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4 essential tips for product launches in the Digital Age
Through social media, brands have an opportunity to create a different (and valuable) kind of buzz around their product launches and new initiatives. But along with the opportunity comes risk. There’s a wrong way to do anything when it comes to social media.
Social media marketing can bolster a launch and create robust conversation around your product. Inevitably, you’ll be excited to get the word out about your launch, and social media is an effective and low-cost way to do it. But you can’t forget your greater social strategy just because you’re launching a product.
Here are a few tips to consider next time your company or brand is launching a product or new initiative:
Don’t let social be an afterthought
When you consider your product launch, social media should be the first thing that comes to mind. Think about it: What other medium allows for instant, direct feedback from people who you know for a fact want to hear about what your company is up to?
Traditional media should be part of the launch, but social should fuel the conversation. And if it’s not part of the planning process from the onset, you’re in trouble.
I’ve seen several instances where companies have attacked a launch and then informed social just before it happened. This total lack of strategy will ensure that the message falls flat in social. At every step in the planning, social should have a major role. The conversation about your launch will happen there, whether you mean for it to or not. Therefore, the wise move is to lead that conversation.
Use the right platforms—the right way
Whatever social media platforms you choose to tell the story of your launch, make sure you’re using it the right way.
Consider where you have the largest audiences and make those platforms your priority. But you have to use them the right way. Long before you launch your product, you should be mining your community for ideas to help you plan and improve it. This is an easy way to engage your audience and make them feel like they’re part of your process. Take the ways your community influenced the product and make that part of the story you tell: “You talked. We listened. Here’s how you’ve helped us …”
And once the launch is in motion, consider your options. There’s always a way you can up the ante with your social media launch—whether it’s through pay per click ads on Facebook or a sponsored Twitter campaign. But often, you’re working with a bare-bones approach. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked to come up with some “scrappy” ideas to create a cost-effective splash.
Practically speaking, you have to think strategically about how you’re going to use Twitter to talk about the launch as opposed to how you’ll use Facebook to talk about it. Twitter is great for the real-time rollout information, but Facebook is going to be a tool for garnering feedback and fostering conversation.
If you’ve been considering entering a new medium (Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram), your launch may be the time to do jump in and create buzz and a new community with the product launch as the hook. But know why you’re entering this new medium. Is it because it’s there, or is it because it’s a natural fit with your brand and your community?
Back it up with content
This is where your social media team and your public relations team need to coordinate. With a recent launch for one of the brands I work with, we knew that they gave the exclusive story to a major media outlet. There were certain parameters that we had to observe, which limited the amount we could tease the product leading up to the launch. But as soon as the article published, we knew exactly what we were doing every step of the way.
Although the article quickly became stale (by new media standards) our efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram kept the conversation alive days after the article published.
This brand didn’t have it’s own content stream, per se. There wasn’t a dedicated blog, but there was a product-specific Web page that we were able to point to. Therefore, we had to leverage what other people were saying about our new product and let that tell our story for us. It was our job to monitor the chatter on Facebook and Twitter and keep the fire stoked.
Meanwhile, our team was monitoring the qualitative and quantitative data in real time to see which messages were resonating with our audience and which weren’t. We were able to then react and evolve our message in the hours and days after the initial onslaught.
Unless you’re Apple, your audience is probably not as excited about your launch as you are. The sooner you realize this, the more realistic your expectations will be.
Your enthusiasm probably won’t translate to higher engagement on your pages, and you need to be prepared for that. Your benchmarks shouldn’t be how many new followers and likes you got after the launch. Your benchmarks need to be more thought-out than that.
This is when link clicks, @ replies and conversations you have with your audience begin to tell you more about whether your social media efforts were successful. It’s very possible that you’ll see a lower engagement rate on your launch-related posts than you will for an average post. This is OK. After all, the reason you’re offering this product or initiative is not to garner Facebook likes. It’s more plausible that you’re doing it because it supports your greater business initiative.
Think of the launch as the beginning of a story. You want to make a splash and get people interested enough to keep paying attention. Sometimes that’s not necessarily measurable.
The launch is just the beginning. You’ll continue to create content around that product long after it’s been launched. So be realistic about the reaction you hope to elicit in the social space.