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How One Company Used Social Media to Get 80,000 Facebook Fans to Follow a Product Before It Launched

I am constantly amazed at the power of social media. It truly is incredibly powerful when used properly and by marketing professionals.

I am equally amazed and quite frankly dumbfounded by those who still, to this day, doubt the validity and veracity of social media, especially from an ROI perspective. We’re ending 2013 and there is still an inordinate amount of marketers and consumers alike who still “don’t get it.”

One person who definitely gets it is Gabriel Shaoolian. He is a digital trends expert and CEO and founder of the NYC digital agency Blue Fountain Media.

I spoke with him recently to get the inside scoop on how he and his team were able to attract 80,000 Facebook fans for something that had not even launched yet. The “something” in question was a digital comic book named BIOWARS.Image

We talked deployment strategy, what the goals were and he also shares some advice for brands considering a similar strategy. 

Q: What was the rationale behind releasing a product via Facebook when the product itself was not even ready to launch yet?

A: Being a new title, we knew BIOWARS was up against a lot of established competitors in the field. To stand out, we figured we needed to create a buzz about our story before the launch; to create some anticipation and buy-in of the story and characters so that people would look forward to the actual product when it was finally released. Facebook provided us a platform to start sharing artwork, plot lines and behind-the-scenes exclusives with a growing number of interested fans. We used Twitter and Google+ as well, but Facebook let us share the visuals – which I think is what really got people excited. They saw the artwork and knew we were the real deal.

Q: What kind of strategies did you employ?

A: From the beginning, we decided we were going to make a conscious effort to involve fans with actual production process of BIOWARS. We knew we didn’t have the full product to share, but what we could share was ink drawings, bio’s of our main characters and interviews with our writer and artists. The comic community is very interested in the behind the scenes going ons. Who’s writing and producing for whom.  So we not only posted about our own talent and their work… we also posted about other news in the comic book world. It attracted people and got them to follow us.

Q: When did you begin the campaign and when did the product eventually launch?

A: We started spreading the word about BIOWARS on social media about 6 months before the launch. It was reasonably successful, attracting over 80 thousand fans.  We made the first issue available in November.  Our fans were really psyched to finally see it… especially after such a long tease. But, at the same time, they also had some ownership in the process and already felt involved with the storylines and characters.

Q: What were the goals for the pre-launch campaign and did you meet/exceed them?

A: The goal of the pre-launch was to generate genuine interest in the BIOWARS title so that there’d be a ready-built audience for the product when it debuted. We’re pretty pleased. Considering we were only using social media to promote the title – a website, a Facebook page, some Twitter and Google + - the team thinks we did a good job at engaging, and retaining, interest in our project. We think we have a respectable base to build from, now that BIOWARS is finally available to read and download... for free, might I add!

Q: What are the plans post-launch for the product?

A: We plan to keep our fans engaged.  We’ll be introducing Community Features in the next few months - giving fans a place to interact with the team and each other.  A place they can contribute.  Shortly thereafter, we’ll launch a Games area – hatching another layer of involvement with the BIOWARS universe. And, of course, we’re going to keep a new issue of the title coming to readers every month.

Q: What can brands learn from this?

A: I see a lot of brands just dropping the whole shebang at once…  They don’t do much build-up pre-launch – I think sometimes they’re just plain scared to! And then, once they drop the product… they move on. And ignore important retention and building opportunities available once they’ve project is out there.

Brands can learn there’s a lot of ground work they can do prior to launch that will help engage and build a prospective audience. We learned to use social media to talk to our fans’ interests. They were interested in our title for sure - but also other comic news - so we provided that.  We weren’t afraid to share bits and pieces of the production process with those fans, even though our final product wasn’t ready for prime time yet. 

They enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes peak at the process; and quite honestly, we enjoyed crowd sourcing some of our concepts. The feedback was invaluable.   From the beginning, it was always our strategy to take our fans on a journey with us – as we brought our project to life.  Social media outlets allowed us to do that. And we’ll continue to build from there.

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