The giNetwork is getting noticed

I’m just going to say it. It’s really AWESOME to talk to people about The Independent‘s successful giNetwork program and then read a well-written post about it stemming from that discussion. Thank you Mark!

A couple of days ago, Mark gave us a call from his posh digs in Austin, TX to talk about the giNetwork for his post and I thought it went smashingly. We’ve been working so hard on fine-tuning this program for the past several months and I think we’ve got it down to a science now 🙂 Over 30 businesses have jumped on board and we’ve only lost one.

The ad reps are able to sell it on their own without needing Jack to join them on the sales call (though of course he always will if he’s needed) and I’m getting faster at all the back-end stuff now that I’ve unwound all of Facebook’s quirks and discovered the best way to work with the businesses is to find out their comfort level with technology, find out whether they’re a cell phone user primarily, or if they are behind the computer most of the time, then recommend the best way to post their deals.

Behind a computer: Facebook is best bet. Cell user: Twitter.

It’s important to find that out because during the setup, you either need to link their fan page to Twitter, or use a Facebook app called ‘Smart Twitter for Pages’ to link their tweets to Facebook. If you turn both on, you get sucked into double-posting hell and you don’t want any part of that.

I’m beginning to ramble. I really just want to say that we’re pleased and excited with giNetwork’s success and while I’ve talked to a few other paper’s about it I’d love to talk to more. I’m sromanski [at] theindependent [dot] com if anyone’s interested in hearing more about this.

Thanks again to Mark Coddington for the wonderful write-up!

Using Twitter and Facebook finally pays off in revenue

I understand the value of social media for a newspaper.  It’s not monetary value, but it’s pretty priceless in building trust, a rapport with readers, and as tools for reporting the news as quickly as possible.

But I still kept hearing the whole “but does it make money” line from above. Finally, I can answer them with a resounding, “Yes. Lots!”

A little while back I wrote about my dilemma of whether to push Facebook or Twitter as a means for advertisers to post their specials and deals. We were about to embark on a new venture to help advertisers use social media as a marketing tool. We had no idea if it would go over very well or if the advertisers would “get it” or if we were just wishful thinking.

Well, so far we’ve signed up 14 15 businesses – a healthy mix of small and large, one-man operations and corporations – to our giNetwork, and those alone will net over 15k this year. And we’re going for more because we’ve learned businesses are hungry for this and I think we’ve hit on the right method for getting them going. I wanted to share this success and outline how it works.

The first lesson we learned is that selling social media on its own around here doesn’t work. They either don’t understand it or say they don’t have time for it. So we bundled it with our local business search product called FindNEthing.  Many newspapers, large and small already have a similar product – a marketplace or yellow pages type of program that they could use as well.

To be a part of FindNEthing, businesses “claim” their page for $79 per month. Now, for $20 more, we’ll add them to our giNetwork which gives them the following:

  • A Twitter account
  • A Facebook Fanpage
  • Inclusion in the giNetwork widget on the front page of our widely read newspaper website at
  • Added to the giNetwork directory page as well.

How does that work on the back end? It’s a lot of work, initially but the key point is that we take away that first hurdle of setting up the Facebook fanpage and Twitter account for them. We remove the hurdle and then we come out to their shop and take the time to show them how to use it.

So, once the business agrees to go for it, I set up their Facebook/Twitter accounts by starting a gmail address for the business and use that for the signup on Facebook and Twitter. I have the business tell me a name to use for Facebook (because it requires a real name) and go from there.

Once the accounts are ready, I use our @giNetwork twitter account and add them to a Twitter list. We have created a Twitter widget (using Twitter’s own widget code) for that list and that is what feeds onto our website and the special directory page we have created for this. We manipulated the Twitter widget code to suit our page design, but that’s not necessary really.

As for the Twitter/FB dilemma, initially, I set it up so that if the client prefers to use Facebook, I just link their fan page to their Twitter account using Facebook’s functionality. And if they prefer to use Twitter, I use a Facebook app called ‘Smart Twitter for Pages‘ to link Twitter to the fan page. Once the client has decided what they like best, I switch one of those off so there’s no double posting. I’ve also been creating custom Twitter backgrounds and avatars etc. for each business. Not really necessary but kind of a nice touch.

Once they’re hooked up and ready to tweet, I go out to visit the business, give them all their login info and walk them through everything. The time spent with them varies by how savvy the business owners are – some copped on straight away, some…. didn’t. But an extra benefit to this is that in addition to the nice revenue for us, we’re building a genuine, helpful rapport with our advertisers, big and small. And we love it.

We will also be emailing each advertiser periodic tips and tricks to help them discover the best practices for their venture online and we’ll also do our best to grow their fans and followers. We believe we are perfectly suited for this because we can provide an audience for their deals with the widget on our front page as well as promote them in print and through our own Twitter accounts.

Successes so far:

  • One business, a local flower shop, decided to try using the code word tactic in their posts. “Stop in and say “I love my dog” and get this plant for $1.00″. The day after she did that, she told us she had four new customers in using the code word that had never shopped her store before. They said they saw it on our front page.
  • Another business – a local and popular Mexican place – offered free entrees to five random Facebook fans if they got to 500 fans by May 1st. While they fell short by about 14 fans by their deadline, they still got 486 new fans in less than a week.
  • A salon plans to share before and after photos while a woman who runs a small shop for teachers (and can only open her store when she’s not substitute teaching) is using her tweets to let her customers know when she’s open and when she’s not – by sending them to our website to check. Woohoo traffic!
  • I was messaged on Facebook by someone who worked for a small computer company who had been seeing mentions of the giNetwork from other local businesses and they asked me how to get on board.

Finally, our goal is to, of course, add more businesses to the network and at the rate it’s going, it shouldn’t be a problem. We’re learning a LOT as we go and we’ve made sure to be flexible for each business, tried not to make the consultation/teaching part of this too complicated by understanding how “savvy” each business is.

I’m excited to be teaching them how simple it actually is. I just have to remember not to bombard them with all the cool things you can do once you get into some of the third-party stuff. We keep them on the web and if they want to learn more than that, we’ll show them, but it’s best to stay basic. It’s been simply amazing.

And finally, the higher-ups can stop asking us, “But how does it make money?”