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!