For the past two weeks I’ve been consumed with “vote getting” for a competition by Kohl’s. I won’t spent too much time talking about it (because you’ve probably heard it from me already) but Kohl’s is giving away $10,000,000 to the 20 schools that get the most votes on Facebook. Go vote if you haven’t yet! It’ll take you 5 minutes or so.
When I originally heard about this competition (Aug. 10th) the #1 school had less than 30,000 votes. Divide that figure by 5 because each person can vote 5 times per school and that’s only 6,000 people voting. That number actually shocked me. Facebook supposedly has 150 million active users in the US (see Facebook Stats). The competition had already been running for about a month (it started Jul. 7th) and THAT was all the votes #1 had? 6,000 people out of 150 million? For $500,000?! The numbers, in my humble opinion, didn’t stack up.
I expressed interest to St. Marcus about wanting to help, brainstormed a little bit throughout the week and “officially” started working on the project the following Monday (August 16th).
The first thing I noticed was that there were two schools from Milwaukee in the top 50. I figured the best way to get people to vote would be making it about Milwaukee and not the individual schools. What came to mind was making a landing page with information about the competition, buttons to share the page, and instructions on how to vote. It was also important to stress the idea of keeping $1 million in the region (the Kohl’s company headquarters is right next to Milwaukee).
I juggled a bunch of different domain names in my mind, but nothing seemed good enough. Later that night (Wednesday, Aug. 11th) POOF! It comes to me. 1mil4mil.com! It was perfect! (At least I thought so at the time 🙂 .) I grabbed my notebook and scribbled this:
I initially thought 1mil4mil.com was awesome. It didn’t feel so awesome when I woke up (felt a little cheesy). That was OK though. The idea was there.
Things Get Translated
I started working on things the following week. Tuesday (Aug. 17th) I stopped by Translator’s lab hours to brain storm the whole vote getting thing. As a side note, I HIGHLY enjoyed my experience at “the lab.” I love brainstorming and it’s cool that their agency opens their doors twice a week to let weird guys like me stop by and babble (and listen to babble).
The majority of that morning was spent brainstorming around the Kohl’s competition. I was impressed with the amount and quality of good ideas thrown around the room that day. I want to give “The Brew” honorable mention for essentially saying what I jotted down last week (make it about Milwaukee, not the schools, great minds think alike 😉 ). I also really liked the Twibbon (a viral spreading badge) idea from Mark, but I wasn’t very familiar with the service and didn’t know if people would actually use it (do people actually use it? 🙂 )
When I finally (sheepishly) brought up the name I came up with for a landing page (1mil4mil.com) it got bounced around the room a bit and Sara G. eventually says “How about 1mil4mke.com?” I loved it. Bought.
I also loved the Translator Lab and decided to make it a part of my weekly routine (after I was done with the competition). Now that I had the name, it was time to get to work.
And Then There Was One…
I had a bunch of ideas coursing through my mind about what to do with 1mil4mke. The main landing page was obvious, but I wanted to do some other things. Things that came to mind were:
- “Custom” landing pages for traffic from Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc. (with videos and content specifically for that traffic)
- A recruitment landing page (I actually made it but… I didn’t have the time/energy to move it forward)
- A page explaining other ways to help (with copy for email lists, banners/badges for blogs/websites, etc.)
I eventually had to buckle down and just focus on getting the one landing page up. Time was (well, as I’m writing this IS) a MAJOR hurdle and although I understood the importance of having a “social media army” I wasn’t sure if one could be assembled in a timely enough fashion. Henry (the superintendent of St. Marcus) needed the landing page finished for a talk he was giving one evening, so I cranked out a really basic one (Thursday, Aug. 19 some time before 5PM).
After that, it was my girlfriend’s birthday weekend and her best friend was in town, but I managed to get a couple more things done. One was adding a video and Facebook like button to the page.
Intelligence Gathering And Strategizing
I started working out of St. Marcus the following Tuesday (August 23rd). I knew I needed to get a lot of eyeballs on the website, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing it. The top thing on my mind was leveraging people who already had a following (in the form of a blog, email list, twitter account, YouTube channel, Facebook Fan Page/Friends, etc.) and get them involved with vote getting. But that would have been doing the “army building” thing that… I didn’t seem to have time to do. And I knew one tweet, blog, status update, email or video wasn’t going to be enough (even from people with a large following). They would need to be “on board.”
“Going viral” was a plan but… Going viral really isn’t a plan. 😛 I’m confident in my abilities to come up with a “viral campaign”, but not one that would have generated the strength and speed in the time that it needed to happen (it ends tomorrow, Sep. 3rd).
Then I decided to investigate what the other top schools were doing or had done to get where they were. A few schools had contests (giving away iPads and the like), but I don’t think that’s as effective as people make it out to be. The main trend I saw for the top schools was a lot of hustle (volunteers out signing people up at various locations), a compelling story with media/blog coverage (the high school hit by a tornado for example) and/or a strong network to leverage (love’em or hate’em, the Jewish community “kept their pimphand strong” in this contest).
If we were (are!) going to have any chance of winning this, we needed to come up with some kind of combination of all three.
Henry decided it was necessary that we came up with some sort of “publicity stunt” to capture attention and then get the community to rally behind cause. That week was an interesting week (August 23rd-27th). It was interesting because in the span of that week I watched the team go from contemplating quitting to coming up with an “epic” idea. The idea came from Henry himself. The idea was that he and administrators from the other 2 schools would camp out on the roof until they were all in the top 20 or until the competition was over.
It seemed like something that could work marvelously (media coverage, lots of votes, etc.) or fail terrible (they end up on a roof and no one cares). Lucky for us, people cared. 🙂
That Friday, the plan was set, the people were ready to go and the news agencies had been contacted. Now “all” I had to do was take the new design Kate hooked up for me and apply it to the website.
Internet. Serious Business.
I should have spent the weekend working on getting the new and improved 1mil4mke website put together. Instead I was working on the Xbox giveaway thing, hoping something magical would blossom from that. Hindsight. It be 20/20. I didn’t get the website done, the Xbox giveaway didn’t blossom and when I turned the corner into the parking lot Monday morning (August 30th, 3 days ago) I see this:
Now my crappy website and crappy video was on the news! Aaaaaah! Things weren’t terrible though. It appeared that the site was working as people were Facebook sharing the page, Facebook liking the page and voting. But that new site needed to get up!
BrennanMKE To The Rescue!
My days all are fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure Brennan rolled in Monday afternoon. He went digital ninja style on the website design and left us with a much awesomer looking page:
It’s crazy what happened in the span of a few weeks. What began as some late night scribbles turned into a right sexy looking page (thanks to Kate and Brennan!) The idea didn’t just sit on the web either. It’s on T-Shirts, news casts and thanks to a generous donation of resources from Lamar, it’s even on a billboard!
I’ve long been interested in this “idea to reality” thing. It’s VERY VERY interesting to me. It boggles my mind the things that ideas can do. Scribble on a piece of paper -> digital billboards across the city in 3 weeks! That’s interesting. What’s REALLY interesting is that the bulk of things happened in less than a week!
One More Day
There’s one more day to vote and help get votes. If you read this whole post and STILL haven’t voted, go do it! 🙂
I’ve learned a ton of stuff, got to meet some pretty cool people and feel like I was a part of something that was pretty epic. Those are the things I’ll share in the next post (with pictures and video to boot!)