THE FIRST JEWISH START-UP NATION ? CHABAD: MARKETING GENIUS
Start-up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer has received tremendous accolades – inside and outside of the Jewish world for good reason as they detailed how tiny Israel has been able to reach such growth and success. On the heels of Oprah Winfrey’s visit to Crown Heights this week, I’d argue that the first Jewish start-up “nation” has indeed been Chabad. Following the initiative of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, emissaries have moved all over the world with the simple mission of encouraging Jews to learn more about their Jewish heritage and to practice Judaism. They assist Jews with their religious needs, as well as with physical assistance and spiritual guidance and teaching. And today, it’s said all over the Jewish community – there are two things everywhere in the world – Coca Cola and Chabad.
Owning 1 of the 25 largest PR Firms in the US, it is amazing to watch this movement which is today the largest Jewish organization in the world market – From celebrity involvement on their telethon with people like Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, James Caan, Jerry Lewis and others to political influence in Russia and elsewhere, what is it that this organization has done so amazingly well ?
The following book excerpt is a glimpse into why Chabad is so successful:
“Chabad.org is the official website for the worldwide Chabad- Lubavitch movement which promotes Judaism and provides daily Torah lectures and Jewish news and insights. Chabad does an enviable job of listening to its constituents, ingratiating itself, and becoming an integral part of their lives, allowing others to spread the word and entice more people to join the conversation. Its mission is realized in many ways, not the least of which is via a robust news and information service accessed daily by tens of thousands of people from all faiths across the globe. In fact, it welcomes 1.3 million unique visitors monthly, making it the most popular Jewish information site on the Web. It has, in particular, harnessed technology and social networking to fulfill its mission, and is an example of how organizations can go to where their constituents live in order to listen to and interact with them, even if they are in far-flung areas of the globe.
“We serve all kinds of people on the website and through social media, enabling us to reach out to the furthest corners of the world,” says Rabbi Motti Seligson, who manages media for Chabad. It’s exactly this sense of community that is the dream of many brands. Chabad wins by offering a variety of interactive services and information that is continually updated, which keeps people coming back for more. People come to us to study, some come for our ‘Ask the Rabbi’ feature, each answered individually by a rabbi, some for inspiration, others for information, and news. We listen carefully to what they want and we give it to them.”
“Visitors run the gamut of those who live in the middle of nowhere and don’t have a rabbi, to students looking for answers, to people in trouble looking for hope and help, to worldwide readers, including reporters for mainstream publications like The New York Times who depend on Chabad’s news service for up-to- date Jewish-related news from around the world. In 2008, the Times ran a story about the organization’s news arm—praising it for its ability to forge relationships with reporters from mainstream news outlets and exchange tips with them. The coverage, was the result of two New York Times reporters who used news feeds on Chabad while covering a Jewish-related news story involving breaking developments. “We have a network of 4,000 Chabad representatives or emissaries around the world, so when, for instance, there was a bombing in a Moscow airport or an earthquake in Japan, we can call the rabbi there and ask what’s happening and how they are helping,”
Chabad uses social media platforms like Facebook and others successfully without sacrificing traffic on its vibrant hub. The organization keeps tweets short and provocative with relevant language and themes that always bring followers back to the home website via links. Chabad’s Facebook postings are similar (“Can Judaism Be Fun?”), and also include feature- and news-story posts. More than 20,000 (and growing) fans read the threads and interact with each other and Chabad moderators. Many become fans via the main website and link back and forth between it, Facebook, and Twitter. “It is about a traditional movement with traditional foundations harnessing the power of technology,” says Seligson. “Everything in this world was created for a divine purpose, and it is our job to use the tools we are given for a higher purpose, whether it is TV or the Internet,” he says.
With an attitude like that it’s not hard to see how Chabad has a built-in advantage when connecting with people. The other smart outreach Chabad does is with its affiliate websites—1,300 of them, in fact. “Say you’re a rabbi in California running a camp or a school and you don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a dedicated programmer, or you have no time to build a sophisticated website and fill it with content. There’s a limit to how much of that you can do on your own,” says Seligson. So they can use Chabad’s back-end content and build a site with its own unique feel, complete with local information about programs. The rabbis can choose where they want Chabad content, including 15,000 audio and video files for streaming. Chabad is a powerhouse technology—rich and easy to navigate— but it is the quality, variety, and daily freshness that keep people returning to the site. When visitors land on Chabad they are immediately welcomed and become quickly engaged with news, provocative and fun questions (there is no lack of humor and good cheer on the site), insight, advice, and information.
Some useful takeaways from Chabad’s success:
1. Be “widely selective.” Engage people on multiple platforms in unique ways without overdoing it. Chabad uses social media thoughtfully and always in a way that drives people back to its hub. And it consistently ranks number one when searching for Jewish content online.
2. Don’t be rude. When a person accepts a brand or business into their social network, they don’t want to get advertisements, spam, or “invitations” to parties that are actually just phony sales events.
Chabad keeps posts short, sweet, and focused.
3. Provide something of value. Chabad offers advice and news that’s current and usable—and integrated in one place. There’s really nowhere else on the Web where you can find as much Jewish content.
4. Stay relevant. Don’t post content just for the sake of posting content; otherwise people begin to ignore or delete it. It’s the most relevant Public Relations possible.
5. Show your speed. One of the best ways to use social media is to respond to constituents. When Chabad gets questions from fans, they are answered quickly and sincerely.
6. Ask a question. Customers are flattered when you ask for their opinions—and it’s a great way to engage people with your brand. Chabad poses questions often and it generates lively conversation and interaction among fans this way.
7. Consistency counts. Social media platforms are as important as any other platform in maintaining your core message, authenticity, and mission. Never let social media get away from those things—messages can quickly get out of control if the person or people maintaining your news feeds and postings aren’t constantly reminded of the brand’s mission and values