HOW TO: Launch Any Product Using Social Media

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 usedOfficeDrop 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 frombeauty 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!


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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