Monday, February 25, 2008

Fast Pitch! Mobile - Who Cares?

Fast Pitch! Mobile ???

Now I’ll be honest, I’ve never really felt the need to promote Fast Pitch! as a mobile application (yet) partly because I see very little reason for people to want to access Fast Pitch! from their phone. I mean, let’s be serious… how many of you have the urgency to access your Fast Pitch! account while 'on the go'? My guess is .0001% of you.

Conecptually, is it a cool idea? Sure.
Is it practical? Not Really.

So, what’s the big deal about other larger networks' mobile applications?

Absolutely nothing.

Here's what you can (or can't) do with current mobile apps on some of the larger networks:

  1. Access Your Profile (Note: you cannot edit your profile)
  2. Access Your Contacts (Note: you cannot communicate with your contacts).
  3. Search Profiles (Note: you cannot invite new contacts to connect).
  4. International Language Support (You can read profiles in Spanish, German, English and French)
  5. Invite new friends to Join.

    (Click Image to Enlarge)

I especially like #5. If you read between the lines, some of the larger networks allow you to use their mobile application to in essence, SPAM your friends… but when it comes to actually networking and communicating with people already on their network, that’s currently a no-no. So in other words, current mobile applications have very little to do with adding value to your business… but instead has more to do with making it easier for you to help the larger networks grow their business. Like Charles Barkley said, “I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It.”

After reading through all the hype I decided to take a closer look at the current Fast Pitch! mobile experience from the perspective of a Fast Pitch! user... keeping in mind the fact that we’ve never really taken mobile devices into consideration when updating the website.

Surprisingly, the Fast Pitch! mobile experience was relatively useful!

Here’s a summary of what I found:

Our navigation sets up real well on the Blackberry Curve and the iPhone. Our header, tabs and icons let our users quickly access every single Fast Pitch! feature available on the website (with the exception of our new LIVE CHAT). Not only can you update and edit your profile (including your resume) but you can also send messages to other members, invite other members to join a group, check your inbox, accept or decline invitations and more. In fact, our users can also post press from their mobile phone, promote an event, upload photos, embed videos, post classifieds and even upgrade their membership directly from the mobile device. Oh… and if you want to invite your friends to get them to join Fast Pitch! – knock yourself out.

Now, I’ll be brutally honest… would I personally do any of this from my Blackberry? Probably not. Unless The Drudge Report, Tech Crunch and CNN all go down at the same time and I’m left with nothing else to do, I might access my Fast Pitch! account. Otherwise, I'll probably just wait until I am back in front of my computer.

Don't let my negativity mislead you... I'm actually as intrigued as anyone about the future of mobile applications. For example, once the major wireless carriers begin to allow social networks the ability to integrate GPS systems into their platforms, you'll start to see social (business) networks like Fast Pitch! play a crucial role in transforming networking as we know it. Many networks will be able to facilitate impromptu face-to-face meetings based on geography and shared interests. (see my previous post Fast Pitch! 2010).

Until then, who cares?

Bill

Friday, February 15, 2008

Stimulating The Economy

Lately, I've been doing some extra reading about the economy and it appears to me that those of us doing business in the United States are doing so in the midst of a recession . By all accounts, almost every leading indicator is trending downward to 1991 recession levels. As of last week, Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody's Economy.com, says in the near term "the probability that the U.S. will go into recession or is already in one is greater than 50%." As a small business owner whose customers are predominantly small business owners themselves, I am particularly interested in what this means for all of us.

According to the latest NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) Small Business Economic Trends Report (Feb 2008) most of you are 'nervous' about where we're headed. Here are some recent findings:

  • Small Business Optimism fell 2.8 points to it's lowest levels since 1991.

  • A Net Negative 22% of small business owners expect conditions to improve within the next 6 months.

  • The percentage of small business owners citing inflation as their #1 problem doubled since November 2007.

  • The percent of small business owners who reported earning gains in 2007 is down 7 points since Decemeber 2007.
















In addition to these results, if we take a step back and take a macro view of the U.S. economy we can also see where we things are headed...

  • The Feds Fund Rate has dropped significantly over the past few months. The falling rate demonstrates increased pessimism about the performance of the economy.

  • Moody's Survey of Business Confidence is slightly above 10%. This survey foreshadows future hiring and investment.

  • ABC/Washington Post Survey of Consumer Confidence is down 30 points since 2007.









Combine these indicators with the worst housing crisis the U.S. has ever faced, the de-valuation of the dollar, out of control deficits and skyrocketing energy costs and well... you get the picture.

Now I'll be honest, despite all of the negative sentiment and cold-hard facts about recession there has been one bright spot in the economy...

Fast Pitch!


During these difficult times, Fast Pitch! has continued to add more users and more subscribers every month since we launched in October 2006.

You're probably asking yourself... "How is this possible?"

Well, I would like to believe it's a direct result of our hard work and great technology, however I think that may explain only part of the story. Here's my theory:

As budgets tighten, small business owners seek out more creative and cost-effective ways to market themselves.

Think about it, almost every other form of marketing has become too costly for most small business owners. Competition from the Internet has forced print media, radio and television to alienate most small businesses by doubling their rates to off-set a declining number of potential advertisers. Even traditional forms of networking (chambers of commerce events, leads clubs, tradeshows, etc...) begin to lose their ROI as the costs (e.g. gas) of simply attending these events combined with their demand on people's time are called into question. Hence the reason why Fast Pitch! continues to grow.

No other form of marketing can match the ROI offered by participating in an online business network like Fast Pitch!

Where else can you meet hundreds of targeted customers, establish your footprint across the Internet, and increase your overall brand awareness... all from the comfort of your own office for the price of 2 cups of coffee per month?

In the spirit of these tough times, we recently decided to do our small part to stimulate the economy by reducing our membership rates by nearly 50%. Hopefully our lower rates will allow more small business owners the opportunity to meet new people, enhance their visibility across the Internet and ultimately generate more business. One could even argue that the 'Fast Pitch! Stiumlus Package', which saves businesses about $400 per year in marketing costs, does more for the economy than giving households $600 to spend at Wal-Mart. :)

The cost to become a Premium Member is now only $9 per month. At $9 per month, Fast Pitch! now offers the least expensive membership package of any other online business network in the U.S. (And... we continue to offer more features). We also reduced the cost of our Platinum Membership by 45% (now only $27 per month). Now more than ever is a great time to consider taking advantage of all of our features. I'm confident you will not find a more effective way to market your business for the price.

To learn more about upgrading your membership and making Fast Pitch! an integral part of your marketing plan for 2008 visit: http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com/upgrade.cfm



Bill



Monday, February 04, 2008

Make Your Pitch - LIVE!

Last week we attended and sponsored the Social Networking Conference in Miami. The event was attended by over 600 people involved in the social networking industry. Business owners and thought leaders within the industry converged on South Beach to discuss the latest trends, websites, and technology within Social Media. Like most conferences, the event's agenda was comprised of the usual exhibit hall, panel discussions and workshops. All in all, the event was as advertised. However...

What intrigued me most about the conference was the networking that took place prior to the actual event.

A couple of weeks before the event, the conference hosted what they described as a "virtual tradeshow" whereby all of the event sponsors were invited to create a profile and login to their account between 9-5 EST to take part in LIVE CHAT sessions with other attendees. Throughout the day there were as many as 50 people logged in taking part in the chat. I myself took part in about 15 discussions. It was pretty effective and got me thinking...

We've been discussing the possibility of adding LIVE CHAT to Fast Pitch! for some time now. LIVE CHAT would give our members the ability to have real-time chat sessions with other members while searching the site. I've even dicussed the idea of embedding streaming video into the feature to allow people to have live video conversations and enhance their ability to communicate even further. As usual, we took no time in making our dream a reality.


Within two days of returning from Miami we integrated a fully functional chat feature into our website and officially went live today!

We decided to roll out the feature using Userplane's Webmessenger 2 software. The software communicates with our website in real-time by allowing members to 'See Who is Online' based on their activity. The software also provides the ability for members to use rich text, voice and video IM communication tools. In short, it allows our members to actually network! Cool stuff.

For now, any of our members can visit the 'LIVE CHAT' page on Fast Pitch! and see 'Who's Chatting'. I encourage everyone to strike up a few conversations with other people and test out the live video feature by enabling the 'send a/v' feature on the chat window.

Who knows, maybe we'll even launch our own virtual tradeshows in the coming weeks.
Stay tuned...

Bill