How To Use Collective Buying Sites Like Groupon or Living Social for Events

As a former concert promoter and an event producer for over six years I have had a lot of experience marketing events. My marketing methods are increasing reliant upon digital avenues one of which in recent years are collective buying sites. Collective buying sites can be a valuable tool but they come with some very real costs and risks.

The first risk is to devalue your event. Deals are usually at least 50% off so you are instantly devaluing your regular ticket price. Many times event promoters will use collective buying sites to help when an event is not hitting the numbers on attendance. This can greatly devalue your event as customers that paid full price now see a much more attractive buy. We experienced this first hand when were a little low on signups and used Groupon and Living Social to drive thousands of people to our event. We had to put out some fires with attendees and vowed to our customer base never to do this again as people were (rightly so) put out to see our event advertised at a lower price. The event ended up in the black and was a run away hit but we likely lost customers for future events.

My personal feeling is that collective buying sites shouldn’t be used during the last stages of marketing for this very reason. However when used as an early bird strategy collective buying is a great marketing method. Namely because it relies on every marketers strongest tool: Word of Mouth. We were able to drive over 2000 people to our recent event out of the gate and created a natural buzz about the event before our other marketing hit. This is the right way to use Groupon or Living social.

The costs are that you will give up 75% of revenue with collective buying sites. You must be careful when implementing this strategy. Deals are usually half off and then you often split the revenue off the buys 50/50 with sites like Groupon or Living Social. You can ask Groupon or Living social for more than 50/50 but without a track record with them or a very attractive event they often will not do this split. The other problem is that ticket prices are the lowest during early bird registration. This makes it hard to make enough off each transaction to pay for your efforts on collective buying. One way to remedy this is to make a VIP offer. This will allow you to provide additional value to the consumer by adding in goodies (that shouldn’t cost you too much) like a free beer for 21+ or an extra t-shirt etc in exchange for a higher ticket price. This allows you to get closer to the revenue you were looking for after the fee to Groupon or Living Social. But you don’t have to take my word on the matter check out the below link for a well written article on the subject:

http://www.eventmanagerblog.com/groupon
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My Apologies WordPress, I’ve missed you!

I just went to write a post an realized I am at almost two years since I last posted.  Yikes!  Truth is that my wife and I have been involved in so much work that I rarely get to post on my own personal blog.  Hope to rectify that soon.  Since I last posted I have graduated Valedictorian from Full Sail University with a B.S. in Internet Marketing.  I have also founded 3 different businesses with my wife.  One of them is a run based business which puts on fun runs.   That is the Fun Run Group LLC. The other is events of all types with some marketing consulting as well, that is called Event Marketing Creative.  If you get a chance check out our latest project: http://www.superheroes5k.com 

Thanks for supporting the blog.  Comments welcome.

Empire Avenue – A Valuable Tool for Networking and Driving Traffic Online

I have recently become a member of Empire Avenue and have been using the site for roughly a month.  I highly recommend this site at it is an exemplary example of advergaming and a very strong networking tool. Although I must admit I was initially hesitant to use the site (as I do not play any sort of online games) it  provided me with a very valuable tool for social media analytics.   There are numerous blog posts that supported this theory (I have included a few in this post).

Basically Empire Avenue is an online game that allows you to buy and sell stocks in people.  The site connects to your various social networks and blogs and keeps track of your activities and awards those efforts with virtual currency (which you use to buy and sell stocks) which is awarded in real time each day.   You also receive virtual currency for purchases in your stock.  My initial experience was a malestorm of purchases in my stock as I crept up the recent arrival leaderboard (they keep score very well) and my stock price rose while exploring the site.  My stock has remained steady (likely due to my relative inactivity online due to the holidays) but I anticipate a large rise in my stock price once I am more active online again.  You can leave messages on other players “wall” when you buy stock and there are numerous communities within the game ranging from common interests to common areas (across the globe). You can easily interact with people all over the world in almost every country.  This allows you with a unique opportunity to market your various online websites, blogs, and  social networking pages and profiles.  You can provide missions which allow for the award of virtual currency to the players that complete them (like liking your Facebook page or commenting on a blog) allowing you to help increase engagement.  It is also very useful for promotion of Youtube channels and to increase subscriptions there and to blogs.  Blog posts I read also touted actual real life deals and clients coming from the game for social media marketers and other types of professionals.  You can also advertise your profile within the game to drive up traffic and your share price.

I  recently sat down with the marketing gurus over at Creatine Marketing (Sacramento, CA  based marketing firm) and found that many real estate professionals (that work with them) use Empire Avenue as a strong marketing tool for their businesses and actually gain many clients from the game.  Likely because of the numerous communities that are available with specific unified interests.  This is just one small local example of the many benefits that I found in the site for networkers online.

I encourage you to check out the site and see what value it can bring to your business or social networking.  If you do in fact do that I highly encourage you to check out the site of a very popular player (below) who gives very good advice on stocks to invest in and is very proactive in helping promote online activities of her shareholders and those she invests in.

Visit Diethylstilbestrol, a DES awareness WebSite. Circle on Google+, like on Facebook, follow on Twitter, watch on YouTube, read latest Blog news on DES Daughter Network.

Links to articles on Empire Avenue I found useful:

http://www.chicagonow.com/job-hunting-windy-city/2011/11/empire-avenue/

http://wisemarketing.wordpress.com/2011/04/29/what-is-empire-avenue/

http://empireavenuefans.com/

http://exploringsocialmedia.com/what-is-empire-avenue-and-why-should-i-care/

Article On The Value of Social Media for Non-Profts

I recently read a very interesting article about two of my favorite subjects, non-profits and social media. The article outlined how to gauge the true value of social media for non-profits. Namely how to determine engagement vs. donors and how both are important to a charity. I encourage you to read more on that at the full article linked to below.

http://www.softwareadvice.com/articles/nonprofit/what-is-the-real-value-of-social-media-fornonprofits-1080211/

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Blogs

AUTHOR’S NOTE –

I am aware that I am not practicing all that I preach in this post on this blog.  However that does not diminish from the quality of the advice contained in this piece.  Much of it is taken from concepts and best practices written by industry leaders in SEO and blogging.  I am working on optimizing this site but as it is not a revenue source for me the timetable is a bit slower than I would like.    Your comments are welcome and I hope you enjoy.

-Dustin Ryen

dustinryen@gmail.com

What is SEO? More importantly why do I care? 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important parts of marketing for businesses in the 21st century.  Searchengineland.com, a leading resource on the subject defines SEO as, “the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines.” Or in other words the art of getting traffic from search engines without paying for it.  This is done through various strategies such as on-page optimization, link building, Video Search Engine Optimization (VSEO), and Digital Asset Optimization (DAO). For more on SEO read the full article by Searchengineland.com located here.

The fact is that communication was forever changed with the advent of the Internet and as a result so was the way that marketers presented brands to consumers.   No longer do consumers rely on resources such as the Yellow Pages to look up vendors instead that process has evolved to be primarily done online.  Likewise editorial and opinion pieces are no longer primarily found in periodicals in paper form.  Many people turn to bloggers online to find news and to read more information on a host of topics.  In both cases a search engine is usually consulted which means that SEO is vital to the success of both businesses and bloggers.  I would liken it to the importance of having a sign outside of a brick and mortar store.  Yes people could guess what you do but would you really want to take the risk?  It is obviously important to let people know what wares you sell as a brick and mortar business and in the same way it is important to let consumers know what you are going to talk about on a blog.

Optimize the Structure of Your Blog

Let’s face it there are a lot of useless blogs out there.  If you really want to be contributing something useful to the blogosphere make sure your blog doesn’t blend in with the countless others out there.  That means using new and creative content not just parroting other’s who have their own unique voice.  That also means not letting your newest content dominate your homepage.  The homepage should include many of your most popular posts in addition.  Many consumers will be new to your website and could be turned off by the new content without a frame of reference.  In that same vein be sure to include references to older posts so that people can understand where you are coming from.  SEObook.com had this to say about popular posts and your blog’s homepage, “Many blogging systems allow you to highlight your most popular posts. Featuring your greatest hits puts site visitors one click away from your best content, and places more link equity on the best posts, which makes people more likely to find your site by reading one of your best posts.” For more information on that check out the full article here.

Engagement is an integral part of web 2.0 marketing.  Make sure you utilize it for your own blog.  A blog will need more than great copy if it is going to succeed.  Create forums and allow for commenting on posts so that your consumers can interact with your blog.  Also give them reasons to come back.  Be that an email newsletter or RSS feed or even better both to ensure first time visitors become steady fans.

You have a voice you should put your own brand on it.   Why do all the work for another to benefit? While I have owned the domain for years that this site will one day rest it now rests on WordPress.com’s sub domain.   The truth of the matter is that that I have been giving free traffic to and helping WordPress not my own brand by using a sub domain for years.  Make sure your content is branded on your own URL instead of waiting to optimize with a custom domain after your site gains popularity.

Optimize the Text Content of Your Blog

Text is king when talking about SEO.  The fact of the matter is that while images and other pieces of content like videos can be used for SEO, text is still the primary focus of search engines and therefore very important to success in Internet Marketing.  Therefore words and particularly the right keywords make a difference. Luckily there are a host of tools available to help you with this.  I suggest investing in the pro tools of Seobook.com, and seomoz.org. However they both provide valuable free resources and tools as well.  Google also provides a host of tools that are worth checking out.  These tools can help you to find the right words to use in your posts and which words are trending (Google Trends, Technorati, Yahoo Buzzwords are all great resources for this) to help you chose the right keywords.

The headlines you use is a very important thing to consider when creating your blog.  It is vitally important that you create meaningful headlines when you create a post.  For example imagine you decided to title your blog “Panda Attack” and then hoped to entice readers to learn about the latest update from Google and how the changes affected SEO for many websites.  While the title is clever it includes none of the keywords that would be relevant for people looking for information on the subject such as “Google, Update, or SEO”.  Journalists have long worked hard to craft headlines that tell you all you need to know about the article before you even read it.  In the same way headlines in a SEO optimized blog should have crafted encompassing headlines with relevant keywords.

This might be more relevant to optimizing the structure of a blog but it actually is an important part of both text and structure so is included here.  Make sure you are using keywords relevant to your post not only in your posts but also in the categories and keywords you tag your post with.  If the same sort of consideration of keywords is not taken to the next level and put into the keywords and categories of your blog it will not gain traction with search engines.  Likewise the page titles must also be given the same due consideration.

How Video, Images or Other Media Can Help Optimization

Digital Asset Optimization (DAO) is an increasingly important part of Internet Marketing for SEO.  Blogs are no exception.  By alt tagging images you are letting search engine bots find out what your image is all about.  More importantly you are helping to break up the monotony of your post including additional content.  Again I am aware I am not practicing what I preach in this post but it is important to consider nonetheless.  People often skim posts and blogs are especially subject to slow attention spans.  As you have likely heard “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  Come up with clever ways to include more than your original content in your post.

Video is one of the most important things to focus on for Internet Marketers in my opinion.  Due to the ownership of YouTube by Google and its huge popularity with consumers it is important to consider this and other content-based sites when working on optimization.  YouTube presents a unique opportunity to gain significant link juice if the content that is being linked from had many inbound links.  Comment and comment often on other people’s videos especially if at sometime the content has gone viral.  The site’s link juice that link into the video will channel that to your site if your site is linked to as well from that site.  I am unsure how long that particular trick will work but for now it is a valuable way to help with link building to your site.  Video can be used to establish keywords and link back to your website in what is titled as VSEO.  Likewise video content can be included in your blog in order to help break things up and increase your video channel’s popularity.   A great example would be the SEO rapper.   For more information on him check out a great article in the times by clicking here.

Use Social Media to Enhance Your Blog SEO

Twitter and Facebook are no longer just important ways to leverage PR 2.0 for your business or blog.  The fact is that they are now part of the algorithm that Google and other search engines use to determine what results to show when a search is performed.   These social signals were long considered to be used by search engines but there was not a lot of proof.  SEOmoz.org, however just concluded a large study and the data indicates that not only are social media signals considers they can be one of the most significant factors a search engine considers.  For more on that check out this article on SEOmoz.org by clicking here.  Or for some background information check out the 2011 ranking factors by SEOmoz.org, which can be found here.

Because of the importance of social signals to search engines don’t miss an opportunity to gain popularity for your blog.  You can easily harness the power of social networks simply by doing what we hope you to be doing already.  Keep contributing meaningful content and people will want to share it with others.  However don’t make it hard on them.  Incorporate sharethis.com or other similar tools into the content of your blog.  Make it as easy as possible for consumers to be brand evangelists and share your great content with their friends.  Likewise get inventive with your marketing. Maybe you can provide valuable prizes (white papers, branded schwag, etc…) to people that share your content?   Making sure to connect your blog with your social media accounts is also important as you can at least ensure that your blog posts are exposed to your audience on those networks.

Conclusion

You have learned a lot about SEO optimization for your blog (including what it is) if you have taken the time to read this whole post.  It’s a bit of monster in all honesty but we really have just scratched the surface.  Keep in mind the principles discussed above of text and content optimization as well as the importance of Videos, Images and other content to optimizing your blog.  Likewise keep in mind the importance of social signals in SEO as well when going to do SEO optimization for your blog.  I have also included a variety of resources below if you are interested in reading more on this subject. As always your feedback is highly valued and in light of the subject any link love you want to give to help the SEO optimization of this blog would be greatly appreciated (feel free to link, share, and tweet away).

Links To More Information

http://searchengineland.com/guide/what-is-seo

http://www.seobook.com/bloggers

http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/

http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo/how-search-engines-operate

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/21-tactics-to-increase-blog-traffic

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/8-tips-for-blogger-outreach

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/link-building-tips-for-personal-blogs

http://www.matt-cowan.com/seo-for-blogs/

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2005/08/15/search-engine-optimization-for-blogs/

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/11/24/how-to-optimize-your-blog-for-search-engines/

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/facebook-twitters-influence-google-search-rankings

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/does-google-use-facebook-shares-to-influence-search-rankings

http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors

http://www.slideshare.net/WhatsNextDC/act-9-rand-fishkin-se-omozorg

http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2080030/Aligning-SEO-with-Marketing-A-Plan-for-Success

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/7-predictions-for-seo-in-2011

http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/the-s-e-o-rapper-drops-science-on-search-optimization/

http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/the-s-e-o-rapper-drops-science-on-search-optimization/

Affiliate Marketers Fight Against Texas Legislation That Could Put Them Out Of Business

An interesting article on affiliate marketer’s fight against being put out of business by texas legislation that targets Amazon.com and other e-tailers.    Affiliate marketers will be collateral damage if legislation passes that would impose state sales taxes for e-tailers such as Amazon.com.    Read the article below for more information.

http://www.statesman.com/business/affiliate-marketers-may-be-collateral-damage-in-amazons-1428538.html

Home is where the ad is? – Startup Ad Company Pays Consumer Mortgages to Turn Whole Homes Into Ads

I recently came across an article that blew my mind. Apparently a company called Adzookie (http://www.Adzookie.com)is offering to pay the mortgage for consumers in exchange for the ability to re-paint their whole homes into ads. The company at the time I looked at the article had over 7,000 applicants for very few spots open. What are your thoughts on this? Personally I think this is genius marketing and a very smart PR move for the company. My bet is that it will not only take this mobile advertising company into the black on this venture but also generate a lot of additional business through their primary business of mobile advertising. Very impressed with this venture and the good it will bring to communities. I also think that this might possibly be one of the biggest transmedia opportunities that money can buy! Read more at the article below found on MSN.com’s Real Estate section.

To Apply:
http://www.adzookie.com/paintmyhouse.php

Article:
http://realestate.msn.com/blogs/listedblogpost.aspx?post=ed79c32b-2ecc-4cb7-94c9-bfca06f7727c&GT1=35010