Friday, May 20, 2011

Social Media for a Cause

Yesterday Gillian Muessig (President of SEOmoz and my SEOmom) asked me to do her a favor, and when SEOmom asks me to help her out, help her out I shall do.

She sent me a link to Chase Community Giving and described the charity she has been working with for a while now and is needing help in getting enough votes to get the much needed $25,000. The charity is called the "The Akshaya Patra Foundation" which is the world's largest NGO-run midday meal program, feeding 1.3 million children each day in over 8,000 schools through 18 kitchens in 8 states in India.  Being a woman passionate about children and aiding people in other countries, I naturally took this one on. Not to mention that on 5/19 they where at 210 votes with 6 days to get to 200,000 votes we had a long ways to go. Gillian was at first discouraged, but I know if social media goes viral in the right ways anything is possible. So I immediately did the math - in order to get to 200k in 6 days if we could get at least 200 people (which is about where they where at to begin with) to each share to one person and ask that person to vote then we could double the amount of votes in 1 day. From there it's just a matter of getting each person that votes to encourage 5 friends to vote (or vote 5 times themselves and get one friend to share and vote 5 times) then day one should end with 2x what they started with. From there - if each person votes and shares to 5 people the viral effect should take hold and the numbers should grow to 250,000 by the 5th day.

Here's how it works:
Day 1 get to share to at least one friend - 200x2=400
Day 2 get those 400 to share to 5 friends - 400x5= 2,000
Day 3 get those 2000 people to share to 5 friends - 2,000x5= 10,000
Day 4 get those 10,000 people to share to 5 friends - 10,000x5=50,000
Day 5 get those 50,000 people to share to 5 friends - 50,000x5=250,000

So naturally by day 6 we should be well over the 200,000 votes...

How are we doing it you ask?
The beauty of marketing in social media for charities is that they are a charity. Asking people to vote for a person or a product is one thing, but asking them to give to help feed starving children, well it just tugs at the heart strings. Which is the driving success of any social media effort. It's not just about messaging, imagery, user experience, numbers, and any other traditional marketing strategy. It starts with emotion and social engagement first and then messaging, imagery, user experience, and numbers to drive the success.

So I started naturally started with a post to my Facebook status asking people to vote and share it out as well. The awesome thing too is that the page for the charity offers up ways to share it out and get people to vote (smart). A simple click to the Facebook like icon and I added a comment "This one is VERY important - we need 200,000 votes by May 25th. Help me spread the word by copying and pasting this and posting to your status..." But oops - I forgot the call to action to "vote", so while I shared it out, I didn't quite get the messaging right. What I should have said was "This one is VERY important - we need 200,000 votes by May 25th - go vote and then help me spread the word by copying and pasting this and posting to your status..." but then I didn't tug at the emotions of the people I am sharing to, so some of my friends thought it was spam (doh). So once again, I revised the post "Help us fight childhood hunger and promote education to the children in India. We need 200k votes by 5/25 to raise $25k - go vote and spread the word by copying and pasting this and posting to your status...".

From there I utilized some of the pages and groups I manage. The only thing is that the message and the nature of the charity didn't match up with the demographic of some of the pages. The "I had 'Learning Disabilities' as a kid and now I'm a genius" and the "Breakfast Sandwich" pages were both a prime example of where NOT to post a request to help a charity. The fans of those pages are looking for certain things, and starving children in India was not one of them. But I have others - and those pages (while not 100% the demographic we where looking for) could be worked into helping out. I refrained from using any of the Wappow business pages (the Wappow page, and the Social Day page are focused on marketing and social media marketing and to stray for even one post would discourage our fans), but the SEOGoddess fan page has a level of personality, and enough fans to make a difference, that twisting the message to work with the audience could actually grab some attention. So here's what I posted "President of SEOmoz, Gillian Muessig asked me to help her get votes for her favorite charity. I'm a sucker for helping to feed children in other countries so I voted... If you get a chance, go vote and get your friends to vote - we need 200k votes by 5/25 to raise $25k from Chase Community Giving." It ties in the SEO community by mentioning Gillian and the company she runs (in which SEOGoddess fans are also familiar with), and validates the post by mentioning what the charity does, and where the money is coming from. I also pulled in the sense of urgency and challenge (which sparks the competitive emotion in people) by mentioning the goal of getting 200k votes by 5/25. If you also notice, I validated why SEOGoddess is helping the charity herself (or myself as you look at it).  By tagging Gillian, SEOmoz, and Chase it also puts the post on the walls of each of them (if they allow it in their settings) which validates each mention with a link to them, plus gets more exposure. Oh, and I didn't forget the 2 call to actions - 1) Go vote, and 2) Share with your friends.

But I didn't stop there...
I have a few strategies and tricks up my sleeve as a marketer. Asking friends to help share things out on a personal level goes a long way. I have found most times if I write out the message myself and send an email with an explanation as to why I am asking them, and why they should do it most times they are more than happy to help out. The trick is to email the people who's followers (and friends) are going to be the right demographic for the message. I wouldn't ask my Mother or Father to share this out (my Mom had a hard time even taking a cruise to Greece as it was just too foreign for her) so supporting children in another country isn't her thing. Not to mention her friends would think something is wrong with her. My Father is in Real Estate... (do I really need to explain why that demographic won't work?).  So I selected a handful of friends in the SEO industry that know Gillian and SEOmoz well. I also hit a couple of friends that have been known to support charities similar to this one that aren't in the industry. So between Googletalk and Emails I managed to  ask over 50 of my friends to help out. Each one came back with a "I'd be happy to"... It was because of the choice of demographic in friends, and their followers, and the personal messaging from me that encouraged them to say "yes". Now whether they message it right is up to them. I do at times have something to copy and paste, but a lot of times how I say something isn't necessarily the way they would say it so it doesn't quite come across right.
Of course there is still lot's more we can do - but at least we are off to a great start.
As of last night (after a full day of sharing) they where up to 260 votes (6:15 pm pst) and 690 this morning (6:30 am pst). As of now they are at 925 (1:35 pm pst) and growing each time I refresh the page. So according to the plan we should end with 2,000 today and continue to grow as each person votes each day (up to 5 times) and shares to 5 people who vote, and those 5 people share to 5 people who each vote and share and so on.

So when you get a chance today - go vote and share to at least 5 friends: 
Don't forget to ask your friends to vote and share (and dont' forget to get your messaging in)...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Social Media, SEO, Starbucks, and the Breakfast Sandwich

In January of 2008, I was gainfully employed with one of the many technology corporations based in Redmond, WA (No it wasn't Microsoft). It was Concur Technologies, an expense management software company (you've probably used them while booking your business trip and/or filed your expenses). As you know, while working at companies such as this, meetings are scheduled throughout the day (if not back-to-back) and in order for me to get a decent breakfast (well, almost decent) I would stop by my favorite Starbucks drive through and grab my Venti quad Vanilla Latte with 10 pumps of vanilla and a sausage breakfast sandwich. When I would get into work I would bring my coffee and breakfast sandwich into my first meeting of the day and eat happily as the meeting leads would hash out whatever it was they needed to hash out for the moment. My boss and my team got very used to seeing me every morning with my routine breakfast and they had all heard the story about how I had been grabbing my Starbucks coffee every morning since I could drive to school. As soon as the breakfast sandwiches were introduced I added them to my morning routine.

Starbucks announced it was discontinuing the breakfast sandwiches in the January 30, 2008 earnings call. Shortly after my Boss said casually as I opened up my white sack with "Jen" handwritten on it, "You know they're going to discontinue the breakfast sandwich, right?" My mouth dropped open and my heart skipped a couple of beats as a moment of panic struck me. The scream of "nooooo" was heard throughout the land and everyone in the room looked on in horror. I proceeded from meeting room to meeting room telling everyone how horrible it was that the breakfast sandwich was going to be discontinued. My Boss finally said, "With all the websites you have created, why not create one to save the breakfast sandwich?"
I headed home that evening and checked Network Solutions (the registrar and hosting company I have been using since my first website in 1999) to see if "" or something similar was available for registration. Since it was available, I grabbed it, and set-up hosting for the website I was going to create. The marketing person in me began questioning "Why am I doing this?", "What is the sole purpose of the website?", "What is the ultimate goal?", and "What is the target market for the website?". Once I determined my marketing persona and strategy and my $0.00 budget, little effort marketing began.

Blog Comment

I posted a comment to the Starbucks Gossip Blog post titled "Starbucks to get rid of warm breakfast sandwiches" when the site was completed which resulted in a blog post dedicated to the 7 members we had in February 21, 2008. As a result of the comment and then blog post the site began generating a plethora of buzz around it.

Press and Buzz

February 29, 2008 - Seattle Time NWSource Blogger Amy Martinez wrote in Tidbits
"As of Thursday morning, 60 people had joined a Web site dedicated to saving Starbucks' warmed breakfast sandwiches, which the company plans to phase out this year.
One member of the newly launched wrote "My homage to the Breakfast Sadwich (sic): Don't push me cuz I'm close to the edge, I'm tryin' not to lose my head, but it (sic) you take my sandwich away uh huh uh huh... " — MA"
May 15, 2008 - National Post "Starbucks Does Breakfast"
July 31, 2008 - Fresno Beehive Blog post "Starbucks introduces less stinky sandwiches"
"Starbucks recently announced it will begin making less smelly breakfast sandwiches.
First, some back story: In an effort to get back to its roots, the Starbucks CEO announced in January that the chain would stop carrying its hot breakfast sandwiches. Apparently the smell of baking (reheating?) bread, cheese and eggs overpowered the smell of coffee.
It was part of an effort to stay strong in a tough economy, with changes like closing local stores and laying off employees.
The folks at mounted a mini rebellion, complete with posts like, "You can pry my peppered bacon, aged cheddar and egg from my cold, dead hands."
For whatever reason -- perhaps to fend off competitors like Dunkin' Donuts offering coffee and breakfast -- Starbucks reversed course. The breakfast sandwiches would stay. Only now, they'll be made with a new type of cheese (oh, I'm dying to know how they tested the smelliness of cheese) and less butter in the eggs to help control the smell."
September 5, 2008 - New York Times Executive Blogs post by Joe Nocera "The Starbucks Egg Sandwich Double-Cross"
"A few days later, I received an e-mail message from one of Mr. Varma’s (friend of writer and new employee of Starbucks) new colleagues, informing me that it wasn’t ineptitude that was keeping the sandwiches on the shelf — Mr. Schultz had decided to reverse his decision and keep them! "As you recall, Howard made a point that we would address the issues of quality and store experience as it related to breakfast sandwiches," she wrote. "We took a look at the sandwiches here in our Starbucks kitchens and were able to make improvements to the recipe to address the aroma and quality concerns. Bottom line — warm breakfast is an important complement to the daily coffee ritual of a significant portion of our customers and we think we have a win-win solution here."
The Starbucks woman also pointed me to a Web site called “Save The Breakfast Sandwich,” claiming that it showed there was a groundswell of customer support for them. But when I checked the Web site, I couldn’t help notice that it had all of 195 members."

We Got Traffic

Within the first month of the website launching the site received over 4,000 visits. I knew I couldn't rely on social media and the buzz of blogs to keep the traffic going at this rate, so I began optimizing for search engines creating a page for every city and state in the United States and optimizing for the key phrase "Starbucks in ...". 3 years to the date the site receives roughly 1200 visits in one month's time with 91% of the traffic coming from search engines.

Social Media

Now when this site was developed 3 years ago, Twitter was only a couple of years old, Facebook had opened it's doors to everyone just 2 years prior (September 26, 2006). What marketers used for "Social Media Marketing" back then was primarily MySpace, Linkedin, blogs, chat rooms, bookmarking sites, commenting on products, forums, list-serves, and the like. Not to mention that SEO was a "do some work and wait" type of job as Google's updates were happening every few months rather than every day as they are today. My social media marketing efforts were solely reliant upon bookmarking sites (adding the quick bookmarking links to each page of the website), blogs, press, and the general groundswell that online buzz marketing produced.

The Site Gets me a Job?

In November of 2009, I was working as VP of Interactive Marketing at and was looking to get back in-house with an established corporation again, when a Starbucks HR person posted to the Seattle Digital Eve list that they were looking for a Manager in Social Media. She specifically requested that all applicants put "digitaleve - manager - social media" in the subject line and send to her email address directly. I proceeded to update my resume to reflect the latest work I had done with clients, Concur,, Smartsheet, and mentioned the website, the Facebook fan page, and talked about my checkins on Foursquare. Hoping to show how I not only support Starbucks, but also know the latest social media trends. Unfortunately I did not hear word back from her regarding the position. I have been told by numerous HR professionals that the market is (and was) flooded with individuals looking for work and resume's were being submitted by the hundreds of thousands making it extremely difficult for them to see every resume that crossed the system, email, or desk. Go figure...

It just goes to show you that creating a website that gets the attention of press, blogs, and all sorts of online sources will get you traffic, but unfortunately won't get you a job.

STBS Gets a Mention

On March 28, 2011 CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz spoke at a kick-off event for his new book "Onward" that shares the story of the company's turnaround revealing how Starbucks achieved profitability without "sacrificing humanity."

It was brought to my attention by one of Wappow's Search and Social Hawaii 2010 attendees Linda Sherman as she shared a link to the book on her Facebook wall. With the link she commented "I got so excited when Howard Schultz declared the importance of social media for any enterprise that I pulled out the only recording device I had with me at the moment - my iPhone 4." Naturally I had to respond with a plug for the who's sole source of traffic is through social media and SEO. After she pointed out that the website is mentioned in his book, I quickly headed to and purchased both the Kindle and Hard Copy versions. Sure enough, on Page 231 it says "After I’d announced the end of the breakfast sandwich on the earnings call back in January 2008, we had immediately pulled the sandwiches out of stores’ display cases, although customers could still order them by request. And, as predicted, we saw an immediate decline in stores that had carried the product, but we also saw impassioned customer comments posted at and got them at our customer call center. A website even sprang up:” Now here's where I point out that oddly the website was launched in March of 2008 and the only real comment that was made asking that Starbucks keeps the Breakfast Sandwich is my post by STBS (Save The Breakfast Sandwich) in June of 2008. Is this enough to warrant calling it an "impassioned customer comment"? or a plug to help boost a bad idea?


So in the end, the website had caught the attention of some bloggers, press, breakfast sandwich fans, and even the CEO himself Howard Schultz all from social media marketing and SEO. Did the website truly save the breakfast sandwich at Starbucks? A question I will never truly be able to answer as no one from Starbucks has ever spoken with me (not about the site or for a position I directly applied for) - so it will forever remain a mystery.

Even after the website mention in the book and the traffic that the website is still getting from the individual city and state pages, I still pay every month to Network Solutions to host the website. I have now since revamped the site to reflect the saving of the sandwich and providing social interactivity that Facebook and Twitter allow us website developers to provide. I also set the Google maps to show all the Starbucks within each city and state on the according page so that the analytics stop showing a 99.8% bounce rate and a time of less than 1 minute spent on each page. Since the book mention and the changes that have been made, the site has seen a boost from 5% Direct Traffic referrals to 15% and from 3% referring websites to 8% with Facebook bringing in 3.5% of that traffic - though Google Organic is still bringing in a large amount of traffic all going to the individual location pages (roughly 60 keywords per day referring traffic from SEO to the individual pages).

I'm sure at some point Google will probably shut me down (or algorithm me out) as they punished JCPenney for buying links - according to the NY Times article "The Dirty Little Secrets of Search". Though I am hoping my "doorway pages" are user friendly enough that they will let them stay (especially since Starbucks doesn't offer maps with store locations for searchers).

The site is and has been used as a lesson in the effectiveness in social media and search engine optimization to the Wappow workshop attendees. I also do occasionally have an interviewer pull it up on their computer to show them what I am capable of when it comes to fooling around with silly little websites.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Facebook Like and Facebook Share

As you may have noticed Facebook is popping up on sites all over the web. You can like, share, login, or even comment on blog posts, news articles, or any other page of a website.  In typical Facebook fashion, developers used to be able to add either a "share" button or a "like" button to their website pages. The difference was that the like button was a simple click and notification that you "like" the page. There was no other effort on your part to write a comment, or anything else. The "share" allowed you to not only write a comment, but to edit the information (title, description, image) that was to be shared – giving the user a bit more control.Both would show up in the news stream, and on their wall, but the like was a simple line saying "Bob likes the blah page". The "share" showed up with a graphic, the comment, and the title and description of the page.

This allowed for more noticeability in the very busy news feed of the user’s friends. In most cases I would personally choose (and recommend) the "share" button.
And so did Facebook...
In recent developments Facebook has changed how the "like" button behaves making it more like the "share" button – allowing the user to "like" something, giving them the option to make a statement about it, and showing up more prominently in the news feed. So now when you setup your "like" button there are a couple of different options you can choose. 1) choose the word "recommend" or "like" in the button itself. 2) choose the layout style of Standard, Button Count, or Box Count.
So now when you "recommend" or "like" a page it gives you the option to say "what's on your mind?" adding a comment to the item in the news feed.

And instead of showing up in the news feed as "Bob like the Blah page" it now shows up more prominently with a graphic, title, and description.