Monthly Archives: January 2011

New Site Brings a Payoff to Social Gaming 5

I’m not one to talk about specific social media sites or offer advice on what tools to use (since I believe those choices should be based on what your specific goals are), but I figured I’d make an exception for this one — especially given my interest in financial communities online as of late.

If saving money was more fun, do you think more people would do it?

Someone thinks so. is a new interactive site that takes social gaming elements like those we enjoy on platforms like Foursquare and SCVNGR and applies them to valuable things like saving and debt reduction… think of it as Mint 2.0, with a bit of a wink.

Basically, once you’ve set up an account and connected your various bank, credit card and investment accounts, you can create goals (e.g. pay off debt, save for a house, etc.) to achieve. Just like Mint, right?

But with Payoff, as you progress through your goals, you win badges — reinforcing the good things you’ve accomplished with a little smile,  and some fun motivation to keep going. You even have a chance to win “sur-prizes” when you successfully complete the challenges you set for yourself.

You can add another social layer to the experience by connecting your Facebook account.

Don’t worry — your Facebook friends won’t see how much you have in your 401k. Payoff will use the connection to let them know when you’ve created or completed a goal (not the amount — again, that’s your business alone), and when you’ve achieved new badges.

Perhaps down the line, we’ll see deeper engagement within Payoff via the creation of an internal network, allowing you to “friend” and connect with other users — and offer them encouragement on their own personal profile on the site.

Payoff supplements user efforts through the provision of tips and motivation, both on their blog and through their Facebook Page, as well as through links to relevant third party sites. The goal seems to be to convince users that saving money and reducing debt isn’t as daunting — or as boring — as it may seem.

I’ve only just begun to experiment with the service, but I can see how applying social gaming techniques to seemingly mundane tasks (like building an emergency fund, or paying down a line of credit) could inspire more people to think about their economic situation in a positive way.

Have you tried yet? What do you think? What other innovative ways are you seeing social gaming being used?

7 Quick Things to Edit Before You Hit “Publish” 5

Whether you’re just starting to blog, or if you’ve been posting for years… you’ve done it.

Right after hitting “Publish”, right after the tweet goes out or the link gets posted to Facebook, you see it: the error. The gaffe. The misspeak. The broken link.

It’s small, but it’s there. Can you go in and edit it before anyone notices? Probably not. Is it a big deal? Probably not.

But over time, lazy editing creeps into lazy writing. So why start down the slippery slope?

That’s why I’m a firm believer in asking yourself seven quick questions before you click the button that sends your thoughts and ideas flooding into the ether:

  1. Does your title give your readers a clear sense of what they’re going to get? Sure, it’s clever. But in these days of overstuffed RSS readers, I bet “informative” would help a few folks make your post a priority.
  2. Have you done a sweep for speling errers? And if you don’t usually notice, can you get a friend to give your post a quick look? Trust me — the persnickety editors who stop by will be distracted by your their/there/they’re slip-ups.
  3. Have you formatted the post so it’s easy to read? Paragraphs are your friends. And more than that, they make your readers’ eyeballs happy.
  4. Does all the stuff before your conclusion… well, actually lead to your conclusion? Sometimes blog posts evolve more clearly in our minds than on the page. And the points we want to make evolve, too — so if you’re saying something completely different by the end, go back and revisit the beginning.
  5. Have you used links effectively to provide information and context? Don’t assume everyone knows the blog post or person or concept you’re referring to. A little link (make sure it opens a new window!) can be helpful.
  6. Have you trimmed all the fat? Now that you’ve written the perfect post, go back and delete at least 10% of it. Really. No word is too good to be spared the axe if things could be made more clear.
  7. Does your imagery add to the post, or simply fill up the traditional real estate at the top of the page? If you’re just putting up a bit of clip art or a stock image because you think you need to, well… you don’t need to. Skip it unless it adds to the post. Or keep looking for the right thing. The whole package needs to deliver your message effectively.

Of course, there are countless other pre-publish edits you could make.  So what’s on your pre-publish checklist?

Bands to Help Brands: How One Band Can Give Your Brand a (Good) Name 1

There could have been many other titles to this post. Your Brand is Livin’ on a Prayer. Bon Jovi Gives Your Brand the Bad Medicine. Your Brand is Wanted… Dead or Alive. Your Brand’s a Little Runaway.

But I digress…

For the last 29 years, Bon Jovi has rode the wave or rock and roll success from their days as a long-haired New Jersey rockers, to their current, coiffed incarnation as the biggest corporate rock band around.

How were they able to find success, and how have they been able to hold onto it for so long?

For one, Jon Bon Jovi had an inspiring do-it-yourself attitude as an unsigned musician, taking his demos to New York DJs in person and asking them to listen. One did, liked what he heard, and the next thing you know, “Runaway” was a hit.

For their sophomore album, Bon Jovi harnessed the power of a new medium — music videos. Their concert videos showed the band in their natural habitat, on stage performing in front of thousands of fans.

They rose to superstardom by giving the fans what they want: Guitar-heavy rock with reliable harmonies and vocals. Over nearly 30 years, a nearly continuous content output — 11 studio albums, two greatest hits albums, a live album, and several solo albums by the band’s members — has kept the band almost permanently in the public eye.

And speaking of the public eye, the guys themselves are fairly drama-free — something exceptionally rare in top-tier musicians — and even when they show up in the headlines, fans still focus on the music. If you look at the individual bios of the performers, some have been in their share of hot water with the law and beyond. But when the lights come up, it’s all about the fans. And that’s why their fans stick with them, through good times and bad.

Through it all, they’ve stuck with their original value proposition. Whether you saw them in the Meadowlands in ’87, or in ’07, you’re going to get a live performance that’s faithful to their albums, and enough energy to keep you smiling out to the parking lot and beyond. If you ask some music critics, they’ll tell you that bands this consistent have somehow shortchanged themselves artistically… but not every fan heads out to a concert or buys a new album hoping to be surprised.

Bon Jovi has never been terribly concerned with innovating or shaking up their sound (although that voice-synth “whoa whoa whoa” thing in “Livin'” was pretty cool), or exploring the depths of their “art”… because Bon Jovi isn’t  really about art. It’s about having a rockin’ good time. And they do.

Almost 30 years after they got started.

So, take a look at your brand through Bon Jovi eyes, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you willing to do the grassroots work to get your brand where it needs to go?
  • Are you taking advantage of new tools to communicate more effectively with your customers?
  • If crisis hits, will your commitment to, and focus on your customers carry you through?
  • Are you continuing to deliver on what your customers love most about your brand, even as you grow and evolve?

11 Things to Skip in Social Media in 2011 33

1. It’s-all-about-me blog posts

2. Being anti-everything
If there’s one thing the social media world needs less of, it’s the Kumbaya sunshine-and-roses atmosphere. But if all you do is criticize what other people are doing — without offering new, alternative ideas — you haven’t done much more than take out the trash.

3. Sporadic posting
I’m speaking from experience on this one.

4. Content for the sake of content
I. Must. Blog. Every. Day. Consistency is a great thing… but unoriginal, poorly thought-out content for the “sake” of consistency isn’t.

5. Auto-posting from every possible source
Foursquare/Gowalla/Whrrl/Scvngr check ins, Google Reader “Reading:” tweets, “Daily is out!” updates… Can we get more noise with less value?

6. Cross posting to multiple channels so all your social media platforms say the same thing at the same time
Try as you might, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have very different audiences, and require different levels of engagement and different types of content. You may find great success on one platform… but you’ll be sorely deficient in the others.

7. Personal Branding
…unless it involves fire and steer.

8. Echo chamber updates
“Tech Crunch/Mashable/ReadWriteWeb wrote a great article!” Of course they did, that’s why everyone already reads them. Offer original or varied points of view, and you’ll be seen as different from the crowd.

9. Artificial Measures of Influence
From follower numbers to your Klout score, there are a thousand other variables that affect how others perceive you, or what actual, real life influence you have over an audience.

10. Chasing every new shiny object
Sure, the earliest members of Twitter have reaped benefits, followers, and (arguably, perhaps) income. But what of the first members of Plurk, Utterli, Friendfeed or Jaiku?

11. List posts designed to bait Google