Today Mark Hayward shares some lessons on how to use social media to launch an online venture.
Are you getting ready to launch a new project? Have you worked for months, or possibly even years trying to complete your vision and make it ready for the big launch day?
If you find yourself in a similar predicament to the one that I was recently in, your final, self-imposed project deadline is looming on the horizon and you really hope to spread the message about your new venture to as many people as possible. However, you lack the proper funds to finance a press release campaign, which would get the word out to the world that your ‘baby’ is now active, ready, and online.
Surely, you don’t want to fall short now, do you?
Everyone who participated in the project either donated their time or worked at greatly reduced rates. Yet, when it came to the launch day we didn’t have a budget to pay for newswire services. Press release submissions are quite expensive and can cost up to $400.00.
Additionally, paying for press coverage sort of goes against part of our mission, which is to use the tools that are available to us online for free and to show people that with a little creativity and innovation you can create projects that will help to address global crises.
Thus, our best option for launching Train for Humanity was to use various social media networks that we had at our disposal.
The question then becomes, what social media sites should you target?
During phase one of our pilot project we are really keen to spread the message of what ‘we’ are about and we also want to build a community of like minded people who support this new concept of getting fit (exercising) and using blogging and the internet to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian issues.
In order to help us spread the word on launch day we decided to focus our efforts on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Plurk, and triiibes. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go into the process blind, as we were able to refer to the following ProBlogger resources for assistance:
- How to Use Twitter – Tips for Bloggers
- Plurk 1 Month In – Small Can be Good
- How to Draw StumbleUpon Users Into Your Blog
Our launch day was September 9, 2008 and although it went pretty well I learned quite a few lessons along the way that either supported what I already believed, or that I will be certain to implement next time I have a new business or website to promote.
Five Social Media Launch Lessons I Learned
1. Timing is key - the hour of day (and even the day) that you choose to announce your launch is critical. Particularly with sites like Twitter and Plurk. Because Leo lives in Guam we wanted to accommodate his workday, which meant that we launched at 7:00am U.S. east coast time. This time worked out really well in the Australian and European markets, but most of the American workforce was still at home. In hindsight it probably would have been better to have the flurry of ‘tweets’ and plurks start at around 10:00am.
2. Utilize community influencers – have well regarded ‘trust agents’ within the various communities help to get your story out. We were fortunate to have StumbleUpon power user theNanny612 submit our site to SU. Likewise, Chris Brogan was kind enough to ‘tweet’ the launch announcement on Twitter. If you follow this ‘trust agent’ strategy, I don’t think emailing them out of the blue (if you have never interacted before) and asking for a tweet or stumble works very well. Spend the time and get to know people before you ask for a favor. Actually, it is probably best to follow Jeff Pulver’s social media model of giving 95% of the time and asking for assistance 5% of the time.
3. Make your time count – during the weeks leading up to the launch I was really busy running my full time business here in the Caribbean, as well as, putting the final touches on Train for Humanity. Unfortunately, my participation and interaction in both the Plurk and triiibes communities just about ceased. When I posted the launch announcement on both sites, neither garnered much attention. Think about it, you wouldn’t just show up to a bar or other social spot that you have visited a couple of times and start asking people to help promote your new business would you? Certainly, it’s my fault that the launch announcements in both locations did poorly as I had not invested enough time. Whatever sites you decide to target make sure you are an active participant.
4. Prepare your message - people are busy so when it comes to launch day have your message ready and make it easy for people talk about you. We created a special page called, “Spread the Word” which contained a link to an informative sample blog post about what Train for Humanity is and we also had written a “tweet” and plurk that supporters could easily copy and paste to get our message out.
5. Have redundancy in place – you might not think that reliable internet service would be an issue in this day and age. Please, when getting ready to launch, make sure your internet provider isn’t going to bail on you and also try to have a backup plan ready. This might sound easy or even elementary, but I live on a small 10×3 mile island and when a thunder and lightening storm passed over us at 4:00p.m. on launch day, I was suddenly without internet and would only have intermittent service for the next three days. Not really a great strategy when you are relying on the net and social media for your launch.
I always like to think that key to social media , whether you looking to use it as a springboard for your next launch or just be an active participant, is “being human” and that the most important aspect is to interact in a constructive, non-confrontational manner just like you would in any other day-to-day social situation.
Next time your ready to launch a website or new business and don’t have the proper budget for a press release, why don’t you consider using social media.
Have you launched any of your ventures using only social media? If yes, what were some of the lessons that you learned?
Mark Hayward, along with Dan Clements, Leo Babauta, and Andrew Flusche, is the creator and co-founder of the recently launched Train for Humanity. Their mission is simple: getting fit + social media + blogging = social good. During the pilot project they are hoping to raise awareness and funds for orphans and refugees in Darfur.