The 2010 US Census: Going Viral Saved Them $85 Million

I’ve never been more excited for a US Census…EVER! They’re doing a perfect job of marketing to our generation. This television ad is part of the U.S. Census Bureau’s national advertising campaign to boost mail participation rates in the once-a-decade population count. For every percentage point increase in the 2010 Census mail-back participation rate, the Census Bureau saves about $85 million in follow-up costs with households that failed to return their forms. The advertising campaign represents the most extensive and diverse outreach campaign in U.S. history, with advertisements appearing in 28 languages

The 2010 census is the most ambitious count ever of the nation’s population. Did you know that a census is required every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution’s Article 1, Section 2? I didn’t, (but that doesn’t say much)!

What Peaked My Interest?

I was still a bit weary and un-interested, but at this point, I not only felt obligated…I was actually excited! And then I got this letter…

…I couldn’t help but think “Woah, I’m actually excited to fill out this census!” Can’t speak for anyone else, but assume other people felt the same way.

Use of The Internet/Viral Campaign

The commercials went viral and their web-presence was growing, but how effective was it overall? Their YouTube campaign (Youtube.com/user/uscensusbureau) was helpful, though their channel has only received 100,000 views. That’s less than “David After Dentist” which has over 54,000,000+ views on that 1 video alone. It doesn’t imply anything about our country, but for something this important, I feel they should have had more views. STILL…they deserve credit for Blogging, Tweeting, Newsletters and more. They’ve done everything possible to reach us and make us interested, now it’s time to do our part…

For more information, visit 2010.census.gov.

Posted under Blogs, Events, Online Marketing, Online Video, Social Networks, Viral Marketing

This post was written by Joshua Russak on March 22, 2010

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State of The Union Drinking Game: Give it a “shot”!

State Of The Union Drinking Game 2010

I find it amazing that drinking games can be applied to pretty much anything. Buttttt…for all of you binge-drinking enthusiasts out there, here’s a game that can only be played once a year: The State of the Union Address Drinking Game!

Rules

The general rules of this game are no different from any other drinking game. Every time President Obama says a certain word (ie: “change”) or phrase (ie: “make no mistake”), you take a drink/shot. A drink is either a shot or a good gulp from a beer (or cider). All you do is watch the speech and play along. If all goes well, you’ll be unconscious by the time they show the other party’s response. For an extended list of keywords, phrases and rulesa, check out their website or their Facebook Group. This year, President Obama’s State of the Union address is scheduled for Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 9pm (Eastern). It should be broadcast on all major networks and cable news/political netorks. For online coverage, go to http://www.c-span.org/executive/stateoftheunion.asp.

Game History

This drinking game dates back to when George Washington gave the first State of the Union address on January 8, 1790. I’m pretty confident there’s no evidence of that fact, but I’m pretty sure it happened. On the other hand, I do know that is when the State of The Union Address began. As for the drinking game, the website (DrinkingGame.US) says nothing about it’s history. “I’m sure there are other people who have made similar games, but I think most people play by our rules,” Marc Melzer, one of the creators of the State of the Union Drinking Game and now a lawyer, told AFP. (Yes, they were interviewed by the AFP as well as The JDF.)

I decided to do a little research of my own. WhoIs information for the site says the domain was registered in 2004. I decided to contact the owner, Marc Melzer and a few questions myself. “We did it our senior year of college in January 2002, mostly for fun. We were on the campus and thought this was a great idea to distract us from work. We hosted it on a college site and people responded with over 50,000 hits…in 3 days. In 2003, we saw more like 500,000 hits in a matter of a week. We ran into trouble with bandwidth issues. In 2004, it found it’s final home on DrinkingGame.US (how appropriate!). ” (Marc Melzer, Co-Founder of DrinkingGame.US). When I asked him about the other sites that promoted their own versions of this game, he said that there was nothing they could do. It was a matter of an impossible Copyright.

It looks like this game has gained a lot of popularity since 2002. Major web publishers have put out their own articles about this game, and GAVE NO CREDIT TO DRINKINGGAME.US!

  1. Huffington Post
  2. San Francisco Chronicle (which was also published 4 hours later on Huffington Post)
  3. Digg!

(Entertaining) Disclaimers…

And what kind of game would this be if there were warning labels attached to it? After researching the sites that promoted this game, I decided, that instead of posting my own disclaimer, I’d simply post theirs. Enjoy:

DrinkingGame.US:

Please note that we do not now, nor have we ever, encouraged irresponsible use of alcohol. It is important to know your own limits and to act accordingly. We discourage improper use of alcohol.

Mahalo.com:

Disclaimer: This overview of the State of the Union Address Drinking Game, is, given the problem of Binge Drinking on college campuses, a controversial subject. Note that these sites contain adult-oriented content and should all be considered potentially unsafe.

HuffingtonPost:

NOTE: The Huffington Post in no way encourages binge drinking. This is the comedy section. If you actually drank as much as we suggested you would die, so do not do that.

Posted under Blogs, Events, Jewish Marketing, Online Marketing, Viral Marketing

Taking your Site from 1 to a Million Users…FOR FREE!

Kevin Rose – The name should be familiar to you, considering he’s the founder of Digg.com. The domain “digg.com” attracted at least 236 million visitors annually by 2008  and has continuously been growing for the past year (Compete.com). The best part is….THEY NEVER EVEN PAID FOR MARKETING! Every technique they used was free and available on the internet.

Top 10 Down & Dirty Ways To Grow Your Web App:

Kevin Rose decided to bear all at the Future of Web Apps conference. Digg’s success is not due to expensive marketing techniques…everything was FREE. They used word-of-mouth and social methods to spread the word. If you want some of these methods, watch the video or simply read the summary below it:

Taking your Site from One to One Million Users by Kevin Rose from Carsonified on Vimeo.

As summarized by HighScalability.com, below you will find some of the secrets behind digg.com and wefollow.com explosive user growth. He covers ten unique strategies that turn passive users into passionate advocates.

1. Ego. Ask does this feature increase the users self-worth or stroke the ego? What emotional and visible awards will a user receive for contributing to your site? Are they gaining reputation, badges, show case what they’ve done in the community? Sites that have done it well:

Twitter.com followers. Followers turns every single celebrity as spokesperson for your service. Celebrities continually pimp your service in the hopes of getting more followers. It’s an amazing self-reinforcing traffic generator. Why do followers work? Twitter communication is one way. It’s simple. Followers don’t have to be approved and there aren’t complicated permission schemes about who can see what. It means something for people to increase their follower account. It becomes a contest to see who can have more. So even spam followers are valuable to users as it helps them win the game.

Digg.com leader boards. Leader Boards show the score for a user activity. In digg it was based on the number of articles submitted. Encourage people to have a competition and do work inside the digg ecosystem. Everyone wants to see their name in lights.

Digg.com highlight users. Users who submitted stories where rewarded by having their name in a larger font and a friending icon put beside their story submission. Users liked this.

2. Simplicity. Simplicity is the key. A lot of people overbuild features. Don’t over build features. Release something and see what users are going to do. Pick 2-3 on your site and do them extremely well. Focus on those 2-3 things. Always ask if there’s anything you take out from a feature. Make it lighter and cleaner and easy to understand and use.

3. Build and Release. Stop thinking you understand your users. You think users will love this or that and you’ll probably be wrong. So don’t spend 6 months building features users may not love or will only use 20% of. Learn from what users actually do on your site. Avoid analysis paralysis, especially as you get larger. Decide, build, release, get feedback, iterate.

4. Hack the Press. There are techniques you can use that will get you more publicity.

Invite only system. Get press by creating an invite only system. Have a limited number of invites and seed them with bloggers.  Get the buzz going. Give each user a limited number of invites (4 or 5). It gets bloggers talking about your service. The main stream press calls and you say you are not ready. This amps the hype cycle. Make new features login-only, accessible only if you log in but make them visible and marked beta on the site. This increases the number of registered users.

Talk to junior bloggers. On Tech Crunch, for example, find the most junior blogger and pitch them. It’s more likely you’ll get covered.

Attend parties for events you can’t afford. You can go to the after parties for events you can’t afford. Figure out who you want to talk to. Follow their twitter accounts and see where they are going.

Have a demo in-hand. People won’t understand your great vision without a demo. Bring an iPhone or laptop to show case the demo. Keep the demo short, 30-60 seconds. Say: Hey, I just need 30 seconds of your time, it’s really cool, and here’s why I think you’ll like it. Slant it towards what they do or why they cover.

5. Connect with your community.

Start a podcast. A big driver in the early days of Digg. Influencers will listen and they are the heart of your ecosystem.

Throw a launch party and yearly and quarterly events. Personally invite influencers and their friends. Just have a party at a bar. Throw them around conferences as people are already there.

Engage and interact with your community.

Don’t visually punish users. Often users don’t understand bad behaviour yet as they think they are just playing they game your system sets up. Walk through the positive behaviours you want to reinforce on the site.

6. Advisors. Have a strong group of advisors. Think about which technical, marketing and other problems you’ll have and seek out people to help you. Give them stock compensation. A strong advisory team helps with VCs.

7. Leverage your user base to spread the world.

FarmVille. tells users when other players have helped them and asks the player to repay the favor. This gets players back into the system by using a social obligation hack. They also require having a certain number of friends before you expand your farm. They give away rare prizes.

Wefollow. Tweets hashtags when people follow someone else. This further publicizes the system. They also ask when a new user hits the system if they wanted to be added to the directory, telling the user that X hundred thousand of your closest friends have already added themselves. This is the number one way they get new users.

8. Provide value for third party sites. Wallstreet Journal, for example, puts FriendFeed, Twitter, etc links on every page because they think it adds value to their site. Is there some way you can provide value like that?

9. Analyze your traffic. Install Google analytics, See where people are entering form. Where they are going. Where they are exiting from and how you can improve those pages.

10. The entire picture. Step back and look at the entire picture. Look at users who are creating quality content. Quality content drives more traffic to your site. Traffic going out of your site encourages other sites to add buttons to your site which encourages more users and more traffic into your site. It’s a circle of life. Look at how your whole eco system is doing.

Posted under Blogs, Events, Online Marketing, Online Video, SEO/SEM, Social Networks, Tech2.0, Viral Marketing

This post was written by Joshua Russak on October 8, 2009

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eCommerce On Saturday: What Should Jews Do?

bhphotovideo500

B&H Photo and Video, one of the largest non-chain photo and video equipment store in the United States closes their doors to observe the Jewish day of rest. Simply put, WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

I first heard about this in Webtribution.com’s article “E-Commerce: Religion Versus Revenue“. The author of the blog, Kieran Hawe, was on the hunt for a camera this past Saturday and came across the following message:

Please note that B&H does not process web orders from Friday evening to Saturday evening!

Kudos to B&H for religious observance, but what about the 100′s of other Jewish eCommerce sites that happen to keep their online stores open on weekends. I decided to do a little research of my own… I am quoting sensitive opinions so please, read this with an open mind…

Jewish Weekends 101: What is Allowed On ‘Shabbat’?

Shabbat (Hebrew: shabbat; Yiddish, shabbos; “rest” or “cessation”) is the day of rest in Judaism and lasts from sundown Friday until Saturday night. About a month ago, someone posted the following question on TheYeshivaWorld.com: “Does anyone know what’s a Jew to do about selling via an e-commerce website on Shabbat?” Overall, the response remained consistent. “The website can be available for browsing, but NO buying,” but this was no a universally shared opinion.

On the other hand, Nicholas Zamiska, previously a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, provides an opposing opinion. He published an article on Hashkafah.com in which he concluded that “Technically speaking, the vendor’s monetary acquisition, happens on a weekday so there is no issue”  (Rabbi Heinemenn). Web sites don’t process transactions on Saturdays…no money changes hands, so the sites should be able to remain open.

These are simply 2 different opinions. It all boils down to the companies choice and the ability to rationalize “religion vs. revenue” when a company could potentially be missing out on millions of dollars.

What Is There To Lose?

Some websites simply can’t give up selling on Jewish holidays. “One of my hottest business days was on Rosh Hashana,” says Rabbi Mayer Pasternak, creator of JewishMusic.com. Considering it’s one of the most important holidays of the Jewish year, this wasn’t an easy decision for him. “I felt a twinge of guilt, coming back and there were a couple hundred orders.” (Hashkafah.com) But that’s simply not the case with B&H Photo and Video. Owned by Herman Schreiber, an observant Jew, they decided to close both their store and website purchases on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Of the 1,500+ employees, Jews and non-Jews both support this decision. Richard Spiess, 34, a salesman at B&H for 2 1/2 years, said there are some advantages to being non-Jewish in such a heavily Jewish environment. “We get a lot of nice holidays off,” he said. (Post-Gazette.com) The employees may be happy about this, but this is still a huge loss for the company.

I had the chance to speak to one of their employees earlier today. Joshua Grashin, a Search Engine Marketing Optimizer at B&H for the past 2 years also agress that “it’s great to have holidays off”, but adds that he believes Herman’s decision actually improves the companies image in the public eye. “At first I thought that is must hurt them in some way becuse they’re literally closed for a 7th of the week which can add up over the course of a year. But the more people I talk to, the more I realize its something that people universally respect. People are fine with it because they still know they’re getting the best service. They respect their religious decision to close, to the point that they view B&H as a respectable company -  a company that has ideals! And any company that has ideals will directly relate to the business as a whole.”

To get an idea of what they’re missing out on, B&H serves over 11,000 customers daily, while a considerable amount of the company business comes from their website (sales, affiliate ads, etc.)  “The amount of money lost during the 24 hour +/- time period of Shabbat is significant, however it is obvious the owners of the business could care less about the lost revenue and focus more on their core religious beliefs and principals,” says Kieran Hawe, Co-Founder of Hawe Digital and  previously Sr. Director of Online of Online Marketing at Folica.com. This does wonders for their repuation. In fact,  Sergey Brin, President and co-founder of Google, said that B&H “happens to be my favorite camera equipment store.” (Google Q3 Earnings Call Transcript) Whether he relates to their ideals or not, there’s no doubt that this is a decision everyone respects.

In Coclusion

It’s apparent there are two strong opposing opinions. Based on Nicholas’s article, you can remain open without worrying about fiscal transactions occuring on Shabbat. On the other, you can maintain a stricter approach. Simply shut down and in return, come off as a business built on strong convictions and values. The choice is ultimately yours to make.

Posted under Blogs, Events, Jewish Marketing, Online Marketing

Marketers Monetize Passover: Twitter, YouTube and More…

With 100′s of newspaper articles, social networking, viral networking, youtube videos, widgets and more…Passover takes the cake (well, in this case, unleavened cake) this April. Here’s a collection of stats that give a good sense as to just how popular this holiday really is…

Google Keyword Statistics

Believe it or not, I took the time to check in on the Google Keyword stats for “Passover” and was pretty shocked. I did similar research for Keyword Statistics For The Jewish Holiday of Purim.

Passover Google Keyword Stats

For Those of  You Who Don’t Know…

Of all the Jewish holidays, according to JewFaq.org, “[Passover] is the one most commonly observed, even by otherwise non-observant Jews. According to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey (NJPS), more than 80% of Jews have attended a Pesach seder”. For those of you who don’t know, Passover, “is a Jewish and Samaritan holy day and festival commemorating God sparing the Hebrews when he killed the first born of Egypt, and is the seven day Feast of the Unleavened Bread (it lasts eight days in the diaspora) commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery”. (Wikipedia)

Popularity

So now you’re wondering, “What’s out there? Who’s capitilizing on Passover Popularity?” Let’s take a look. People are Twittering about Passover NON-STOP. Every minute, the list updates. Once of my favorite finds is the search widget that helps people find a local passover meal (ie: Passover Seder). Check out Find A Seder Near You on Chabad.org. But that’s nothing in comparison to the amount of news articles covering Passover. I ran a search on Google News and noticed that almost every major newspaper in the country had an article on Passover:

If that’s not enough, Viral Videos on YouTube have claimed millions of hits. 10 Things I hate about Commandments, spoofing a popular movie (can you guess which one?) has claimed nearly 2.5 million views. Nearing a million and one of my recent favorites is “20 Things To Do With Matzah”. Featuring the talented voice of Michelle Citrin, they have also put together a landing page full of affiliate ads that have no doubt been generating significant revenue. Check it out at Matzahsong.com. To add to the list, controversial Jib-Jab has also put together a list of e-cards and viral videos to monetize the Passover season.

So at the end of the day, it’s amazing to see how much attention Passover accrues being that it takes place in 1 month a year. Can’t wait to see the same level of coverage for Easter.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Posted under Blogs, Events, Online Marketing, Online Video, SEO/SEM, Social Networks, Viral Marketing