A Choate classmate wrote the music for what looks like a funny play. He wrote a note asking for support for the play. I took a quick look at the play's site and saw common Internet marketing problems. The site is a "closed loop" site. It gathers information into itself and then publishes it out.
Closed loop sites can't become powerful platforms. They are too self referential. Noticing how quickly Etsy.com was scaling I came to the conclusion websites are dead (read Platforms vs. Websites).
Death of The Website
The problem is the death of websites isn't widely known. My classmate's producers thought a closed loop site would help their cause. They are right and wrong. Right because some web presence is always better than NO web presence. Wrong because the chance of a closed loop site being able to help the play in any measurable way is zero.
There is no reason a play about the last smoker in America shouldn't make as much money or more from T-shirts, SWAG and sponsorships as it does from ticket sales. The problem is one of Internet marketing imagination. I don't think about closed loop sites because they are a waste of time and money. I think in terms of platforms and communities, always communities and platforms.
Blowing Up Last Smoker
The hardest thing for non-Internet marketers to understand is how little what WE think about our products, brands and STUFF matters online these days. It is not that what we think doesn't matter at all, but the most important value any website creates or curates is what THEY think about OUR stuff. THEY, in this context, is Vox Populi, the mob, the social networked and mobile world. Here are thoughts I shared with my classmate for how to use the web and Internet marketing to help The Last Smoker In America blow up real good.
Move LastSmoker.com from a PageRank3 to a PageRank7, increase subscription list to 100,000 or more and develop new revenue sources at least equal to if not greater than ticket sales by Christmas 2012.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Use Google Analtyics to set baselines for unique traffic, repeat traffic, time on site, pages viewed and bounce rates. Watch these and a handful of other metrics daily.
Create Last Smoker In America Contest
Use a contest platform such as Strutta.com to quickly create the contest. Program it so the Google-Juice hits the core site (this can be tricky as platforms naturally skim the search engine juice to themselves, but brilliant programmers can find ways to feed things to the search engines so credit stays home).
Sweepstakes have too much lawyer-ese, so create a User Generated Content contest. Ask for stories from smokers, former smokers or those who love smokers or former smokers (that should be about 90% of the people on the planet).
Curate the first batch of entries and then create a horse race. Have a handful of stories compete with one another to become a semi-finalist based on community vote. When your story is on someone else's platform and up for an award what do you do? A: You drive social capital into the voting page i.e. you tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Their social capital drives your (lastsmoker.com) search engine rankings up, traffic up and conversion (either into the list or to buy tickets) up.
Contests are curated and played on phones so make sure Last Smoker In America Contest looks amazing on every device. If, after America is conquered, you want to rule the world extend the contest to Last Smoker In China, South America, Germany, etc....
Another way to drive UP the value of the core site is to add a "virtual" store. Find a partner, like Atlantic BT (where I work) in Raleigh, who has ecommerce expertise working with Magento (since you are going to need the big content stick here). Create partnerships with drop shippers of all kind of kitschy smoking merchandise. Do everything with an eye toward someone else doing the painful things (packing, shipping, returns).
Don't care if your store makes $1 because its benefit is in its ability to create popular pages and lots of them fast (in time for Christmas). I think this store would create a revenue stream in addition to helping with organic search in this case (that is how viral the topic is on its face).
The best search engine content is the flat, well oiled content on a blog. Since you need 100,000 words on all manner of funny smoking stories, stop smoking tips, smoking culture and rebel smokers on your site yesterday enlist the mob again. Have another contest to become part of the Last Smoker In America's "Buzz Team". Buzz Team members will use their social capital in exchange for credit lines and link juice back. I would keep the team to 20 or less at first. Restricting things online can increase their perceived exclusivity. I've managed multi-author blogs too and it is WORK to approve, edit and keyword up everything so 20 or less is the outside of manageable.
YouTube is a must here. Make video an option to apply for the Last Smoker Contest. Create a video of broll from the play and people exiting excited and loving it. If you use critic statements use sparingly and as fly in single word or phrase text. Real people across your buyer segments and personas will help more. Segments that apply here are things like:
- Active NYC - Live in New York and Go to more than 3 plays a year. Key influencer segment, should be on the Buzz Team. Give this group a JOB. Ask for help.
- Casual NYC - Live in NYC and go to 3 plays or less a year usually when word-of-mouth from friends say it is a "must see". Reach out to this group via book clubs, create a badge they can post to their Facebook page and ask for their help with links and PR suggestions.
- Active 3 State - Live around New York and see 3 plays or more a year. This is the core group for your weekend in NYC prize. Make this group your Buzz Team in CT, NJ and PA.
- Casual 3 State - Live around New York and see 3 plays in 3 years. These laggards are harder to reach and hard to motivate. They are "nice to have" not critical to your campaign.
Last Smoker has some social support, but I would add a "Facebook Fan Gate" dimension to either the application or voting for the Last Smoker Contest. The 732 Likes they have already is excellent, but taking that up 5x would be helpful to the overall mission (helps Search Engine Optimization SEO). Some say you can't do Fan Gate's after Facebook's timeline change. Don't Believe Them, but be careful about Facebook's Terms.
The key to making an Internet marketing campaign blow up is gamificaiton. Gamificaiton uses game theory to help Internet marketing campaigns cut through clutter and go viral. Here are a few important gamification ideas:
- Leaderboards - can't compete if I don't know where I stand.
- Social Capital - intrinsically motivated don't care about money as much as status.
- Tribal - playing the game knits a community together.
Read Martin's Gamificaiton White Paper
Deadlines and Offers
Finally be sure to surround campaigns with deadlines and offers. Social capital is great, but so is the chance to win some free tickets or win dinner and the play and a night at a fancy hotel. Supplement your intrinsic motivation with offers and deadlines, deadlines and offers.
Writing a great play must be HARD. Creating great Internet marketing is HARD too especially now that everyone knows my 3 favorite tricks (lol). Find a great Internet marketing partner, someone with experience making things blow up real good, create a contest, a game and a platform and you are off to the races.
Marty "Tank" Smith (lol)