So after 1 year of fund-raising, planning and development, your shiny new beta web app is finally ready... and now you think it's marketing time. You want to reach thousands of users as quickly as possible. Aha, you think, the cheapest and shortest path is viral marketing - via blogs and social news sites. So you turn to your favorite sites like digg, del.icio.us, TechCrunch and (of course) Read/WriteWeb. Somehow your email to Michael Arrington or Richard MacManus gets noticed above the hundreds of others, so your site gets featured and then other blog coverage follows! Yippee, this is the fame you were waiting for! But a few days later....absolute silence. No one is talking about you anymore, the activity on your site diminishes to nearly zero, and the new 'poster child' web 2.0 app is something else.
Like a nightmare, isn't it? But unfortunately, this horrible peak-then-slump scenario is very common in the web 2.0 era. The Alexa graph below illustrates this with a well known example, in this case following a TechCrunch write-up:
The reasons for this very common pattern are simple to guess. The web 2.0 savvy audience is overloaded with all these fancy new sites that come up everyday; and this audience will try a lot of apps, but not necessarily become a permanent user. That's why you are very vulnerable to get quickly forgotten, if you don't offer them something very useful and enduring.
The upshot is that timing your app/site promotion is very important. Even though popular blogs and news sites are a great way to attract community and VC attention, you should know when to show yourself. Below is a categorization that we suggest all upcomers consider before any marketing push...
The WAIT List
The Wait list consists of sites that should be more patient to market themselves. This is certainly the largest category, with these 2 broad types of web 2.0 sites:
- Social / User Generated Content Sites
Social sites need existing user activity before getting promoted. For instance, a social networking site with no members won't be interesting at all. So if you get dugg, sure you'll get thousands of people arriving to check out your social network - and maybe even sign up. But more likely they will be disappointed that not much activity is happening, so they will leave your site with bad memories and may not come back.
In the case of verticals, the problem is more about competition. Rather than immediately publicizing your site, it may be better to focus on differentiating yourself from others and gradually building up a user base.
Also, most of the sites that fall under one (or both) of the above 2 categories require you to sign up first. But generally users will be reluctant to join ghost sites.
The best way of marketing for sites in the WAIT list is to focus on their niches, spend very little and attract targeted masses over time. One example comes from the March 2007 issue of Business 2.0 Magazine. A company called Betty, which sells dye for "the hair down there", spent just $2000 for space in a Las Vegas beauty tradeshow brochure and created enough buzz from that to get featured on the Jay Leno Show. The company expects $1 million in sales this year! Other successful examples are Dogster and Maya's Mom - they are both vertical and user-generated sites and they attracted most of their initial user base from pet and mothers magazines.
The bottom line is that WAIT list sites should find their niche, enlarge their user base there, then come to the web 2.0 savvy audience to show off their force and attract VC attention.
Spotplex, the site shown in the diagram above, is a very good example of a site that should have WAITED.
The WALK List
The walk list includes sites that should start promoting their site on web 2.0 blogs from the beginning. Most of the WALK candidates come from Web Utilities. For example:
- search engines (unless they're vertical);
- Instant Messaging mash-ups;
- File hosting agents;
- Browser add-ons.
The reason why WALK list members are so different than the previous WAIT list members, is that these sites don't need prior popularity. The site's attractiveness depends solely on the quality of their service. So there's no critical mass of user base required before promoting themselves.
The RUN List
This is the smallest category, with perhaps just tens of sites. The success of these sites depends on web 2.0 media, so they should solely focus on getting themselves featured there. Actually most of them are no different than the WAIT list, except that their niche is web 2.0 itself! Two great examples are BuzzShout and Go2Web2. Obviously, the web 2.0 audience is open to such services, so there's no better place for these sites to get exposure. Blog widgets is another category can be added to the RUN list.
There are three main strategies then, to market your new web app or site:
1) WAIT list sites should find their niche, enlarge their user base there, then come to the web 2.0 savvy audience to show off their force and attract VC attention;
2) WALK list sites, such as search engines and browser add-ons, can go after that elusive digg frontpage or Read/WriteWeb feature now [Ed: preferably both!];
3) RUN list sites should do everything in their power to get attention from web 2.0 sites!
What are your thoughts on this - agree, or do you suggest other strategies?