Monthly Archives: February 2013

TEDxAustin 2013: A LOVE Letter

The event is tomorrow, and I cannot be more excited to connect, re-connect, and jump in headfirst into one of the most intense and immersive experiences.  It isn’t a secret that I’ve been a huge TED fan for years, but this year, this post isn’t going to be about the actual event.  It will be a LOVE letter.  A LOVE letter to all those who taught me so much during my tenure on the TEDxAustin production team.

Being on the TEDxAustin production team is no easy feat.  We are challenged regularly.  We’ve gotten so good at creating experiences, spaces, and connections, that many on the team should probably add miracle worker to their list of occupations.  Thank you to everyone on the team who contributes their time, energy, ideas, and hearts to this huge endeavor.  Photos by OutboxMail.

I’m quite proud of my TEDxAustin 2013 project.  Shawna Butler called with a question: how can we share the love?  One of the things that Shawna and I talk about frequently are LOVE letters.  When she says, “Write a LOVE letter,” I know the purpose is to connect, give thanks, and to show our appreciation to our partners.



I must give thanks, as well, to Shawna for teaching me about the art of writing LOVE letters.  She tells me often that I’m pretty good at it, but my unspoken response is that I learn from the best.  Thanks, Shawna.  Thanks for being the glue that keeps our TEDxAustin family together.

This project never had an official name.  I always just referred to it as the LOVE letters, and it came to me as I was driving to work, ruminating about our wonky phone systems at work.  I was to call Evan at Outbox to discuss an interactive way to integrate their products into our experience.  Somehow, the idea of mail, phones, and missing connections turned into this idea.  

My idea was to send LOVE letters to our sponsors.  I genuinely do love our sponsors – I’m pretty huggy around them.  The plan was to have our attendees write LOVE letters to them at our pre-event, the Tuesday prior to TEDxAustin.  I spearheaded the pre-event, so that was pretty easy. I invited a dear friend of mine, Lydia Fiedler, and amazing stamping queen to provide our materials.  And I had Outbox provide a “mailbox.”



After the event, Outbox created a video of these LOVE letters to be shared with the world.  We’re not particularly shy about our love and gratitude.  At the event, these letters were stuffed into badges at random, and our attendees were given the following instructions:

“We’re about to start the day with words of wisdom, nuggets of insight, and catalysts for inspiration.  As you go through the day, we also ask you to dive deeply into gratitude and share it in a letter that conveys appreciation to those who committed their time, talent, and resources to making this immersive experience a reality.

During our community catalyst event at TreeHouse, attendees were inspired to write LOVE letters. Through the magic of Outbox they’ve been digitally delivered and you can view these letters of LOVE at http://www.TEDxAustin.com.  

We invite you to share our love. If you find one of these letters in your badge, please personally deliver the letter to its addressee.  Spreading the love, as it were. Fearlessly.”



My wish for this project was to introduce the idea of LOVE letters – how can we show our love and gratitude to others.  Now that it is done (you’re probably reading this after the event), we have documented our love, encouraged others to share declaration of our love to other attendees, and then to connect with our partners.  Post event, we have videos and photos of these love letters to be shared far and wide.

Many thanks to Evan Baehr from OutboxMail, Lydia Fiedler from UnderstandBlue, Stacy Weitzner our TEDxAustin voice, and Shawna Butler for giving this oxytocin-filled project life.  My heart is full thanks to you.

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How to Turn Dealhound Email Subscribers into Loyal Ambassadors

Cross-posted at Trendline Interactive:

It should be no surprise that many email subscribers are in it for the deals and promotions. While you might not think that these types of subscribers would be championing your brand, you might want to open up your mind. Email acquisition through deals and promotion is an obvious extrinsic motivational tactic. Here are some tips to turn that into something intrinsic. Let’s start with defining our terms:

Extrinsic motivation for engaging in a behavior comes from outside of the person’s drive. The deals and promotions are a lure that come from outside (from a brand). Here’s an example: You take defensive driving. You really enjoy spending eight hours sitting at a desk listening to a lecture about checking your sideview mirrors. You engage in this behavior because you really want to lower your insurance rates.

Intrinsic motivation for engaging in an activity comes from within a person’s drive to pursue the activity for enjoyment of the activity itself. Here’s a familiar example: You really enjoy watch football games. You dream about being on the sidelines, sipping gatorade with the players, and dancing during every score. Your home is decorated in your favorite team’s colors: Green and Gold. You engage in these behaviors because you enjoy them.

Intrinsic motivation is much harder to develop and nurture. However, intrinsic motivation is more reliable, and it is honest. You’ll see better reviews and feedback from consumers who really do like your products as compared to consumers who tried your product because of a deal.

Motivations can change from extrinsic to intrinsic. I love to use the example that brushing our teeth as kids was probably extrinsically taught. However, as an adult, I would hope that most people brush their teeth for intrinsic reasons!

Here are 4 steps for turning that extrinsic motivation into intrinsic motivation.

1: The brand relationship begins as an opt in post purchase or as a sign up through a contest or deal. Motivation at this point is extrinsic. Let’s see how you change that to make it more intrinsic.

2: Engage with the consumer through a variety of routes. Social media channels allow consumers to interact with the brand and to build a relationship. Some tips include:

  • Post comprehensive evergreen content with high share-ability. Participate in conversations around the topic.
  • Routinely interact with consumers, engaging them with your brand’s voice and not just your product. Consumers want to know that there’s more to your product than just the product.
  • Include a surprise when you ship orders. This technique is called “jackpotting” (think of Vegas). The slot machine players get even more intent on playing for longer durations of time after a jackpot.

3: Repeat variants of Step 2. Repeat again. Try it again. Moving extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation is not going to happen overnight nor is it an easy process. Keep chugging along here.

4: You’ll know when you get here. Your consumers’ behavior will begin to change. They will start looking to your brand for information. They will start engaging your brand on topics unrelated to your products and mission. They will begin to share your email content, even the ones without deals. Congratulations. You have successfully turned a previously extrinsically motivated consumer into a loyal ambassador for your brand.

*Do be aware that motivation can also move from intrinsic to extrinsic, which can mean trouble for a brand.  We’ll touch on that in a later blog post.

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Two Types of Online Communities: Which Type do you Have?

Also cross-posted at Trendline Interactive:

Communities is one of those buzz words that has made its way onto everyone’s webpage. Are we really talking about the same thing? The traditional definition of communities doesn’t fit too well in today’s context as the internet has made anonymous and physically separated communities possible. This post won’t deal with all the psychological aspects of communities.  This blog post will deal with the two major ways I group communities. There are small subgroups of communities beyond these two, but here’s a start. Communities can either be built on a platform OR communities can use platforms to communicate.

You might be thinking, “What’s the difference? Users are users. If they are on my Facebook page, they are MY community.” Not so fast, Brand. These users don’t necessarily belong to your community. In fact, many of your Facebook likes might be people who “liked” you to complain on your Facebook Fan page.

1. Communities built on a platform. A common example is (or was) Yelp. Yelp built their own community on their platform. People spend hours and hours conversing on Yelp. Then they met in real life. They hung out with each other. They identified themselves as Yelpers. They had their own independent community, away from other social networking sites. When Twitter and Facebook became popular, some of the members migrated to other channels to converse, but they were still Yelpers.

Another example of this is World of Warcraft (WOW). This multiplayer online role-playing game had a community of their own. The players would spend hours and hours on the platforms. Some of the players met in person. They would coordinate elaborate battles in the dead of the night. I’m sure many college classes were skipped due to WOW battles. WOW player, @trianat, says that though she played five years ago, she’s still friends with some of them. While player quit actually engaging in the game, they still kept ties to people they met in that community. That’s pretty awesome.

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One might also argue that Instagram is also building a community on their platform. Interestingly enough, the community isn’t being build by a brand or the service, it is being built by the users! User lead Instagram meetups are all the rage now (though I haven’t been to any personally). These people are behaving as if they are a community, not just people using a tool for communication with other people they already know. See the hashtag #igersaustin that is being used by the location based Instagram community. This is used to track conversations within local IG communities.

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2. Communities using a platform. You’ll see plenty of these. Facebook is one of these. Twitter is one of these. These tools let people from existing communities chat with each other. If a brand develops a following (the metric not necessarily the behavior) on one of these platforms, do they have a community? I would argue, no. There may be a larger community out there, and perhaps some of the members converse on Facebook fan pages or follow a brand on Twitter. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the brand “owns” those users as part of their community.

The majority of new tools and services provide the a platform. They provide a platform in which communities can share information or cross promote content. The approach for these communities is very different. The service doesn’t own the community nor does the brand. It is always awkward for me to hear social media managers say things like “our Facebook community.” I’m not necessarily a part of a brand’s community. I likely belong to a larger community and have no loyalty to the brand.

Brands don’t own the community. The community may actually exist outside of the scope of the platform. If Facebook were to disappear, would the community still exist and use other modes of communication? If yes, then community managers need to rethink how they frame their social media campaigns. If Facebook were to disappear and the following disappeared with it, that would be choppy waters for a brand that did not build their own following independent of someone else’s platform. Community managers might start thinking about how to build a following on tools they do own and control. The take away: Build your community on your brand. Grow your audience. Nurture your loyal fans. Whatever you do, don’t ONLY build a following on someone else’s tool.

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