Virgin Unite

43 Martin Road, Upper Moutere RD2, 7175 New Zealand | Home: 00 64 3 543 2211 Mobile: 00 64 21 0221 3090 Mobile 2: 00 64 21 031 0674 (call any time, morning, noon, and night)

Confidential Report:
“How to Get Virgin Unite on Track & Prevent Armageddon”

[blockquote] Hey Sir Richard! … WHY Does No One Give A Damn About, & The [/blockquote]

unoteI do and I am mystified!

“We connect amazing people and great ideas to make positive change happen in the world”

I say this with caution for fear of alienating you from the outset but my instinct dictates that you’ll be thankful to see that according to the evidence, Virgin Unite is failing to unite the people that can help drive radical change in the shortest possible time frame.

The Internet generation is the greatest force on Earth; one that can make the difference and to motivate them to action, I sincerely believe we need to connect on their level, to learn ‘with’ them … yet despite support for ‘green issues’ in the media, they appear to be resolutely more interested in whether Fat Booth & Angry Birds can run on the latest iPhone, than how green it is!

Virgin Unite may be succeeding in bringing great minds and great ideas together however, looking over the online campaigns it would appear that you’ve either not connected with billions of people from every corner of the globe … or people simply don’t share our passion to save it!

I’ll outline my findings below, the issues I perceive and most importantly, you’ll hopefully be excited to hear … what I can do to fix it!

I’m angry and frustrated … I used to be a freelance chartered yacht skipper sailing the most beautiful cruising grounds in the world and over the years felt a growing unease as I saw the impact of the exploding population upon even the most remote destinations.  After an exciting period in my life working as a Sea Gypsy I finally settled down with my beautiful wife and nurtured an amazing family. To support us I found that building businesses on the Internet provided an enviable lifestyle.

For my last birthday Anna (my wife) bought me Business Stripped Bare .. It’s a great read, you may have heard of it!

You have achieved so much and Virgin has always been there subconsciously offering a myriad of goodies throughout my life but what surprised me was how, in recent years you’ve turned your focus to ‘Saving the Planet’ … this was a revelation to me because without been given a book and reading your theories on the phenomenal success the of Virgin brand, I simply did not know!

And in my humble opinion this appears to be a wider issue … I spend my working life on the Internet and study trending topics. It’s a fundamental part of my business as it helps me focus on where the traffic is flowing. Yet I’ve rarely seen a mention of your incredible projects.

Of course, I see Virgin Galactic as a trending feed occasionally, but that’s hardly an environmental hot topic! So after reading your book and getting more excited as the chapters flowed by, I began to question why I had no notion of the humanitarian direction Virgin was heading in … Was I really that out of touch?  

“Surely the rest of the world is ‘on topic’; surely there’s not a person out there that doesn’t share Sir Richard’s vision” … well after a week of research and looking over the Virgin Unite analytics, disappointingly, it appears not!!!

After making some preliminary investigations I put together a short report. I showed it to my wife and she advised that I not bother approaching you because for a man blessed with such focus and drive to develop eight, billion dollar companies, there must be a reason.

I disagreed and decided that I would approach you and hopefully uncover the mystery. Discover if there is a specific reason that your worthy projects after five years are, in my view ‘failing’ to become the Zeitgeist … If there is a strategic reason for the poor performance confirming my wife’s suspicions and my efforts today are a waste of time, then at least I can move on … I’d like to know that at least I tried this path!

You see, I have an all-consuming desire to help. I am worried; worried for the future of the Planet and on a more selfish level, worried for my children. We’ve seen such rapid changes recently and there never appears to be any good news!

As an Internet Marketer I have battled in the trenches. I too am dyslexic, I can’t recite a times table above number seven and can’t remember a single sentence if it’s sung. Yet I built my business by developing copyrighting skills that have garnered praise and a lot of sales! I learned to spell properly with the help of the spell checker, thesaurus and grammar checker and it works.

I’ve had a number of small successes and this has resulted in a great life for us. I recently built a beautiful home in the middle of the New Forest, signed off the snagging list and promptly closed it up and came here to New Zealand to create a new life!

WHY? Because I feel people here care and I want to be part of that.  But I want more, I desperately want to feel I made a difference with my time (something you advocate in your book). So here I am, working on ways to fulfil my personal brief … looking for ways to steer change.

I Can Make a Difference!

Since arriving here things have not gone to plan business wise, but I have regrouped and am back on track. However, until this point I couldn’t help thinking that the combination of issues was attestation that fate was conspiring against me … but to what end?

I’ve had many ideas and started a couple of projects to help empower people to save the planet, but they have been only moderately successful and as they were designed to be altruistic  they don’t pay the bills! Day to day pressures of life and a family including three young children require that I’m constantly providing, so have to focus my time on business. The irony is that if my projects had been more successful I wouldn’t be here writing this and being in a position to make a massive difference.

Serendipity has shown her hand and I think I can see clearly now how I can help make that difference … providing YOU want Virgin Unite, The Carbon War Room and The Elders to be THE trending topic of coming years.

Campaign Report

Here are just some of the problems I see with current campaigns as an Internet Marketing Entrepreneur who has to wear multiple hats, manipulate traffic and social media, build contact lists, develop software and programs, come up with innovative strategies and constantly monitor ROI just to pay the bills:


    Traffic Rank: 499,220 This is an indicator of very low traffic numbers – a moderately busy site will at least be in the 100k bracket
    Sites Linking in: 533 This represents only 533 references to Virgin Unite from other sites
    Demographic: According to Alexa the site is visited predominantly by girls at school
    Visibility: I can provide a full audit but it will only confirm visibility very low
  • Compare Virgin Unite to Greenpeace: Ranked 13,110 with 38,000 sites linking in
  • Compare Virgin Unite to WWF: Ranked 145,00 with 3,750 sites linking in
  • Compare Virgin Unite to WWF UK: Ranked 145,00 with 3,750 sites linking in
  • Compare Virgin Unite to WWF USA: Ranked 51,000 with 8,720 sites linking in
  • Compare Virgin Unite to Oxfam: Ranked 53,200 with 7,088 sites linking in
  • Now compare Virgin Unite something as trashy as the World Wrestling Site: Ranked 1,500 with 9,000 sites linking in


  • Social plugins are causing issues (only designed for the benefit of the social network owner)
  • Site structure is causing major issues
  • Complicated architecture
  • Site not properly optimised
  • WC3 Errors (not compliant with modern parameters)
  • Many issues for which I can provide a comprehensive report
  • Speed: Very slow, due to a number of different factors, including poor code, no respect for w3c standards, use of depreciated code, way too many requested (265 requests that’s 20 x more then recommended), 2.75MB front page size (that’s 10 times more then recommended) Heavy  use and unnecessary usage of View State – encrypted data and more…)
  • Front End Technologies:
    Java scripts: Too many files, too many requests; should use external files
    CSS: Not compliant 347 errors and 307 warnings, too many files, too many requests; should be in an external file
    HTML: Not compliant 29 errors
    Pictures: No optimization on number and size and alt tags
    Mobile: 12 points of failure
  • SEO:
    PageRank: 5
    Site map XML: Not found
    Crawl ability: URL not optimized, use of special character, too long, not descriptive, ID arguments etc…
    URLs: Not optimized (Ex: too many special characters)
  • Links: Lack of strategy No .gov or .edu
  • Conclusion: The conclusion is based on testing and analysis. All aspects have been measured using authoritative tools that leave no space for speculation. In general, the code is very poorly written, doesn’t respect any official standards or known best practices. No effort has been focused on code quality or website optimization. On the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) end, I do not see any real effort that has been consciously put into this website.


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VIRGIN UNITE SERPs (search engine page results)

  • Not found Page 1 for any major keyword – obvious phrases ‘save the planet’, ‘climate change’ ‘richard branson’


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  • Low – website & campaign focus on ‘US’ not ‘YOU’


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  • No proactive list building from partner websites, affiliates or social media
  • Found on registering. The point of registering is not clear and on entering the area social interactivity is not obvious. The registration conformation mail is a simple text affair pointing people back to Virgin Unite and giving no incentive to refer a friend:


Dear Paul,
Thanks for registering! Now that you are signed up there are loads of great ways you can get involved.
To Give Cash, Give Time, Fundraise or Give Voice please visit

Refer a friend.
Simply log on to you profile then click the ‘refer a friend’ button at the top right of the screen near your photo. You can send your unique referral link via email, Facebook or Twitter. Click here to visit your profile now
Virgin Unite



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  • Issues found for which I can provide a comprehensive report


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THE ELDERS SERPs (search engine page results)

  • Not found Page 1 for any major keyword – obvious phrases ‘global leaders’ ‘peace activists’ ‘elder statesman’


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  • Low – website & campaign focus on ‘US’ not ‘YOU’


  • Found (small subscribe button )
  • No proactive list building from websites or social media


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  • I can provide a comprehensive report but there is a lack of focus or ‘funnel’. Heavily reliant on other sites such as Twitter


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CARBON WAR ROOM SERPs (search engine page results)

  • Not found Page 1 for any major keyword – obvious phrases ‘energy efficiency’ ‘carbon’ ‘carbon footprint’ ‘climate change’


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  • Low – website & campaign focus on ‘US’ not ‘YOU’


  • Found (small subscribe button )
  • No proactive list building from websites or social media


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The Solution

I feel that the guys running the projects have followed accepted, conventional ‘agency’ wisdom. This is fine when delivering a product for a client but not when the product should deliver measurable results and especially when the campaign is this important.

One of my closest friends has worked for some of the biggest advertising agencies in Britain and written some iconic ads, but when I ask as an Internet Marketing Entrepreneur about how those ads stack up in ROI, there are no figures.  He can tell me that they raised ‘Brand Awareness’ but not how that was achieved, what people became ‘more’ aware of the brand and from exactly which source.

I need to know who clicked on what, where and when .. I need to A/B split test every element of a campaign … I need to know that I’m getting a return on my budget or my family doesn’t eat!

The Internet is changing by the day and the sad fact appears to be that after five years, the Virgin Unite message isn’t connecting on the Internet is it?


From your writing I get the impression that you value honest criticism and I hope you see all my findings as constructive. 

Frankly, I think the current online campaigns are totally off the mark – there appears to be no engagement whatsoever with a focus on ‘look at us, look at what we’re doing’

In your book you say that it is a valuable asset to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer.  I have to ask, is the customer really interested in the fact that, as the main headline states: ‘Virgin Unite are the not for profit foundation of the Virgin Group, founded by Richard Branson’?

I believe that a campaign as far reaching as Virgin Unite requires an holistic approach. I believe I have the motivation, the talent, the tools and the will to take the Virgin Unite campaign to a better place. I believe that to be truly successful there are many facets that need to be managed in equal, sustained measure.

As I said earlier, I vehemently believe that the last eighteen months of ‘knocks’ have led me to this crossroads. New Zealand is full of talented, conscientious people and the ones that aren’t here, want to be here, they’re just off chasing the Aussie dollar!

I came to New Zealand to develop a small, focused team to drive my websites using all the techniques I have developed as an Internet Marketing Entrepreneur.

I have set up a small Internet Marketing company and we’re currently managing our programming … we only work on our own projects. We run the biggest auction search engine in the UK, a wonderful service which we’re upgrading. We run (this site) that delivers many of the proprietary marketing tools I would use to develop Virgin Unite if it were simply a marketing exercise (which I hope, as you’ll read, it’s not!).

To drive Virgin Unite I propose to lead and arm a small, highly focused, highly motivated team with the marketing skills that are working right now, combined with my radical ideas to ‘move’ Virgin Unite exponentially and galvanise current thinking.

Due to the size and complexity of the challenge I propose that the team would be responsible for the management of the various elements rather than get bogged down in day to day chores.  The management team needs to be free to concentrate on research and development and be able designate the most potent tasks to where they can be actioned as quickly as possible … I detail how I see this running and importantly how it can be commercially sustained below.

I know this isn’t news to you and you’ve obviously got your finger on the pulse. My extensive tests show that people from all demographics want to be engaged, hence the rise of social networks and Simon Cowell’s TV shows. The people have become the media.

There are Teenagers with Facebook and Twitter pages with followers numbering Millions and staggeringly many YouTube channels run by kids with Billions of views.

I have an idea for the main proposition and all my tests seem to indicate that this is the way forward.

The proposition needs to be simple, uncomplicated, yet drive populations to ‘do something’, anything, no matter how small because I believe it is the people that will drive change and big business will have no choice but to react … but the people’s voice has to be loud!

I believe the ‘will’ is there and people want to experience a better life in a better place … I’m sure viewers collectively weep when Sir David Attenborough informs us at the end of each amazing episode that the impact of humans on his subjects is at a tipping point.

The Campaign

The campaign I propose is simple, engaging, enlightening, frightening, motivating, effective and above all emotive … and is simply: Why?

WHY … The most powerful, empowering word in the world!

THE VIRGIN UNITE PLEDGE: To ask ‘WHY‘ as often as possible.

‘Why’ instantly connects … Why invites How, which can be rewarded by Wow!

By asking why a person is immediately moved to a ‘thinking’ rather than the ‘passive’ mode of a lecture:

“Why is this yogurt in a plastic bottle, with a plastic pull cap, with a plastic lid, in a plastic wrapper?”

“Why doesn’t my car run on Ethanol?”

“Why is Indian’s population exploding?”

“Why am I fighting this war in Afganistan?” 

“Why isn’t a solar panel powerful enough to run my home and small enough to not take over it, not available when they can put rovers on Mars?”

“Why don’t the World’s most powerful people do something about the state of the planet?”

The ‘Why Pledge’ will be extended to ALL people from ALL nations. We invite them to ask a question at least once a week and just by doing that let them work out their own answers.

How Why Works

Giving The WHY Pledge Teeth :: Viral Marketing

It’s all well and good asking people to participate in WHY and to generate open thinking and even to ask them, time and again for their goodwill and donations … but the brutal truth is that people are too consumed with their own lives to take measurable action.

I also believe people feel helpless and although they would like to do something, feel that they have no voice. The accusation finger is squarely pointed at the housewife with three children for generating so much waste, yet she’d love to shout to a world that listens: “I don’t want to create all this rubbish, I want the supermarkets to stop the manufactures packing everything in multiple layers of plastic.”

Families are pilloried for protecting their children in large 4 x 4 vehicles. The question on mother’s lips is, “why don’t the manufacturers make a safer, greener, trendy alternative?”

I felt guilty after I filled in a questionnaire and found I had a massive carbon footprint until I realised that most of it was due to the fact that I fly a lot … “why do I burden the blame because the airlines burn dirty fuel?”

I think that not only is modern media overwhelming and often manipulative, it’s paralyzing. The average person just doesn’t know which way to turn … so they move at all!

Take the current debate over global warming, is it or isn’t it? With two sides and two opposing agendas it’s hardly surprising that mom is confused!

To motivate people today they need an incentive to give voice to their concerns for the planet because they simply won’t bother and what better way of showing them that Virgin Unite is listening than giving a reward to prove it.

I believe that even the most effective conventional marketing campaigns now have little effect.

Virgin could spend millions on a slick multi-media presentation of the facts only to see a small rise in brand awareness, a few curious visitors and a few fleeting mentions in the news.

People are beaten over the head every minute of the day. Here in New Zealand television has become simply unwatchable with five minutes of adverts for every ten minutes (sometimes five) of viewing. Yet a simple You Tube video can receive 40,000,000 views for free!

Is Rewards & Incentives the Answer?

One idea is to Reward people for their WHYs & their input … Reward them for recommending the Pledge to others on a two tier basis generating virility. The more ‘WHYs’ they generate, the bigger the rewards.

Tier 1 Rewards = 10 points per pledge.
Tier 2 Rewards = Introduce a friend and get a 20 points override on the people they introduce

  • The pledge comes in the form of a written question posted by the visitor at Virgin Unite. People can build points the more questions they ask (up to a maximum limitation we set)
  • We add further points if they go on to detail what good things they did after asking why
  • Secure affiliate software will track and allocate rewards.  We build a community that effectively gets ‘paid’ for spreading the word and for becoming an active inquisitor
  • We develop a platform where people can meet and exchange these ideas and find solutions (see big idea below)
  • We develop goals and objectives for the why campaign, to keep people on track and on topic
  • Rewards can be in many forms for example Virgin Unite vouchers redeemed against the weekly shop or fuel (currently very successful in New Zealand but not so green!), or virgin products
  • Virgin Unite could feature a Rewards Catalogue so people can choose from discounts off plane tickets to vodka!

The beauty of this proposal is that not only are our Pledgers committing to make a small difference in any way they can, but they are incentivised to spread the word. Though the WHY campaign we can create a vibrant community, awash with questions, ideas and solutions on the forum and this opens up many monetisation models.

Marketing, Delivery and Sustainability of WHY

As I said, I don’t think a conventional marketing campaign would be the most effective approach or have the penetration needed to get WHY out there on a global scale. However, armed with the right rewards and incentives I believe I am in a position to move an army of Internet Marketing Entrepreneurs, business owners, campaigners and especially those struggling at home to pay modest bills.

There are powerful marketers you’ll have never heard of who are in a position to bring aboard 100,000 people very quickly to WHY and how about giving them a Trip to Space for doing so?

“We connect amazing people and great ideas to make positive change happen in the world”

My web agency develops and trains highly talented programmers with a competitive edge. The CEO is first and foremost an Internet Entrepreneur building his eHealth Forum to six million visitors a month.  He then sold this to Internet Brands, which was recently acquired by Hellman & Friedman ($640,000,000).

The development agency now runs the programming for the IB portfolio which enjoys 100+ million unique visitors per month, 98% of visitors are from organic (non-paid) sources.

If this were just a simple website makeover on the existing Unite domain:

  • I propose that we build a stable platform with a robust architecture that is scalable and able to handle the Virgin Unite community
  • We implement a robust community venue forum
  • We tie the forum and the WHY pledge together offering the best solutions to the questions and inviting the person to join the conversation
  • The site will be fully optimised for search engine placement
  • Proven online and off line marketing will be used to drive traffic and back end software will be written to manage content and track rewards and incentives


  • To create a WHY mobile presence enabling people to pledge on the move as questions occur to them


  • To develop lively, vibrant apps designed to appeal to various demographics and subtly raise awareness of the WHY campaign. Research and development will identify opportunities.


  • We use our online marketing experience to build a better Facebook page with engaging content that goes viral BUT … contrary to conventional wisdom, we don’t use Facebook as our hub.  This is the modern mistake.  Our research has shown that Facebook is not designed to help build business, it is designed to sell advertising and actively suppresses  business growth.  Facebook is a source to drive traffic to our WHY community using our proprietary social tools.


  • We use our online marketing experience to build a better Twitter page with engaging content that goes viral BUT … contrary to conventional wisdom, we don’t use Twitter as our hub. We don’t rely on twitter for our content.  Twitter is to be seen as another source to draw from, not embrace.


  • We create several You Tube channels targeted at different demographics offering relevant and viral content.  I believe I can put together a small, talented  team able to write, film and produce content that appeals to the Internet community.
  • We use You Tube to drive traffic to the WHY community.


  • We use our online marketing experience to build a network over all social networks including Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin etc


  • Relevant news and press releases will be syndicated via RSS to relevant directories


  • To develop the blog in a vibrant and engaging way. A focus on YOU not US … we constantly ask our own questions: What do YOU want to hear?

VIRGIN UNITE SERPs (search engine page results)

  • We will need a dedicated team.  SEO is a major string to the bow.  It’s not just a case of adding a few meta tags after Google’s updates but also requires an holistic approach.
  • Site architecture must be up to standard
  • The site needs to be fully optimised image-wise and be user friendly
  • The site needs to encourage comment and activity
  • The site need regular, original content
  • The site needs a dedicated partner and backlink strategy
  • My recommendations for the WHY campaign combined with a stable platform will achieve this


  • We will ensue local search visibility


  • My recommendations for the WHY campaign will achieve this – website & campaign focus on ‘YOU’ not ‘US’


  • To develop a vibrant point of communication
  • To develop active list building from partner websites, affiliates and social media
  • To develop obvious points of entry and clear propositions


  • To develop a vibrant, engaging and lively Blog
  • To ensure the Blog ties together the forum and newsletter


Whilst reading back through this proposal I pondered over my suggestion for a forum.  I suggested this because my development company builds the most popular forum software on the Internet, VBulletin. Internet Brands who I mentioned earlier, own the software and receive over 100 million unique visitors a month to the forums they run, which is an enviable figure and one that was a deciding factor when Hellman & Friedman acquired them for a reported $640,000,000

Veertical Scope enjoys 50,000,000 unique users a month through it’s forums, so it was a valid proposition.

BUT … Then realised that this is Sir Richard Branson you’re pitching to!

Pioneer, consumer champion, a maverick who thrives by tacking on impossible challenges, mixing it up with the big boys and winning … a forum???

That’s not going to get the juices flowing is it???


Bigger, better, more adventurous by a country mile … so I went away and thought some more:

‘WHY’ Delivered Through Responsible Social Networking

It occurred to me that the Virgin Unite mission could be delivered through a BRAND NEW social network; a social network run by the people, for the people … and the planet!

A social network created to serve the users and take on the self-serving offerings currently controlling the sector.

‘Social networking technologies like Facebook let us connect to hundreds, even thousands of people and have fundamentally changed how people get their information.

‘While much of our time is spent communicating with close friends about events in our personal lives, we also use online networks to share breaking news, discuss political issues and learn about new trends.

‘The study shows that even though people are more likely to consume and share information that comes from close contacts that they interact with frequently (like discussing a photo from last night’s party), the vast majority of information comes from contacts that they interact with infrequently.  These distant contacts are also more likely to share novel information, demonstrating that social networks can act as a powerful medium for sharing new ideas, highlighting new products and discussing current events.’ [1]

Apparently we spend over 7 hours on Facebook each month!

I believe that the time has never been better than to take on Facebook and its 900 MILLION USERS

People need an open, transparent alternative  – if the current conversations are anything to go by, people are fed up of reading benign drivel – why tell people that you’re off to the pub when you should tell the world what you did to save it today?

Twitter is a tsunami of 140 character nothings.

Google + is not the success it should be after offering everything a good social network would need. People didn’t flock to it because I truly believe they feel Google is all about Google.

In your book you praise the Google founders and I totally agree that Larry and Serge are to be admired for their achievements.  However, the experience of millions of businesses and users is not so good. Google took away choice by developing one of the greatest monopolies in the history of the world based on what people perceive as copyright theft and privacy abuse. Businesses are regularly wiped out of search results and bankrupted as Google experiments with its algorithms and refuses to publish what companies can do to resolve the situation. Admittedly  other companies are winners in algorithm changes but only until the next update. The point being that Google plays whimsical with consumers’ livelihoods in it’s self serving interests.

So it’s no surprise when I say that I feel Google + will never be accepted or anything backed by Google because people simply don’t trust Google!

It is regularly reported that privacy laws are routinely abused as Google supports its Adwords and Adsence programmes. They bought You Tube simply to stuff it with Google ads every time someone tries to watch a video (subtle!), not to provide a better experience.

People resent having their surfing habits monitored, tagged and archived. They don’t like having their every word in a Gmail scanned with the purpose of serving targeted adverts they don’t want to read. People resent having their homes photographed and published to the world in Google Street View and they are suspicious that Google will simply abuse their trust on Google +

Facebook is all about Zuckerberk and his investors.  People know this, resent it, but there is no alternative!

I believe the ONLY reason people stay on Facebook is because their friends and idols are there.  It a fact that Facebook manipulate the reach of posts and user conversations and my limited tests appear to confirm this. They’re suppressing virility so that people and businesses have to pay to reach friends who have subscribed to receive their posts.  Now theer’s nothing wrong with this until you read that Facebook promote the fact that it is a free platform … users know they are being deceived.

It is commonly reported that Facebook also routinely abuse privacy laws, both moral and statute to target advertising.  The Internet is awash with conspiracy theories regarding Facebook/CIA and users resent the constant abuse of what is essentially THEIR space…

… Yet there is no viable alternative!

Myspace has recently been bought by a team led by Justin Timberlake and undergone a huge makeover in an attempt to win back fans with a new focus on bands and music. As I was writing this the makeover was on the verge of going live and I was surprised to see that some of the features I propose for the new network were implemented … But the media are skeptical that the site can make a comeback and even suggest that the owners are simply looking to make a return on their investment.

From the Guardian: “I’m ready to give the new Myspace a chance – but there are ground rules”

‘A relaunched Myspace stands a chance if it’s original, deals with our personal data responsibly and isn’t plastered with brands

‘I hope we will be empowered by the new Myspace, although I do fear that monetisation could take precedence. Data-mining is the norm and is only becoming more Orwellian. While I doubt that the new Myspace is simply a marketing exercise to find out what my favourite pizza is, whether I’m a fan of Volvo estates or whether I like Justin Timberlake, I was discouraged to learn that Specific (New MySpace owners) is itself an ad agency. Their website boasts of being able to “enable brands to connect with consumers”.

‘Timberlake makes a cameo in the promotional video, demonstrating how Myspace Music will form part of the comeback. However, it turns out that the singer is a stakeholder in Specific. Blatant self-promotion, or clever crossover?’

I believe that although MySpace is now owned by Specific/Timberlake the Murdoch associations still affect it. I also think that Timberlake’s success as a ‘pop’ star excludes a proportion of music industry who don’t want to be associated with his brand but ultimately, I believe the self serving interests of Specific media will cause the biggest issues.

The following is from their website and points towards an advertising based proposition:

‘In July 1999, Tim Vanderhook founded the company with his brothers, Chris and Russell. Through its superior technology and expansive reach, Specific Media soon began to play a major role in shaping the direction of the online advertising industry by enabling marketers to address advertising to specific consumer segments across the online world.

‘Today, the company is leading the next phase of the advertising evolution by being the first to integrate display, video, mobile and IPTV into a single unified platform. Specific Media makes addressable advertising a reality, working across formats and screens and delivering a comprehensive set of targeting technologies and measurement capabilities.

Specific Media is the partner of choice for brand advertisers, with a notable Fortune 500 advertiser base and a roster of name brand publisher partners.’

… But there is no viable alternative.

The time has never been better for a NEW place to meet and be social 

Working title: Unite (is this the right name?)

This new social network for the people, driven by the people would be clean, honest, open and it would give purpose and hope.  The music makers and celebrities would help make it cool and Virgin has the ability to do this.

Facebook’s connectivity is its own worst enemy when a viable, sexy alternative is on offer. Virgin is cool, it has its roots in music and I believe this is so powerful – if the Justin Bibers of the world start posting “Come over to my new Unite page and see what I’m proud of, see that I converted my Ferrari to bio fuel’, he could pull a million people over in a matter of hours.

Or for Stephen Fry (4.8 Million Followers) to tweet “look at what I’ve been doing for the rhinos in Africa” come over to Unite to see and help!

The social network would benefit from the Toyota Prias phenomenon. Why drive a gas guzzler when you can be seen to be protecting the environment by driving a hybrid car?

Why support Facebook and Twitter when you could be feeding more responsible posts on the new grown up network of the people?

The responsible social network would be:

  • Fun, open and above all HONEST!
  • Revenues from features such as responsible advertising are transparent and excess profits are put back into good causes, rewards and development of planet-saving ideas
  • It would have an elegant interface, vibrant with more visual biased following the current trends towards photo sharing sites like Pinterest (currently fastest growing network) and Instagram (50 million users, attempted acquisition by FB for an estimated $1billion)
  • It would respect the user’s profile space and not make sweeping changes unless they agree to it
  • It would be more business friendly as a thank you for driving traffic to their pages and Virgin Unite
  • Advertisers would be vetted and only those who were responsible and offered value for the consumer would be allowed to present their products to people who wanted to see them. This is in direct contradiction to the current model whereby advertising is sold to the highest bidder and served, nay, rammed down the gullets of users, regardless of what it is and whether the customer has requested to see it
  • It would find a more responsible, imaginative, appealing way to serve advertising.  Let the user take control and set what they would like to see instead of the Facebook/Google model of targeting ads based on information gained by snooping on user profiles. I believe people want to be shown the latest and best deals but want to be able to choose when and how they view them
  • It would allow the users to guide development of the network, a network championing the consumer, letting them make feature suggestions that are actually implemented and applauded
  • It would allow artists and celebrities to showcase their work and good causes. There is a current trend for celebrities to raise their profiles by doing good
  • It would bring together good causes currently fragmented and isolated by offering more supporters from the network.  Virgin Unite needs to not only unite the man on the street but bring together those who are helping, and in a position to help. To unite ALL! Greenpeace, WWF, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, eBay, The Carbon War Room, The Elders and even, God forbid British Airways!
  • It would offer the features users want to see. I asked people what they would like and overwhelmingly, the answers were music & games. I don’t know much about the music industry but if the people want a feature it should be our mission to provide it.  Spotify (ranked 1,500 on Alexa) allows people to listen to their favourite music and is integrated into Facebook and now MySpace.  Virgin Unite could develop a better way for people to listen, share & discuss their favourite songs and link to the artist’s Unite pages, where the artists showcase their material. We could follow our vision for supporting business to develop innovative ways to for the artist to sell their latest release (barring restrictive contracts) directly.
  • It would allow the posting of video and sharing directly especially by artists and bands
  • I believe it would be another positive point to be headed from here in New Zealand with their 100% Pure campaigns.  NZ promotes itself as a leader in environmental issues and I believe the perception is that NZ is the most environmentally proactive, developed country in the world. I believe it could do a lot more! But Virgin Unite would influence action here that can be a model for other countries.
  • Be launched in stages to manage server growth

For the developers Unite is a means to an end … to create a vehicle to deliver the message that we all need to live more responsible lives if we’re going to have a planet … but I think that we need strike a balance. not be puritanical and steer a path that doesn’t alienate a generation that appears to be addicted to petty celebrity and gossip. Unite would need to promote issues and conversation WITHOUT appearing to lecture its users.

Currently, the social networks are faceless only offering an update on their latest dizzying valuations. Zuckerberg’s own page with 16 Million subscribers is pretty weak to say the least!

I think Unite should have it’s own active pages where it can discuss environmental issues but also engage in current conversations.  It is the users that generate the success of a network so why not let them have a say in the way it grows with Unite seen to participate?

I do believe that much to my disappointment, the Internet generation doesn’t find ‘carbon footprints’ and ‘global warming’ cool … but if their idols are talking about them in a cool way then the message will become cool and it will spread.

When artists and celebrities start to report ‘I have now moved to Unite’ we would see people coming over in droves. And so long as we deliver a great product and evolve with our users, then we should remain invulnerable to the same thing happening to us.

In Business Stripped Bare you say that it is often advantageous to not be the first in a marketplace so you can learn by the mistakes; mistakes made by Freddy laker for instance that enabled Virgin budget airlines to succeed.

I think we can learn from the huge mistakes and arrogance of Facebook, Myspace etc to deliver a true network for the people. Anyone and everyone and give them a voice through the community and access to the solution.

Why is the Polar Bear endangered?

How can I help?

Wow! WWF have an opportunity or I need to…

Furthermore, I believe the Virgin Group is in the uniquely enviable position to drive the message and promote Unite off line for high ROI.  I think many people who use Virgin are ignorant of the amazing work you do across the brand.  How many people know that Virgin have been testing alternative fuels for their planes … certainly none I have spoken to recently!

Virgin could deliver this message at Unite in the form of a simple link from all it’s products.

Someone buying Virgin Vodka could be directed and invited to join the fun at Unite just by reading the label as they’re killing time on a long-haul flight. Millions of people could be invited in a second when the lead singer of Radiohead invites listeners to his Unite page…

…and even if it was only slightly successful, bringing the millions of existing Virgin users together and their friends, it would be a huge success when compared to the current situation. 

I have the desire, motivation, access to the talent, teams and tools to help in three ways. I would need to know which choice is desirable in order to develop a strategy and costing and start working NOW!

1) We work on the current campaigns, fix all the issues and build an a larger audience
2) We implement the forum approach, fix all the issues and build an a larger audience
3) We deliver the Virgin Unite mission statement in an unprecedented way through a new social network: “We connect amazing people and great ideas to make positive change happen in the world”

In Closing

I don’t pretend to have all the answers in this proposal but I feel this White Paper is a start and through relentless brainstorming, split testing, perseverance and asking our own WHYs we’ll get there, or at least as close as any team can.

I sincerly hope that the reason the Virgin Unite websites are failing to deliver is because you’re simply too busy at the sharp end to have noticed.  I also ardently hope to meet with you or your team very soon to condition a package that will empower me to play my part in shaping the future for a generation that at times must feel lost and isolated.

Earlier, I said I felt things were going wrong for me right now and there must be a reason … Why won’t my spectacular country house sell, why did Google vandalise search results and my business with it recently, why didn’t my book The Omni Science Principle become a best seller, and why am I experiencing a myriad of other let downs … I believe fate knows that if any of these had been successful I wouldn’t be writing this report today…

So Richard, what do you say? “Screw it, let’s do it!”

You have now grown so big I imagine you are inundated with proposals these days and you allude to this in your book.  You have even put up a firewall in your business development teams.

I feel it is important that YOU see the report on the Virgin Unite state right now and have the opportunity to make a decision to fix it quickly, right now.  I also hope that you appreciate my vision and suggestions and will work with me on some level.

So to get this report to you I will be pushing it through all available channels until I receive a reply … and if it gets to you many times I hope you’ll see that a positive thing and a measure of my determination.

No Road is Long With Good Company

Have  a Great Day
Paul J Tranter


[1] This interesting paper Rethinking Information Diversity in Networks by Eytan Bakshy helps support my theory that social networking as the biggest opportunity available right now to deliver the Virgin Unite message.