Monday, June 28, 2010

Out of the Website Thinking

Just a little ponderin’ here. Bear with me.

At Uncharted, we’re concerned. Concerned by the fact that we have more Facebook followers than actual explorers on the site. I’m thinking we need to find out why, and find out what we can do to increase migration to Uncharted (I’m not going to say from Facebook to Uncharted because, well, that’s taking on the 800-pound gorilla that’s just not going to go away any time soon.

Then I begin to think: Uncharted cannot hope to be self-supporting through advertising alone. Not going to happen, given the poor return you get on web ads, nor the insurmountable amount of web traffic you have to have to make ads work. Not that we’re counting on ads for revenue anyway; that’s just a small little drip trickling into the revenue bucket.

But, I have to wonder, in this age of megalithic social networking platforms and social network platform users who are a bit tired of trying to join every hip, groovy and with-it social network out there: Do we really need our Facebook followers (or likers, whatever they’re called) to migrate over and become Uncharted Explorers?

What are we after? Exposure. People willing to pay to participate in Uncharted workshops on writing, photography, dressage, whatnot. Do they have to be Uncharted Explorers, official, to participate? No. At this point, money is money is money, or so the saying goes. Maybe they get a discount if they’re official Explorers. But do we scare non-Explorers away? Not really.

I look at the folks we have as Uncharted Explorers. A few active. Most are not. Would getting our Facebook followers on over increase the number of active Uncharted Explorers? Perhaps marginally – but those are the kinds of people who are already active on Facebook, not just along for the social networking ride. Wouldn’t it be simpler to just to brand them on Facebook as Uncharted Explorers and let Facebook, by virtue of their 800-pound-gorillaness, pay for hosting all of their stories and photos while we at Uncharted reap the benefits of their already self-identified Uncharted affiliation on Facebook?

Well, I can see a lot of opposition to this idea, both without and within. But mostly from within. Branding, of course, is the key thing. If they’re not on Uncharted, are they again’ us, brand-wise? Not necessarily, but that’ll be the perception in some circles.

Or does it matter where we find people willing to pony up for the things we offer? Is the era of branding so over that we can find value in our Facebook followers just as we can with our Uncharted Explorers, but without the expense of hosting them and theirs? This idea needs more thought. But I think it’s thoughts worth thinking.

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