The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
Startups want it. Toddlers want it. The Kardashians want it. Really, we all want it. Attention. Although it can be bought, the price is steep, especially for bootstrapped startups. Getting noticed requires a hacker's mentality, and no one hacks the public consciousness quite like the savvy entrepreneur.
That's why this week we reached out to our young entrepreneur friends to answer the following question: “What's your zaniest-but-proven tip for getting publicity for a tech product?”
9 Can't Miss Methods For Getting Publicity
1. Find a Way Into Mainstream
A great way to get exposure for your startup is to find a way to bring your product into the mainstream — even if the mainstream doesn't usually care about it. For example, a few years ago we redid our link-building service — something most people would not find interesting. We did a pro bono campaign for Pittsburgh and got the city's website to rank No.1 for the Google search “the best city in the world.” This got a lot of media attention!
2. Demo the Product
People love to play with new toys. Tech reporters are no different. Pitch a reporter on doing a demo. If that pitch falls short, is there a way to visually show a reporter what your product can do? For example, I created an app called Humm Baby that allowed San Francisco Giants fans to insert fun props (such as the World Series trophy) into their photos and share them with friends. Our pitch to tech reporters was taking photos that we found of them online, dressing them up using our app and tweeting their mocked-up photo back to them. Full disclosure: a couple reporters thought this approach was creepy. Maybe it was, but one of our mock photos got us on Mashable, and another couple of photos opened up some long-lasting relationships. Bottom line: show what your product can do.
3. Post Blogs About Tech Stacks
I'm not much of a marketing guy, but one of our biggest traffic spikes came from a blog post about our tech stack. We explained all of the software we used to build our product Ginger. It got picked up on Hacker News and some other aggregates and took off.
4. Establish Reporter Relationships
I email reporters and writers once every few weeks with story ideas. This helps me build relationships with them and helps them learn trends and topics that they might not be aware of otherwise. They love covering things before their colleagues do. Then, when they need a source, they call me.
5. Use a Strategy for Social Media, PR and Ads
I try to tell our clients seeking visibility for their products that tech publications are a great way to get industry-based buzz, but they are not the path to getting customers. We prefer developing a branding strategy to help the CEO become recognized as a thought leader and connect emotionally with the audience. It is important to have a strategy to utilize social media, PR and advertising to provide helpful advice and then connect that advice to why your technology is a solution. Without the context, it's just another gadget.
6. Use a Meme
The viral meme is the new way to gain easy exposure. The Nyan Cat video, for example, produced loads of exposure and appeal for those fortunate enough to use it as a video tag or Web page pin-up before the creators of the meme began to claim rights to unauthorized uses. Create your own meme or acquire the rights to use someone else's to gain exposure for your startup. The modern consumer has been conditioned to qualify a brand based on the “hip” level of the meme produced by the company. Show your hip quality. Use a video or still meme directed at your primary consumers for instant exposure in your industry.
7. Build Something Valuable
It's crazy to think this is a zany tip, but too many people focus on building “me too” businesses that do nothing to separate them from what other companies have already done. The press want something new and interesting, so focus on building something valuable. When you've got something valuable, let the press know. Or better yet, get your customers or users to tell the press for you.
8. Leverage the Power of Reddit
I'm a huge user of the social network Reddit, and it can do some pretty incredible things. If your product is press worthy, submit it to the technology subreddit, and the community will quickly let you know what it thinks of your idea.
9. Use Negative Reviews to Your Advantage
We submitted a rather salacious product to conservative groups in order to get their passionately negative reviews. Then, we took those reviews and advertised them. This alone generated more leads than any other traditional PR tactic we could have executed at that time.
Adam Cunningham, at 87AM