Thursday, May 28, 2009

Freemium?

As most of you know, the Fast Pitch! business model is different than most social networks who rely almost entirely on advertisers to support their operations. In fact, advertising on our network (although quite effective for the few advertisers we've decided to work with) accounts for less than .001% of our annual sales.


Instead, we have decided to run our business as a 'Freemium' business, which gives our users a free account to get started... and the option to upgrade to a higher level of service for a monthly fee. Since launching in July 2006, we've stayed the course and refused to give in to the notion that people will not pay to belong to an online network. Despite pressure from hundreds of 'fly by night' ad supported, free networks popping up everyday, our Freemium model has continued to be successful. Here's a few reasons why:

  1. Paid membership levels create a HEIRARCHY within the community - Paid members have the largest footprint across the network by virtue of a higher ranking across all searches and the ability to make the most connections and grow their network. Combined, these two factors bring more attention to the paid members who eventually become viewed by the network as experts. Over time, members with such an elevated status are presented with more opportunities... and obviously more business.

  2. We Offer VALUE. Quite frankly, we offer a better product that helps you grow your network, market your business... and best of all... saves you money! In many cases, we've commoditized other services you may be paying for a la carte from third-party vendors. For example, to post a press release on other PR websites it can cost as much as $300 per press release... whereas, for as little as $7 per month Fast Pitch! members can post an unlimited number of press releases each month... and do many things with that press release that are not possible without a network (i.e. audience).

    Another example is our email marketing service (3Step Contact) which as part of a $7 per month membership our memebrs receive a full-featured email marketing tool that allows you to create, send and track email newsletters to your existing contacts. For a similar service, many people spend $25 - $200 per month with third-party platforms.

  3. Membership creates ACCOUNTABILITY. People who pay even a nominal amount of money for a service are more likely to use it. Overtime, more paying members creates a more vibrant network which generates a higher response rate for everyone on the network... which leads to a larger, tighter network, and so on. The converse of this is a very large network with millions of inactive profiles and no paying members with no accountability, where messaging among members falls on deaf ears (Twitter anyone?)

Since the summer of 2006, we've stayed true to this Freemium philosophy as the number of paid members on our network continues to grow every month since we launched. Our Freemium model has been so successful that we have turned away countless numbers of advertisers whose product or service had little relevance to our community. In other words,

if your product is not business-related and does not help our members save money and become more efficient, do not bother contacting us about advertising



Bill

Friday, May 15, 2009

Answers 2.0

Last night we completely overhauled our Forums feature and re-launched it as Fast Pitch! Answers. It's something we've talked about doing for about a year... but have continued to put on the back burner until we came up with a way to add a more valuable 'twist' to what the market (and other networks) already offer. We think we've come up with the, well... Answer.
One of the things that has always made Fast Pitch! unique is our layer of intelligence that leverages our users content to make reccomendations about who should be connecting to whom. For example, on our profile our users have the ability to tell the world who they are trying to connect to (ideal customers, ideal partners, etc). Our system uses that information to make an educated recommendation to each member about who they should be connecting to. This maximizes each users time on the network when looking to make new connections.

Similarly, our new Answers feature allows our users to ask business-related questions on the network to capitalize on the collective intelligence of the entire community in order to make more educated decisions involving topics such as technology, finance, law, marketing & sales and more.

What takes our Answers feature to the next level is (once again) our ability to leverage the information found on profiles across the entire network to make recommendations about who might provide you with an Answer... faster. To accomplish this, the network leverages information found on each profile such as location, industry type, company position and more. More importantly, the network examines all of the Tags (Keywords) found on the profiles and within the question being asked. The more Tags added by members... and the more specific the Tags... the more exact the matches will be.

Another really powerful feature is our members ability to see which recommended professionals are online at the very moment the question is being asked. This allows the person asking the question to possibly find an answer in real-time. Or, the person posting the question can take a more passive approach and wait to receive email alerts from Fast Pitch! each time a question gets answered.

Additionally, our algorithm (ranking system) gives our paid subscribers additional visibility by ranking their profiles higher than non-members throughout the section. Ultimately the community will also have the ability to determine which Platinum Members are providing the best Answers overtime through our rating system... which will highlight those members as 'Experts' throughout the system.

For now, every member can ask and answer a question. To gain more visibility within the recommendation box it's a good idea to become a member... and obviously the more time you take answering questions, the more visibility you will receive throughout this section of the network.

To begin leveraging the intelligence of the Fast Pitch! community and/or showcasing your expertise, visit: http://www.fastpitchnetworking.com/forums2

If you have questions... well... visit Answers!


Bill

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fast Pitch! Featured in the Bible

The Social Networking Bible that is...


Yesterday, a UPS driver showed up at our office with a package from publishing company John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Inside the package was a book titled, "The Social Media Bible" which consists of over 800 pages of 'Tactics, Tools & Strategies for Business Success'. In short, the book is an amazing compilation of everything happening in the world of social media and social networking.

Nine months earlier...

I received a call from a gentleman named Lon Safko requesting to interview me for a 'little' project he was working on involving social media. Despite having never heard of Lon, I agreed to the interview. My initial understanding was that he was creating a poor man's 'Social Media for Dummies' type of book, complete with transcribed interviews highlighting various 'experts' within the social media industry. I was to be one of those 'experts'.

At the time, I remember Lon doing an outstanding job with the interview. His ability to convey a genuine interest in my responses made for a thought-provoking conversation that gave me the freedom to offer additional insights that went way beyond the originial question.

Fast-Forward nine months, 40 interviews and thousands of hours of writing later... The Social Media Bible is now a reality. Boy was my perception way off... It's 'Social Media for Dummies' on steroids.

Now that I've seen the finished product, I can't thank Lon enough for including Fast Pitch! in the project. It's truly an honor to be one of only 11 other social networks Lon and his team profiled throughout the 800 pages of information. Additionally, I'm personally appreciative for the opportunity to be one of 40 'Experts' featured alongside some 'heavy hitters' in the industry including: Vint Cerf (Founding Father of the Inernet), Jimmy Wales (Founder, Wikipedia), Biz Stone (Founder, Twitter), Robert Scoble, and others...

It's also great to see Fast Pitch! take center stage alongside billion dollar media darlings like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo.

For anyone interested in learning more about this evolving, fast-paced industry, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of the book online or at your local Barnes and Noble or Borders. The book is incredibly thorough, very well-organized and loaded with tips and tactics everyone in business should be aware of. Your ROI on your investment in this book (it's only $29.95) is guaranteed to be high.

Oh... and be sure to check out the 12 pages featuring Fast Pitch!

Bill