Digital R&D Fund for the Arts: 5 ways to promote your digital project on a budget
Whether it’s the Apple or Android Appstores or just the web in general, with so much competition for attention, it can be a real challenge to get your app or project out there for people to discover and enjoy. This was a hot topic at a recent learning event for Digital R&D Fund project teams and given that most #artsdigital projects do not always have very large marketing budgets, the discussion explored relatively cheap ways in which to give your project the best chance of exposure.
1. Consider your marketing approach from the very beginning. With so much energy going into project delivery, it is often the case that marketing is only really thought about once the product is made. However given that the overall success of a product is as much about user acquisition as product development, if marketing and promotion is something that only starts to be considered near the launch of the product then it can be too late. Marketing and promotion should therefore be built into the project plan right from the word go and importantly also have a realistic level of resources allocated to it in your budget and project plan.
2. Identify and refine your PR message. For good or for ill, today’s digital world is one of small attention spans – be that of journalists and promoters or indeed the general public. Therefore it can be incredibly valuable either at the start of your project or during the definition/specification stage to start to identify its PR-friendly ‘hook’. You are likely to know a communications or media professional – who works for your own organisation, your funders or just in your network in general – so talk to them early in the project development to test what they feel would be the most attractive hook or angle for journalists and other media. Once this hook is identified you can even then start to optimise parts of your product and overall marketing approach around it.
3. Build a community of interest around your product while it’s being made. If you end up making your product essentially in secret and then reveal it only at the very end with a big ‘ta-dah!’ moment, you’ve perhaps missed a big opportunity. By having some sort of public-facing information about your product and a way for potential users to engage with it, when you do launch you can have built a community of 20/50/100/1000 early adopters who are empowered to act as advocates and tell their networks. There are a number of different ways to do this such as setting up a good search-engine-optimised, pre-launch page to build a mailing list using a service like Launchrock, running a small-scale Kickstarter campaign for a small amount of money to attract possible users or engaging in co-design processes with people ‘in real life’ to make them feel part of the team.
4. Play the long game with journalists and promotion partners. Unless you are a very large arts organisation with a giant Twitter following or mailing list, it is most likely that the biggest promotion channels for your project are owned by others – be that journalists and blog/media owners. It can therefore be really valuable to reach out to your top targets early on in your project process just to let them know what you’re doing and warming them up to the fact that you will be contacting them again at launch-time. This can be especially effective if you’ve identified people who are already talking about your project’s area – and finding who those people are is just a google search away. This is also true for event organisers, getting a speaker slot for a conference or event leads to other media exposure and finding which of these are happening around the time of your launch is relatively straightforward.
5. Be realistic about market sizing. If you are new to digital publishing there can be a tendency to think that the potential market for your product is bigger than it really is – perhaps due to all the media attention for the ‘super’ products such as Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds. While digital distribution channels definitely have the potential for relatively large audiences, it is sensible to do some analysis of what your particular product’s market size can be so that you can create some realistic targets when you’re ready to launch. You can do this in two main ways – analyse similar products or make market size estimates. If there is a similar product in e.g. Google Play (the Android appstore), that app store will let you know the general ballpark number of downloads, you can also make similar estimates using the number of reviews in the Apple Appstore assuming that 1% of users write reviews or rate an app. The other approach is to use social media tools such as those included in Facebook’s advertising service to estimate the e.g. number of people between 18-45 in the UK interested in dance and games.
Image of the market stall courtesy of Flickr member Michael Kirtley