The problem with many online outreach campaigns is that well… they aren’t very good. Not very good as in they noticeably lack strategy, team coordination, and any significant amount of effort. Not enough thinking and far too little doing is a bad combo.
TechFlash covered a story this week on how Seattle based social gaming startup Giant Thinkwell launched for $42.15 and got 250,000 users. It’s the kind of story that makes a community manager warm on the inside. Not to mention that it’s an accurate portrait of the backbone required to actually make a significant dent on the social web and makes for an excellent case study. It’s a common notion amongst those in strategy roles that very little is being done amongst small businesses and startups (and even some of the big players for that matter) when it comes to reaching out to online influencers and potential customers and/or users. Needless to say, there is a tremendous amount of room for improvement.
An outreach campaign is kind of like going into battle. Be prepared.
The Giant Thinkwell team organized an aggressive outreach movement and did so quickly and without hesitation. Your outreach effort will likely be much smaller (no bigger than a core team of individuals or maybe just yourself), but that’s no excuse for a lack of strategy.
Start by asking the tough questions:
What is the end goal? (Users, traffic, signups, donations, etc…)
Who am I trying to reach?
Where can I find these people online? (blogs, Twitter, forums, all of the above?)
How much time/resources do I have to invest?
How will I measure these efforts?
A campaign can be a short burst of activity, something that lasts for several months, or part of a continuous and ever evolving long term plan. No matter the time period, prepare accordingly.
Rally the troops
Those amongst the team that are be responsible for direct communication need to be on the same page. Break up responsibilities and make accountability a high priority.
Know EXACTLY what you’re getting into
The biggest problem (apart from he majority of those who will never even make the choice to launch a campaign) is the inaccurate judgment of the amount of effort needed see results. Pack up and go home right now if you’re under the assumption that a couple of Tweets, a few emails, and maybe a blog comment or two is what it takes to actually accomplish anything worthwhile. Your campaign needs to be built with an emphasis towards old fashioned work. Work, you know, the stuff that people who don’t waste time on the internet actually have to do every now and then. Set aside a dedicated block of time and make good use of it.
Put momentum in your favor
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” – Sun Tzu in The Art of War
Once you get the ball rolling, your efforts will start to pay off. Don’t expect instantaneous success. Be mindful that your end results are proportionate to the amount of effort you’ve put in. Momentum is a funny thing, but when you have it working in your favor a lot can happen very quickly.
Are your outreach efforts actually reaching people? If not, maybe it’s time for a change.
Food for thought.