Was the Portal 2 Alternate Reality Marketing Campaign Worth It? (mashable)(

Was the Portal 2 Alternate Reality Marketing Campaign Worth It?

Portal 2, the brain-bending sequel to Valve Software’s 2007 hit is arguably one of the most anticipated video games of the year.

For the uninitiated, Portal is a first-person puzzle shooter. Rather than guns and ammo, the player is armed with an experimental “handheld inter-spatial portal device” that can fire two connecting gateways at a time onto (almost) any flat surface — floors, walls, ceilings. Pass through these moveable gateways to clear obstacles, thwart enemies, and skirt the ire of GLaDOS, the murderous artificial intelligence run amok in the testing facility.

The game’s unsettling plot and jaw-dropping mechanics have earned it critical acclaim and a loyal fanbase. It’s even found a place in college curricula as a way to get students thinking about spatial relations, physics, and existential philosophy.

Anticipation of a sequel has had fans drooling over proposed features (such as multiplayer support) and teaser videos (including the one below) for some time now. And while Valve has made a traditional marketing push in the form of web videos, billboards and TV spots, its final and more subversive campaign has had online gaming communities in a tizzy for weeks.

The campaign began April 1, when a collection of indie games collectively dubbed “The Potato Sack” was released on Steam (Valve’s cloud-based delivery system — sort of an iTunes for video games). Players began noticing strange symbols and coded messages appearing in the games. Savvy users began to connect these “glyphs” to other games — which were receiving new content from Steam — as well as to external websites and real-world locations. A wiki and IRC channel were created by gaming forum denizens to start pooling information about what has come to be known as the Portal ARG (alternate reality game).


Coded messages appear during static-filled transitions in Portal 2 promo videos.

While it’s only been in motion for a few weeks, the ARG is exceedingly complex and tended to unfold in real time, with clues hidden across the web, gaming forums, podcasts, YouTube videos, and the Potato Sack games themselves. Highlights include cryptic blog posts that were deleted soon after discovery, messages in Morse code, clues encoded in the waveforms of audio files, and a handful of interconnected images sent from Gabe Newell, the co-founder of Valve himself, to a few prominent gaming blog editors.


An audio file run through spectrogram analysis reveals the hidden message: WhyMustThereBeSiblingRivalry.The scope of the campaign cannot be overstated, but you can get the blow-by-blow on the Investigation History page of the wiki.

In the last few days, mounting clues were indicating that GLaDOS, the exceedingly creepy AI villain defeated in the original Portal, was attempting to reboot herself on the Internet and release Portal 2 early with the help of fans engaged in the ARG. A new website appeared, titled GLaDOS@Home, and featured a countdown clock and progress bars for all the games in the original Potato Sack. The more fans played these games on Steam, the faster the clock would tick down, with the promise of an early release for Portal 2.

At the time of this writing, however, the countdown is on track for the original release date of April 19 — in fact, it may even be a few hours late. After countless hours searching, decoding, compiling, purchasing and playing other Steam games, the most dedicated Portal fans essentially get nothing. And some of them are pretty upset.

So has Valve created some of the most epic buzz in gaming, only to shoot itself in the foot by punking its most loyal fans?

“Valve missed an opportunity to craft an ARG that actually let gamers ‘alter’ reality,” says Matt Peckham, a gaming journalist who covered the Portal ARG for PC World. “Instead, they got gamers to pay for their marketing stunt.”

But has that damaged Valve’s image? “I suppose it depends how good (and bug-free) Portal 2 is,” Peckham notes. “You follow a negative event with an overwhelmingly positive one, and people tend to forgive (and forget) their grievances.”

Despite some of the negative sentiment, the ARG may be remembered by fans as a unique an enjoyable experience, despite falling short of the end goal. “While the idea of the game getting an early release is cool, the ARG really is a way for fans — those kind of die-hard fans who actually take the time to figure out these sorts of things — to interact with the game in a different way,” says Andrew Webster, a writer who covers gaming for Ars Technica. “And in that I think it’s a success no matter what. Valve has built up so much goodwill amongst the gaming community that it would take a colossal screw up for something like this to damage its brand.”

Both Peckham and Webster agree that despite the depth and complexity of the ARG, the most ingenious aspect of it was that it got fans to buy and play 13 additional games they might not have on their own volition. “Somehow, while promoting its own game with a massive campaign, Valve still managed to come out the good guy by supporting indie games at the same time,” says Webster. “Not only did the ARG try and get players to play more indie games, but it likely sold a few as well, which is good for the developers for sure, but also for Valve, since it owns the Steam distribution platform.”

“It’s one of the most clever cross-exposure schemes going,” Peckham added.

Fans will likely rejoice around the actual game once it has been released to the masses. But whether enough goodwill remains for future Valve marketing efforts like this is yet to be seen.

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How Small Businesses Can Use Social Media for Customer Service (Mashable)

How Small Businesses Can Use Social Media for Customer Service

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

Customer relationship management isn’t just the domain of big brands, and these days, more and more companies are offering free online tools to make it easier for SMBs to keep track of and reach out to their customers.

For some SMBs — whether they’re brick-and-mortar shops or online businesses — being able to monitor customer feedback, respond to complaints and help answer questions across a wide variety of websites is incredibly valuable, and it establishes a rapport with customers, who are likely to spread the word and praise the SMB for its outreach.

To get a better understanding of what the CRM tasks are and the best tools to accomplish them, Mashablespoke with Marsha Collier, who wrote the book on online customer service.

Collier says that when it comes to reaching out to customers on the web, small businesses actually have an advantage over their corporate counterparts.

“There is the opportunity for more communication within the company, more chance to build a customer-centric culture. They don’t have the issues of having to pass new ideas through meetings and legal department. If the owner/president is involved and the lines of communication are fairly open, they can turn on a dime and beat the competition,” she says.

Given the agility of a smaller company, Collier says that while there are lessons to be learned from larger corporations’ social media campaigns, the most important part of bringing your business online for customer interaction is that you’re creating a personality for your company and giving your business a face. “When you engage the community, you personalize your business. Your business is no longer a store or a website: It’s a person.” And at that point, Collier says, it’s vital to communicate promptly and personally, which can be time-consuming.

“I know of small business owners who continually monitor social media platforms for mention of their businesses. They get text messages and try to direct the issues immediately. I even heard of a brick-and-mortar restaurateur who got a text about cold French fries at his location. He texted the manager, who then showed up at the table within minutes to diffuse the situation.”


Best Tools to Use


When it comes to specific tools that SMBs should be using, Collier says, “Of course, the very basics would beTweetdeck or Seesmic. You’d be surprised how many small businesses don’t know about the basic tools.” She says HootSuite is a great choice for a slightly larger business.

Anyone who runs an online business will tell you that customers are shopping 24/7. Collier says they can “smartly install a web-based help desk from Zendesk or chat products like Meebo Me or Skype on their websites to immediately answer customer service issues.”

Collier says those who wish to monitor mentions of their brands or verticals can use sites such asSocialmention or Tweetbeep. “Small business again can jump the gun here,” she notes. “Using their knowledge of their own industry, they can comment topically on blogs. They can even help their competitors’ customers in public on Facebook, on blogs or boards. By helping people with good service they can turn those people into prospective customers.”


Best Practices & Streams to Study


Collier says she’s spoken at length with scores of SMB owners while writing her book, The Ultimate Online Customer Service Guide. She says some of the most diligent practitioners of online CRM are the tens of thousands of business owners who make their living selling only on eBay or Amazon. Collier says these people have to “stay on top of customer transactions” in a way that other SMB owners and managers don’t.

For offline businesses, Collier says, “Keep in mind we are on the cusp of this new form of online customer service, and the tools and procedures are just now being perfected. The few businesses that actually ‘get it’ right now are doing it right.”

A fine example that Collier recommends for further study is @UnitedLinen, a company that uses social media to connect with customers in its local area. “The company has a personalized stream where it engages customers,” she says, “yet it’s also used for product announcements and crowdsourcing” and promotion of itsYouTube series on the art of folding napkins.

Collier also points out that quite a few food trucks have mastered the art of social media CRM. She recommends checking out the efforts of street food companies such as Streetza Pizza and Kogi BBQ.

At the end of the day, Collier says, “Good customer service in any form has a positive effect on ROI. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs is quoted as saying, ‘A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9 and 15 people about their experience.’ If that is a real world statistic, the online world must be ten times that.”

She adds that people don’t do business with those who have a reputation for mistreating their customers. And since more companies are shifting to social media as the platform for all customer service, “small businesses should grab the opportunity and begin to make their mark.”

In other words, practice will make perfect, and Collier advises getting as much social media practice as you can.


Damage Control


Unfortunately, not all customer interactions online are going to be positive, and there is little SMB owners can do to control that. “Negative feedback can appear anywhere,” Collier says. “New media has drawn an end to controlling the situation.”

Rather than trying to shut down conversations that might cast your business or product in an unflattering light, Collier recommends approaching all such conversations with honesty and a willingness to make amends if needed.

“The object is to be there, to monitor the various sites,” she says. “Claim your business’ Facebook Page, sign up with Yelp, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor and any review site you can find on a Google search for your industry. Be transparent. Own up to mistakes and let the audience know about how you made things right for the customer.”

Being proactive with social media makes it easy to nip a negative situation in the bud — and everyone knows how quickly you responded, which can help you win even more customers.

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Would You Like This Article More If You Had To “Like” It On Facebook Before Reading? (FastCompany)

Would You Like This Article More If You Had To “Like” It On Facebook Before Reading?

BY GREGORY FERENSTEINToday

How Facebook pages psychologically manipulate us into liking brands.

Many of the world’s most powerful brands are doubling down on Facebook, from President Obama to The New Yorker. The powerful, hidden psychology of a fan page might just make this a worthwhile bet. Psychologists have long known that tiny, voluntary actions can cause sweeping changes in our opinions, transforming luke-warm attitudes into concrete beliefs. In other cases, the mere perception of a name or idea in the news can cause us to wildly exaggerate its importance. Here we’ll take a deep dive into the social psychology of manipulation and how the simple act of a Facebook ‘like’ could have the exact intended outcome that these messaging brands, like politicians and newspapers, are seeking.

Dissonance

Rationalization, arguably social psychology’s most powerful known cognitive force, predicts that a user will unwittingly feel much more positively about brand after they click ‘like’ than before–namely, because our actions secretly influence our opinions.

The academic term for rationalization, “Cognitive Dissonance,” was popularized by social science great Leon Festinger, who discovered how to manipulate undergraduates into enjoying an exceedingly boring game. After a painful hour of play, one group was offered $1 to lie to a fellow student about how enjoyable the game was, and the other group was offered $20. The academically earth-shattering result was that the group paid $1 was far more likely to say they enjoyed the game in a post-experiment survey.

Why? Participants in the high-reward group easily rationalized their decision as greed-driven, whereas the low-reward group needed a justification, and end up convincing themselves how much they actually enjoyed the game, rather than believe their integrity could be purchased for a $1. Dissonance/rationalization has been replicated countless times since: appliances are rated higher post-decision, smokers who fail to quit downplay the dangers of their habit, and students who cheat have less ethical qualms after doing it once.

Every opportunity to reflect on our choices is an opportunity to reconstruct a past view of ourselves as flawless decision-makers.

The New Yorker laid out a perfect dissonance bear trap by requiring readers to like their Facebook page in order to read Jonathan Franzen’s 12,000 word story about the island inRobinson Crusoe; everyone but die-hard fans needed to rationalize why he was worth so much more effort than other articles on the Internet, likely turning many luke-warm spectators into full-fledged fans.

Even if the effect is small, it’s all many messaging brands need: a handful of highly active users spreading buzz, creating viral videos, and recruiting friends.

Exaggerated Importance and Laziness

One of the simplest ways to seem more influential in a conversation is to angle participants so that they are looking at you more often than anyone else. Perception hijacks our opinions, and unwittingly assigns credit (and blame) to whatever we’re looking at. In one deliciously simple experiment, psychology professors Shelley Taylor and Susan Fiske put six participants in conversation so that they could either see both discussants equally, or placed behind a discussant, so that they were able to only view one speaker. As expected, those who could see both rated each almost identically important in the conversation, while the others vastly overrated the importance of the speaker they saw.

However, the relatively neutral value of “importance” is impotent without another psychological accomplice: laziness–it’s cognitively easier to attribute kudos to someone who seems influential, rather than actually think about what is being said. For instance, highly informed and engaged listeners are immune to celebrity endorsements of candidates, cheesy campaign videos, and bumper sticker politics. As well, the most political ignorant citizens are also immune, since they likely won’t be engaged at all. The sweet spot for campaigners is a moderately informed citizen, just ignorant enough to want non-information cues to help them make up there mind (such as good looks or college background), but still engaged enough to listen in the first place.

This is why some academics freaked out when CNN decided to overlay a political debate with a crawling “worm” that dipped and spiked with the approval of a small focus group watching the live debate. Follow up studies show that citizens were unwittingly influenced by their estranged focus-group peers on TV.

Thus, seeing a lightly peppered stream of “Barack Obama” or “The New Yorker” in a newsfeed not only influences how moderately informed citizens feel about the candidate or media outlet, but might influences how persuasive they will find future speeches or essays. Seeing friends endorse a candidate or website constructs a rose-flecked prism of optimism through which we evaluate the world.

Counter-attitudinal Speech

The writers of pledges and oaths were aware of speech-induced manipulation far before psychologists discovered that asking an individuals to say something, even if it contradicts their own opinions, could secretly twist their beliefs into favoring what they’re saying.

For instance, in the eerily titled “Generalization of Dissonance Reduction: Decreasing Prejudice Through Induced Compliance,” participants were tricked into becoming more favorable towards African Americans by being asked to write an essay in support of more minority scholarship funds (at the expense of white students). As expected, those participants who were led to believe they had a choice in what position to advocate (but were encouraged to help the researchers out by writing a pro-minority essay) had even greater gains in pro-African American beliefs.

“Liking” a brand is a public act, one that involves both a declaration of one’s own endorsement and taking up valuable space on a friend’s newsfeed. Knowing this, moderately interested readers of The New Yorker are forced to justify either believing that they are callous to spamming a friend’s wall with mediocre brands, or that The New Yorkeris actually something their friends would enjoy. Heck, according to this research, users might think they’re friends should be happy such a wonderful article was brought to their attention.

Placing content behind a ‘like wall’ is a difficult decision. For those brands seeking an elusive and unquantifiable sense of influence, the hypnotic pull of a Facebook page might just do the trick.

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Twitter TV Hashtag Tips From Twitter’s Own Expert (FastCompany)

Twitter TV Hashtag Tips From Twitter’s Own Expert

BY GREGORY FERENSTEINToday

Twitter’s director of media partnerships, Chloe Sladden, discusses expert hashtag tips for TV shows

At the 2011 NAB Show this week, Twitter’s director of media partnerships, Chloe Sladden — the subject of our November cover story about Twitter TV — discusses two quick, brilliant examples of how to engage TV audiences with a hashtag.

The first strategy is the “canonical hashtag”: using actual show names. For Sunny in Philadelphia, the hashtag is #SunnyFX. This facilitates an ongoing discussion and alerts viewers when the show is on.

The second is “Mad-lib”: choosing a different hashtag each show with a call to action in hopes of achieving a trending topic. For 106 & Park on BET, they might use #neverthat to answer the question “what would you never do?”

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HOW TO: Improve Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page [STATS] (Mashable)

HOW TO: Improve Engagement on Your Brand’s Facebook Page [STATS]

f you’re looking to boost engagement on your brand’s FacebookPage, a new report from Buddy Media has some key findings for you. The social media marketing company collected data from 200 of its clients’ Pages* over a 14-day period and found that time is an important factor in determining the success of a Facebook post. The study reveals that more often than not, a Facebook post is ill-timed — in fact, office hours could be the worst time to blast content.

“While marketers may work Monday through Friday, Facebook is humming with activity 24-hours a day, seven days a week,” says Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow. And so, brands must adapt to their consumers’ schedules in order to optimize their engagement.

Here are the findings, along with tips about when and how to make the most of a Facebook post.


Be Timely


 

The study found that daily Facebook engagement has three peaks: early morning (7 a.m. EST), after work (5 p.m. EST) and late at night (11 p.m. EST). Therefore, posting all of your updates during the workday means you’re missing key opportunities to engage fans at non-work hours. However, not all brands’ engagement peaks at these three times — Playboy engagement peaks in the wee hours of the morning, for example — so you must work on a case-by-case basis.

 

Good timing on Facebook depends on the day of the week, too. Thursday and Friday have 18% more engagement than other days of the week, suggesting that Facebook is a procrastination tool when people are itching to get out of the office. But don’t start stacking all of your Facebook updates on Thursday and Friday — the study found interesting user patterns and engagement trends throughout the week that are unique to particular industries. Below, the findings are broken down by market so that you can see where entire industries are missing the mark and where — or rather, when — there’s room for improvement.

  • Entertainment: Friday, Saturday and Sunday are huge, as that is when people are most inclined to see a movie or go to a concert. However, entertainment brands post twice as much content on a weekday than a Saturday or Sunday.Tip: Take advantage of the weekend.
  • Media: Weekends have strong engagement for media brands, but Mondays are weak. During the study period, most posts went out during the week.Tip: Avoid Monday.
  • Automotive: Auto brands see the most engagement on Sundays, but less than 8% of posts go out on that day.Tip: Capitalize on Sunday.
  • Business and Finance: Engagement peaks on Wednesday and Thursday, though this industry tends to spread its posts even on Monday through Friday.Tip: Post on Wednesday.

     


    The findings for the retail vertical.

  • Retail: Sunday is a big day for engagement on the shopping and retail front, but only 5% of entertainment posts go up on Sunday. The industry’s posts lean heavily toward Friday, which has below-average engagement.Tip: Target shoppers on Sunday.
  • Fashion: Engagement peaks on Thursday but dips on the weekend. The industry pushes the most content on Tuesday, the day with the lowest engagement. 

    Tip: Optimize engagement on Thursday.

  • Healthcare and Beauty: Like fashion — perhaps because consumers are shopping and preparing for the weekend — healthcare and beauty brands see the most engagement on Thursday. But a lot of content is posted on Mondays and Fridays, when engagement is lower. 

    Tip: Post content on Thursday.

  • Food and Beverage: More than the other verticals, the food and beverage brands do a good job of spreading their posts throughout the week and weekend. But in this case, engagement peaks on Tuesday and Saturday and dips on Monday and Thursday. 

    Tip: Target Tuesday.

  • Sports: Not surprisingly, especially during football season, Sunday is king for sports brands and teams on Facebook. This data is affected by the fact that Super Bowl Sunday fell during the data collection period, but Sundays remain strong during other weeks, too. 

    Tip: Increase your post volume on Sunday.

  • Travel and Hospitality: The highest engagement occurs on Thursday and Friday, when the week is winding down and people are looking to escape from the office. 

    Tip: Get these eyeballs at the end of the week.

Joe Ciarallo, Buddy Media’s director of communications, says a lot of smart brands already target their audiences when they’re most engaged. For those who don’t, Ciarallo says they should consider scheduling Facebook posts to go live during times of high engagement at night and on weekends.


Be Concise


The data indicates that the length of the post can determine engagement just as much as the time of the post. The bottom line: Keep it short and sweet. Posts with 80 characters or less — the length of a short tweet — garnered 27% more engagement than posts that were more than 80 characters. But brevity is far from a common practice — only 19% of posts in the study were shorter than 80 characters.

And while the content should be short, the URL probably shouldn’t be — posts with a full-length URL had three times the engagement of their shortened bit.ly, ow.ly and tinyurl counterparts. The reason is likely because readers want to know where the link will take them. Ciarallo says a brand-specific URL shortener, like bddy.me or on.mash, keeps a post short while also providing context.


Ask For Engagement


 


Words ranked in order of their effectiveness at converting Likes and comments.
 

If you’re looking to get Likes on a post, all you have to do is ask. Ciarallo says simple, outright instructions — “Like us if … ” — are much more effective at getting a Like than a post with a long explanation of why you should “like” something. Remember, “liking” only takes one click and then the “liked” item is syndicated on a user’s own page, so don’t be afraid to ask for the thumbs up.

The same goes for comments — outright saying “post,” “comment” or “tell us” motivates fans to engage. If you’re seeking answers, put a simple “where” or “when” or “would” question at the end of the post — you’ll get 15% more engagement than if the question is buried in the middle. Shy away from “why” questions, as they seem invasive and ask much more of a user than a “what” question, Ciarallo says.


Advice for Smaller Brands


These findings are insightful and can help brands better target their consumers, but it is important to note that the brands studied are all large and well-established. While URL shortening is a good idea for all brands, the day and time findings may not apply to businesses of all sizes within each industry.

For small businesses, it’s important to balance the data above with what you know about your own brand, based on Facebook Insights and your own experiences with your Page. “Small brands can take away some best practices from this, but remember that the data set is all large brands,” Ciarallo says. “Still, a boutique hotel owner could look at the hospitality section and see how it can help his Facebook marketing.”

He also says it’s important to realize the social marketing space is constantly evolving, and these statistics can change in a matter of months. If every brand begins to post when the engagement is high, then engagement either will increase because of the optimization, or it may decrease because there’s so much noise at the high-engagement times. Only time will tell for the long term.

“This is 200 large brands over two weeks, so it’s a large data set, but things are moving fast,” meaning your Facebook marketing program must be flexible, Ciarallo says. Though this is the first study of its kind that Buddy Media has publicly released, Ciarallo foresees future reports like this one to help brands maximize engagement in an ever-changing marketing environment.

What engagement tips have you picked up from your Facebook Page? Tell us in the comments.

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HOW TO: Launch Any Product Using Social Media (Mashable)

HOW TO: Launch Any Product Using Social Media

Guy Kawasaki is the author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.

On March 8, I introduced my tenth book. There are few processes that I enjoy more than a product introduction, and this one enabled me to try many social media techniques and online tools and services. After only a week, the book was on the New York TimesWall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. I have to conclude that at least some of that success was due to the promotional techniques I employed.

Here, I’d like to outline the 12 things that I did to launch my new book, including information about costs and vendors I used, as well as analytics. Though my “product” is a book, the methods I used can apply to product introductions in general. Hopefully this post will provide marketers with ideas for how to launch just about anything.


1. Facebook


A Facebook Fan Page is the quickest and easiest way to get a web presence for a new product. These pages are very valuable for building community and spreading the word because Facebook offers built-in capabilities such as commenting, liking, sharing and uploading photos and videos. Fan Pages are not as flexible as websites, but implementing social features is much easier.

The challenge with Fan Pages, and websites of any kind, is to attract visitors. One thing that I did was to offer a PDF version of my first book, The Macintosh Way, to anyone who “Liked” the page for my new book. (The rights to my first book had reverted to me, so there was no cost.)

There were a few costs involved. I used Hyperarts to design my Fan Page, which cost about $2,500. I used OfficeDrop to scan The Macintosh Way, which cost in the between $100 and $200.


2. Website


After two months, I revisited my decision to rely primarily on a Facebook Fan Page and supplemented my existing website with materials about my book. The resources I wanted to provide would have overwhelmed my Facebook Page with tabs. I wanted a way to provide my bio, pictures and bookstores without Facebook membership requirements. No matter how many people are on Facebook, it doesn’t have all the people in the world. Facebook is also a private business, which means they can (and often do) unilaterally make major changes with little warning to users. The lesson here is that while a Facebook Fan Page is great, its flexibility and capacity are limited. You’re also subject to the whims of the company.

My goal with the website was to make it as easy as possible for reviewers to obtain all the background information and pictures necessary to review my book. I even supplemented the picture page with photos of enchanting people (e.g. Queen Latifah), places (e.g. Istanbul), and things (e.g. 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang) to provide a subtle reference to the title (Enchantment). I contracted my buddy Will Mayall to make the book website, and you should expect to pay around $2,500 to create a simple brochure site from scratch.

In addition to resources for reviewers, I added audio and video to my website. Because I do many speaking engagements, it was easy to amass a collection of video and podcasts about the book. I provided them for two reasons. First, they are selling tools for potential readers. Second, reviewers can embed them on their websites and blogs for their readers. I used Craig Hosoda to edit my videos, which you can expect to cost a few hundred dollars per clip. When you’re speaking, if an organization is already recording your presentation, you won’t have to pay for a crew. If you have to pay for a crew, however, it will cost $1,500 or so, plus editing.


3. Review Copies


 

 

 

Most publishers send out 100 to 200 galleys/books to reviewers (this number will vary depending upon how well known you are, if you’re a first time author, the size of your publisher, etc.). These promotional copies go to recognized book reviewers and A-listers in a segment. I decided to target a different review audience. I own a site that aggregates RSS feeds from about 20,000 bloggers. I offered a review copy to all 20,000 people no matter what their blog topic; 1,300 requested a copy, and we sent one to anyone who asked. I also usedeCairn to identify the key social media bloggers and offered a copy to them, too. Because I wanted broad adoption of the ideas in this book, my goal was to get reviews in as broad a spectrum of blogs as possible, instead of only the usual book review and business blogs.

All told, we sent out approximately 1,600 copies. This resulted in approximately 150 interviews and 200 reviews before the book was available. These reviews appeared in blogs that covered areas ranging from beauty products to dog training.

The amount you can expect to pay for something like this depends on how you count the cost of a galley or a book plus shipping. A good estimate is $10 per book or galley including shipping, so this cost $16,000, but my publisher paid for this, not me. I also compiled all the reviews on a webpage for two reasons. First, to create the overwhelming impression that reluctance to read the book was futile. Second, to acknowledge all the reviewers for their hard work.

The lesson here is to cover the earth with as many product trials as possible. Don’t focus on only the A-listers — “nobodies” are the new somebodies in the flattened, social networking world we now live in. You never know who’s going to make your product “tip.”


4. Email


I’m a big believer in email marketing. It cuts right to the point. People either open the email or they don’t. They either click through to a page or they don’t. They either buy or they don’t. Every step is measurable.

On the day that my book hit the stores, we sent out 160,000 emails; 130,000 of those email addresses came from thirty years of making contacts, and 30,000 came from AlwaysOn, as a favor. Building a quality pool of email contacts is clearly something anyone can replicate, but it takes time.

Of the 160,000 recipients, 3.75% clicked through to the order page. Email may be old school, but it’s cheap and effective.

We used Emailvision to do the mailing, which costs $1,000 per month for the service, plus a $4,500 setup charge. It was no cost — other than time — for the email addresses.


5. Pay Per Click


To tell you the truth, I don’t understand the black magic of pay per click (PPC), so I relied on a buddy from my Apple days named David Szetela. He ran a six-week program on Google AdWords, Facebook ads and Twitter (Promoted Tweets) for search terms such as “Dale Carnegie.” In addition to obtaining several hundred pre-orders, the Twitter campaign for Enchantment caught the
attention of the Wall Street Journal, who gave me a nice plug.

We used Clix Marketing to manage the campaign, plus Google and Twitter placement fees. You can expect to pay as little or as much as you can afford on PPC marketing. You can create the campaigns by yourself and pay a few hundred bucks for the ad placements, or hire an agency and pay thousands for their fees and expanded ad placement. The lesson here is that PPC may seem like black magic, but it’s worth trying for a few thousand dollars to see if anything will stick.


6. Photo Contest


In order to generate awareness of my book, I ran a photo contest. I used a Facebook app that enabled people to submit pictures in five categories, and a popular vote determined the finalists. I selected the winners. The prizes were five Nikon 3100s and an Apple iPad. That contest resulted in 1,150 entries, 35,000 visits, 70,000 entry views and 10,500 votes.

What I learned was that people love photo contests. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to build buzz. Beware, however, the people who are professional contestants and people who game the system. At the end, manually pick the winners and don’t depend solely on popular votes. Also be wary of local contest laws, which may govern the types of contests you can run and the value of the prizes you hand out.

I used Strutta to design the contest app, which can cost about $2,000. The prizes (in this case a few Nikon cameras and an iPad) bumped up the costs about another $4,000 or so.


7. Quizzes


The quiz started as a final exam in the book, but I also wanted an online version so people could determine if they should to read the book. I created online versions for both Facebook and my website.

At first, I had only a Facebook version, but similar to my Fan Page, I realized that there are people on the planet who weren’t members of Facebook yet, so I also created a standalone website version. Here’s a mind blower: Approximately 700 people took the Facebook version, and 2,900 people took the standalone website version, even though it came out two weeks after the Facebook version. This is something to think about. Don’t focus all your energy on Facebook.

I used Wildfire, which costs about $400 per month, to create a self-serve quiz. I hired Electric Pulp to create the website version, something that costs in the neighborhood of $3,000.


8. Infographic


I love infographics because they can communicate so much in so little space. I wanted to create an infographic that would provide an overview of the book and act as a resource that bloggers could embed in their reviews. Many bloggers did in fact use the infographic I had made as part of their review. To make the graphic, I hired Column Five. Good infographics can cost up to $1,500 to 2,000, but it’s worth the return. Lots of bloggers like to embed infographics and they have the potential to go viral.


9. Badges, Buttons, Banners and Stickers


 

 

 

I created badges, buttons, and banners so that people could declare that they are enchanting. These badges aren’t exactly ads for the book — they’re more like a “seal of approval” that people can display. They do, however, link to the book’s Facebook Fan Page and allow people to promote the book. I also included the badges on other websites that I own and operate — essentially advertising one of my products on another. In the first few weeks, there were approximately 100,000 impressions of the badges around the web. Lesson learned: People like to embed badges and wear them on their clothes. This is a cheap way to gain exposure.

I used Samuel Toh and Ana Frazao to design the badges and banners. You can expect a cost of about $50 per badge for something like this. I liked the website badges so much that I asked Sam Toh to design a sticker for SXSW. Then my buddies at Walls360 printed 2,500 of them. You can see them in action here. These are no ordinary stickers. They are printed on fabric so you can use them over and over, which means they come at a premium and cost about $1 each.

Disclosure: The author is an adviser to Walls360.


10. Wallpapers


Once you have an infographic and badges, you might as well go all the way and create wallpapers too. These wallpapers enable people to have book-themed desktops and homescreens on their computers, phones and iPads. I don’t expect many people to use them, but what the heck, right? I used Ana Frazao again for this project, and you can expect to pay about $400.


11. PowerPoint


If the topic of enchantment proves popular, organizations will pay me 50 times a year to give a speech based on the book. Therefore, skimping on a PowerPoint presentation or trying to make it myself made little sense. Joshua Bell doesn’t use a cheap violin and Yo-Yo Ma doesn’t use a toy cello, so why should I use a crappy PowerPoint presentation? Ana Frazao was my designer of choice on this project, as well, and the price for this can be around $3,600. But remember: A slide presentation is a window into your soul. Do you want your soul to look cheap and unprofessional?


12. Thank You Slideshow


It takes a village to finish a book: publisher personnel, book designers, beta readers, web designers, graphic designers, and more. You would be amazed. I tried to list all of them in the Acknowledgments section of my book, but that felt very 1.0. So I asked my buddies Brad Jefferson and Andrew Jacobson at Animoto to create a thank you slideshow for the team behind my book.

You can expect to pay up to $50 per month if you use the professional version, with which you create your own slideshows (Brad and Andrew did mine as a favor to me). However, for the small amount of trouble of collecting pictures and laying them down to a music track, you can show some gratitude to the people who helped you launch your product. It’s worth the time and expense!


Conclusion


While my new product is a book, you can apply these ideas to almost any product introduction. Every one of these vendors did a great job for me, and I would use them again in a second. Of course, when I’ve provided cost estimates in the past, there are always people who say, “You paid that much for that? I could have done it for a third of the price!” Yeah, well, there are two things to consider.

First, I’m providing ballpark numbers for what people should expect to pay — I didn’t necessarily pay all of these prices.

Second, and more importantly, even if I did pay these prices, I didn’t have the bandwidth or desire to shop around, check out vendors and negotiate. Time is money and I was plenty busy making three speeches a week around the world, parenting four kids and being interviewed three to five times per day. And there’s a lesson in that too: If you try to optimize every decision and you define optimization as doing things as cheaply as possible, you might end up with a steaming pile of crap. The big picture is to launch a product as big and fast possible and to succeed — not save the most money.

 

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Everything You Need To Know About Google’s +1 (Mashable)

Everything You Need To Know About Google’s +1

We spoke with Google rep Jim Prosser about +1. Here are some of our questions answered. What other questions do you have about the new product?

Why is Google doing this?
Aside from the fact that it represents another way to compete with Facebook, Google’s official line is that it will make search results more germane. Says Prosser: “People consult their friends and other contacts on decisions. It’s very easy and lightweight way to make search results more relevant.”

Will the number of +1s affect search rankings?
Prosser says no, but adds that it’s something Google is “very interested” in incorporating in some form at some point.

Who are these contacts we’re seeing next to the +1s?
They are from Google Contacts, which come from various Google products, most notably Gmail, Buzz and Reader.

Will we see Facebook friends giving +1s at some point?
Not likely. Prosser draws a distinction between the “open web” and Facebook’s closed system. Google is up for incorporating open social media apps, but not Facebook. And Facebook isn’t likely to be interested in bolstering +1, a competitor to its “Like” button.

What about Twitter?
That’s a different story. Google already incorporates Twitter data into its searches, though Prosser says there are no immediate plans for integrating Twitter results with +1.

What about using data from other social networks?
Prosser says Google is interested in using more data from Flickr and Quora, which Google considers “open web” apps. Initially, though, you won’t see your Flickr or Quora friends’ +1 recommendations.

When will we start seeing the +1s?
Not for a few months, at least not en masse. Those who are interested in experimenting with +1 right away can go to Google.com/experimental. Otherwise, Prosser says only a “very small percentage” of searches and sites will have the +1 button within the next few weeks.

Will +1 be incorporated into banner ads?
Not right away, though Google is interested in that possibility.

Can marketers game the system by running “check +1 to enter” promotions?
It seems that Google frowns on this sort of thing, but it’s unclear whether the company expressly forbids it. Meanwhile, to maintain the integrity of the results, Prosser recommends that marketers don’t tweak their copy to ensure more +1s.

 

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