SalesSchool is in Session

In case you guys missed it, Sean Black from Salescrunch (the company behind SalesSchool ) lead a great panel last night on Building a Sales Machine. What did I learn?

NYC really really wants to talk about Sales!

Startups in particular turned out in force to talk about the "four-letter-word" that so few seem to understand. Sales, revenue, inbound marketing, conversion metrics, and comp plans where the topics of discussion. This is just the tip of the iceberg, so I'm looking forward to future events!

Highlights:

1) Relationships are still important

As the world puts more and more emphasis on technology its easy to forget there are people behind the scenes making decisions. Especially in enterprise, the customer is more often then not, still the same.

Greg Coleman ( Huffington Post ) - "relationships matter more today than when don draper was taking people out for cocktails"

2) Sales 2.0 - Interruption based sales is DEAD

The modern sales person is expected to do a lot more.  They need value like-a-consultant to convert prospects into customers, while extending their reach via the web. Hubspot makes their sale people blog as part of training!

For startup sales the talk turned to market research, and sounded a lot like understanding Customer Development....

3) Comp Plans - BE CAREFUL

This will have to be a follow-on post, but the short version was - "Money drives behavior, be careful what you ask for". Sales people will exploit your comp plan to max it out, make sure that the exploit generates money for your company!

4) Hiring

Avoid the big sites like monster, network like hell and pay referrals, don't be afraid to use recruiters as long as you cut them off when they don't deliver.

5) Traits of Successful Sales people

- genuine curiosity about clients and solving their problems - highly organized (metrics driven) - keep the ego in check, this is about the customer

Here's what ShackNation and Kate Huyett thought about the event.

The Sales School Meetup page can be found here.  Looking forward to the next chat.

Foursquare vs craigslist?

You know you have a sticky service when your users start using it for things it wasn't intended to do... What better way to find real estate than to look next to your favorite bars, cafes, and restaurants?

Heck, I'd pay foursquare to see those ads for the month or two I was looking for an apartment!

( I know it's in French, but here's the "tip" on foursquare for an apartment)

Persistence, apps from anywhere

One of the greatest indicators of whether or not I end up being a long time user of certain piece of software is PERSISTENCE.  Is this piece of software accessible everywhere I want to be? These are the places I spend my time, and these are the places I need to access my apps

  1. web
  2. mobile (apps & web apps)
  3. desktop
  4. email

Example 1:Evernote

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 12.59.33 PM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 12.59.33 PM

They've got a web app, an iphone app, a blackberry app, a bookmarklet to clip content from the browser (firefox & safari), and desktop apps for mac and windows. They are covered from almost every angle, and for those moments in between I can still send in notes via email.

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 1.02.19 PM

Screen shot 2010-02-17 at 1.02.19 PM

Example 2: Posterous

For Posterous, publishing directly from their web app was almost an after thought. They know its a lot to ask to require someone to come to your site just to create content, so their main focus is e-mail.  E-mail is a shortcut to accessibility, and saves them the time and effort of creating apps for different platforms (even though they have a great iphone app for posting pics)

I can create posts from Gmail, or from my mobile phone, and then I have the option to send these posts to any of the services that you see in the list here on the right. You can set it up to auto post for to every service in your list, or you can choose on the fly by indicating the destination in the email address you use " flickr+twitter+vimeo@xxxx.posterous.com" or "posterous+flickr@xxxx.posterous.com".

Not only is Posterous accessible from almost anywhere, but it actually increase your reach by tying into all these extra services.

Example 3:Remember The Milk

RTM ( Remember the Milk) is a todo or task application, and what makes it so great is that I have access from anywhere.  Not only can I view my todos from their iphone app, mobile web app, web app, and even a few 3rd party desktop apps, but I can also add tasks via email.

No matter where I go, I know I can quickly jott (yes, they integrate with jott too, so you can create tasks via voicemail) down reminders to do things, or look at my list of todos, which is what makes RTM so sticky.  If i needed to jot something down, and i wasn't able to get access to the app, that would be the first step in making me into a non-user.

So how are you making your apps accessible from everywhere?  Is this tough to do with a small team because of the resources required to build for so many platforms?

Buzz: public invades private

The last thing I needed was another distraction, but google didn't give me much choice.  They dropped this little buzz bomb right into my inbox. First off, buzz is a great idea, and I can already tell it's going to get massive traction just because of it's location. Gmail may be the only thing I use significantly more than Facebook, so anything you insert into Gmail is going to get some eyeballs.

It's biggest advantage is also my biggest frustration. Besides being a distraction to my already growing inbox problem, it also presents a clash of my public and private worlds. Up until now gmail has remained a private safe haven. Conversations with any new acquainances take place on Twitter and Facebook, but only progress to gmail once they've reached a certain threshold ( yes getting someone email on Facebook or Twitter before moving to gmail can be a barrier). Point being, buzz blows my private gmail world wide open.

The default settings for buzz are SUPER public, and the options for private sharing are confusing at best:

Private public

Private public

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photo(4)

Even if I did want to make a post private, how would I choose who to share it with?  Why isn't it an option to share with just the people you follow? Am I really going to put in the work of going through my gmail contacts to break them up into subgroups based on location, interests, or each person is a work friend, highschool friend, etc? I've been down that road before on Facebook and it's a mess.

To make matters worse, I can't seem to separate buzz from my public google profile and I can't seem to turn the profile off either.  In the end, I would have preferred a buzz that operates much more like the old Facebook, just for the people I accepted as friends. Then they could have given me the option to go public with certain material, a la Twitter.

Evan Bartlett - Google Profile

Evan Bartlett - Google Profile

So who do these 3 stack up? Facebook, buzz, and Twitter?

Facebook is clearly in the lead. As I recently overheard someone say; "Facebook is the new cell phone, you can't have a social life without it". Facebook has a strangle hold on users, and they are not leaving for any other services anytime soon... Except buzz.

By catching users at the one place they go before Facebook, Google has a chance to siphon off a bunch of activity, and become an equally critical platform.  The uphill battle both of these services face is whether or not people will trade their privacy to help bring in ad revnues.  Will the new public default scare away more people than they could have gained by keeping the warm and fuzzy "friends only" settings of the early facebook days?

Twitter chose to "go public" from day one, so they don't face these privacy issues, but I don't think anyone can make the case that twitter carries the same value to individual users, or is growing nearly as fast.

Will public win or will people find some other refuge to have their social chats in a more private setting?

The slow content movement

We all know what fast content is, right? Status updates, tweets, and up to the second reporting on blogs like Techcrunch and Huffpo. Content produced so fast that you can barely skim it fast enough to keep up.  Not only can you consume this content, but with todays media you're expected to participate, it's a two way street. You need to reblog or retweet the article, and then write something smart in the comments ( if you have time). This is the world of "fast content". The problem is time.  We don't have enough of it, and eventually we get sick of all the low quality crap.  You can conginue to run the rat race, or we can start making the effort to take more than a few minutes to enjoy all the slow content out there.

So who else cares about slow content? Marcos Arment , creator of Instapaper, made a stand when he launched his simple reading tool encouraging people to spend more time consuming long form high quality conent. Check out what he says in the Instapaper FAQ:

What does Instapaper do?

Instapaper facilitates easy reading of long text content.

We discover web content throughout the day, and sometimes, we don't have time to read long articles right when we find them.

Instapaper allows you to easily save them for later, when you do have time, so you don't just forget about them or skim through them.

Why?

From a personal perspective, I appreciate great writing, but I've become frustrated with the quick-consumption nature of many devoted blog readers. Authors are encouraged to cater to drive-by visitors hurrying through their feed readers by producing lightweight content for quick skimming.

There's no time to sit and read anything when you're going through 500 feed items while responding to email, chatting, and watching bad YouTube videos....

This is a great tool in fighting the addiction of multiple tasking and RSS feeds full of posts. Find a few well written articles, click the "read later button" and then set aside some time later in the day just to focus on reading.

Another big player in this apace is the kindle ( which actually plays quite well with instapaper). As I've said in the past, the kindle OS really was designed to replace the book. It's too slow to do much else, making it the device of choice for the slow content consumers. Whether you're reading a novel or articles you've carefully currated via instapaper, the kindle is a refuge from all the distractions.

On the production side we're also seeing some tools to help slow things down (not that I need tools to write blog posts any slower). Rather than encouraging content farms through hyper speed publishing, writing apps like Focused and WriteRoom strip away everything but the text and encourage publishers to focus more on what they're writing.

Since leaving San Francisco for Paris, I've been enjoying the break from the center of the web world, and I've been slowing down my content consumption.  Before I used to just blindly read feed upon feed of news trying to keep up, now I'm spending more time on the good stuff.  Anyone else?

Sales in early stage tech startups

An amazing article from Sherry Buffington came across my inbox (by way of Alltop through a Posterous subscription email) a few days ago, and I couldn't get over how accurate she was with her 8 essential attributes of sales people.  I don't imagine you're familiar with her work, as its in the self help space, and she's on rocking 30 followers on Twitter, but the article really stuck with me: Its a bit cheesy, but after a little reflection, I had a lot of questions.  Do these attributes apply to early stage companies? Why do startups think sales is a four letter word?  Why isn't revenue required to have a "company"?  Otherwise isn't it just a hobby? Would startups even want to read this article because its copywrited 2006 (which is old new for them)?

To help bridge the gap, here's an analysis of how each of the attributes from Sherry's list maps out to the early stage startup world:

1) Achievement Drive

This may mean something in big business talk, but to us this means EXECUTION OBSESSED.

Sales people are fast talking fast acting deal closing machines.  They're going to be more aggressive than your average startup hire, and they'll be just as goal focused as your google analytics addicted user conversion team.  Like everyone else in the startup space, don't be afraid to let sales people learn on the job, because they should be more than comfortable jumping into a new industry head first!

You need to be careful not to hire the time share selling Gordon Gecko that would sell his own mother to protect your startup's culture, but this extra "edge" is what you need to close big deals for big $.

2) Empathy

A big part of the web2.0 / social media trend is about making companies more personal.  Think Whole Foods having a facebook page.  Sales people working for a startup need to reflect that as well.

They need to know what problems their products solve, and how they can help their customers.  The cold hard sell does not work anymore because most people can sniff it out, and becaues they expect more from companies these days.

Empathize too much, and you won't close the deal.  You'll spend all your time worrying about the features that have yet to be built, and not enough time closing what you currently have.

3) Self Confidence

90% of all startups fail... so yes, sales people at startups have to be EVEN more comfortable with failure.  Their obsession with execution and strong belief or faith tha the startup is game changing (we'll touch on faith in a future post) has to keep them going in the worst of times.

After 100 phone calls, 20 touches/contacts,  and 20 rejects, a good sales person will pick up the phone and close a deal on the 21 st call.  A great sales person will close a deal on the 21st call AND give you a full analysis based on what they learned during the 20 calls in which they made contact.

  • 10 of the calls were to this profile of customer, and this type of customer won't buy until they've reached X in revenue
  • 5 of the calls were to the wrong person in the organization, and for 2 of them they told me the product manager was the decision maker
  • 4 of the calls where to potential customers that were already using a competitors product, we need to follow up in 6 months once they're feeling the pain again
  • 1 call came from a legitimate objection, he was an educated customer, and wants a demo with a product team to go through the details

With so much to say on the subject, and so little time, I'm going to break this up into several posts...

Lists: The next problem with owning your social graph

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First, lets start with the assumption that you use more than a couple of social web apps, and each time you sign up for a new social service you find yourself wishing that all your friends were already connected to you on this new account.  Enter the term "Social Graph", and the dilemna of ownership and portability.  You can read in depth about it here and you can learn more about general social graph 1.0 problem here. To solve the first Social Graph problem, solutions like Facebook connect popped up.  Many services let you log in via gmail or twitter to import your address books.  You could register for a new service, or just log in using facebook connect, and within a few minutes you could have a your whole social graph, or at least enough to get started, connected to you. Enter Social Graph Problem 2.0:

Not only do I want to take my social graph with me, but now I want to break it down and carry that meta data with me.

Facebook, in 2006, launched a "news feed" feature dumping all your friends actions into a long stream and immediately overwhelming users across the platform.  The natural reaction (besides futile protesting) was to group friends into little subgroups, to break the data down into more consumable chunks.  This way Facebook could serve as a feed reader from your friends from "college", "work", or even "highschool" through their "Friends Lists" feature.

Screen shot 2009-10-01 at 3.42.18 PM

Screen shot 2009-10-01 at 3.42.18 PM

Now, I've got 600 + friends, its going to be a huge pain to do this manually.  And worse, what if I want my friends categorized like this on other services? Is facebook going to let me take these lists (categories, subgroups, etc) to another service?  Seesmic, Tweetdeck, and most recently Twitter have all added the ability to create lists, while services such 37 Signal's Highrise CRM sofware have powerful tagging features to categorize your contacts.  Things get even more confusing when you bring in new services like, Friendfeed, Threadsy and Gist, where you can group your friends and they communications across all your services (twitter, facebook, etc)

In summary, we're pushing the envelope of data portability, and I think its exposing a bigger problem.  These are my friends.  These are my contacts in life, and to stay in touch with them I need a better way to organize them.  These categories and lists are rapidly going to become important across all the services you use, and right now they're stuck in one place.

Why AnyClip was the most exciting startup at TC50

To some up this year's TC50 experience I wanted to write about the most exciting company there, AnyClip (full disclosure, Nate and I are good friends).

1) The product looks damn good

First and foremost, the product looked damn good for only four months of work.  Within a few seconds of looking at it, even from the back of the room, you could tell what it did.  Compare that to all the "realtime web" applications that just had long cluttered pages of "lifestreaming" data, this one really stands out.

2) The pitch was smooth, slow, and confident

Aaron's spoke about his company and the space they're in with AUTHORITY.  Not something you see from the first timers.  He spoke slowly, and described the product in simple terms everyone could understand, while keeping them entertained with an exciting demo (and some crass jokes).

More importantly he didn't cram in 2000 details about the features, and he got straight to the important issues that the judges wanted to discuss

3) They're taking a huge risk, and thats what startups are about

There was no sneaking around the licensing issue.  Its the 1000lb gorilla in the room.  Everyone knows it, and everyone wants to see them suceed.

4) Like I just said, EVERYONE wants this to happen

Who hasn't said to themselves "oh shit, what movie was that," in a conversation with their friends.  Its something that everyone from my grandma to girlfriend or sister (people that don't fall into the uber nerd category) can understand.

How to describe your startup, and make it stick

After 2 days at TC50 running through the DemoPit gauntlet, I was surprised by how many people have a hard time communicating their business idea.  To make the most of a PR opportunity like TC50 your Sales team, community, and product all need to be in lock step with a great message.

Here are a few steps to help out:

1) Keep it short

The startup world is booming and with so many companies out there its really hard to get anyones attention.  Investors, possible partners, and acquirers are looking at new ideas all day long, so they need to know what you do in 30 seconds or less. 

Angelsoft has this nailed down with their "one line pitch".  Lead with a very short, comprehensive explanation of what your company does and why its different.

2) Make it visible

Once you have this perfect one line pitch, put it out there so everyone can see it.  On your website, make it stand out.  Get marketing, sales, and product all using the same vocabulary, so you're customers see one consistent message. 

At your booth in the DemoPit make it visible so someone can see what you do before coming in for a more detailed discussion. Investors and other interested parties don't want to waste their time or yours, so help them find you.  This last part is KEY!  A half dozen investors mentioned how difficult it was to approach companies without knowing what they did.  Make it easy for them to find you, and you'll have a lot more highly relevant conversations.

3) Keep it simple

Use words that your customers, or your mom can understand.  Here's a great example from Get Satisfaction, a community based customer support site, where they ask their customers how they would describe the service to their mom.

Leave out the buzz words and stick to common sense descriptions that a wide audience can understand

4) Know what your cutomers are hearing, not just what you're saying

This is the all so important feedback loop.  Even once you get your message nailed down, you may not be spreading the right message.  Theres a big difference between what you think you're saying, and what the customers are hearing.

The example by Get Satisfaction above is one way to get feedback on how your customers see your product.  My buddy Dan Martell , suggested that investors just ask their users what 3 words come to mind when they think of XXX company.

You need to be describing your company using the same words that they would use, and you know you have a problem if they describe something completely different than what you built.

Search: not a time warp

Time is flat on the web today!  If the blog post/web page you're currently reading doesn't have a date, you're stuck using design cues in the hopes of carbon dating what era it came from (flashing text, and animated jpgs?) Twitter is coming to address some component of this issue, but they still face the same problem as google, delicious, etc.  How to represent time in your search results.

Here's how I see the issue of "time relevancy":

For example in the "Google Web" category, if I'm looking for advice on how to choose a DSLR Camera (the bigger format digital cameras with swapable lenses) google brings back articles from 2002 and 2003 which no longer applies to todays cameras. I could go to twitter, but I don't necessarily need advice on the camera that came out today, those are too expensive!

How do we solved this for everything in between the Way Back Machine and the Real time web?  Do they all need timelines?  Ones that look better than mine....

Facebook vs. Twitter: Round two with URL shorteners as the judge

I've been managing Kiva's social media initiatives as part of the community outreach team since Feb, and one of my biggest problems has been tracking metrics.  Sure, "real time" web tools are all the rage, but none of them seem to suit my needs ( I want distributed Google Analytics for social media), so I've gone low tech; URL shorteners. Bit.ly to the rescue!  I didn't quite understand this before, but a URL shortener like Bit.ly that provides metrics can serve as a decentralized stats tracking tool.  Unlike something like Google Analytics where you have to have access to the site where you are tracking stats, with bit.ly you can release your unique shortened URL and you can track the stats wherever it goes!

I discovered the idea by accident, and posted a quick version of the test earlier, but for this post I wanted something a little more robust.

Starting Point:

Kiva Twitter Accnt (on 6/12/2009) :  5,758 followers

Kiva Facebook Accnt (on 6/12/2009) : 44,039 fans

The Setup:

I was posting a link to the newly released Kiva App Directory and I wanted to track the clicks this link would get on Facebook vs. Twitter to get an idea of how engaging either service is.  To do this I needed to create two different short URLs on services that provide real time link tracking.

I chose bit.ly to generate the link that I would post to Twitter (bit.ly/PdKQ5) and the SnipURL to generate the one I'd post to Facebook (http://sn.im/jzph9).

Results:

Raw Data:

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picture-348

Chart 1:  Day 1 10am - 4:46pm

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Chart 2: Friday 6/12 - Mon 6/15

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Conclusion:

Kiva's Twitter account, despite having significantly less followers compared to Kiva's Facebook account (6k to 44k), seems to have driven more clicks and faster.  Even over the longer time frame, displayed in the second chart, we can see that Twitter (the blue line) drew increasingly higher rates of clicks when compared to the link that was posted on Facebook.

I'd guess that Twitter users are more active, and they're more interested in using the service for its real time qualities because so many people read it so quickly.  The fact that the traffic kept growing also indicates that Retweeting has a lot of potential and can give a link staying power even if its not your most recent tweet.  In comparison, Facebook's don't seem to aggressively monitor their feeds.  The traffic took longer to build, and then it died off.  This would indicate that "liking" or "commenting" things on Facebook doesn't necessarily drive continued traffic to it.

Original Tweet:

picture-357

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Retweets (14):

picture-3561

picture-3561

Original Facebook post with 43 "likes" and 9 comments:

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My previous "quick test" yielded similar results.  Though the facebook link had more clicks in the end, its not enough to account for the huge difference in the size of the audience (6k twitter vs 44k facebook).  Twitter still seems to be driving a disproportionate amount of engagement compared to Facebook

Quick Test: Facebook vs. Twitter

Just posted a link that I shortend with two seperate shortening services to Kiva's Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Found some interesting stats, and wanted to post them quickly before going back and writing a full post. Here are the stats after two days:

Bit.ly (posted on Twitter)

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picture-311

SnipURL (Posted on Facebook)

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picture-309

Given that our Twitter account has around 5k followers and our Facebook account has 42k fans, I was surprised how many clicks that I got from Twitter.  I've already run more "serious" tests and I'll post the results.

Kiva Developers Garage

You probably heard about it through facebook or twitter, but last weekend I participate in the first Kiva Developer Garage.   The idea was to promote the launch of their new API, and get a bunch of new projects kick started.  Though Im not a developer, I attended to motivate, inspire, and provide some ideas on which direction the apps could take. In short we had 25+ coders show up and we proposed a handful of general projects:

1) Javascript Loan browser - to make the browsing experience sexier

2) iphone App

3) better Facebook app

4) wordpress plugin

5) google friend connect

My main interests where around the Facebook application and the Wordpress Widget.  If we can get to the point that every someone Facebook account makes a loan or gets repaid, they post it back to their news feed, we'd be set.  People would learn about the lending and loaning experience through their friends, and would be more comfortable checking out Kiva.org for the first time.

On the wordpress widget, the idea is that many bloggers are out there lending to Kiva and they want to show their kiva street cred.  We want to display our portfolios and our stats to the world in the hopes of challenging more people to get involved.

Both of these projects got off to a good start, and once I track the links, I'll post them.  In the meantime, here's the video:

Help getting images in blog posts

My friend Rachel is traveling the world doing all kinds of crazy things, and you can see her wordpres travel blog here.  The problem is, she's got no pics in her posts! So she needed to know how to post pictures from her flickr.com account into her blog posts on wordpress.com

Here goes:

Adding a Flickr Photo to a Post on Wordpress.com

Shocker, my favorite non-profit is Kiva

Fred Wilson put up a good post almost a week ago about blogging for a cause, which lead me to Zemanta's (Fred invested in them) Blogging for a Cause campagin. Since I'm already on quite a roll about Kiva, I figured why not post one more time about why I think they're such a great organization:

1) Transparency

In todays world of stock market scandals and top secret government documents, I want to see whats going on behind the curtain.  Kiva takes transparency to the max, and it shows in every aspect of their business.  Here they are working with Ernst & Young to be more transparent, and here's a group of hard core supporters dedicated to making Kiva stays transparent!

2) Scalability

Kiva has the ability to touch a lot of people and make a difference.  They've loaned out $73million from nearly 500,000 lenders to 175,000 entrepreneurs.  Wow.  Those are some huge numbers, and they're growing every day.  The more time I spend on social media for Kiva, the more I realize how many future lenders still don't know about Kiva.org!

3) Efficiency

In only four years with under 30 full time employees they did all this!

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This blog post is part of Zemanta's "Blogging For a Cause" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

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Anatomy of a failed Twitter Campaign

After getting the "@kiva" name on twitter I wanted to get the word out that Kiva.org now officially had a twitter presence that people could remember.  Prior to that we had been using @kivacs and @kivadotorg, and people were mistakenly assuming that we were @kiva. Inspired by Charlie O'Donnell's co-opting of Follow Friday to promote the launch of his company, path101, i wanted to do the same for Kiva.  The idea was to get as many people as possible recommending @kiva for Follow Friday using the #followfriday hashtags, in the hopes of gaining 1k followers.  To set the scene, we emailed all of kiva's mailing lists (700+) and 20+ of the top people I could think of on Twitter (which isn't exactly an impressive list).

Here are the rough stats we got on Follow Friday May the 15th (which we started with around 2400 followers):

New Followers :200

Follow Friday Recommendations : 90

I did a quick run through of those 90 people who gave us a shout out, and combined they had 46,000 followers.  Thats 500 followers on average, so we're not talking about a bunch of new accounts here.

We also posted about the initiative to our blog, and to our Facebook page, which had 40k fans at the time. Later in the day 2pm PST, we even got posted on@micah's (the creator of follow friday) www.followfridays.com Feature Followers section.

Here's what the day looked like on TwitterCounter, you can just barely see the graph curve up a bit more on May 15th We went up from gaining an average of a 150 users each day to over 200:

kiva-twitter-counter

kiva-twitter-counter

Since my goal for the day had been to add 1k new followers, I was a bit dissapointed.  I'd love to know what other people expect when doing this kind of campaign.  My buddy Dan Martell has a similar post on his blog, which can be used as a comparable.  A guest blogger, @coryschop , does an 8 hour experiment and gains 83 new followers.