Note and Update: On March 30, three months after they were in a hurry to begin, we heard from Wildfire again. Out of the blue. So it may not be dead after all. Follow the comments for updates.

This is an explanation of what happened with the social media development project announced back at the end of December. We had been contacted by Wildfire Studios that we would be one of 100 organizations the marketing firm would offer free assistance to. They were to help us harness the power of social media for some actual benefit (to us, our supporters, and the public).

In December they had asked us to have a "creative team" assembled with the ability to do graphic "design", program in markup language, and copywrite. We've been doing these things online for fifteen years, with the exception of any proper copywriting. So there shouldn't be any problem, right?

Next we received an email to attend a webinar. Actually two emails, one from the identifiable intern we had heard from initially and one from a generic email address with no indication as to who sent it. So I sat through what was supposed to be a one hour webinar. It was given by a guy from a non-profit they worked with in the past and was almost entirely about that non-profit with very little about the actual Wildfire Program. It ran significantly over, and a lot of the questions indicated a lack of any understanding of the internet at all by many of the participating non-profits.

One of the things they promoted during the webinar was a group that would provide "creative team" services for $35 per month. Considering how much would need to be done in a given month after the first few this seems kind of steep in retrospect. But is supposedly not required that you use this group.

After that we heard nothing for several weeks. When I inquired I was told to fill out a new questionnaire online. Nobody informed us of this until we finally asked what was going on.

The questionnaire just asked if you had each part of the creative team. Along with the survey I had some email correspondence about the expectations, especially with graphic design and copywriting. Again there was a bit of a push to use their $35/month provider. That would fulfill all of their expectations, espite the fact that the only "graphic design" they do is simple stuff like resizing and that they do no copywriting whatsoever. So it appears those abilities are not too important, leaving only the type of work this site has required for fifteen years. Which is longer than web design software has even existed.

This is where it came to a dead end. We never heard anything more. An email or two was sent to follow up to no avail.

So the impression I'm left with is that they are really just selling this $35/month service. Most people that use it probably keep paying that indefinitely, even when they reach a point where very little is required any more. Perhaps other than copywriting, which would be ongoing. But that is not provided anyway. If the "100 organizations" is an accurate count and they all use the service that's $3500 each and every month, no small change.

I finally sent an email to the intern, who at one point had been told her email to us about the webinar had been deemed "unprofessional" by Wildfire. They had her send an apology email out over that. I informed her that she had been the only professional thing I encountered in the whole process. Her email and signature indicated who she was, which was not true of any other correspondence at all. At any point.

Obviously we can't recommend dealing with these people. There was no cost other than perhaps a minimal amount of time invested, but the whole thing went nowhere and the time was wasted.

So that's what happened to that project. Back in January we had been excited about the potential, but it never happened.