Esports One Launch — How To Generate Buzz About Your Esports Startup
For those of you who haven’t heard, we launched Esports One a week ago today. In this time there have been 7 articles published about the company/launch, the site has been visited over 200,000 times by more than 70,000 people and we’ve received well over 8,000 beta signups.
With the amount of attention that esports is receiving worldwide and the number of people working on their own ventures in the space, many of whom I know personally, I thought it might be helpful to publish exactly what we did to have such a successful launch week for Esports One. This is going to be fairly long as I plan on going into a lot of detail on every aspect of the launch from preparation to execution, so stick with me. I’m available on Twitter or Facebook if you have any questions or would like to connect.
Disclaimer: This whole “guide” assumes that you actually have a product/company that you are launching and already have some idea that market fit for your product exists.
This is the necessary, slightly tedious part that you need to knock out to get to the fun part! Branding, setting up social media and building your site.
You really need to put some thought into this, you don’t want to re-brand three times in the first year. Do you want a typographic logo? Do you want a mascot-based logo? Are you going for a very professional/corporate look or more modern? Which best represents your company?
The level of difficulty at this step will really depend on how talented you/your designer is. Personally I am horrible at design, thankfully we have an amazingly talented designer on board. Also, while I’m absolutely S#!T at graphic design, I do have an eye for knowing what needs to be changed based on a design that I’m given.
You may or may not be great at this, but I can assure you that it will be much easier if you know exactly how you want your company to feel. What type of company are you? What’s your company motto? All of this goes into the feel of your company’s branding. I’ll show you a couple early iterations of the Esports One logo so you can get an idea of how many concepts we went through before landing on the final product.
This was one of our earliest concepts — kind of a conglomeration of ideas from data (the bars) to competition (the trophy/stars).
We really liked the idea of bars representing data in our early concepts, can you tell? The shield functioned as a container for the design. Shields are cool right?
This design may not look quite as good as the previous iterations, but it pointed us in the right direction. We wanted the design centered around an “E” and a “1”. We also still liked bar graphs a lot for some reason.
This was the final product of all the concepts above. A clean logo that can be used with or without the “ESPORTS ONE” subtext. It clearly states who we are in a style that fits in the esports industry.
2. Social Media
Set up social media accounts. Most if not all of you know to do this and those of you who don’t — just do it. I don’t care if you’re an enterprise company that won’t be using social media as an acquisition channel, grab the usernames for your company and at least set up your branding and a link to your site.
Again, since you’re probably involved in the esports industry if you’re reading this, I’m sure I don’t have to coach anyone on the platforms you need to be on. Just for due diligence’s sake though, get on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at the very least! You can make social media work with those three platforms, but depending on the content you’re putting out, you may want to consider getting on additional platforms like Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Twitch, Medium, etc.
Alright, social media is set up, how do you get initial traction? Well, before setting up a brand new account, consider whether or not you have an old account that you can re-purpose for your new project. Some people advise doing this, others don’t. I sit somewhere in the middle; I would suggest re-purposing an old social account if that account is in the same industry and you truly believe that your new project/content will appeal to its current audience.
If you don’t have an old account to use, set up new accounts and apply consistent branding & bios across all of them. Make your username the same on each platform if at all possible. The last step is social validation, this is especially important if you had to set up entirely new accounts. In my opinion Twitter and Facebook are the two most important platforms to set up with some amount of social validation before launch.
Facebook: Getting those first likes on Facebook is especially important because you usually can’t claim your “vanity URL” (i.e. https://facebook.com/TheEsportsOne vs. https://facebook.com/*randomstringofnumbers*) until you have at least 25 likes on the page. How do you get this?
- Have everyone involved in the project like the page
- Invite family, friends and anyone who might be interested to like the page
Some people will feel like step 2 is slightly spammy, and maybe it is, but you need to prove that people are already interested to your launch audience and this is the best way to get a few likes quickly. As you can see below, using the steps above I drove our Facebook Page to 63 likes before the launch (it’s also pretty obvious the day we launched)!
I could talk for way too long about setting up your page for Facebook, so here’s a basic guide that I’d recommend you read through: Hootsuite’s Steps to Create a Facebook Page. Pay special attention to step 5, setting up your “preferred audience” is important and can be a little confusing if you’ve never done it before. Setting the preferred audience will tell Facebook who YOU think will be interested in your content and they will prioritize your content higher in their feeds as a result. This has no negative effect (i.e. Facebook will not knock down your content in people who aren’t in your preferred audience) so definitely do it.
Twitter: Twitter is less involved to set up than Facebook, but getting those initial followers is very similar. Reach out to your friends, family and industry contacts to get some initial traction on the platform.
3. Building the Site
This step really requires you to be proficient at both design & coding or to have someone on your team who is. If the person designing/coding the site isn’t YOU, then YOU need to work extremely closely with whoever is creating the site. Don’t just give your designer vague ideas (i.e. “Oh, I want it to feel like really clean, kinda futuristic, it should have an esports feel you know?”). Give him/her a baseline to start at and then provide input at every step moving forward.
I can’t give too much insight into the technical design/coding process, but I can give you some ideas about what to include on your landing page.
- Make sure your CTA (call to action) is above the fold (you can see it without scrolling down on the page)
2. If you’re launching a full product, awesome! If you’re launching a landing page promoting your product, make it interactive and fun! Check out the Esports One landing page if you’re interested in some examples of this — you can interact with the monitor which demonstrates to users how the actual product will function.
Got through all that? Congrats, you’ve stuck around more than some of the others. You’ve got the basics out of the way and you’re ready to start prepping for your company’s launch!
Proper preparation is key for any successful launch. I’m sure some of you think, as I used to, that press coverage on new startups/sites when they launch is due to journalists tirelessly scouring the internet for new and interesting stories. While organic press exists (and we have received some) the reality for any startup is that if you want to get the news out about your launch, it will require a LOT of pitching stories to journalists, which in turn requires intensive preparation. All right, now that the disclaimers are out of the way let’s get into it.
1. Press Research
As I just mentioned, if you’re a brand new company, startup, website, app, etc.. press doesn’t just fall out of the sky onto your head and provide brand recognition and traffic. That being said, if your company is written about in some well recognized publications, that can lead to additional articles being written organically. Also, if you’re Google you’ll probably just get articles written every day. But you’re not Google, that’s why you’re reading this :).
Proper press research can be tedious (personally I enjoy it) and involves a lot of searching/reading. You DON’T want to reach out to the default PC Mag “contact us” email. You DO want to reach out directly to a journalist who has previously written an article that relates to the one that you’re looking to pitch. Here are the steps:
- Figure out Your Story
If you’re just launching, your story will probably be centered around the launch, the company’s history, how your company will improve/disrupt the industry, etc.
2. Create a “Media Kit”
The Esports One Media Kit included our branding, images of the technology and a “high level” PDF on the company (founder bios, company goals, history, tech, etc). I created two additional PDFs (one with more detailed info on the company and another Q&A style doc) after reaching out to a couple journalists and realizing that it would be good to include more detailed information. Keep in mind that you want to make the journalist’s job as easy as possible — give them everything they need for the story.
3. Research Publications & Journalists
Simply put, you need to figure out what publications you want to get into. In the esports industry these could be: Esports publications, startup publications, tech publications, or even financial publications if you just recently closed a round of funding. A lot of this will be manual searching, but here are a couple tools you can use as well:
Hey Press - Find relevant journalists.
Hey Press is a searchable media database. Find the most relevant journalist.
Find and pitch relevant journalists daily all on your own covering your industry or topic with our…
We help you pitch journalists and press daily all on your own without the help of PR firms. Input keywords describing…
After you create a “wish list” of publications, you need to dig into each site’s history and find journalists that have previously written pieces that relate to your company/story. The more recently written these articles are, the better as the subject will still be fresh in their mind.
Once you find the dream journalist at the dream publication, find all the relevant information that you can on said journalist. Some sites are awesome and list their journalist’s contact info, others don’t. Some Googling required.
here’s a link to the spreadsheet format that I used while gathering all this information — feel free to copy/modify and use for yourself. Below is an actual snapshot of part of the spreadsheet so you can get an idea of what it will look like.
2. Press Outreach
Reaching out to journalists, many of whom you’ve probably never spoken to before, can seem daunting. The reality is that it is a little nerve wracking at first and there ARE some rules that need to be followed. It does get easier though, once you understand the rules/common courtesies & get your first outreach completed you’ll feel more than equipped to do it again in the future.
- Initial Outreach / Request Embargo
Now that you have all of your publication/journalist information compiled, it’s time to reach out to them and pitch your story. Everyone is busy, journalists more than most, so you want to keep your first email sharp and to the point while providing as much information as possible.
One key point if you’re reaching out to multiple outlets & trying to coordinate these articles with your launch.. you MUST REQUEST EMBARGO. What is embargo? Simply put, embargo is an agreement between you and a journalist where the journalist gets the information on your story and agrees not to publish anything on it until a certain date/time. Embargo is important because it keeps one publication from jumping the gun and being the first to put the story out, which in turn hurts the other publications that were waiting until your site launch like you asked.
How do you request embargo without sounding super awkward? Well, it’s tough, but here’s how I did it. You don’t see it in the screenshot, but always always ALWAYS include the journalist’s name in the email. It will seem unprofessional and automated if you don’t. Below is the generic text I used for our push, but I encourage you be more personal with anyone you’re reaching out to that you already have a relationship with. Reach out over Skype, Twitter DMs, whatever to a journalist you’re friends with or have done work with in the past rather than sending them this email.
Note that I only give a “teaser” of the story (not enough to write an article on, but hopefully enough to interest them), specifically request embargo with a date/time, and let them know that I’ll immediately follow up with all the information we have available if they do agree to the embargo. Make it clear that you’ll be available for questions/interview as well.
2. Follow up on Agreed Embargo
Once someone you’ve reached out to has agreed to the embargo, send them the media kit we talked about previously and any other resources you have prepared for them! Again, make it clear that you’ll be available 24/7 for any questions they have. You should have a general idea of what you’ll say/send in this follow up email before you even send out any embargo requests — don’t want to make a journalist wait hours while you draft an email.
3. Promote and Followup
You want to continue and develop relationships with everyone that writes about your company. It is much easier to reach out to a contact/friend that you have worked with in the past than it is to cold email someone and hope they’ll find what you have to say interesting enough to respond. Thank them for the article, promote the crap out of their article on social media when it comes out, and pass through any interesting stories to them that you might hear through the grapevine.
3. Content/Social Strategy
Your content strategy will vary based on your campaign’s KPIs. For us, that KPI is/was beta signups. In general you need to do some research into what platforms your user base lives on. That could be a social platform like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, a video platform like YouTube or Twitch or a “forum board” like Reddit.
For our push we prioritized Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. YouTube would also be a great choice for esports, but we weren’t quite ready to produce quality video content yet.
Twitter: Every esports organization, player and company has a presence on Twitter, thus Twitter is a requirement for us. Our first week strategy was to let the world know that we had launched & tease some of the tech and promote any press written about Esports One.
Social validation is an important concept on any platform, Twitter definitely being one of them. To get some initial traction on your launch tweet(s), have everyone involved with the project like/retweet from their personal accounts & any other accounts related to the industry that they might also own. If you have any partners, ask them to promote it as well and return the favor after your launch. Not only will this initial engagement get more eyes on the post, it will stack some engagement numbers which makes the people that do see it more likely to engage as well. Here are some numbers from our first week of posts on Twitter.
Now you don’t want to just post self-promoting content. Our week two strategy (starting today) is to take our platform’s existing data on this season of LoL and create some awesome images/infographs that no one has seen before. Always provide value to the community!
Facebook: Content-wise our strategy is fairly similar to Twitter. Promote the launch, promote articles written about the launch and then begin posting unique content in week 2. However, there are a few key differences.
Facebook’s algorithms give boosts to live video and video posts, so we’ll definitely be posting some good video content. Another important part of any Facebook strategy is promotion in relevant groups. What you DON’T want to do is just join a group and share a post linking to your company immediately after. What you DO want to do is join relevant groups well before the launch and engage/provide value over time. Build a rapport and genuinely join the community before using it for any self promotion.
Reddit: Reddit is huge in the esports industry. There are companies that survive almost solely off of Reddit traffic and others that die because a misstep caused their site to be banned on a major subreddit.
Reddit is a monster to some marketers and a god send to others. As a community, Reddit users truly value value. If you make a self-promoting post that doesn’t provide any value to the community, you’ll be downvoted to oblivion and the post will have done more harm than good (or just nothing at all). Be sure to read the rules and guidelines of any subreddit before posting in it. For instance, the /r/leagueoflegends sub that we posted in had a new-ish rule added between the time I did my last big push and this launch. The rule stated: “Do not Advertise (via Twitter, Facebook, Twitch chat, YouTube etc) links to your content or content otherwise affiliated to you on Reddit until 24 hours after the submission has been posted.” This was a major change as previously you could link to your post on social media as long as you didn’t specifically ask people to upvote the post. If I hadn’t re-read the rules and guidelines of this sub in particular, our post would have likely been flagged for removal due to vote manipulation.
I can’t stress enough that you need to play by the rules on Reddit. Don’t upvote your post from multiple accounts, don’t share a link to the post with your friends/coworkers, don’t pay a shady service for upvotes. What can you do, then? Post something of genuine value to the community, include a link back to your site, but don’t make the post a “self promotion” of your site. Make sure the formatting of your post is correct, take a look at this Reddit post for more info on formatting. Respond to any comments on the post or direct messages. Post at a time when your core audience will be online — are you trying to hit USA west coast, east coast, Europe? Also, if you are going to be linking to your site in a post, I would recommend getting in touch with the moderators of the sub before posting and run a draft of your post by them. This will help you ensure that the post is within rules & guidelines and take care of any validation that they might want to do (ensuring you are who you say you are) before the post goes live.
As you can see in the image above, our post came from the angle that we were creating a platform for the community and that we wanted the community’s input on what would be interesting to them. The links at the bottom of the post are imgur uploads of some of the tech. We included a single link to our site and nowhere did we ask readers of the post to sign up. If people are interested in what you have to offer, they’ll sign up organically on Reddit.
Moving forward we will be following a similar content strategy as Twitter and Facebook on Reddit: Posting unique, visual content related to League of Legends that will provide value to the users.
4. Email Marketing & Site Copy
Email marketing & copy (both in the emails and on site) is a big part of any push. Either you already have the beginnings of a list developed from a previous project, you’ve started building one on a landing page for your site, or you don’t have one at all! If you don’t, that’s fine. This push will help you start to build one.
I’ll give a couple examples of the copy we used on our site when users were in the process of signing up. We kept our tone very playful/casual so that people signing up would feel like they were interacting with a friend rather than some corporate entity.
Funny story with the second picture here, when I was sending our dev the text that I wanted on the “improper email popup”, I put *insert angry face here* at the end of the message. In my head, I intended for him to put an actual angry face at the end of the message, but he took the text literally and put the italicized text at the end. When I saw this, I actually laughed out loud and realized that it was unique enough to probably make others laugh as well. Needless to say, we kept it in.
Immediately after signing up, a user will receive an email thanking them for signing up and providing more information. We made sure to keep the tone of this email similar to the signup confirmation popup. To set up automatic emailing like this, you’ll need to use an email marketing service. Personally I’d recommend SendGrid (what we’re currently using) or MailChimp (one that I’ve used in the past). Both have free plans that you can utilize for testing / initial users. Here’s the confirmation email we sent users:
I’ve personally had at least 10 people tell me that they loved the confirmation popup, the confirmation email, or both! People actually laugh and get value from these at the same time. It’s personal and it fits the esports industry. I wouldn’t recommend using a casual tone like this if you’re an enterprise product chasing corporate entities as your customers, but if you’re a consumer product in the esports industry, a tone like this works well in my opinion.
Everyone that signs up should be added to your list, and you want to ping them with reminders that you exist (i.e. newsletters). These should have a similar tone to your initial copy for branding purposes and can contain anything from development updates, contests/giveaways, company news/announcements, etc. Keep it personal, keep it unique, always try to provide value. You’ll want to get into A/B testing what emails work the best and segmenting your audience as well. There are plenty of resources out there and this article is already long enough, so let me Google that for you.
Wow, you’re still here reading? Congrats, you’ve left most of the others in the dust! Hopefully you now have some idea of how to prepare for a product/company launch. Next is the easy part.
Congratulations, you’ve done it (the preparation is most of the execution)! Journalists that have agreed to embargo and written articles will have them go live at the agreed upon time (theoretically the same time you launch your site). You’ll announce your launch on social media, promote the articles written on social media, and maybe even make a post on Reddit! Engaging with the community is key at this point.
If someone DMs you on Twitter, respond!
If someone comments on your Facebook post, respond!
If someone comments on your Reddit post, respond!
Execute the social/content strategy that you’ve created, start sending out newsletters (at least once a week) to your subscribers, start A/B testing ads on Facebook if you have a budget for it, look for more press, look to make guest posts on sites. Continue the buzz for as long as possible and continue making your product great!
Hopefully this covered some interesting topics for you guys, it was a pretty thorough documentation of what we did to directly prepare for the Esports One beta signup launch. Let me know on social or comments here if there are any topics that you would like me to delve into more deeply or if you have any questions!