Congratulations! You made a big announcement and got great reviews, feedback and an influx of people to your website. Yesterday. Today, any number of other organizations and individuals are having the same experience and except for (hopefully) a long tail of residual late bloomers stumbling through your door - you run the risk of being old news already.
What do you do to maintain the momentum of that big announcement? If we knew for sure, we'd probably be in another line of work - snagging PR contracts away from firms left and right. We can, though, offer some educated suggestions based on our own experience and our observations watching thousands of startup tech companies launch their products. We offer those suggestions below and invite you to share in comments your strategies for maintaining momentum.
This question came to mind after a friend of RWW emailed us yesterday asking, "how can my startup keep the momentum from our launch event going?" We sent them thoughts based on our own strategy for maintaining momentum after our launch yesterday of a new content channel called Jobwire, a site dedicated to reporting on new hires in tech and new media. It was pretty clear, though, that this question is one of universal interest.
As we said in an internal email to team members last night, and again to our friends at the other company that happened to ask on the same day (if you'll indulge me for a moment):
We've got to come out strong for the rest of this week and keep as much of this momentum as we can. If there's one thing I've learned about winning in the blogosphere it's that every day is a new day, it's a "what have you done lately" kind of field if you want to be at the top. We've got a great foundation to stand on (RWW and the Jobwire work done so far) but in order to emerge victorious we're going to have to take the same awesomeness we've leveraged so far and just keep on cranking it up, notch after notch.
Hopefully our teams will find those words inspiring but what kinds of tangible strategies can be put into action based on these ideas? First let's start with a few words about what not to do, which unfortunately is what most companies do.
What Not to Do
As a new media press outlet that gets tens if not hundreds of emails a day pitching us for coverage, we can tell you three things that do not work.
First, how many of you in marketing or PR have heard the boss say that what you need is a press release one month after launch touting user numbers or new partnerships since the first announcement of a product? This happens all the time and in the rare case that the user numbers are genuinely shocking or the partnerships are substantially innovative - that's great. They almost never are though and these kinds of follow-up announcements feel like a crude attempt to manufacture a news event. A month is a long time to wait to take action after a launch announcement, too. It's a new world and there's a new news cycle. Monthly is too often to expect to have your announcements covered and it's too infrequent a period to make yourselves publicly visible.
Second, companies often try, shortly after their initial launch, to announce new features or services that aren't big enough to warrant coverage. That's the kind of thing that decreases your credibility in making future announcements.
Finally, be really careful about tying a campaign to a big public event of general interest. Thank goodness the US Presidential elections are almost over, for example! If several of the biggest web companies on earth launch a relatively innovative portal dedicated to the elections, our readers still yawn. Your tiny company's "unique" way of facilitating conversation about the election is not something that anyone cares about, unless it's really honestly new tech being used and is going to reach outside your tiny userbase as a matter of course. It's probably not, though.
Strategies We Suggest Instead
The following suggestions are listed in order of least to most effective and we offer examples as much as we can.
Do Something Else Remarkable and Announce It
You might think this would be the best strategy, but we find that it's less effective than some others. If you can do something different and new, quickly after your previous announcement, then you can leverage some of that initial mindshare and momentum to build even more. That's made harder by all the companies making false claims of new achievements shortly after their last one, though.
We spoke with a company yesterday who was putting out one press release every month, in order to maintain momentum. That's exhausting and probably not a good idea. It can lead to each status update from the company being perceived as less credible.
If a company has multiple people working on the kinds of projects that can be announced publicly, then sometimes the timing can be right for one after the other announcements. When we announced last month, for example, that we got a syndication deal with the New York Times, that was a different group of people than the group that built our Jobwire site we launched yesterday. Had those been closer together, we would have maximized that proximity.
Ultimately, though, visibility in the new social media space isn't based on big-bang announcements, it's based on small daily successes, ongoing engagement with other people and consistently building a reputation as a provider of value to the lives of others. It's consistent, light contact, to build traction over time, not big weighty announcements that shove the needle over all in one day.
Follow Up With People Publicly and Privately
Following up with people privately might seem intuitive but it's one of the most important things you can do immediately after launch. We paid close attention not just to blog posts linking to our Jobwire announcement yesterday, but also to the people who posted Twitter messages about it and even those who gave it a "thumbs up" on FriendFeed. Some of those people are folks that could appreciate some more in-depth engagement with the project. There's business development potential in some of those Tweets.
It's also useful to respond publicly to initial feedback. Leaving comments in response to other peoples' comments on blogs helps answer common questions and give the impression that you're honestly engaged - not just pushing announcements to press like they were your PR toys and then forgetting about them and their readers.
Many companies will post a round-up blog post on their own blogs a day or two after they make an announcement, linking back to all the blog posts that were written about their news. This serves many purposes but one is that it sends a track-back email to the writers who covered them. You might be surprised to know how quickly journalists forget who we've written about even earlier that day. Make a blog post that links to our post and we'll quite likely return to your site to see what you said about us. If we haven't subscribed to your blog yet, we may well do so then. Either way, the weight of our memory of you will be increased substantially. We hate to say it, but if it's bloggers you're reaching out to - installing the MyBlogLog recent visitors widget and using the BlogJuice bookmarklet to check out the 20 most recent visitors to your site throughout the day or two after your round up of coverage is one way that you can know exactly which bloggers responded to the bait and returned to your site.
These kinds of tangible tech steps are helpful to understand. Want another example? Our wonderful MobableType FriendFeed plug-in allows us to copy any comments we make on posts over to their corresponding items on the popular aggregator FriendFeed. Each time an item gets a new comment there, it's moved to the top of the timeline for everyone who has themselves interacted with that item or who has a friend who has. Thus just replying on our site to comments left by readers can help keep our announcement visible off-site.
Say Smart Things in Public Conversations
Mindshare is a big thing, but it's a resource that can slip through your fingers quickly if you don't maintain it. Leaving knock-out smart comments on blog posts around the web and resharing high-value resources in your social networks are always good ways to get noticed. Doing so in the days after a major announcement and making sure an appropriate URL is in your profile field (not cheaply spamming the comments field above your name) is a great way to subtly establish yourself as a company that's a part of the scene.
"Who is that person that just left that great comment on this post about cloud computing?" blog readers ask. "Well if it isn't someone from that comic strip aggregation service I read about yesterday on another blog! I wonder how they use cloud computing? That sure is a smart comment they posted, that must be a smart company that I should keep paying attention to." As journalists, we notice these things and they influence our coverage of companies and their sectors and as tech users they influence our decisions regarding which services to use and recommend.
In old media authors went on book tours and made TV appearances. These days you can try to be a guest on a podcast, but just ratcheting up your engagement in the public sphere online shortly after an announcement is really helpful in maintaining your momentum.
Self-evaluate Publicly or Deliver Some Other Kind of Value
People love case studies - so why not make yourself one? If not yourself, any case studies and other data points that people can use for their own work aren't just "link bait" - they are the kind of contributions to the community that leadership is built with. Good examples of this are:
- Nonprofit consultant Beth Kanter, the Queen of public self-evaluation. Her studies of her own online fund raising campaigns using social media can bring a crowd to its feet and increase her visibility substantially.
- Benchmark studies based on anonymized aggregate user data is great stuff, check out what Mint and Freshbooks have done in this department lately.
- AideRSS relaunched this week as Postrank.com and now would be a great time to do another blog post like their recent studies of the most engaging marketing blogs on the web and the best times of day to put up blog posts for maximum social media impact.
- Everything Sam Lawrence posts on his personal blog makes people more likely to pay more attention to whatever his employer JiveSoftware has announced lately.
- Finally, we hope that this blog post right here will help drive people to the announcement we made yesterday about Jobwire, our new site about people who've been hired to new jobs in tech and new media. Check it out!
Eat Your Own Dog Food and Rock It
Like the Postrank example above, other vendors follow up announcements by publicly using their own tools to deliver high value resources that demonstrate how valuable those tools can be. This is easier said than done but it's the best way to follow up momentum from an announcement that we know of. Two of our favorite examples are Slideshare adviser Dave McClure's slideshows about what startups in general should know about and the graphic design tutorials made by SaaS design tool company Aviary. These are the kinds of media items, built with the company's own tools, that get passed around to audiences far wider than just those who would be interested in the companies themselves. They demonstrate though, just how usefull the tools can be. Instead of marketing to one thousand people who might be interested in Slideshare or Aviary, these resources reach audiences of hundreds of thousands of people, of which a smaller percentage but larger absolute number of people will be interested in the company itself.
Got that? After a launch event, follow it up by using your own product or services to create a resource that "goes viral!" No problem, right? Of course this is much easier said than done and is done poorly far more often than it is done well - but nobody said any of this would be easy. We're going to try to do this ourselves with our new Jobwire product - we're going to try to use it to break news and write great Hire of the Day posts for this, our primary blog. We think that some new hires are important, fascinating news. We'll put that to the test by posting some of that news here and we'll see if our readers agree with us and share these items throughout social networks as you do many of our other posts.
These are the steps we suggest as ways to keep momentum rolling after a launch event, do you have other strategies you've found to be effective? We'd love to read about them in comments below.
Photo credit: Eddie Van Halen pic, Creative Commons by Flickr user Anirudh Koul