I recently bought the domain deb.bi to use as a branded link shortener like bit.ly. Many companies use branded short links:
How to configure a link shortener: YOURLS software
Installing the link shortener was not easy. Most of the sources I googled recommended the free and open source YOURLS (Your Own URL Shortener) software. But installing it was difficult for a non-technie (you have to create a SQL database, configure the installation, create a .htcaccess file, and other set up details). The .htcaccess file (a very powerful file) can lead to unwanted side effects if not careful. I learnt this the hard way - it wiped out all my websites at least 3 times because I did not configure it properly.
How to configure a link shortener: Using bit.ly
Fortunately, I recently discovered that bit.ly allows you to configure your own branded domain for free. Bit.ly is my favourite link shortener because it allows you to track link click statistics and it's API can be used with most other applications. Users of bit.ly should note that unless you configure your setting to private, anyone can see your link click statistics by appending + after your URL (a trick I learnt from Google Analytics Evangalist Avinash Kaushik's blog Ozcam Razor, used to spy on competitor links).
Using your branded URL with bit.ly
The first thing you have to note when using bit.ly is that it works as a redirect (i.e. deb.bi redirects to bit.ly), so if the extension is already taken up, it is not available. However, link extensions are case sensitive, so you can play around with it to find one that is available. That also means that if you get one character wrong, it leads to a 401 page (page for broken links that says the page does not exist). So I've made a couple of boo boos so far (e.g. my site is deb.bi/WantstoBuildaSchool and I've mistyped it as deb.bi/WantsToBuildaSchool as well as deb.bi/WantstoBuildASchool. Luckily Tobi Boonstoppel and Sasagu Kondo have kindly pointed them out to me.
Where to find a short domain
The best places to find short domains are: Domainr and 101 Domain. Some of the international TLD are very cheap (e.g. .ru costs $12.95, .de costs $6.95 while others are extremely expensive (e.g. most of the African ones are $300-600, and the Namibia domain .na costs a whopping US$5,749.99!). It's practically impossible to find a 4 character one like oe.cd except for those in the UK - Namecheap offer XX.UK domains (I tried to register DK.UK but you can't register the .UK if the .com.UK is already taken up and dk.com.uk belongs to Dorling Kindersley, the book publisher).
I highly recommend getting a branded short link. It's great for brand building if you're a business and with all the new TLDs, there are many options to choose from!
I've been struggling to think of how I can get people outside of my network to contribute to this campaign. Asking friends is easy enough and I'm extremely fortunate to have kind and generous friends who have all been extremely supportive of this campaign.
However, besides raising the US$25,000, a true test of my ability to crowdfund, influence people, motivate strangers is how much I can raise outside of my immediate network.
One of the ideas that I've come up with is a simple one - one that does not require any effort (except to send an email / message that I will draft for you).
All you need to do is to reach out to your own network (on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Email), and offer to match dollar for dollar any funds they donate up to the amount that you were prepared to commit in the first place.
To keep things simple, what I suggest is that you email 5-10 of your closest friends, and ask them to donate $Y (where $Y = $ of your donation / # friends).
Not only will this double the amount raised, it will show the rest of the world how generous and magnanimous you are. :)
5 days into the campaign. So far, $3,530 raised from 16 supporters from 8 countries (added the counter in the Supporters page, though it's not mobile friendly).
Countries (in order of funds raised)
$3,530 in 5 days has exceeded my wildest expectations. Following Classy.Org's fundraising guide (which is brilliant btw), I made a spreadsheet of all my Facebook friends (>1K), Twitter followers (2K), LinkedIn connections (>1K), and calculated a low, base and high case. They suggest a 3% conversion rate. Even in my high case, I would only get to US$20,000 which means I would need to be able to tap outside of my network. I also gave myself 12 months to raise the US$25,000 but at this rate, maybe I need to set myself a more challenging goal. I clearly underestimated how generous my friends are.
Wharton is clearly missing - time for a reach out post. Need to hit my UK friends up as well.
In terms of social media channels, Facebook is clearly a winner, but that's where all my friends are so I'm not surprised. My Facebook page can be found on https://www.facebook.com/debbiediscoversPoP
Am hopeful about Twitter - I have had some success with Twitter to date. I grew my Twitter following by more than 1,000 in 2 weeks, got Guy Kawasaki to reply to my Tweet (hah that's my claim to fame, you try getting him to reply to YOUR tweet) and my Twitter bot has been listed 570 times with 300 followers just by strategic, automated tweeting. I have lots of Twitter tricks that I've created to manage 9 Twitter accounts (all for fun) so have to figure out how I share my Twitter tricks to get attract more followers to this campaign.
My first Twitter ask was to tap on an old Twitter conversation about Warren Buffett that got good engagement. Using a Buffett quote "If you're the luckiest 1% of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the remaining 99%", I asked those who engaged on the tweet to visit my website and within 10 minutes, I had my first Twitter donor, Andrew Coppin, angel investor and venture capitalist from Sydney Australia! Thank you again Andrew!
LinkedIn is also definitely on the cards. Facebook and Twitter followers have virtually no overlap. With LinkedIn and Facebook, I estimate about 50% overlap so there are another ~500 contacts that I can tap on. Will need to write a good LinkedIn post.
My Instagram strategy is based on a webinar I attended with Foundr's CEO Nathan Chan last week. Nathan managed to grow his Instagram followers by 110 in 5 months, so definitely worth following his tips. I have my branded campaign hashtag (#debbiediscoversPoP), am maxing out on the hashtags in the comments portion and am following as many people as I can within the Instagram hourly limits. Not sure if I'll get any donations from Instagram. I also have a Tumblr page (mainly for my campaign gifs, but have some ideas about what else I can do with it).
Finally, my big day is coming up in 2 days! Am excited not because it's my birthday but because I can't wait to see how my campaign will do as a result. Let's see how it goes! Thanks everyone for the support to date, and stay tuned for more campaign updates!
This is a simple blog to track my fundraising activities and to keep family, friends and supporters updated on my progress.