The biggest part of my new job as Community Manager for PicApp is to find people interested in what the company has built and get them to use it or at least talk about it. This has proven far more difficult than I ever could have imagined.
Even if you have a great product, you have to find ways to cut through the noise to get their attention, and even then, most bloggers are very apprehensive due to the constant battle they need to participate in against spam.
The first piece of advice that just about anyone gets when it comes to promoting anything is to network, but if you are new, or even a reasonably well known person online with a new product to talk about, it can be very difficult to network.
Some might think that I had an easy time promoting PicApp thanks to the contacts I made while blogging full time, but you would be wrong. Most of the people I know aren’t really able to help because their blogs don’t fall within the niches that can really use or discuss PicApp, and so while I did have some help from friends, much of what I had to do was from scratch.
Find Thought Leaders
One of the best things that I have done in my attempts to get people to talk about what I am doing is to focus in on the thought leaders. They might not run the most popular blogs, but they sway the opinion of a group of people, and that is very valuable in building any brand.
To find them, go to blog directories, blog search engines, and top blog lists and look for the top blogs in the niche you want to gain exposure in. For the longest time, I contacted some people that I know well listed higher up in the 45n5.com/top100 list, as they are other blogs in the same niche as this one, and I thought I would have a better chance of them recognizing me, and as such, being easier to approach.
Ask, Don’t Tell
When starting out networking with people, if you want them to look at something, make sure you write in a passive tone, and ask them, rather than telling them. If you write your e-mail, instant message, twitter, or other digital message in a way that doesn’t sound friendly, happy, and interested in their benefit first, then most likely your correspondence will hit their trash bin.
Keep track of who you contact, and don’t contact them again. If they didn’t respond, they probably weren’t interested. If you continually contact them, you will just be seen as another spammer, and bloggers will rightfully call you on that in their blog, making you and whatever you are trying to get attention for look bad.
Remember, even if you have the best product in the world, you need their help more than they need whatever it is you want to talk to them about. Bloggers don’t like to feel pressured into anything, and their spam defenses go on overdrive when there is an inkling of urgency or pressure.
Your communications should respect their time, their focus, and their busy schedule. If they are unable to participate, you shouldn’t be making them feel like it would be a mistake, but instead be understanding.
The biggest help that I received early on was from my friends. Even people who ran blogs outside the normal target audience of the PicApp service took up a call to arms for me. Some of them did it out of kindness and friendship, while others I traded with. I used my skills in writing, WordPress, and other things I know to barter with some of my friends, making it more of a mutual deal, rather than me just “using” them.
Nothing Wrong Reciprocation
Some people that I have talked to think that it is kind of rude that people only do things for others when they know they will get something in return, but this helps takes care of those in society who continually leech off the backs of others for their own needs.
To do something helpful for a friend may free up the time they need to do something for you, and it becomes mutually beneficial, especially when they have skills or resources you are lacking and vice versa.
Work Together Towards Mutual Goals
Pretty much anyone publishing content online has a goal. It might be a small one or a very large one, but if you can find ways to work together with friends towards a mutual goal, sometimes that is the sweetest collaborations of all.
I have worked with a friend before on a link bait that would highlight his site, but was published on my site. This gained me traffic, links and exposure, of which was then filtered through to him. It was a great way to help each other out and worked out beautifully.
There are so many conferences and events for pretty much any niche or topic, and participating in one way or another can really drive eyeballs to the work you are trying to do. You don’t have to be a big sponsor to have events pay off dividends in building a brand, but you do need to have some sort of presence at an event to make an impact.
It can be really intimidating going to events for the first time, as every event is different. Each conference and event that I have attended has a different dynamic, audience, and sets of groups. Navigating these can become much easier with a little preplanning.
Will you need to bring business material, marketing handouts, technical information, or just some business cards, pens and paper, as well as a smile and a firm handshake? Bring the wrong things and you will be unable to market yourself or your products effectively.
Ask Bloggers in Similar Niches What They are Attending
One issue I realized early on is that there are more events and conferences than you could ever possibly know about, and they aren’t always promoted well, and so asking friends, network connections or even competition which events they are attending will help you build a list of events you might want to attend.
I can’t even list the number of conferences I have found out about thanks to word of mouth through my network connections, and most of them were only told to me once I specifically asked what was available or what they were planning on attending.
Contact Interesting Attendees and Schedule Meetings
To make the most of each and every event you want to attend, make sure to find out the guest list, and try to schedule a few meetings. There will be lots of networking between sessions, in hallways, and afterwards, but it can be hard to get two words in sometimes unless you set some time aside. I make sure to try to do this in a casual way with friends and network connections, but it is something I am still working on myself.
Making sure to set some time aside where the focus is completely on what you wanted to discuss can mean the difference between a memorable meeting and a quick in-the-hall discussion.
If you don’t ask people, you’ll never open up the possibility that they will say “yes”. There are many bloggers who I barely had a relationship with that I asked to look over PicApp and provide me feedback. Some decided to do it privately via e-mail, and others published about it on their blog. Both responses were very helpful, and were a big part of the upcoming advances in the PicApp platform.
If I hadn’t asked them, then I would not have had the information that PicApp needed and wouldn’t have been as effective in my job.
It never really hurts to ask, as the worst thing they can say or do is nothing. Even negative press through contacting people you don’t know well can be handled, and might point out things that friends and network contacts were too polite to say.
Getting people to talk about PicApp and the great things they are doing is definitely much harder than coming up with blog posts ever was, and while I think it is only getting harder and harder to stand out from the noise and get messages out their to the people and audiences you hope to inspire and connect with, I still believe that with patience, persistence, and planning, anyone can get their message heard.