Communicate More Effectively Outside the Browser
BY Jason Ciment | March 1, 2002
Surprisingly (to me at least), my last article, "How to Develop a Communications Strategy for Your Affiliates," was so well received that I'm doing a follow-up. This time, we'll look at a tool that can improve not only affiliate communications but client and internal communications as well.
To recap, we all (should) know that one of the most daunting challenges any communicator faces is simply getting the message to reach the audience. People are constantly being bombarded by messages (wanted and unwanted), and rising above the cacophony seems harder all the time. I'm always searching for a novel way of reaching audiences.
Here is my review of many of its uses. Please forgive what may sound like a press-release-type of article, but it's hard to cover so much ground in the few words I'm allotted. Here goes.
Anthony Karrer, CEO of ScreenCaster, describes the software as "an innovative product that lets users run a screensaver that is remotely updated by the channel owner. In other words, the channel owner can create a slide show, have users subscribe, and then update slides automatically. ScreenCaster checks for updates each time the screensaver is launched so it is never out of date. This is similar to what PointCast offered years ago, but it lets you be the content publisher for a peer-to-peer network. And content publishing may be even easier than using PowerPoint."
Let's think about it for a moment. You can communicate outside the already cluttered browser in a "new" medium to someone who wants to hear your message. Think of this as producing a two-dimensional commercial based on your Web page or offering (complete with affiliate-coded link, of course). The real power of the application is that each part of the presentation can be linked to a particular Web page. When users click on the graphic, they are taken right to the appropriate Web site.
If you could produce a commercial from every advertisement, banner, or email campaign you created, at a minimal cost, would you do it?
Of course, you would do it without question.
Reach Affiliates, Customers, and Employees
But before you jump into this, you should ask yourself two questions. First, will users want to have the content as a screensaver? Many affinity groups have a natural interest in content related to their passions. Think about it: movies, TV shows, college sports, art, travel, local interests, tech gadgets. You can imagine quite a few things people would enjoy having on their screensavers — and this application is even better than your average screensaver, since it never gets stale. Second, will someone get value from the eyeballs or click-through?
Let's consider an easy example with one of the largest, or perhaps the largest, online poster and print art stores — Barewalls. Will people be interested in having artwork as a saver? Absolutely. Will you get value from eyeballs and clicks? Well, this technology allows you to get your brand in front of these users every day, and it lets you link directly to a page that tells them about the work and allows people to purchase it. So, I'd say there is likely some value.
Look at the ways different Barewalls departments can use the software:
This communications machine can be used by practically any organization that wants to stay in touch. How about an alumni association providing highlights from recent games and promoting upcoming events? What about a nonprofit that helps find missing children? It could be the digital equivalent of the pictures on milk cartons. Applications are numerous and varied.
Improve Productivity With Enhanced Corporate Communications
If you can mandate which screensaver is playing on someone's computer, you have an incredible opportunity to open a communications channel with your employees. I recently heard that a large automobile manufacturer was thinking of setting up 400 TVs around its facilities to do what the ScreenCaster can do on everyone's desktop for far less money.
In practice, this has phenomenal marketing and communication power. The obvious value is the ability to drive more customers to a Web site, encouraging repeat business and enriching customer experience. However, I've noticed that screensavers are conversation pieces. You'll find that people sitting in meetings in someone's office will notice the screensaver. Often, novel content will cause a spontaneous conversation. It's a very interesting effect — and quite powerful.
Reach New and Unexpected Audiences on Your Time Frame
You also have a rather unique opportunity to easily reach a new audience (if your content is right). It turns out that "screensaver" is one of the most popular search terms. A two-year study by Alexa Research found that "screensaver" was the 17th most popular search topic ("sex" was the most popular). Many sites already know this and provide links to lots of screensavers. If you have interesting content, it's not hard to reach a willing audience by putting out your saver.
You also get some very interesting feedback from the saver. User activity on ScreenCaster is tracked by the system, and online reports are available for viewing by administrators. Reportable activities include downloads, click-through activity, and user-defined search strings. So, you can find out what people are doing on the saver.
Anyone using ScreenCaster as means of permission-based marketing will be capable of reaching beyond the browser right onto the end user's desktop. Bottom line: Grab this medium before your competitor.
I leave you now with one question raised by MagMall's formidable communications director, "Can two companies deliver their respective commercials to the same user, or does one gain prominence over the other à la a search engine's 'preferred' clients?" Let me know if you think this software is as much of a breakthrough as I do (at least for the short run, before it too becomes cluttered and practically obsolete like email communications are becoming).
Jason Ciment is CEO of MagMall, which he founded 1997. He designed, programmed, and developed the fully interactive java and perl-based magazine subscription Web site that has more than 10,000 individual and corporate partners. He has also worked with manufacturing companies such as Liz Claiborne and Jones New York to maintain quality standards and prompt order fulfillment.
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