Facebook Events vs. Pages

When RunSignUp first came out with our Facebook integration we created a very cool feature that allowed us to create a Facebook Event for a race automatically.

The bad news is that Facebook changed the way Facebook Events work.  And you can no longer renew an event and change the date to the next year.

The good news is that Facebook has introduced Facebook Pages.  I am convinced this is the way to go for races now.  I created one for the Scott Coffee Moorestown Rotary 8K that I help direct.  You can create a Facebook Page here, and learn more here.

Over the next week or so I will put up posts that cover this topic in more detail and what we are going to be doing at RunSignUp.

Race Director March Newsletter

Race Directors Newsletter

This month we will discuss how race directors can take advantage of several major features RunSignUp has added – Email Marketing, Custom Widgets, and RunSignUp Sites.

Email Marketing

Communicating with your runners is important in many ways.  Reminding runners that your race date is approaching and to sign up.  Sending educational emails to make sure runners are prepared for your race.  And, of course, any last minute emails that need to be sent.

RunSignUp recently announced the availability of a Free Email for race directors who use our registration service.

See the Release Information.
See the Video Overview.

We have partnered with iContact, a very complete Email Marketing that is a bit more modern than Constant Contact.  We make it simple to upload your participant lists and update them into iContact.  We also auto-log you into iContact, where you are able to upload more contacts (for example if you used Active last year you can upload that csv file).  We do have two requirements – one is a limit of 6 emails per race and that all emails are pertaining to the race.  We do NOT want to turn this into a spam machine, but provide value to race directors and runners.

This is a free service, unlike Active, which charges $9 per month for only 500 contacts.  It is available now under the “Social” Tab on your race adminstration page on RunSignUp.

Registration Right on Your Website!

Do you have your own website?  Did you know that with RunSignUp, you can let runners register right there with our widget technology?  We are seeing an increased number of timers and races embed the widget to make it easier for runners and provide more value to their sponsors.  Here is a video on how to do this.

For example, the Dexter Ann Arbor raceuses the widget.  So do timing services likeL&M Sports.  We just added a new feature that allows races to customize the colors of the widget easily.

Create Your Own Website!

There are many ways of creating a website.  However many of them are too hard and expensive, or they are too simple and don’t give you flexibility.  And none of them are made for runners.

Introducing RunSignUp Sites.  This is another free service from us to help the running community and is available for any running related group or race – even if you do not use our registration service.

We are in open Beta now.  That means it works, but there may be a few bugs. We are still adding features and more running related templates as well as seeking input from people.

For race directors who use RunSignUp already, we have created a “one button push” to create your website.  It embeds the widgets into the right pages, pulls your race description and puts it on the home page so the website is functional in less than a minute.  Very cool!

Take a look at the OverviewVideos and FAQ.  Here are some early Sites:
http://rotary8k.sites.runsignup.com/
https://marfanmaddash.sites.runsignup.com/
https://jog4janelle.sites.runsignup.com/
http://instructions.sites.runsignup.com/

Reminder – if you are using RunSignUp for a race – go to the “Social” tab and then click on RSU Sites to do the one button site creation – you will then be able to go in and edit it.

RunSignUp Releases Free Race Email Marketing Service

RunSignUp Releases Free Race Email Marketing Service

Partners with email and social media marketing leader iContact to allow race directors free email services for promoting races

Moorestown, NJ – March 9, 2012 – RunSignUp, the leading innovator of online tools for Races and Running Clubs, today announced the availability of a new free email marketing service.  Available immediately, RunSignUp provides a free, fully integrated email service in partnership with iContact, a leading email and social media marketing company, to any race using RunSignUp for registration services.  A video demonstration is available at https://runsignup.com/EmailMarketing/.
   


Race Directors who use RunSignUp will be able to create and login to their own iContact account.  Using the advanced RunSignUp security system, co-race directors and timers who have been given permission will all be able to access and use the email service.  It includes the following features:

  • Transfer and update participant information into iContact.
  • Generate and send emails easily.
  • Reuse powerful email templates.
  • Track email response rates like bounces, opens and forwards.
  • Add other email lists, perhaps from previous year registrations downloaded from other services like Active.com.
  • Promote your emails easily through Facebook and Twitter.

RunSignUp provides this service for free for up to 6 emails per race, and only for the purposes of promoting or communicating about the race director’s or timer’s race(s).

Geoff Alexander, director of product marketing, iContact stated “We are happy to provide our industry leading email marketing tools to Race Directors and Timers through this partnership with RunSignUp.  With more than 1,000,000 users across the globe, we created the iContact Program Program to allow solution providers like RunSignUp to give their customers powerful, easy-to-use, and fully integrated email marketing for the running community.”

Chuck Block of the Michigan Running Foundation added “RunSignUp continues to bring us new and valuable features for managing and promoting our race.  We have tried the new email marketing and found it very simple to use.  We can use it for both updating runners who have already registered with any last minute communications, and for emailing past registrants to remind them to sign up.  We will be using this to help the dozens of races we time and manage each year.”

About iContact
Based in Raleigh, NC, iContact is a purpose-driven company that makes email marketing and social media marketing easy, so that small and midsized companies and causes can grow and succeed. More than one million users have signed up for an iContact account, and the company maintains B Corporation status, a certification awarded to companies meeting comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards. As part of its ongoing social mission, iContact applies the 4-1s Corporate Social Responsibility Model, donating 1 percent from each of its payroll, equity, product, and employee time to its local and global communities. Visit us online at iContact.com, on Twitter @iContact, at our LinkedIn Group, and at our Facebook page.

About RunSignUp
RunSignUp is the leading innovator of online tools for Races and Running Clubs.  Services include RunSignUp for race registration, RunSignUp Clubs to enable membership management, and RunSignUp Sites for creating free websites for any running related organization.  Over 1,000 race directors, timers, and running club officers use these services today.  Services are free except for processing fees when conducting monetary transactions like race registration or club membership renewals.  RunSignUp is founded by runners for runners, using technical capabilities to bring the power of cloud computing to benefit the running community.

The Open Web

I come from the Internet Technology business with a lot of focus on open source and the newer Cloud models.  This has been a driving force in how we have thought about designing and delivering RunSignUp.

I just re-read an article by a friend of mine on The Open Web.  It is a bit geeky for the race director and timer community, but some of the basics are what RunSignUp is built on.  In particular:

  • We’ll shift our focus away from systems of record and toward systems of engagement.
  • Our business partners will drive us to design web platforms, not just websites.
  • We’ll give smart mobile devices and apps high priority in our designs — usually with a mobile-first policy.

Obviously the big dog in the online running registration is Active.com.  They come from a different era where they drive traffic to their site to make money on registration fees as well as advertising and selling subscriber names.

RunSignUp is designed from the bottom up to live on other websites with our widget technology.  As seen above, the Dexter Ann Arbor Half Marathon allows registration right on their website with RunSignUp.  We think this is where the running community is – out in thousands of different local races and running clubs.  With timers who work in collaboration with their race directors.

We will keep focusing our efforts on this new world of flexibility and freedom.  And check how RunSignUp looks from your smartphone to signup for a race – it is pretty cool… (That’s HTML5 we use and technology like Terawurfl to determine if you have an iPhone, Android or iPad).  Yep it is a new world and we are here to helpt he running community take advantage of this new wave of technology!

We Need Another Great Developer!

RunSignUp continues to grow very quickly by developing easy to use cloud services for the running community. Learn more about us here.

We build in PHP, MySQL and use the Smarty MVC template engine.  We do a lot of AJAX and Javascript on the front end.  We run on an advanced Amazon infrastructure and have a team of 6 part and full time developers.  Our testing environment is expanding to include Selenium and Jenkins.

The ideal candidate will have a strong software development background in the technologies listed above – particularly web and database development.  We will consider recent and upcoming college graduates with a bachelors or masters in computer science or related degree.  Runners are certainly a big plus!

The ideal candidate will be located in the Philadelphia are and be able to work at least some days at our office at IndyHall.  We do distributed development, so that is not a hard requirement.

The company is a well funded startup.  We grew 5X from 2010 to 2011 and expect nearly similar growth this coming year.  Send inquiries to bob.bickel at runsignup.com.

No More Fun?

There was an article in the NYTimes today “No More Innovation for the Fun of It”.  The point of the article was that many of the big companies like Apple and Google have turned into businesses that really only care about money.  And in that pursuit they do things like capture information and figure out ways to use it to gain more money.

This reminds me of a common practice that our friends at Active.com use.  Here is their privacy policy and a key sentence – “Active uses your information to perform transactions, deliver services or information you have requested, and offer you products and services from Active and our trusted partners, programs or services that we believe may be of interest to you.”

What this means is that you pay $3.25 to sign up for a $25 race.  They then start sending you emails.  Most of those emails contain ads from races and others – they are making money from your email.  They try to direct runners to their website to sell more ads.  And of course they have gone far beyond running in terms of their focus and business model.

At RunSignUp, we are all about running and having fun.  Our privacy policy is pretty simple: “we DO NOT sell or share your information with anyone except the Event Director for races you register for at RunSignUp.com.”  And we love creating new ways for runners to come together – for example our new, free Sites offering that allows any running group to create a website for free.  Even if you decide to use Active.com as an your registration method to spam your friends and runners…

Winter 2011 Feature Enhancements

Winter Updates – all of these features are currently available:

Age-Base Pricing – You can set pricing for multiple age ranges.  RunSignUp automatically calculates the prices so when Mom signs herself and her family up everyone is assigned the right price automatically.  It is accessed via the “Customize” tab and the “Registration” sub-tab in your Race Dashboard.

Family/Group Pricing – We make this simple to set up.  Pick a price for ranges of the number of people, for example $50 for a family of 4, $60 for a family of 5-6.    It is accessed via the “Customize” tab and the “Registration” sub-tab.

Multiple Charities – You can now allow runners to choose which charity they want to donate to.  Set this in the “Donations” tab and “Charities” sub-tab.

Fundraising – We have made some major improvements to enable individuals and teams to do fundraising.  This includes giving runners a chance to create their own personal fundraising page or even  team page with a personal message, as well as setting a personal goal, displaying their own “thermometer” and scrolling list of donors.  All of these donations roll up to the overall program(s) for your race.

Customized Widget – You can embed race registration right into your own website with our easy-to-use widget functionality.  With this new feature, you can set the “CSS” so you can change the background, font, colors and buttons to blend right into your own website.  As an example, the Dexter-AnnArbor race is using it on their website.  In our Summer releases we will be making this very easy to configure, but right now it is for more advanced users (or we can help you thru the initial configuration – just email us).  You can see the video on how to install a widget.

More Team Features – Supporting teams for your race can be complicated.  We have made two rounds of changes over the past couple of months.  The first set was to enable more complex team setups where people in different events could be on the same team, and where people could sign up for different fundraising teams.  We just pushed out a new set of features that improves the sign up process for runners creating or joining a team.  We also included major performance optimizations due to problems large team events were having.

Partner Upgrades – One of the major features of RunSignUp is the ability for race directors and timers to work together on races.  A growing number of timers/race management companies are working with RunSignUp because they can manage many races and provide direct and secure access to race directors.  One of the small, but important features is to provide a simpler login and tracking mechanism for partners when they login to RunSignUp.  There used to be a two step process, and that has been simplified and is done when you login.

Login Persistance – You may have noticed that you don’t need to login to RunSignUp if you stay on the same computer and leave your browser window/tab open.  We used to log people off after a period of inactivity, but have now taken the same approach as Facebook and Twitter and leave you logged in as long as we can detect the same browser and connection.

RunSignUp Sites Beta – We built RunSignUp Sites to provide the running community an “in-between” solution to giving a race, running club or timing service a web presence.  With Sites, you get a full website that you can edit and change and add as many pages as you want.  But we have limited the power that you would get from a full website building tool to make it easier for people to use.

The simple way to use this is to go into your race and click on the “Social Tab” and “RSU Sites” Sub-tab.  Click on “Create Site” and select a URL and in 3 seconds you will have a site built.

RunSignUp Sites

You can see an example site here that has not been altered other than the top logo, and instructions site here. Take tiem to look at the Videos and the FAQ.

We provide this as a free web service to the running community.  We do not provide support, but will try to answer questions posted in the Forum so the community can grow and hopefully help each other as the use of Sites grows.  We do NOT require you to use our main service – RunSignUp.com – for your registration needs (although that is how we make money to develop and host Sites and other offerings).  So you can use Active.com or some other service for registration if you want and hopefully give our service a try someday.  This is for the Running Community ONLY.  We will reserve the right to remove sites and content that is offensive, or is not involved with running.

For people who find Sites too difficult to understand, we suggest that you stick with RunSignUp.com – this will give you a free web page and we will do all the formatting automatically for you.  For those people who find Sites too limiting, we suggest that you use the full WordPress capability (www.wordpress.com) that Sites is based upon.

Note this is a Beta release, so expect changes, and we are anxious to hear ideas for improvement.

Performance and Scalability – This is probably the most important thing we have done to prepare for the future.  We have moved our platform into the Cloud, providing us with far faster servers, and the unique ability to scale.  We have also implemented some major performance features like caching of certain pages.  This means that it takes us only 15 milliseconds to display a race information page rather than the nearly half a second it used to take.  This means faster response times and the ability to handle many more users per second.  In addition we are using the Amazon content delivery network for your images and pdf registration forms – making sure the content is close to the runners who register for your race.

Testing Framework – You won’t see this, but we have done a number of things to improve our testing capability.  This is important as we grow our development team and we do new releases on nearly a weekly basis.  One of the very cool services we have started using is an opensource project called Selenium which allows us to automatically run through a set of tests and make sure the results are what is expected.