Why I’m Leaving Facebook

In recent months most of my online activity has been focused on Facebook. I haven’t twittered much. Nothing much has happened on this or my TacomaStories.com site. Really, if you didn’t check out my Facebook page, you’d hardly know I was online, but all of that is changing. And I know I’m not alone.

This morning I watched the video below regarding what’s wrong with Facebook. It echoed many of my own thoughts lately. Go ahead and take the time to watch it. I’ll be here.

The ads have only gotten more and more prevalent on Facebook and more often than not I’m forced to click on my friend’s page and scroll through their posts to actually see what they’ve posted because quite often it doesn’t show up in my feed. And I know people who like my page do the same thing because all of a sudden I’ll get ten likes on ten different posts in ten minutes.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only problem. As noted in this video, so called ‘like farms’ in the third world not only cause things you actually like to be filtered out since only a fraction of their audience sees what they post, but these ‘like farms’, in order to avoid detection, are literally clicking ‘like’ on every ad they see, effectively  making advertising on Facebook useless.

So what’s to be done? I want to continue to post content online but I want it to go to everyone who wants to see it. Facebook has made it abundantly clear that this isn’t something they’re very good at doing. Not only that but if someone who likes my page goes on vacation for two weeks, they’re likely to miss out on posts because finding old Facebook posts is like trying to find your own log of shit in a sewage treatment plant.

Deleting my Facebook account isn’t a good option because while I’m ready to leave other friends and family aren’t and no matter how much I might want them to, there are those who only check Facebook for anything. Luckily, other programs talk to Facebook just fine. So I’ve linked my @jackcameron Twitter account to Facebook. This means that anything I say on Twitter gets posted on Facebook without me having to do anything. This will effectively keep daily activity on my page without my actually having to post anything on Facebook.

(Side note: The one area where Facebook works better than anywhere else is letting close personal friends and family all know about a major event. When I was in the hospital, it was a simple matter to post updates there where friends and family could see but the general public could not.)

Of course Twitter isn’t the only alternative and as this post demonstrates, sometimes I want to say something a little longer than 140 characters. Since I can be a bit of an organizational neat freak, I made the following flow chart:
OnlineContentFlowchartThe result is basically that I’ll be posting much more on here and on TacomaStories as well as posting on Twitter. And Facebook becomes a much smaller part of my daily online life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll still check in on Facebook and comment on things when someone is wrong on the Internet, but it’s time that I control the content and who gets to see it.

What are your thoughts on Facebook, social media, and online presence in general?

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Kickstarting Your Kickstarter Campaign

If you’re thinking of starting up a business, chances are someone has mentioned Kickstarter to you. It’s a fantastic tool for generating money for independent projects. I’ve been tangentially involved in a handful of Kickstarter campaigns. All of them have been incredibly successful. Now that I’m preparing to publish my first novel, I’m in need of some money to get things up and running and I have no intention using Kickstarter to do this. As a marketing consultant and a guy who doesn’t like to see people fail, I think explaining my reasons why might help you decide whether or not you’re ready for Kickstarter.

First, let’s talk about why Kickstarter is a good way to fund your project. In the last three years, Kickstarter has successfully funded over 22,000 projects. They’ve generated over $200 million from over two million backers. If you’re looking for a way to quickly generate capital for your project and you’re not looking for venture capital, Kickstarter has some fabulous advantages.

For those of you unfamiliar with how Kickstarter works, it’s fairly simple. You come up with the minimum amount of money you need for your project. You estimate how long it will take for backers to fund your project. You put up a page advertising your project and depending on the amount of money backers contribute, you give them perks related to the project. If your project gets the amount of money you ask for or more, it’s funded. If not, it’s not.

Now before you throw up a Kickstarter page and start clicking ‘refresh’ every three seconds to watch the money roll in, keep in mind that 56% of all Kickstarter projects fail. That means if two of you start a Kickstarter campaign, odds are at least one won’t get funded. The reasons for failure are numerous and there’s not much reason to focus on them. Instead, I’d like to focus on the things I’ve seen that make a Kickstarter campaign work.

In order to have a successful Kickstarter campaign, you need at least three of four things:

  1. A good idea
  2. A clear plan
  3. A proven track record
  4. Good rewards for backers

You can get by with three out of the four but it’s not easy and you better knock those other things out of the park. And the thing of it is, I’m not sure why you’d want to when all four are fairly simple to accomplish.

A Good Idea

If you have a good idea, this is going to help more than anything else. Don’t just try to do a project because you love it. You’re not likely to get a lot of backers to fix your classic car. It’s good to have passion for something, but you’ve got to look at it from the backer’s point of view. Is this something they want to have or want to see? If it isn’t, then it’s probably not for Kickstarter. Who are your potential customers? Why should this project mean something to them? Why is your project important? If you can’t easily answer these questions, why would anyone back your idea?

New Pencil’s FlipSteady invention is a great example of a good idea. They saw a gap in the iPad case market and invented something to fill that gap.

A Clear Plan

A lot of people think that all it takes is a good idea. That’s understandable. Good ideas are exciting and when you have one, it seems obvious why people should fork over cash to help you out. The problem is that when people spend money, they like to know what they’re spending it on. So you need to have a plan. You need to tell them exactly what their money is going to do for you besides pay your bills. If you’re asking for $50,000 why do you need that amount of money and what exactly does that do for your project? If you’ve thought about your idea at all, you should be able to come up with a plan fairly easily.

WindowFarms.org had created a successful program for growing plants in your windows using water bottles, but when they created a more efficient and elegant prototype, they needed funding to get the molds made for mass production. You weren’t just ordering your own Window Farm, your money was going to making these things into a reality

A Proven Track Record

This leads us to the hard part. It’s the thing that people starting out don’t want to hear: you need to have a proven track record. I know you’re just starting out. I know you need money to get going and that’s the whole reason you want to use Kickstarter in the first place. And I also know that you wouldn’t give pay a guy who is sure he’d be a great mechanic if you’d just buy him some tools. You may have a great idea. You may know exactly what you’d do with the money, but who the hell are you? What have you done? If you’ve never done anything like this before, you might have some trouble.

Since this is the most difficult part of a successful Kickstarter campaign, I’ll try to help you out. This does not mean that in order to get money for your movie, you need to make a movie. What this means is that you need to show what you can do with limited resources. This will give potential backers an idea of what you might be able to accomplish with more resources. If you’re making a movie, make a short or a trailer for the movie you want to make. If you’ve invented something, make a few of them. This part is probably going to take you using some of your own money.  If you’re uncomfortable with that, then don’t get upset when other people don’t want to spend money on your project either. That line from Field of Dreams is still true, “If you build it, they will come.”

Before Dead Gentlemen Productions created their incredibly successful campaign, they created season one of JourneyQuest, a seven webisode series that had quite the cult following thanks to previous endeavors and some quality storytelling. When it came time for season two, they asked for $60,000 and got over $113,000. This wouldn’t have been possible without the work they put into season one.

Good Rewards

Lastly, you need to have good rewards. If you’ve got a good idea, a solid plan, and a proven track record, you’ll get backers, but if you really want to guarantee a successful Kickstarter campaign, you need to give back to your backers. You should take some time and think about what your ultimate fan would want. As long as these things don’t cost as much as they’re giving you, it’s worth doing.

When Jordan Weisman wanted to create a tablet version of his classic RPG Shadowrun, the top tier backers could have everything from NPC characters that look like them to a Shadowrun game developer come to your house and run a campaign for you.

Okay, so having said all that, let me explain why I won’t be using Kickstarter to fund my novel. Is the novel a good idea? Yes. It’s a thriller that combines relationships, crime, and lies in a way I’ve never seen before and it all takes place in my hometown of Tacoma. Do I have a plan? Yes. I have a step-by-step development and marketing plan. Do I have a proven track record? No. I’ve written one other book but it wasn’t a novel. It was nothing like the novel. And while it was successful in that it made a profit, it was far from a best seller. I have a successful blog with TacomaStories.com and a reasonable following, but I don’t have a track record as a crime fiction novelist so there’s no reason for your average person to think I’d be good at it. Do I have good rewards?  I wrote the novel knowing I wasn’t going to use Kickstarter so I didn’t leave characters or locations open for perks. I could offer copies of my book but really, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it from the ground up. So once my novel comes out and if it’s successful, I might use Kickstarter to fund my next novel if I feel I need to, but until then, I’m on my own. As it should be. (I suppose I should mention that I’m not saying I would refuse help funding my novel. I’m just saying it’s not a viable Kickstarter project.)

There’s a lot more that goes into the successful marketing and development of a Kickstarter campaign and there are a lot of people who know a good deal more than me about it, but this should get you started in the right direction. If you need more information, as I mentioned, I’m a marketing consultant as well as a writer and I’d be happy to help out.

–          Jack Cameron

Best Buy’s Worst Commercial?

Christmas is retail’s last chance to increase their profits for the year. So they tend to pull out all the stops. This is the season when you’ll get the craziest commercials advertising the ‘best bargains’. From a marketing perspective, it’s the time to bring your ‘A’ game. The only other time retailers are trying this hard, they have a Super Bowl spot.

The goal of a good Christmas commercial is to show that your company  has great gifts for good prices and encourage a behavior of giving. You want the customer to feel good about what their purchasing.

This is a current Best Buy commercial:

It succeeds in advertising gift ideas for good prices. But then instead of encouraging a behavior of giving or making people feel good about themselves, it appeals the competitive nature of people. Worse, it appeals to competing against someone who is basically universally liked. It’s like having an arm wrestling competition against a baby. We don’t really want to be the customer in the commercial. And if we don’t want to be the customer, then why would we buy the product?

A better way to use this same concept in a commercial is to take the focus off of Santa. We like Santa. We don’t want to beat him. We want to help him. So instead of ‘Game On, Santa.’, why not focus on Santa’s helpers? I mean if you’re hellbent on appealing to humanity’s competitive nature for a Christmas ad (which I don’t think is a very good idea), the way to do it is to show Santa asking his elves what they’ve made for gifts for a family. They show little wooden toys they’ve cobbled together. Then have Mom there with the Kindle Fire and various other gadgets from Best Buy. Now Mom has helped Santa by shopping at Best Buy.

Marketing is fairly simple. Too often marketers try to get too clever with it and fail. Answer these questions in as quick and entertaining a manner as you can:

Why does the customer need the product?

Where can the customer get the product?

Why is yours the better product?

Necessity, availability, quality and value. That’s what it comes down to. These Best Buy commercials fail right out of the gate by not giving you that necessity. You don’t need to beat Santa. You need to BE Santa.

– Jack Cameron

Fun With Marketing

The ad to the left put in Cosmopolitan. It shows a handsome blonde model with cute little puppies…and a bottle of Molson beer. The text reads,  “His address: the intersection of confidence and compassion. His beer: Molson Canadian.”

The same month, Molson placed the ad below in Playboy, FHM and Ramp magazines. This ad talks about the ad in Cosmo. It says that they’ve placed an ad in Cosmo to make the women who read it think positive things about Molson drinkers.

This advetising is both interesting and effective. (Molson’s sales increased 30%.) It doesn’t matter if the ad actually managed to make women think nice things about Molson guys. It only matters that men think that. On top of that, even if you’re a guy who doesn’t believe the ad, it’s still original and highly amusing.

 

The key thing when it comes to marketing is to make a positive impression. This campaign does that effectively. What’s really interesting is that this is a beer advertisement that doesn’t involve any women in bikinis.

-Jack Cameron

My thoughts on the whole Netflix/Qwikster thing

I went to Safeway the other day and was shocked by a new business that had opened up next door. It was a video store. With the exception of Red Box or the DVD section in the local grocery store, video stores are practically extinct. This is due in large part to the prevalence of Netflix. Netflix has changed the way we watch movies. And they are about to do it again.

Recently Netflix announced that they were going to effectively split the company in two. Their DVD by mail service that was the nail in the coffin to your local Blockbuster is now going to be called Qwikster. Meanwhile, their streaming service which you can use on most gaming consoles and Blu Ray players, will continue to expand under the Netflix banner.

Qwikster will continue to have the wide variety of movies and TV shows you’ve come to expect from Netflix. In addition to that they’re adding a video games section for an additional charge, much like they do with Blu Ray DVDs now. That’s the good news. There’s more than a little bad news. The most noticeable change is that the two sites are not going to have any interactivity. So the movie in your DVD queue and your streaming queue will no longer be able to interact with each other like they do now.

There are many who see this move as stupid. It’s hard not to see how this makes getting DVDs by mail a bit more of a pain. In this age where everything is connected, Netflix is separating things. Netflix has become the preferred way of watching movies by being ahead of the curve at every step. So why would they make a mistake now?

It’s simple really. One of the reasons Amazon.com has successfully killed many brick and mortar book stores is that Internet technology only gets cheaper and real estate only gets more expensive. When it comes to cost, technology beats traditional every time. The bottom line is not only is streaming movies less expensive, it’s getting cheaper all the time. Whereas the Unites States Postal Service has threatened to shut down entirely if they can’t increase revenues. For Netflix, a perfect world would be one where they don’t have to mail their customers anything at all.

So what’s the solution? If they simply got rid of their DVD by mail service, we would all simply go to Blockbuster or Red Box for our DVD needs. You can’t just cut people off. They’ll find another outlet. What you do instead is slowly introduce the concept of streaming. Make it available using a computer. Then make it available for people with X-Box 360, then PlayStation 3, then Wii, finally make it available on Blu Ray players. And make it part of the DVD by mail service. Eventually, even the people who don’t usually use streaming will try it out.  They’ll watch a TV show on their computer at work during lunch or something.

Once you’ve got a good audience through a slow ramp up, you can start charging for the streaming and the DVD by mail separately. The result will be the some people will choose the streaming and some will choose the DVD by mail. And some will actually pay more for the same service you were providing. Now that you’ve established your audiences, you can further separate them by making them into two separate entities. This will make even more people choose between one or the other. Since it’s more cost effective to stream movies, keep the Netflix brand and name connected to the streaming service. Give the other company a name that sounds like other failed Internet companies like Friendster and Napster. Call it Qwikster.

Now you’ve got two separate companies with two separate destinies. The Netflix streaming service continues to increase its library. Qwikster will eventually raise their prices due to the cost of postage or whatever other excuse they can come up with. And more people will leave Qwikster. Maybe they’ll have new releases only available on Netflix. Eventually, Qwikster will die. And when it does, Netflix will still be going strong with their streaming service. They’ll have cut their costs, increased their profit and retained the majority of their subscribers. It’s actually a very good marketing strategy.

While I’m sure that Netflix’s streaming service will increase (assuming the studios let them),  they won’t include all of titles that are currently available on DVD. Unfortunately, this means that soon there will be thousands of titles that aren’t available unless you want to buy them. It means hundreds of thousands of hours of television and movies that new generations will never see. As a guy who likes old movies, I think this sucks. Worse, I’m not sure that there is any way around it.

I don’t like this latest move by Netflix, but it isn’t stupid. What bugs me is that I’ll still be a Qwikster subscriber until its last day because it’s still the best game in town.

– Jack Cameron