Thursday, July 24, 2008

Networks Within a Network

I'm becoming more and more excited about our 'Search By Networks' directory every passing day.

In case you don't already know, 'Networks' is something we built within Fast Pitch! a few months ago with the intent of it becoming the largest searchable online directory of associations in the world. The initial benefit of building this comprehensive directory of chambers of commerce, leads groups, and non-profits within our social network are two-fold:
  1. The directory allows our members the ability to showcase their membership within other networks on both their profile and the respective organizations page.

  2. The directory gives other networks the ability to promote their organization directly to Fast Pitch! members within our network.

I'll explain these benefits in more detail...

Benefit #1: Our Members

As members update their profile, they now have the ability to quickly add over 5,000 different business organizations, chambers of commerce, networks, leads groups, non-profits, etc... to their profile (note: members can also manually add organizations to their profile not found in our directory - which will eventually be added to the directory for others to choose from).

So for example, I can now quickly showcase my membership within say, LinkedIn, The Orlando Chamber of Commerce, BNI, and The United Way with a few simple clicks. As people visit my profile, they will quickly become aware of my involvement with these organizations which in turn, may become the catalyst for conversation... and ultimately doing business.

Organizations added to profiles are then hyperlinked directly to their respective network page within the overall directory. These individual network pages showcase all of the Fast Pitch! members who have added the organization to their profile, as well as a brief description of the organization, the URL, and in some cases an RSS feed that displays all of the organizations latest news.

Adding affiliations to profiles is another great opportunity for Fast Pitch! members to grow their footprint across the Internet by showcasing themselves not only within Fast Pitch!, but more importantly to anyone outside of Fast Pitch! who comes across the directory when searching Google, Yahoo! and other search engines. By adding affiliations to their profiles, Fast Pitch! members create yet another opportunity for people to find them. Again, it's all about content.

Lastly, the directory allows Fast Pitch! members who are part of very large organizations an opportunity to quickly interact with members who they otherwise may have never become aware of. Many leads groups for example, are locally based. Many people within these groups who do business beyond their region often find it beneficial to be able to network with other people who are part of the same leads groups, but reside elsewhere. The network directory enhances the line of communication by showcasing everyone within that particular organization.

Benefit #2: The Networks

The directory is an awesome recruiting & marketing tool for the associations themselves. Most networking organizations and non-profits are in constant 'recruitment mode', always looking for a cost-effective way to increase membership. The directory offers each of them a free opportunity for visibility to a highly engaged audience of professionals AND people who are searching for their type of organization on Google, Yahoo!, etc.

Within the directory, the 'cream rises to the top'. Those organizations that have the most Fast Pitch! members are featured within our search results and therefore receive more exposure and subsequently receive more traffic and more opportunity to promote their organization. It's a win-win for everyone involved.

As 'Networks' continues to grow and evolve, look for us to make the directory even more interactive by giving members within each organization the ability to communicate with one another in a variety of ways.

Stay tuned!

Bill

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fastbook?

Last week we rolled out our Facebook Application. The app allows our members the ability to promote their business and professional connections within the Facebook website without interfering with the inherently social theme of their Facebook profile. The decision to create the application was two-fold: 1). There has never been an easy way to promote your business on Facebook 2). None of the other online business networks quite frankly, have made the effort.

The Fast Pitch! - Facebook application gives our members the ability to not only link directly to their Fast Pitch! Profile, but also showcases all of their Fast Pitch! connections, press releases, micro blog feeds (i.e. Twitter) and more... all without having to leave the Facebook website. The primary obective of this initial version of the application is to give our members an effective way to...

leverage their personal network to help them grow their professional network

As most of you who read my blog on a regular basis know, I've been skeptical of using Facebook for promoting business. From day one, the Facebook experience has been designed as a social utility as evidenced by 99.99% of the successful applications being used throughout the network (bumper stickers, poking, photo sharing, etc...). Professionals need to be extra careful about who they connect to, what type of dialogue they are having, and what type of applications they download. The slightest mistake can have far reaching consequences for your business and your overall brand.
Because of this, the Fast Pitch! application has been designed (to this point), as a "one-way street". By this I mean, members of Fast Pitch! who have a Facebook Profile can promote their Fast Pitch! Profile on Facebook. However, Fast Pitch! will not highlight a members Facebook profile on their Fast Pitch! Profile. Our assumption is that most people in business will want to continue to shield their social life from their business life, but not neccessarily vice versa. In the future, we will most likely give our members the option.
Without an official launch or announcement (this is the announcement)... The Fast Pitch! - Facebook application has already been declared a success.
The application has already been installed by nearly 500 members in less than one week!

... and it was quickly accepted by Facebook as a featured application within 72 hours.
Our hope is to continue to grow the application and explore additional ways in which we can leverage the Facebook community and offer non-Fast Pitch! members an outlet to express their professional side without abandoning all of the fun!


Good Luck!

Bill


Monday, July 07, 2008

Fast Pitch! Perdido No Más En La Traducción

¡Después de atestiguar un aumento reciente en el número de miembros que venían de en ultramar (el casi 10% de nuestros usuarios totales), decidíamos que era finalmente hora de globalizar Fast Pitch! Fase 1 de nuestros esfuerzos de la globalización incluidos: 1) Traducción 2) Navegación 3). Búsqueda

Terminamos la fase 1 de un día.

Para comenzar el proceso, nosotros software integrado en nuestra plataforma que permite que los miembros traduzcan rápidamente cada aspecto del Web site a siete diversas idiomas: Chino inglés, alemán, español, portugués, italiano, simplificado, y chino tradicional. La traducción no sólo incluye toda la navegación en el Web site, pero más importantemente todo el contenido dinámico proporcionado por nuestros miembros incluyendo sus perfiles individuales, comunicados de prensa, y más. La meta es mejorar la experiencia para los usuarios fuera de los E.E.U.U. haciendo el contenido más comprensible.

Las segundas y terceras áreas que mejoramos eran el proceso inicial del sign-in y las capacidades de la búsqueda. Antes de la traducción de ofrecimiento, han forzado a los usuarios de otros países a crear un perfil en inglés y por abandono los perfiles de búsqueda basados en los Estados Unidos. No prohibiendo a usuarios la capacidad ahora de elegir su lengua preferida antes de crear un perfil, el proceso realmente de crear el perfil (el `que hace su pitch') es un agradable ahora más significativo y más más probable.

Una vez que se termina un nuevo perfil, la red entera después omite su lengua preferida a menos que por alguna razón quisieran leer el Web site en otra lengua, en este caso pueden accionar la palanca fácilmente entre las siete diversas idiomas.

Al buscar el Web site, las búsquedas del defecto ahora corresponden directamente al país un usuario seleccionado al crear su perfil (es decir donde hacen negocio). Omitiendo su localización primaria del negocio, la experiencia total del establecimiento de una red es mucho más significativa ahora como la mayoría del negocio se hace localmente. ¡Tan por ejemplo, cuando un miembro de Alemania chasca encendido la lengüeta de Search del `, todos los resultados iniciales de la búsqueda son perfiles de la Fast Pitch! miembros que hacen negocio en ciudades dentro de Alemania algo que los E.E.U.U.

Además, nuestra búsqueda del `por la lengüeta de City' se ha mejorado para hacer buscando para Networkers superior mucho más fácil. Por ejemplo, cuando un miembro en Roma, Italia visita la búsqueda del `por la lengüeta de City', una representación visual de todo nuestro Networkers superior dentro de Roma se exhibe (Networkers superior es la gente que tiene las redes más grandes y es el más activo dentro de nuestro Web site). Además, el miembro puede ver rápidamente Networkers superior dentro de otras ciudades más grandes en Italia con un tecleo simple. ¡Para Fast Pitch! los miembros que viajan a otras partes del mundo y que miran para hacer conexiones con la gente altamente conectada, esta característica son una gran manera de hacer incursiones.

Hasta la fecha, nuestros programadores tienen cerca de diez otros países grandes hard-coded y cincuenta ciudades más grandes en el `buscan por la sección de City'. Pasado, otra área donde hemos comenzado a llevar a cabo mejoras está con nuestra búsqueda del `al lado de la sección de Network' (el directorio en línea más grande del mundo de asociaciones, de afiliaciones, del etc.). Actualmente, los 95% de las asociaciones enumeradas dentro de nuestra base de datos son los E.E.U.U. basados. ¡Nuestro plan es agregar por lo menos 1.000 nuevas asociaciones a partir en ultramar adentro de los meses que vienen, dando a miembros de de ultramar otra manera de promoverse (y a sus grupos) dentro de Fast Pitch!


Obviamente, todavía tenemos cierto trabajo a hacer para integrar completamente la traducción en nuestra plataforma. ¡Nuestro paso siguiente será dar a cada miembro la capacidad de seleccionar una lengua preferida para todos los tipos de comunicación que vienen de Fast Pitch! Por ejemplo, todos nuestros email automatizados así como los boletines de noticias y las ofertas promocionales continúan siendo escritos en inglés. Nuestro objetivo último es crear una experiencia modificada para requisitos particulares para cada usuario, sin importar preferencia de la lengua y el país de origen.

Nos excitan sobre las posibilidades. ¡Hora de sacar el polvo apagado de mi pasaporte!
Bill


Blog Post in English:

Fast Pitch! No Longer Lost In Translation

After witnessing a recent increase in the number of members coming from overseas (almost 10% of our overall users), we decided it was finally time to globalize Fast Pitch! Phase 1 of our globalization efforts included: 1) Translation 2) Navigation 3) Search.

We completed Phase 1 in one day.

To begin the process, we integrated software into our platform that allows members to quickly translate every aspect of the website into seven different languages: English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. The translation not only includes all of the navigation throughout the website, but more importantly all of the dynamic content provided by our members including their individual profiles, press releases, and more. The goal is to improve the experience for users outside the U.S by making the content more understandable.

The second and third areas we improved were the initial sign-in process and searching capabilities. Prior to offering translation, users from other countries have been forced to create a profile in English and search profiles based in the United States unless they chose otherwise. By allowing users the ability to now choose their preferred language prior to creating a profile, the process of actually creating the profile (‘making their pitch’) is now more meaningful and most likely enjoyable.

Once a new profile is completed, the entire network now defaults to the preferred language unless for some reason they would like to read the website in another language, in which case they can easily toggle between the seven different languages.

When searching the website, searches now correspond directly to the country a user selected when creating their profile (i.e. where they do business). By defaulting to their primary location of business, the overall networking experience is more relevant as most business is done locally. So for example, when a member from Germany clicks on the ‘Search’ tab, all of the initial search results are profiles of Fast Pitch! members doing business in cities within Germany rather than the U.S.

Additionally, our ‘Search By City’ tab has been improved to make searching for Top Networkers much easier. For example, when a member in Rome, Italy visits the ‘Search By City’ tab, a visual representation of all of our Top Networkers within Rome are displayed (Top Networkers’ are people who have the largest networks and are the most active within our website). Additionally, the member can quickly view Top Networkers within other larger cities throughout Italy with a simple click. For Fast Pitch! members travelling to other parts of the world and looking to make connections with highly connected people, this feature is a great way to make in-roads.

To date, our programmers have hard-coded about ten other large countries and fifty largest cities into the ‘Search By City’ section.

Lastly, another area where we’ve started making improvements is with our ‘Search By Network’ section (the world’s largest online directory of associations, affiliations, etc.). Currently, 95% of the associations listed within our database are U.S. based. Our plan is to add at least 1,000 new associations from overseas in the coming months, giving members from overseas another way to promote themselves (and their groups) within Fast Pitch!

Admittedly, we still have some work to do to fully integrate translation into our platform. Our next step will be to give each member the ability to select a preferred language for all types of communication coming from Fast Pitch! For example, all of our automated emails as well as newsletters and promotional offers continue to be written in English. Our ultimate goal is to create a customized experience for every user, regardless of language preference and country of origin.

We’re excited about the possibilities. Time to dust off my passport!

Bill

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

New Feature Announcement

Bill Jula says - Fast Pitch! just launched a new micro-blogging feature that lets you send short messages to your network to keep them up to date on what you are doing - at 10:50 AM EST. 6/25/2008


Good Luck!

Bill