Two years ago, Patrick Ambron, one of three (including me) co-founders of our company BrandYourself, detailed what we learned about the phenomena of how 3rd-party placement essentially got us 60K users in less than 60 hours. Since the earlier days of our startup, we were taking what we knew and picking up knowledge along the way. In Patrick’s article, there were 6 lessons our placement in Mashable taught us. The significance of which helped us translate the engagement to grab the attention of 60K users in that span of time. I’m going to re-cover those 6 lessons to break down whether they still hold water in present day.
Let’s see if these are still true:
Not all articles are created equal. TRUE. Depending on the publication and its authority, where your articles place makes a huge difference. But the website’s Alexa rating isn’t the only thing that is of note. Articles that are self-promotional don’t generally do well because, frankly, people don’t think they’re very interesting. That was true when Patrick wrote it, and it is still true now. Is the topic engaging? Is it scannable? Will the audience your company is targeting find value in the article? If you can’t answer yes to all those questions, you may want to rethink your article.
Promote one feature at a time. TRUE. What works best when trying to woo Google is consistent, high-quality content. The way to get the most of that content is to not flood the reader market with all your ideas all at once. In other words, it is better to write, publish, and promote one article at a time, especially thought pieces. Though I would recommend always pitching to 3rd-party sites, I would recommend publishing only one thought piece a month if possible. It is more substantive and compelling.
Pitch to the right publication. TRUE. As an ORM startup, it wouldn’t make sense for us to pitch an article to Car & Driver. That example is hyperbolic but you’d be surprised how often editors pass on articles that do not fit their content. The first step in successfully getting placed in a reputable publication is to familiarize yourself with their site. If their content doesn’t fit your company’s brand, find a publication that has content that will fit you.
Focus on people, not your company or product. TRUE. In the original article, Patrick makes a good point when he writes, “[…] nobody cares about your startup.” To go back to how not interesting self-promotional content is: it’s boring. Don’t write about your company. What you want to do is write great content, get it picked up by a publication, then watch the users come. If the story you’re telling is interesting, you will get more engagement and your potential users will see for themselves how great you are by your site and your products. If your product is great, it will speak for itself.
Understand how and where your article will go viral. TRUE. This is similar to knowing where to publish your articles.
Have a great product. ALWAYS TRUE. As I said earlier, a good product is the best promotional material you can put out. When the Mashable article went viral-ish and other publications like Huffpost picked it up, potential users became actual users just by visiting BY. Because we have a solid product that was so different, affordable, and easy, compared to other competitors at the time, the users stuck.
Things continue to move at a breakneck speed in the startup world; BrandYourself has gone through new iterations since that article was written, and we’re still expanding our knowledge — and company for that matter. We’ve grown from a handful of people to almost a hundred people. In fact, we recently had a ribbon cutting at our second location in Lancaster, PA.
Even two years later, the Mashable anecdote is still relevant because the more you pitch, place, and get published, the more exposure you’ll get. However, the takeaway here is not just getting as many placements as possible to use as a PR or marketing tool, it’s to make sure you have a great product once you get eyes on you. Getting 60K users is a great feat — keeping them is even better.