Last week I was pleased to be part of the launch of a new website: Osmosus.com. Osmosus is a social network where people can interact on their journey to sustainability.
A couple of cool things about Osmosus:
- Personal "Green Space" where you can state your "green creed", blog, track events and connect with others.
- There is an intricate carbon footprint calculator where you can put in your current lifestyle which will calculate your carbon emissions. You can then model a number of different scenarios for reducing them.
- Osmosus has a news centre which collects enviro and sustainability-related news into one place.
For the launch, Osmosus has partnered with the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. For every new member, they are donating $1 (up to $10,000) towards planting a new orchard in a metropolitan area.
Social Media Activities for Launch
I thought I'd capture what we did here for launch - for those of you who have similar situations coming up.
Personal Message to Beta Testers: we had a small group of folks who helped us test various aspects of Osmosus prior to launch. We sent out a note to them a few days prior, letting them know what was happening and trying to keep them in the loop about development and communication activities. This kind of personal touch is important. Your early adopters and beta testers are so valuable and their perspective becomes even more so over the long-haul. You want folks who were there in the beginning. Hunch.com just launched (congrats!) and one of the things that they are doing on user profiles is giving early members a special badge to commemorate their early contributions. Great community fostering, IMHO.
Blog: Doran (the founder of Osmosus) started a blog to keep folks up to date on what's happening at Osmosus, particularly from a development perspective. As we go forward, I hope we can evolve this into more of a team effort (similar to what happens over at FreshBooks' blog - possibly my fav web product blog, though MOO's blog is a close second) as well as a place where we can showcase the great ideas and activities of community members (one of the reasons I love MOO's blog - they do this so well!!)
Social Media Release: We used PitchEngine to issue a social media release. This isn't the first time I've used an SMR; I'm a big fan of the SMR. Of course, it's ideal if you have your own social-media enabled newsroom for long-term hosting of releases and announcements, but for organizations who don't, or just to get some additional coverage/SEO love, I think an SMR is a good idea. I like PitchEngine; I don't LOVE PitchEngine. The price is right (free to start and then there are monthly fees if you want to archive your releases or have a full-blown branded newsroom). The tool is solid; it's based on one of the initial drafts of an SMR done by Tod Defren and they now have Brian Solis on their advisory board which is a good thing. However, the one thing I do find frustrating is that because they have a free option, there are people who use the service not for news releases or launches, but to broadcast their blog posts. I've found a number of folks who use it this way - which of course dilutes the whole product. I'm hoping they find a way to prevent this, or, offer paying customers some additional options to set their releases apart.
Oh, if you're interested in the whole SMR thing, I pulled together a set of SMR resources that I've found helpful in explaining to clients and others what the deal is.
Twitter Account: As you can imagine, Twittering is essential. We started the Osmosus account well before launch and began slowly adding followers. I believe Twitter relationships should be a slow build. Twitter is this paradoxical hybrid of broadcast media and one-on-one trustpoints. So we're doing a combination of broadcast Tweets (mainly informational around sustainability and other eco-news, with a few (certainly not exclusively) links into Osmosus), retweets of great stuff our followees tweet about and a few personal notes. There are two of us tweeting right now - we self-identify on each tweet. As more Osmosus team members engage, this will grow - but still with an eye for managed growth.
Blogger Outreach: Following "go live" we started an outreach program to bloggers whom we thought would be interested in Osmosus - not so much from a "please write about it" perspective (which is always nice), but from a "you think a lot about sustainability, here is a new community that you might find compelling". I'm not going to lie to you - writing a good pitch to bloggers is hard. I know it is - 95% of the ones I get are poor. But to balance short, informational, flattering, and intriguing - along with actually getting your message in there - tough. Big shout out to Alexa (yes, THAT Alexa) who is leading the blogger relations program for Osmosus.
One of the reasons that we're excited to have Alexa as our point person for bloggers because she is an avid blogger and tweeter herself. Her thoughts on blogger relations ring true because she has been on the receiving end of so many pitches good and bad.
Facebook Page: Osmosus has had a Facebook page for quite a while. With launch approaching, we added a few things to the page and are continuing to add them now. In Osmosus' case, I see Facebook serving us well from an awareness perspective: through the network effect (a friend becomes a fan and that appears in my news feed), the new functionality of pages inserting items into news feeds and general search engine friendliness.
YouTube Channel: Doran and his team made a video overview of Osmosus - not from a detailed functionality perspective, but the overall mission and idea behind the site. We've put this video on YouTube and created an Osmosus channel with future plans to host tutorial videos there (e.g. around how to use the carbon footprint tool). I think there is a real opportunity to connect with individuals who are creating enviro/sustainable content as well as curate some of that content into useful playlists. This is a relatively new area for me personally as a social media marketer, but the power of video is self-evident and it's important to participate in this aspect of the community.
BuildDirect is a company that has impressed me with their foray into video content. Their channel is a combination of how-to's around their products like laminate flooring as well as fun, engaging content like their recent "Watch Us Wreck a Floor" series. (Disclosure: Yes, BuildDirect is a client of mine - but I had very little to do with their video program; they have really embraced the video medium and a good example of using it for both community building and self-promotion). Medium term - Osmosus has some plans for a similar mix of content. Watch for The Scooter Files coming soon to an embedded video player near you!
The Evolution of Osmosus.com
I find "launches" difficult. And not just because I think that "launch" is a process rather than event. But from a development perspective, the product is never perfect. Ever. One more day, two more days, another week and we can have X feature.
But I find that you just have to pick a day (or range of dates) when you are "going live" and telling people you exist. And hope you're going live with enough features that people will stick around through evolution.
We have a long list of development priorities and each one is near and dear to someone on the team (RSS feeds! Pick me, PICK ME!!). But I've realised after launching a couple of properties that your features need to be near and dear to your community, not to you. Because it sucks when a) you spend a b'zillion dollars on functionality that is never used and b) if you had just listened, you will have enabled and empowered a community beyond your expectations.
So we're in this very interesting place of liminality where we will move from being development-centric to community-centric. Really great web products cross the limen (the threshold) between these two regularly - as they rise and fall in importance and circle back again. (You must forgive all this ritual talk - it's my graduate work side coming out :)
I also recently read a post by Richard Laermer over on the Bad Pitch Blog where he asserts there is no such thing as a free launch - and that communications folks need to get over the concept of the launch and particularly of beta. The other ideas that really spoke to me in this post were those that had to do with sharing ownership with your community. Oh, and remembering to brag.
Invitation to Join
I know that a lot of you who read my blog are smart, thoughtful folks (well, all of you, really :). Not only interested in environmentalism and sustainability - but in community development. I'd be delighted if you joined us over on Osmosus. I'm mynameiskate there, as you would expect.