimes there's a fine line between business and personal use that's hard to distinguish. And that's important. In my opinion, that's something that makes Facebook a very difficult nut to crack in terms promoting your business as most of the sites users are simply there to talk about what they're doing at the weekend, where they went at the weekend, and whether they are drunk or sober or a bit of both.

However, you can get it right and your message can reverberate like wildfire within the Facebook community. There have been some great case studies of how Facebook can be used - this is a nice article by Callan Green on the website www.mashable.com, which looks at 5 good examples of Facebook fan page use, from Pringles, Coca Cola, Starbucks, Adidas and Red Bull.

Now, obviously all of these guys are big name household brands. Arguably, they have just got to create a Fan Page to automatically get a hundred thousand "Fans". Your small, medium or even large sized business isn't so fortunate. The difference here, and what Callan rightly points out, is that it's not so much the fact they have a page - but it's what they do with it that makes them ultimately successful in their own right, and oddly enough, each in slightly different ways.

For instance, the Pringles fan page stands out because of it's interesting video media content. People love a good video or photos or music and that's something you can learn from as it's so accessible by all, with sites like vimeo & youtube, affordable hardwear such as camera phones, helmet cams, waterproof cams, handheld HDD cams - you don't have any excuses and you can capture some amazing footage from your own personal experiences. As a result, my last count showed Pringles had over 2 million followers, and once they've popped, they just can't stop. I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.

The Red Bull fan page is also interesting, as Callan points out. Being quite close to home for me, this is a particularly interesting case study of how a brand who knows its target audience can maximise the effectiveness of social media to take user engagement to the next level. And in such a simple manner, it's beauty is in it's clean and relaxed but humorous approach, not taking itself too seriously in the process. And that's important too.

Another lesson to learn from Red Bull is how stepping outside of the vanilla "one size fits all" template that Facebook provides can really generate interest. One example that Callan highlights is the Twitter integration that, in itself is not uncommon, but Red Bull have gone a few miles further and brought in the twitter feeds of some of their popular riders, snow and skateboarders - such as Shaun White and Ryan Sheckler. So not only are Red Bull trying to get yuo to visit their page, they actively want you to leave and find something else that you'll find interesting and engaging.

And that's the point, your task doesn't stop with getting any old Tom, Dick or Harry to find you. You want Tom - who rides DH in the summer, frequents the board parks of Avoriaz in the winter and loves copying SW's latest tricks and fashion trends. Harry, his brother, surf's Biarritz in between backpacking trips around the States and Thailand. He's been bungee jumping and does spear fishing. He loves buying kit and has a shed full of it back home.

You don't want Dick. He's just not interested. He plays chess. But the fact is, any of these people can find you on Facebook and unless you are relevant and specific to your target audience, you may just find yourself with a Dick, so to speak. And more than that, 100,000 Dicks are useless. OK, this is running away with me now, but you get the point.

So by all means create a Facebook page, at the very least you should capture your businesses URL. Be prepared to invest considerable time and effort into consistently building relevant content that your target audience would find interesting, funny and useful.

Next blog, we'll take a look at the other main example I mentioned earlier - Twitter