Showcase site demonstrates how others can digitally engage with members

By Peter Kerr 10/09/2013

Jamie Houston of Honk Marketing has been using his own (sideline, but now about to turn profitable) business as a showcase of how others can use the web to improve customer interaction.

This blog gives a few of the lessons the Wellingtonian has learned (and builds on a first story about him here).

As a lover of music in general and ukuleles in particular, Houston did a fair bit of research and found it was a very popular niche, with groups of like-minded people.

Hence, he has set up his, ‘Love My Ukulele’ website, which is intimately linked to a Facebook page.

Now, at the time of interview, Houston had over 6500 likes on this page. He’s also spent a few dollars on Facebook to specifically target/advertise to self-confessed Uke lovers.

And the Facebook Page is being constantly updated; but, rather than have to constantly find new material, he uses content submitted by his ‘members’ which is displayed proudly on his LMU website. When people Like his Facebook page, they’re asked if they wish to ‘join’ the LMU Club, a Self-Hosted WordPress website, with a Pinterest-like plug in and Blog section showing photos of people with their Ukes and featuring articles from the ‘members’.

The signer-uppers also receive weekly newsletter emails about ukulele-related tips, products, stories, and goings on.

From those Facebook likes, Houston has had over 750 people join his LMU mailing list – along with a little bit of information (including where they live), and a disclaimer that LMU has the copyright to re-user material posted on the site (including member-generated blogs and pictures). This is all done on a legal page.

Equally, this is all done automatically, and Houston can easily segment this ‘club’ that people have joined through their own volition.

As he says too, Facebook can easily change its rules, and just as MySpace disappeared, could become quickly unfashionable. For this reason, encouraging Uke-lovers to join his email list and use his own website, over which he has control, is a key part of his marketing strategy.

But, by also posting photos and stories that appear on the LMU website, back to Facebook, the possibility of fans liking and sharing the love is increased, and with it the word of mouth opportunities continue to grow.

“My objective is to build a mailing list off Facebook,” says Houston. “From there it is a soft-sell, that’s the strategy; the more-so because it is a heart-based one.”

One example is a community-voted-on T-shirt design. Using a crowd-funding platform, in which those wanting (and willing to pay NZ$40) a certain ukulele-inspired T-shirt, those signed-up knew that 50 people would have to pre-pay via credit cards before the ‘go’ button would be pressed at a USA-based printer who made and posted the finished article. (Only then too would their money be transferred)

So far Houston’s made two different crowd sourced and funded T-shirts.

“The strategies we’re using are cutting edge,” says Houston. “It is about engagement and having fun. We’re also straight up, not hiding anything, though 99% of people don’t read the small print telling them that we will make money if they purchase anything we recommend.”

Houston says LMU is in-effect a scalable, duplicable (by himself and others) effort, that is automated to a large extent.

Posting new material, at this stage anyway, is easy, and he’ll be looking at new ways to build off the mailing list – including affiliate sales of Uke-related products from the website.

He says that by understanding products that are freely, or relatively cheaply, available to all through the internet, people can build a separate business.

Of course too, he’s happy to act as an adviser to others wishing to automate customer engagement, and earn a reward for his own years of learning how all this works.

At the moment though, his LMU acts as an exemplar for those he sells his consultancy services to, and he’s got other potential niches up his sleeve.

For example, lots of people like cats enough to wish to be part of a group dedicated to moggies.

Don’t be surprised to see something turn up on that one day!