Tell it to Chuck

I love Kiva, for lots of reasons, its one of my all time favorite websites and businesses.
This morning I got an update about an entrepreneur I loaned to recently:

Charles Omondi received a loan of USD 225 from his lenders. Having received his loan, he embarked on contracting a carpenter to make his seats… By the end of it, Charles managed to get two sets of seats and tables that can accomodate a total of 12 customers at the same time.

Awesome, another African-run business is growing and I helped, but Charles’ backstory is incredible:

Charles Omondi is 49 years old, and is living with HIV within the Kibera slums of Nairobi. He is married and has two wives, one living with him in Kibera, and the other living with his aging mother back in his home village in Busia District, in the Western Province of Kenya. In total Charles has 11 children, two of which with his first wife, now deceased. Three of his children – all daughters – are married, but the other 8 children, together with his wives and his mother all depend on him.

Chuck started saving money and started two businesses, which he runs to this day with the help of two employees and his wife.

Moral of the story? Next time I hear someone complaining I’ll just say: Tell it to Chuck.

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links for 2007-06-15

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links for 2007-06-14

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People Lie, Data Doesn’t

It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.

-Dr House

House often didn’t see his patients so they wouldn’t have a chance to lie to him. People lie, data doesn’t.

The same is true with analytics. Designers, developers and owners lie, statistics don’t. People have ulterior motivations and egos, numbers don’t.

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Google PPC Grant Restrictions

Following up on the post I made about the Google Grants account I’m working with for an awesome non-profit.

I’ve re-organized the non-profit’s PPC account and in the process learned a lot about adwords in general and the Google Grants program in specific.

Apparantly Google Grants accounts cannot bid on the content network and cannot bid more than 1.00 per click. That will leave you to get your quality score up to get decent placement and maybe hopefully even some cheap clicks.

Oh, and the advanced keyword and ad search and editing tools? Totally clutch.

Update: I RTFMd finally and it confirms the above stuff, but made me realize I was mistaken about the size of the grant.

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The Spoon Model

The Spoon Model. Simple, cheap, and incredibly effective, it is a pattern for word of mouth marketing and viral campaigns that I’ve been developing since first utilizing it for the USB Absinthe Spoon. It’s simple: create a cool product, then launch a contest where people are invited to tell you why they deserve one for free. Create an “Offer Page”, where viewers can submit their entries in a blog-comment fashion for everyone to see. (Less than 24 hours after the USB Absinthe Spoon offer page launch, there were almost 500 submissions – that’s 500 free, user-generated, word of mouth advertisements about how cool the product is.) Then, give the product away free to those users who are the most creative and seem the most likely to be Product Evangelists. They’re easy to spot by their awesome blogs and entertaining creativity.

I’ve since further developed and refined this model, and I’m now at a place with it where I have something I can share (and I’d love to hear your feedback).

The Spoon Model comes in 3 parts, or phases: the Big Seed, the Offer, and the Aftershock. The Big Seed is the most difficult, and the Aftershock is the most rewarding. The real key to the entire model is targeting and appealing to those social media users that are the most engaged in the process of actually creating, defined in Forester’s Social Technographics report as the “creator set” (bloggers are the most obvious examples of this group, but heavy Flickr and YouTube users are also creators).

The Big Seed
Even the most contagious of viral campaigns cannot sustain a transmission rate over 1.0 for very long, so the trick is to kick off every WOMM campaign with a “Big Seed.” By spreading the message far and wide by hand at the launch and attempting to secure as big of an initial “seeding” as possible, we can maximize the number of people who’ll see the creative. Social news websites like Digg and, as well as high-traffic blogs, are the perfect places to launch a Spoon Model campaign, because they are not only popular enough to be considered a Big Seed, but also, the viewers are typically more engaged social media users, and are more likely than the average web user to spread a viral message. However you choose to seed your campaign, you should link it to the next part of the Spoon Model, the Offer.

The Offer
The Spoon Model doesn’t take a lot of words to explain, and it doesn’t take a ton of time for a user to participate in or share. The idea is simple: tell us why you deserve a product, and we’ll give you one for free. Using the well-known product-giveaway model as a structure and inserting different products (which are hopefully somewhat unique and novel) means that the Spoon Model is a new twist on an old setup.

The invitation to public expression (don’t just tell us, tell the entire world why you deserve to win free stuff), along with the aspirational nature of a contest and a free prize, encourages people to strive to succeed and stimulates the word of mouth effect. Hopefully the product itself is also empowering in some way and the description of it on the offer emphasizes this.

There is an exhibitionist and voyeuristic edge to the pile of offer requests that develops in the first few days of a successful Spoon Model campaign. People can read, write and even respond to the endless comments that appear. Visiting the offer page becomes an exercise in social interaction, all focused around the experience of the product, and usually all glowingly positive (since everyone wants to win).

The Spoon Model also makes a direct appeal to most of the major social media user profiles (as defined in Social Technographics) and levels of engagement.

Creators, as well as critics, will have a field day crafting more and more creative and sometimes outrageous responses to the offer; Creators will also likely blog about the offer (especially if they’ve contributed in the comments section). Creator-level users are the best candidates for winners, since they will likely be the most fervent about creating content and buzz after the contest is over.

Social bookmarking links should be included on the offer page (as they should be included on most marketing efforts these days), and Collectors are likely to use these links, both during the contest and afterwards, if they’re selected as winners. Accounts should be set up at various social bookmark and media sites with pictures or videos of the product, and links about it, using one or a few tags that specifically relate to the product. Then the winners of the contest should be encouraged to contribute their media to these sites using the specific tags.

The pile of submissions to the contest will provide hours of glowingly positive user-generated ads for the spectator-level social media users to read through, and since it’s all user-generated, viewers will be much more likely to trust it.

The Aftershock
Hopefully, what we’ve done by drawing heavy social media users to the offer, engaging every level of social media interaction, and then putting our product in the hands of the best creators who ask for it, is to create a group of customer evangelists. If the product is good, the bloggers and other creators who’ve gotten a free one will be inclined to do what they do best: blog and talk about your product (and here’s your word of mouth advertising). We should encourage the winners to post pictures of how they use the product, and videos as well, to places like Flickr and YouTube (complete with the product-specific tags that we started on our own accounts on these sites). Each winner has the potential to (and being from the Creator set, it’s highly likely that they will) become a seed for an entirely new wave of the WOMM campaign.

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PPC Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) Formula

I’m probably the last person to figure this out, but I was just doing some planning and I figured out this easy little formula to figure out estimated average CPA:
Average Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) = Average Cost per Click / Conversion Rate
David and I just used that formula plus some algebra to come up with a budget estimation.

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on Intuitive Design

When I say intuitive design, I don’t mean just visual design or user interface work, I’m referring to a more general process of the design of all user interaction, be it look and feel or the written word, crafting your creative or message to appeal to a user’s intuition. Something that speaks to us at a level deeper than logic.

Not to start off too cliche or anything but, the dictionary defines intuitive as “knowable by intuition” and intuition as:

the immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without the intervention of any reasoning process

Intuition is kind of like instinct. It doesn’t come from your logical conscious, but rather from somewhere else. Repetition and ritual have a big part in this.

A certain familiarity — similarity to music one already knows — can play a role,” he explained. “Unfamiliar music doesn’t connect well. It’s harder to own, especially on first listen.”

For something to appeal to us on an intuitive level, it has to pass an admittedly weak logical “sanity” check and the human mind is such that it is easy to bypass even this cursory acknowledgement of reason. Centuries of history and billions of dollars in modern research have shown us the myriad of ways that mankind can be fooled.

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
Denis Diderot

We could spend all day going over examples and reasons for inducing self-deception, but thats a whole ‘nother post.

Two words spring to mind when thinking about intuition, truthiness and bellyfeel:

Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Times leading article as “Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc.” The shortest rendering one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: “Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.” But this is not an adequate translation. … Only a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate the full force of the word bellyfeel, which implied a blind, enthusiastic acceptance difficult to imagine today.
George Orwell, 1984

Politicians and their consultants have spent years making “appeal to bellyfeel” a science. And they know that emotion and familiarity is far more important to intuition than “correctness”.

[The United States is] divided between those who think with their head, and those who know with their heart. Consider Harriet Miers. If you ‘think’ about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination’s absurd. But the president didn’t say he ‘thought’ about his selection… he said nothing about her brain? He didn’t have to. He feels the truth about Harriet Miers. And what about Iraq? If you think about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn’t taking Saddam out feel like the right thing?
Stephen Colbert

Well known triggers can short circuit reason and skip right to the intutition. Things like fear or pride. These hot-buttons come in 3 layers.

  • Instinctual motivators common to the entire race: basic needs and Jungian archetypes.
  • Triggers common to various cultures, as Dr Rapille works with.
  • Unique issues that drive specific individual’s Fruedian unconscious.

But thats a whole ‘nother post.

It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times than to believe a fact that no one has heard before

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