We’re often asked, “Are you a PR agency or a Social Media agency?” We suggest that that’s immaterial. We do both. The disciplines are merging. SHIFT offers a hybrid approach in which a Facebook Group Admin is treated with the same respect and thoughtfulness as a New York Times reporter. It makes a difference.
How about a case study to illustrate how “PR” and “Social Media” can work in tandem?
Alice.com is the fourth start-up cofounders Marc McGuire and Brian Wiegand created together. Having had great success with their last venture, Jellyfish.com — which sold to Microsoft after little more than a year — we determined to make Alice.com an even greater triumph for the young entrepreneurs.
Adopting the Forrester POST Methodology for our planning purposes, SHIFT first advised McGuire and Wiegand to build a community of loyalists; in this case, we all agreed to target mom- and frugal bloggers, whose input during the pre-launch phase would help bring improvements, attention and grassroots credibility to the service.
Understanding the reach and influence mombloggers have achieved over the past few years, SHIFT worked with our internal Alice.com contact, the inimitable Rebecca Thorman (@modite), to send invitations to several pre-identified bloggers, offering early trial of the site and inviting honest feedback.
The Alice team also offered extra discounts and coupons to select bloggers, so they could extend incentives to their readers to try the service.
Finally, SHIFT consulted on a series of contests and giveaways via Twitter, which continued on a weekly basis.
On the traditional media front, SHIFT accompanied the Alice co-founders on a press tour the week before the launch, briefing tier-one targets such the New York Times, BusinessWeek, Financial Times and Reuters. The journalists published their stories the day of the launch, along with hundreds of blogger loyalists — causing a media storm online, in print, in blogs, and on Twitter.
In one week, Alice received 110 pieces of unique coverage and nearly 70,000 tweets. As of this writing, Alice also garnered nearly 70 broadcast hits in local markets such as CBS Boston, NBC Phoenix and ABC Philadelphia. Better yet, national broadcast coverage included segments on CNN, the TODAY Show and Rachael Ray!
In early June, the pre-launch Alice.com site had 170,000 site visits — before anyone could even use the service. At launch time in July, Alice.com’s traffic jumped to nearly 400,000 site visits. Today, according to Compete.com, Alice.com boasted over 2.5M visits as of October 2009.
Alice does not invest in advertising — this was all grassroots Social Media and PR efforts, operating in tandem against a carefully orchestrated plan.
Note how the shape of this launch mapped to the Awareness Scale discussed last month. A grassroots Social Media effort significantly boosted — and subsequently amplified — the success of the mainstream media effort, which fed back into the netroots. Moving into the future, as revenues and strategy allow, Alice.com might consider an advertising strategy to solidify and defend their lead in consumers’ minds.
It’s not either PR or Social Media or Advertising. It’s a continuum. It’s all of the above. It’s about “force multipliers.” The successful plan requires a host of partners, skillsets — and of course, savvy and trusting clients like the folks at Alice.com.
P.S. – If one of the folks on your Xmas list is always complaining about making yet another trip to pick up something at Target, etc., letting them know about a free Alice.com account might be the best gift you could give!
Posted on: December 15, 2009 at 8:45 am By Todd Defren