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Launching Your Next Venture Using Social Media – 5 Lessons Learned

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?

Train-For-Humanity

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?

Recently, in collaboration with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and some other bloggers, I launched Train for Humanity, which is a new humanitarian non-profit organization.

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:

Launch Day

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.

Brogantweet

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.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. BlackhatWay says:

    Great tips, all five of them!

    Thanks!

  2. Nice article…It’s amazing how fast social media can spread the word about a website, product, article, etc. When you factor in the cost of social media marketing (free!), and how you can leverage your time with it, I think it needs to be at the forefront of any good marketing effort.

    Thanks,
    Matt

  3. Ecko says:

    I just use social media to spread my blog. In other word, I use it to gain more traffic as I can get enough traffic from search engine. For venture? I think I should learn more about it.

  4. Great article! I’ve used social media to launch my new blog, http://www.steven-sanders.com, and within one month I saw over 1500 unique visits.

    Never underestimate the power of social media.

  5. Todd Andrews says:

    Social media has been a BEAST for me and probably going to be my ONLY form of promotion for a while. But I also have a pretty peculiar website niche.

  6. The social media is a great way to meet people, interact with people in your niche, make new friends and yes, promote each other. The key is each other not me, me, me… or you, you, you! Spammers not allowed.

  7. I love all aspects of social media and it has been very good to me.
    I enjoyed your post thanks for the excellent information.
    Hope everyone has a great day

  8. EdAtAAFR says:

    Sound advice BUT the sticking point is #2. How does one “get to know” the real community influencers???

    You, Darren, are the perfect example. I attended one of your sessions at BWE08. But there were mobs of people seeking to talk to you; and on social media, you have countless thousands of “friends.”

    I’d like to chat with you, not just for promotional purposes (although I’m sure that would come in handy some day), but because I really enjoyed your presentations and your site. But how do I get a word in edgewise? And do you have time for all the people who feel the way I do?

    I wonder if you even have the time to read all the comments that are made to your postings (such as this one). After all, you can only spread yourself so thin, and then I’m sure you have to call it quits (like everybody else, you only have 24 hours in your day).

    Would be interested to know your advice on this.

  9. Gary says:

    Sooooo….how well did it work?

  10. Great tips…particularly #1…important for folks who keep odd hours and don’t realize that everyone else is not on their schedule!

  11. Mike Nichols says:

    I didn’t launch my blog with Social Media, but I certainly have promoted it with them, especially with Twitter and StumbleUpon.

    The largest lesson I learned from this article is the necessity to maintain a presence on the Social Media you are going to target. I’m afraid I’ve been guilty of the same thing Mark has — letting time go by and not participating.

    Great article, all 5 points. Thanks!

  12. Workplace says:

    NIce tips. I will try my best to implement them.

  13. Danny Allen says:

    This was an article that was very timely for me as I will be launching my blog in the near future. One point that I feel should be added on is the fact that you should prepare for your blog launch and not just start it right away. If you can go a week and get all the correct things done, you will feel very happy when it comes time for launch day. It also shows how committed you are to your blog. If you don’t want to stick with your blog in one week, how are you going to stay with it for your planned year?

  14. Rob Chant says:

    Great post, especially about the timing issues. I’ve struggled with this a lot in the past, especially with regards to music releases.

  15. Great job Mark!

    I was following your progress during the launch and felt so bad when you lost Internet access – at first when I didn’t see you on Twitter I thought you were too busy with the launch to interact.

    It’s interesting to read more of the details on how you planned to use social media to spread the word of the launch.

    95% – 5% is a really good way to look at social media use. I spend a lot of time helping people with WordPress problems through Twitter and yesterday when I needed an ad logo made someone made it for me right away – he said it was the least he could do because of all the help I’d given him.

    Anyway – I’m still so excited about your launch and I hope it is successful.

    Kim

  16. Metroknow says:

    Thanks for this list – really important tips to remember. I have to say tho, this is the first I’ve heard of your new project, and I follow both ProBlogger and Leo on Twitter – so the lessons from point 1 really are true.

    Now that I know about the site, I’m definitely eager to “get into it”.

  17. Mark:

    I am so glad that you utilize all the great resources to achieve your goals! I am glad that I can help you!

    You are doing great! Keep it up!

  18. CoolProducts says:

    Thanks for the five lessons! Let’s see if we can take them to heart now or if ultimately we’ll have to learn them ourselves. I hope it’s the prior!

  19. Social Media is the marketing tool for the 21st century. If anyone wants to succeed then one cannot forget social networking.

    The tips provided here are great, just superb!

  20. After going to BlogWorld last weekend I really had my eye opened to the difference that being involved can make. Having a network of trust users to spread your message is huge, and I feel it’s one of the most important parts of a social media campaign.

    Is there any particular reason why you chose to go with Stumble and the other networks mentions over things like Reddit, Digg, and Delicious?

  21. mark_hayward says:

    *Hi BlackhatWay – glad you liked the tips, all five of them. :)

    *hey Matt | Small Business Entrepreneur – I completely agree! I first started noticing the power of social media when I was trying to market my small business from here in the Caribbean. It is sometimes difficult to measure ROI but I think if you are in it for the long-term and are willing to put in the effort then you can succeed…

    *Hi Ecko – if you are using social media to promote your blog then it should be really easy to apply those same techniques to your next project.

  22. mark_hayward says:

    *Hey Steven-Sanders – nice job with the 1500 uniques!

    *Hi Todd – your niche might be small but you have a killer domain name! :)

    *Hi BloggerNewbie – yes, crucial…spammers not allowed!

  23. mark_hayward says:

    * Hey EdAtAAFR – you ask a really important question! I can;t speak directly to your Darren inquiry, but I can tell you that less than a year ago Darren & Leo Babauta had no idea who I was…and probably even less than 3 months ago I didn’t know who Chris Brogan was and he sure as heck didn’t know me.

    I know you were at the conference so the circumstance is a little different but when i contact someone for the first time I send off a very BRIEF email initially, wait patiently (I give it two or three weeks) and then go from there….

  24. mark_hayward says:

    *Hey Gary – in answer to your question, “So how did you do?” That’s the follow-up post. :)

    *Lainie Petersen – yes, next time I will shoot for about 10:00 – 11:00am U.S. east coast time

    *Hi Mike Nichols – and I am still guilty! We had torrential rains down here last week so I have had to spend quite a bit of time re-landscaping. Subsequently, since Twitter and SU currently provide me with the most value that’s still where I am devoting my energy…

  25. Steven Snell says:

    Mark,
    After hearing about this project a while back it’s great to see it’s been launched. Congrats on the early success!

  26. Will says:

    Good article, but how do you specifically find influential bloggers in a particular niche – and how do you know their numbers/following, etc?

    I just launched a new site that teaches guitar improvisation/metal without using influencers because I haven’t found many people that actually blog on the topic. Any more specific techniques would be appreciated.

    Thanks

  27. What really makes this work is the appeal of the humanitarian element. For an “average person’s” blog, the key is advance planning. Plan your social media campaign in advance. Write posts in advance and set them to auto-publish while you build up social media networks. For more info, see my post The Blog Launch Formula.

  28. I am such a social media-phobe. Thanks for helping to nudge me a little closer to testing the waters.

  29. mark_hayward says:

    *Hi Kim Woodbridge – when I read Jeff Pulver’s 95 and 5 rule I thought that it made good sense. That is great news about your logo, too! Is it for a new site.

    *Metroknow – thanks for letting me know that you had not heard about us even though you are following Leo…It’s been two weeks since the launch and we are currently discussing some other methods to help spread the word.

    *Hey Terence – thank you for your continued support!

    Dan Paterson – It wasn’t so much a conscious choice as it was practical. We didn’t push DIGG too much because we didn’t think that our story could front page and also (I think it was Darren who broke down SU statistics before) Stumble traffic tends to stick around longer and return. Twitter was also a no-brainer for us just because it is quite easy to re-tweet a launch announcement. If we had more time….ideally we would have focused on all forms of social media.

  30. charles says:

    Yes! Social Media Websites are definitely important!

  31. This is an excellent post , I’m grateful to you , thanks a lot.

  32. melissa says:

    I’ll be sharing this with my partner momentarily. We definitely struggled through all of this with our soft launch this summer, and we’ll face it all again with our “relaunch”, which is upcoming.

    What I struggle the most with is having the time to be involved. My full time job doesn’t allow me to be very active during the day with social media. By the time I get home to participate I always feel like everyone else is done for the day. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  33. Shafar says:

    Informative post, thanks.

  34. mark_hayward says:

    Hi Melissa – I would recommend trying to spend 15-20 minutes of quality time in the morning and afternoon on maybe one or two social networking sites.

    I realize that you have a full time job, but wherever you think you can really add some value (prior to your launch) is where I would be spending my time, so when you are ready to announce your project the community is already comfortable with you. It’s all about trust.

  35. Ted Murphy says:

    Mark,

    I think you nailed it, social media must now be part of every new product launch with a geographically diverse target market. A local retail store does not need to launch with social media — at least not the internet kind.

    I’d like to know your thoughts on how b5 media network might do a social media campaign launch for a third party product. If you could figure it out, the guys at entrecard and stumbledupon might rethink their current strategies.

  36. J.D. Meier says:

    I like how you boiled it down into a precise prescriptive guidance from experience.

  37. Prasanna says:

    Informative one. Now a days we don’t actually need a press release to announce the launch of a product. The use of social media sites like Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter can achieve this if used effectively.

  38. This is an excellent post , I’m grateful to you , thanks a lot .

  39. Totally agree on the concept of giving and sharing 95% of the time and asking for help 5% of the time. I think it’s vital for people to realise that they need to put in the time and effort in social media in order to build relationships and trust. After all, somebody who knows you a bit and hopefully even likes you and what you do is far more likely to respond to a request for help than if you’re effectively a stranger. It’s only logical and fair…

  40. The information is very useful. As a blogger it is so easy to produce the content and make things look good, but if no one is reading it, well that’s a problem! For me the difficulty is blogging isn’t the only part of my life and I get so caught up in its creation I don’t always have the time to give my 95 percent. Everything I’m reading however says I better start doing it! Thanks for the tips Mark.

  41. I agree that timing is everything when submitting to social sites!

  42. mysapce says:

    I use to use social websites, but I stopped soon I will again though.