Oct 06 2008

riding the line in creative viral marketing

Published by at 6:43 am under CC,projecting project progression

When working on a big project and trying to come up with cool ways to draw people into your created world, it’s sometimes hard to guess which line to straddle in how much and how fast you disperse your information. You want to make sure any early adopter fans are in on it soon enough that they feel their specialness, but you don’t want to escalate so quickly that you run out of entertaining content too soon or overload yourself.

On the one hand, when you’ve been cooking a big project for a while and it’s time to start manifesting the results, it’s very easy to want to spill everything all at once. “And here’s this cool thing I did, and this one, and this too, and ooh shinyoverhere!” But while you might hook in some people with the elegance or intricacy of your scaffolding, for most people you’ll catch their interest with the thing itself first. Peeling back the draping comes later.

On the other hand, it’s also difficult to get an outside perspective on how subtle or obvious to be when scattering project references that you hope people will put together to find your baby. Something that looks incredibly obvious to you, the people working on a project for the last n months, might not have such readily apparent connections to those encountering the ideas for the first time.

Part of the fun of creating little tidbits for people to find and geek over is watching the reactions as they encounter and interact with your work. For the creators, it can diminish the fun slightly to have carefully balanced hints and clever approaches only to have to go back and slap a big neon blinking glowing pointing finger sign all over your efforts. The reaction enjoyed by someone watching someone else find an in-character email isn’t at all the same when the first person has to ask “so, didja get that email?” (And in that example, you might not even know whether there was a tech trip-up that caused the email in question to not be delivered, or whether it was caught by a diligent spam filter on alert for unrecognizable origins.)

However, if you’re trying something new, and especially in the early stages, sometimes you have to do a little more hand-holding than you might otherwise be inclined to do. This doesn’t mean swing the pendulum all the way into showing everything you’re doing all at once, but does mean that you have to be willing to launch with a simpler and more obvious approach if your well-crafted more devious plans fall short of your goals.

I’m not sure whether these will be of interest to anyone else, but they’re some of the thoughts flowing through my mind as I attempt to patiently wait for people to start noticing our little venture. It’d be nice if I did more posts like these; I should consider that thought.

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