Thursday, September 22, 2011

0.000675%

Back in January 2011 I wrote a follow-up to my original post in August 2010 describing how anemic LinkedIn's Facebook Fan Page 'Likes' stats were, especially given their claim of 75 Million members. At the time, only 30,000 people (out of 75 Million) took the time (1 second) to 'Like' the company on the world's largest social network. A statistical improbability given the nature of their business (social media) and the industry standard ratio of 4-10% (Likes vs. Users). LinkedIn's ratio is currently .000675%. That's 6 ten-thousandths of one percent...

Is it me, or is something not adding up?
Fast forward 9 months, the company continues to claim ridiculous growth rates (1 million new members per week) for a total of 120 Million users worldwide. Yet, months after the pre and post IPO hype machine and 50 million new users, LinkedIn's total 'Like's' increased by only 50,000 for a total of 81,000. To put this number in perspective, LinkedIn's Likeability rests somewhere between that asshole Spencer Pratt (voted one of the top 5 most hated people in America) and British Petroleum.
To me, this can only mean one of two things.
  1. LinkedIn isn't giving their users anything to 'Like'
  2. LinkedIn isn't being honest about how many users they really have.
Check out these comparisons of LinkedIn vs. other leading Internet properties:
LinkedIn = 81,000 'Likes' (0.000675% 'Like' ratio)
  • Google = 4 Million Likes
  • Twitter = 4 Million Likes (200 Million users = 2% 'Like' ratio)
  • Foursquare = 700,000 Likes (10 Million users = 7% 'Like' ratio)
  • Google+ = 200,000 Likes already (launched in July 2011)
  • Groupon = 1.5 Million Likes
Believe what you want... but one things for certain... there's apparently not much to 'Like' about LInKEdIn. :)
Bill

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Playin' Hooky

Today I kept my oldest son home from school to give him a little break from his daily grind. Between the everyday football and baseball practices in 90 degree heat and hours of homework... I could see it in his eyes when he woke up this morning that it was as good a time as any to play some hooky. So, like any other concerned parent I did what was best for him. I brought him into the Fast Pitch office and put him to work!
Armed with a Canon Eos and a laptop, his job this morning was to take pictures of our office and share them with the world via our blog. S0 here it is... Fast Pitch headquarters at 9AM as seen through the lense of an 11-year old.

Bill

Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Change Is Gonna Come

Thank you to everyone who took part in our customer feedback survey last week. Your voice has been heard! Here's a sneak peak at some of the changes we're making to Fast Pitch in the coming days.
Stay tuned...
Bill

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pro's vs. Joe's

Earlier this week I decided to change the name of our upgraded membership level from Platinum to PRO+. Over the years, I've always wanted to integrate more sports themes into our marketing. With a name like Fast Pitch there are literally hundreds of directions we can go with sports themed marketing. However, I've always been hesitant for fear of confusing our members (not everyone watches baseball or softball and knows the lingo). Plus, it's hard enough educating our members on all of the new social media / web 2.0 phrases being tossed around anyway. There's no sense in adding another layer of confusion to the thought process, right?


The decision to use a sports theme for our upgraded level of membership is two-fold:
  1. PRO is about as powerful a term as there is to describe someone's role in a profession. Whether it's describing a career in sports or a person selling insurance, we all want to be considered a pro, right?
  2. The opposite of being a Pro is being an Average 'Joe'. This is a perfect yet subtle way to differentiate between members who are serious about Fast Pitch and those who perhaps aren't.
So, PRO+ it is...
For those of you not familiar, the PRO+ membership is now our only upgraded level of membership. If you're not a PRO+ member, you are what we call a 'Basic' member. Basic members cannot access any of our premium features and they receive minimal exposure across the network.
About 25% of our total membership population have become PRO+ members at one time or another. PRO+ members typically spend far more time using the network (obviously) and connecting to one another. So much so that they've become their own community within the community... reaping all of the benefits of the increased exposure and opportunity provided with PRO+ membership.
There's competition happening on our network. It's Pro's vs. Joe's... and much like the t.v. show, the Pro's are winning.
Bill

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Evolution of Fast Pitch

As mentioned in a prior post, Fast Pitch is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. Technically however, what most people don't realize is that Fast Pitch is also closing in on it's 8th birthday in September. Wait... What?
Prior to becoming an online social network, Fast Pitch was a sole-proprietorship (owned by yours truly). For nearly three years I hosted and promoted networking events around the country from 2003 - 2006. Then, after becoming burned out with the event business and facilitating events for close to 10,000 people from Miami to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, Fast Pitch changed directions and became what it is today... an online social network for small business professionals.
On behalf of the 5th (and upcoming 8th) birthdays, I thought I'd take a stroll back in time and post some screen shots that demonstrate the evolution of the Fast Pitch homepage over these eight years. Enjoy.

(October 2003 - Fast Pitch announces the first of 200+ networking events from 2003-2005. Unfortunately, many of the images on the archived page no longer exist)

(January 2006 - Fast Pitch begins offering online networking events using a proprietary web based system to host and manage events remotely. These events spawn the birth of the Fast Pitch Profile).

(March 2006 - Fast Pitch begins to use the profile to help people be found on Google)

(June 2006 - The Fast Pitch Online Business Network goes Live! Members can now connect to one another and post a variety of content to their profile.)

(December 2006 - A newer version of our logo makes it's first appearance)

(June 2007 - We're growing and adding more features)

(June 2008 - A new logo and a more serious layout)

(December 2008 - The homepage begins to take the shape of today's Fast Pitch)

(January 2010 - Present)


Bill

Friday, July 22, 2011

LinkedOut?

BREAKING NEWS: CEO at over-valued social network attacks competitors social network.
Did anyone else see the comment made by LinkedIn CEO, Jeffrey Weiner earlier this week when asked about the potential of Google+? If you missed it, here was his answer:
"Nobody has any free time. Unlike social platforms and TV, which can coexist, you don't see people using Twitter while they're using Facebook, or using Facebook while they're using LinkedIn. Now you introduce Google+... where am I going to spend that next minute or hour of my discretionary time? I have no more time."
Wow. Sounds like someone struck a nerve! I'm guessing this is why...
Google+ is about to put a serious dent in LinkedIn's over-valued, under-used professional network.
LinkedIn has bet its future on eyeballs (i.e. selling ads). If impressions and engagement time per user on LinkedIn decline as a result of people becoming more interested in Google+ (regardless of whether that interest is social or business)... LinkedIn's ad revenues will decline... followed eventually by their overpriced stock. The potential stickiness of Google+ directly impacts LinkedIn's ad supported business model by becoming a one-stop-shop (which already includes business tools such as Gmail, Google Docs, Calendar, Maps, Places, Picassa, etc...).
Now, in Weiner's defense what he did say is factually correct. People's discretionary time is becoming more and more limited when it comes to using social networks. Additionally, from a business perspective I personally believe that people are beginning to question the value of networks that over promise and under-deliver (How many of you have actually gotten results from using LinkedIn? What about Facebook Ads?). Bottom line, in the world of professional (social) networking... if you can't deliver tangible results, people will move on. LinkedIn in my opinion, has made the mistake of failing to add value to their platform for the average user.
I personally think Google+ has Facebook in its cross-hairs... but does anyone think that LinkedIn isn't in that scope as well? How long will it take for Google+ to add a simple resume feature, making LinkedIn all but irrelevant at some point. My guess is about 10 minutes of coding time. That's how long it took us. :)
Don't get me wrong, as the owner of a professional network myself, I understand where Weiner is coming from. The success of Google+ can also be seen as an indictment of Fast Pitch. However, I can honestly say I'm not nearly as insecure about the prospects of Google+ becoming a Fast Pitch killer. For one, I'm already battle tested. We've been fighting this 'discretionary time' fight with Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace for nearly five years now. And guess what... "I'm still standing, huh!" (in my best Tony Montana voice). Come to think of it, didn't we outlast Myspace?
Part of the reason I'm confident in Fast Pitch is that we've always positioned ourselves differently than other networks. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone... We're a tool that focuses on a niche market that compliments those other networks. For example:
1. People You Know vs. People You Don't Know
By tapping into their existing user base of 300M Gmail users, the majority of the connections being made on Google+ are with people you already know (people you've already communicated with inside of Gmail). This is a clear difference from the Fast Pitch approach where the focus is all about connecting you to people you do not already know. For small business owners who are interested in generating targeted, localized leads by connecting to other small business owners in specific industries, etc... Fast Pitch is the 'community' for doing this.
2. Creating Content vs. Sharing Content
Google+ does a nice job of allowing you to quickly share content from other sources. However, Google+ doesn't necessarily give you a platform for creating original content. One of the ways Fast Pitch will continue to attract users is with our intuitive press release feature - that allows you to create your own highly professional press release (for free) which can then be shared with other audiences on platforms like Google+!
3. Spam vs. Email Marketing
Have you ever tried to send more than 500 messages per day using Gmail? You can't. I'm guessing Google+ will be no different. Fast Pitch provides an alternative option (Fast Pitch MAIL) - a tool that allows our members to do large scale email marketing. Email Marketing is critical for small businesses. Google could care less.
4. One Size Fits All vs. Niche
Have you ever tried using LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook to search for other small business owners in your area who are interested in networking? It's not easy. Fast Pitch is a niche professional network designed by small business owners for small business owners. For most small business owners, one size doesn't fit all.
4. Professional SEO
We're very good at getting ALL of your professional content (profile, press, etc.) ranked high on Google... and we do it entirely in a business context. When people come across your press release, it links to your professional profile on Fast Pitch, which links to your blog, your other press, etc... People have no other choice than to form a more serious opinion about you. With Google+, my guess is that your public profile will be what it is... a combination of social vs. business. Which isn't always a good thing.
In short, LinkedIn's problem going forward is that they took their eye off the ball and stopped innovating around 2008. Beyond the functionality they offer for recruitment (who's hiring?), they've given the average user very little reason to spend significant time on their network. Particularly the amount of time it takes to convince major advertisers to spend the kind of dollars LinkedIn investors require for the stock price to continue to go up.
When you add it all up, Weiner has plenty of reason to be insecure. Or maybe he's just having a bad week because one of his underwriters just downgraded his stock.

Bill

Thursday, July 21, 2011

1 Million Emails!

Today, our new Fast Pitch MAIL tool delivered it's 1 millionth email. That's an impressive milestone considering we just went live with the feature a little over 1 month ago. Currently Fast Pitch MAIL has a few hundred Fast Pitch members actively using the tool - which allows you to Create, Send and Track your own email marketing campaigns for free as part of your Platinum Membership on Fast Pitch.
The response to the product from members has been nothing short of positive. Below are some of the testimonials we've already received:
  1. "Fast Pitch MAIL is a very intuitive product even for new email marketers like myself."

  2. "Fast Pitch MAIL is free with my membership? Time to cancel my account with ____Contact!"

  3. "The support team did a great job helping me create my first campaign. Everything from importing my lists to creating my newsletter template."
Now what will be really cool is... 1 Billion Emails!
Muahahahahahah!
Bill