As a burgeoning startup, it can be tempting to try to get your name out there in as many places as possible, whether to generate buzz or to drive sales. However, simply spamming your product across the web is not only ineffective, but a complete waste of your time.
Sites like Promote Hour, Startuplister, and even GitHub provide you a list of sites to start sharing with, but also offer a premium service that lets you blast out your startup to “50 communities in 5 minutes.” That may be tempting but read the fine print before you commit. Sites like Promote Hour offer a PR service that allows them to reach out to media companies quickly. They even have a “money back guarantee,” which gives you back 50% of the plan price if they are “not able to deliver desired coverage,” whatever that means.
As a scrappy startup, you probably don’t have the budget to spend on the premium service so you start going through the list to start submitting your startup to various sites yourself. But is it even worth your time?
For our test, we tracked 20 different websites that claimed to feature your startup for free or for a “small fee.” We then tracked how long it took to submit these posts and how many leads they generated.
The test included submitting a few of our client’s startups to sites like digg, boingboing, and many other smaller sites. After a week, we revisited the data to see what type of traffic and conversions we generated. We repeated this process with three different clients and measured the results.
The results were not good. Of the 20 or so sites we submitted our clients to, only 3-5 sites generated any traffic and the traffic that they did generate were abysmal. Some more popular sites like Hacker News generated the most traffic for one of our clients with a whopping 27 visitors and 0% conversion rate.
These results aren’t that surprising when you consider that most of these sites have stringent posting rules or want to up sell you on premium services like expedited posting. Again, if you’re a scrappy startup with little to no budget, you’re not going to be “upgrading” to these premium services, which means these sites will take 60-90 days to decide whether to post your startup or not.
Not all of this is bad news though. What we found is that posting your startup or project on a related forum yields the best results for generating buzz and driving a little traffic. However, don’t expect forum posts to drive sales. Instead, treat forums as a way to engage with a dedicated community and to collect valuable feedback about your product.
By engaging your these communities, you’ll foster trust for your unknown startup. It’ll also allow you to show personality, which will remain memorable to the people you’ve engaged with or who stumble upon your discussion. It’s by building this trust that will eventually get people to buy your product, but you can’t expect someone to buy without establishing trust first.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision about your product after spending so long with it, so don’t be shocked if there are some blunt comments about your product or startup. Instead of becoming defensive of your product, try to understand people’s concerns and explain your product in a way that makes sense to that specific audience.
Interestingly, we found that featuring our clients on our own site actually performed a lot better in driving traffic, although conversions were still low. Still, your efforts to keep your own company’s blog updated and relevant will help drive much more traffic than spamming dubious guest posting sites.
TL:DR: Spamming your startup across various sites doesn’t work. It’s the equivalent of posting a bunch of fliers all over town with no strategy as to where your target demographic actually is. Instead, your time is better spent on fostering communities via forums, allocating budget for digital ads, and solidifying your media coverage strategy.
Spamming doesn’t work. It’s time intensive and an unfocused approach to getting noticed. While you may be able to drive some traffic to your site or product, it won’t be as effective as pushing your efforts to drive traffic to your own site.
Sites that advertise premium services for blasting your startup across a ton of sites may seem tempting, but again, this strategy lacks focus. Even the premium services admit that there is NO GUARANTEE that a site will write about you. Instead, your approach to getting covered in media should focus around personalized press releases and figuring out why a specific publication should talk about your startup.
Things to ask yourself before approaching a site for coverage or guest posting:
- Is my startup or product actually relevant to this site’s coverage?
- How is my startup or product unique?
- Do I have a well written, personalized press release for this site?
- Do I actually want to guest post or am I hoping for media coverage?
The last question is a big one that often gets overlooked by startups. Guest posting isn’t a strategy for getting coverage for your site. Guest posts are much more involved as you have to create content that’s valuable to the readers of the site you’re guest posting on, and cannot be a paid promotion. Guest posting is basically freelancing for a publication where it’s a mutually beneficial relationship: the publication gets free, valuable content while you get to promote yourself an an expertise in a field.
TL:DR: Don’t confusing guest posting with a media strategy. Guest posting should only be pursued if you want to be seen as an industry leader and expert. If your goal is to get media coverage to spread the word of your product or company, you need to focus on your media strategy instead.
Header image credit: Janet Galore via Flickr
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