Online Promotions

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If you want my first steps in how to set up the mechanics of an online promotion (or at least the simplified version I’m willing to explain for free), I do the following: plan, create, launch, rework, conclude. I’ll walk you through it at the high level.

The Plan

The parts of my plan are: goals and resources, mechanics, content, contingencies. I write out notes on the following.

  1. Determine my goal: sales, sign-ups, links, awareness, etc.
  2. Determine my target: what’s a win? (Write out metrics accordingly).
  3. Determine my area of approach: where are the people I want to reach.
  4. Determine my resources: who can help.
  5. Design my site or static resources.
  6. Determine the tools I’ll use and in which areas.
  7. Decide the mix of ads and marketing (PPC/SEO stuff, placement, and then social media).
  8. Sketch out the content for all of this (ad copy, creative, blog posts, social networking stories, blogger outreach angles).
  9. List my potential outreach resources (and develop a blogger outreach plan).
  10. Write up contingency planning and error handling.

Create

If I’m going to use the online world, I want to do more than make ads and banners. I work on blog posts, including text and video and audio versions. I also seek out interview opportunities and other PR-like opportunities to stretch out the experience. I also sketch out what I think the various social media channels and email marketing will look like. For example, if it’s going to be something we promote via Twitter, what are our angles? How will we get people interested? That’s part of the “create” phase for me, though it always changes as we engage in the conversations. Blogger outreach is also part of the “create” phase, because it’s important to be sure that the story you’re hoping to tell aligns with the bloggers you’d like to have work on the project.

Launch

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This is the execution of the plan. I’ve drawn a little simple graphic to show you some of what I think about when I do online promotions with social media.

A simplified plan for online promotions

I create different short URLs for the various places where I promote, so that I know which ones drove what amount of traffic. If you do blogger outreach, it’s cool to give each blogger their own code, so that you can track who pulled what. I keep that all on a spreadsheet, so I can remember where I put which. This also helps me graph out who spread things the furthest. If I see a blogger take a short URL across Twitter, Facebook, their blog, YouTube, and wherever else, I know that the person is an excellent sneezer for future projects.

At launch is where we execute the bigger plans. What comes next is usually where the most value-add can be derived.

Rework

Plans aren’t bulletproof. Things change. Sometimes, timing is off. Other times, someone doesn’t promote as much as you’d hoped (I certainly don’t always deliver as much as some folks would wish). Whatever the case, you should always have a “rework” phase in your plans so that you can adjust your tactics and better deliver on your strategy. I earn my paycheck in the rework section, because no plan ever goes off without a hitch.

Conclude

In this stage of the promotion, you do a lot of thanking. Thank your blogger outreach partners. Thank the PR people who helped you place stories. Thank those who tweeted out the promotion (or at least the ones who really pushed it hard).

You also work through all the particulars of counting up your efforts versus your targets, your metrics, and checking around to see how things really moved or didn’t move the needle. You write out the parts of the plan that worked well, so that you never lose “that thing that worked so well” that seems to get lost in the aftermath. You also keep track of any names of dissenters and/or potential sources of negative pushback, so that you can try and learn from what you could’ve done better (and so you know where your opposition might come from next time).

Another note into the conclude phase: keep an eye on the competition for the next few months. See what, if any, of your promotions gets copied by their team. It’s not like you do anything particular with this, but it’s worth noting.

Your Mileage May Vary

The parts I didn’t write about as much involved the whole SEO/PPC, keywords, etc, part of the story. I don’t work as much on that part of promotions, and when I do, I tend to integrate my work with what people have already done (so I don’t often start it from scratch). There are much better blogs than mine covering that part of promotions, so I didn’t cover it in as much detail.

You might have more success in one platform over another. Maybe Facebook is your favorite. Maybe it’s MySpace. Maybe it’s Orkut. Don’t let my notes and ideas cloud your efforts to find where people are doing what they do. LinkedIn might be the ideal spot for your efforts, and then there’d be a whole part of your plan to address groups, network status, LinkedIn Answers, and other tactics. You can adjust these ideas to fit your reality.

Any Questions?

How else can I be helpful? What did I miss? What’s working well for you?

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