Anatomy of a social media product launch: Screenr

Ever try to explain to someone over the phone how to do something online? Or try to walk someone through a Web-based process without being able to really show them what you’re talking about? I’ve used products like Adobe Captivate before to record screen activity, but it’s expensive and a bit cumbersome for simple screencasts.

screenr_logo_smallScreenr, which launched last week, is a free, Web-based screen recording tool that’s fully integrated with Twitter. But this post isn’t another Screenr review (you can get those from Mashable and a host of other places).

I contacted Gabe Anderson, director of customer advocacy for Articulate, the software company that created Screenr, and I asked him a few questions to understand how the company used social media channels to launch this new product.

Here’s what he had to say:

The launch of Screenr was completely organic; we did not hire an outside PR firm. Prior to the Screenr launch, a number of us at Articulate were already active on Twitter, so promoting a product tightly integrated with Twitter was pretty natural; the buzz on Twitter immediately spread like wildfire and hasn’t slowed down.

For this launch, we did not use any traditional channels like a press release. Along with promoting Screenr via Twitter, I also posted this blog entry, and my colleague Dave Mozealous posted this one, followed by a series of tips. My other colleague, Dave Moxon, also posted this blog entry with Screenr tips the day after the launch.

I asked Gabe how Articulate defined its target audience for the launch and how it approached them:

Our target audience is really wide: Pretty much anyone who uses a computer and has something to share visually with others, which is why Twitter users were a perfect target for Screenr. Key to the launch was the first review by the hugely popular ReadWriteWeb blog, which posted its review in conjunction with our official launch. We also had an existing relationship with @copyblogger (Brian Clark), who tweeted the launch news to his 31,000+ followers. And from there, we watched the tweets fly out nonstop.

Later that day, CNET picked up on the buzz and contacted our CEO, Adam Schwartz, via Twitter for the review and interview that was posted later on the day of our launch.

AdamScreenr

The next day, The New York Times online had syndicated the ReadWriteWeb review. Getting coverage in the NYT is pretty sweet. Not that I doubted it before, but once I saw that, I knew Screenr was going to be a really big deal.

I also had Gabe tell me about how Articulate is using Twitter to follow-up and respond to new Screenr users after the launch and how they plan to keep the buzz once the initial “launch glow” wears off:

A number of Articulate staff, including our CEO, our QA Manager, and I, actively monitor Twitter for all the Screenr chatter, engaging in dialogue directly with users who run into issues. We’re also using GetSatisfaction to collect feature requests and answer technical questions.

[Gabe created a screencast to explain to users how to do this:]

Screenr promotes itself: The more people use it to create screencasts, the more links we receive back to Screenr, and the more new users will continue to create screencasts. Additionally, we’ve already begun to heavily integrate Screenr with our daily interactions with the Articulate community: To answer customer questions via support cases, in our Community Forums, and in our Knowledge Base.

So with essentially no external agency support, the team at Articulate used internal and employee blogs and Twitter accounts to launch a product and within days received coverage from major industry blogs and mainstream outlets like The New York Times.

Not only did the team at Articulate generate some good press and general awareness about their new product, but they’re also continuing to use Twitter to monitor what users think of the service, help those who have issues, and gather feedback to incorporate into future editions. And you can bet that those users who get hooked on the Screenr interface and accompanying customer service may be inclined to try out some of Articulate’s other (revenue-generating) products, as well.

While the Articulate team definitely deserves kudos for a great launch, what does this mean for PR and marketing firms who are/were heavily involved in traditional product launches? Will more and more companies move to this model of an organic, in-house launch strategy? I think Articulate’s culture and tech/social media savvy employees certainly helped here, and many organizations wouldn’t have been able to pull it off as smoothly as the Screenr team did. But it does reinforce that not every organization needs scores of people or big budgets to successfully create buzz about a product.

Thanks to Gabe and Articulate for sharing the Screenr launch story!

12 thoughts on “Anatomy of a social media product launch: Screenr

  1. Amy, this is a great post that illustrates why other companies should be involved in social media. A lot of people point to case studies like Dell Outlet or Blendtec when trying to justify incorporating social media into their business’ marketing mix, but this is a much more compelling argument. I will definitely use this post in the future to explain to other companies why they need to be involved in social media. Thanks!

    • Glad you liked the post, Dylan. I agree that the same social media case studies seem to be repeated over and over again – I enjoyed learning about what Articulate did with the Screenr launch because you can see how even a small company with limited resources can use social media tools to have a successful launch.

  2. I really like this example of organic growth through social media. Like Dylan said, there are so many cases out there that have been played a little too often, and this is such a cool, *new* story. To answer your questions, I think PR/marketing agencies used to traditional project launches need to at least familiarize themselves with the option of using social media as a method for product launch and growth as it probably will become a more popular option as time goes on.

    The usefulness of SM strategies is definitely contingent on the location of a company’s/product’s market; if a market is in the space and receptive to interaction from your company, it’s probably not a bad idea to explore a product launch in your online community, especially if your employees are technologically savvy and see the benefit of engaging with customers.

    Great questions, still being played out. Again, awesome example. Thanks for highlighting Articular and Screenr. :)

    • Teresa, you’re absolutely right in that certain products and companies lend themselves to this type of organic launch, based on their industry, employees and company culture. I think it would be a much different story if Screenr was not a software project from a company that has a group of employees who are all using and comfortable with social media tools. It does underscore that PR and marketing firms need to make sure they are comfortable with social media tools and incorporating them into product launches.

  3. Interesting write-up, Amy! One statement stood out to me: “Key to the launch was the first review by the hugely popular ReadWriteWeb blog, which posted its review in conjunction with our official launch.” Though they didn’t have a PR firm, I would imagine some old-school pitching and coordination took place to make this timing come together.

    Another point that I find interesting is the CNET interview that took place later on the day of launch. If a PR firm was handling this, I think CNET would have been annoyed that they hadn’t been proactively contacted (who knows, they may have chosen not to cover it on principle). I do think the traditional media can be more forgiving of start-ups doing their own PR when it comes to pecking order. Something for us pros to keep in mind when learning from stories like this.

    • Kelly – great point about PR pros needing to be aware of the media pecking order and understanding who might feel slighted if they are not made aware of a new product launch. Like you said, outlets may be more forgiving of small start-ups doing their own launch publicity, but it’s always good to keep in mind who you should call or alert right away when something picks up steam.

  4. Hey Amy – I really enjoyed reading this even if not all of it was news to me. :) Well done and I really couldn’t have told the story nearly as well.

    By the way, Sceenr turned one-week old today and I recorded a screencast which demonstrates more of the social-media returns we’ve seen from our launch.

    Check it out:

    http://screenr.com/MYs

    All the best!

    • Adam, thanks for posting the link to your screencast of the coverage and reactions so far. Congratulations on a very successful launch. I’m sure I’ll be using Screenr myself to easily create and share screencasts.

  5. Pingback: DR. WHAW? – August 25, 2009 « One true sentence.

  6. Thanks for sharing this case study! I recently attended a Social Media conference (a good one, actually, where I learned a ton: SocialFresh)… but one of the things I noticed is that all the examples were of big, B2C companies who were using social media channels to augment well funded (and well staffed) traditional and digital marketing efforts. And there were plenty of people asking about how small business owners could harness the tools; questions that were normally met with silence, and a lot of looking around to see if someone else had the answer.

    The answer is illustrated nicely here. It’s done by smart people committing a bunch of their time and effort to cleverly push their message via great content and offerings…. effort that, with some luck, gets attention of bigger voices… voices that expose you to a lot of eyeballs that were waiting, and now have something to focus on.

    Small businesses can use the same social media tools as the big kids. They just have to substitute time for money (the same thing when it comes to business) and use the same smarts to find a niche in the mediums that they used to find a niche market for their business in the first place.

    So thanks again.

    John Lane
    @johnvlane