When Social Media Marketers Stumble

If you have been following my blog for more than a week, you know that I am a big proponent of social media. We have used it at Thomas Nelson to achieve some dramatic results, particularly for a few of our authors who don’t otherwise have a media platform. As a result, I am convinced that social media marketing works. Except when it doesn’t.

man slipping on a banana peel

Yesterday, I was reading a blog post by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. I am a fan of his, so when I discovered that he had worked with StumbleUpon to develop a new blog traffic builder called Su.pr (pronounced “Super”), I got very excited.According to Tim, the program:

  • Submits your content to StumbleUpon’s 7.9 million users with each post
  • Showcases your best content in a right-hand sidebar for each page you link to
  • Provides suggestions for optimal posting times, resulting in more traffic per post
  • Schedules as many tweets or posts as you want, for any time
  • Enables you to see your click-throughs in real-time
  • Allows you to see your retweets for each post, including the biggest influencers (ranking coming soon)
  • Posts to Twitter and Facebook at the same time, with more platforms in the pipeline
  • Provides a way for you to use your own short URL (i.e. michaelhyatt.com/ab123) instead of someone else’s branding

So, I headed over to the Su.pr site to sign up. I discovered that it was in “private beta.” To sign-up, you have to enter an invite code. Thankfully, Tim had provided one on his site. When I entered it, I received this message: “Sorry, the invite code you entered is no longer valid” (see screenshot below).

my first Su.pr error

No, problem, I thought. Tim said he only had 50, so I obviously got here too late.

When I clicked on the Request one link, Su.pr told me to follow StumbleUpon on Twitter—they would be posting invite codes there (see screenshot below). So I dutifully did as I was asked and begin following. I thought, Um. This might be a cool promotional tool.

my second Su.pr error

After a few hours, I noticed that StumbleUpon had not posted any invitation codes. So, I decided to check StumbleUpon’s Twitter profile. I was surprised that they had not provided an update since February 20. I kid you not (see screenshot below)!

Stumble Upon Profile Page

Obviously, someone dropped the ball. Frustrating prospective users is not the way to build your brand online—especially a new brand. What can we learn from this? Five things:

  1. Don’t launch a new project until it is ready.
  2. Make sure you have checked every path a prospective customer might take.
  3. Check and double-check links to make sure you know where they lead.
  4. Don’t go big on the promotion until you know for sure you have everything working.
  5. If you screw up, fix it and then admit it—fast!

We hear a lot of talk about viral marketing. What people sometimes forget is that it also works in reverse when customers have a bad experience. Think of this as viral anti-marketing.

Update: Just as I was finishing this post, TechCrunch posted a few more invite codes. I went to the Su.pr site and was pleased that I got in. I got past the first screen and was asked to enter my username, email, and password. However, I was also supposed to enter some CAPTCHA code to protect the site against spam robots. Unfortunately, my browser wouldn’t display the code (see screenshot below). I tried it on two different browsers (Safari 4 and Firefox 3, both on the Mac.)

my third Su.pr error

I’m not sure about the product, but the marketing is definitely not ready for prime time.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MonikaM MonikaM

    A year and a half ago I was going through a major transition. Tim Ferris, through his book, was like a good buddy on the sidelines affirming the direction I was taking and the speed at which I was getting there. I think subconsciously readers can be prone to invalidate what they have learned from an author previously when they feel they are let down with products that follow. There is no real cause for this in most cases, but still the mind might go there fairly quickly. Hope they come through with this product:)

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That's why it is so critical to be careful in lending our reputation to others.

  • http://www.bjhamrick.com BJ Hamrick

    Thanks for sharing this… definitely pointers from which we can all learn when marketing a product!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jaledwith jaledwith

    I noticed the same thing about StumbleUpon's Twitter profile when I started to follow them yesterday. I managed to hunt down a Su.pr invite code via Google (found one on cnet). After initial setup (I didn't have the CAPTCHA trouble you did) and after linking my Facebook and Twitter accounts I tried out the "Schedule for later" option. I typed a message and told it to post at 3am on Facebook. It didn't post until 6:04am. I'm hoping that's just a time zone error, but there's no way for the end-user to fix that manually.

    I'm with you on this one: don't launch a product until it's ready. I know Su.pr is in beta, but on today's Internet the word "beta" doesn't mean what it used to. Everything is in beta, even Gmail. Bugs need to be few from the start. At the very least, a site's much-talked-about features ought to work.

    • http://generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp

      I have loosely worked in software development with our GeneratorTools cms partners for two years now.

      The main issue is knowing when something is truly ready. No one wants to release software that doesn't work right, but unlike "the old world" — where customers took the only path to purchase you provided — now customers take a myriad of paths, and sub-paths, to get where they want to go. It's just darned near impossible to bug-proof software nowadays.

      Want proof? Check out the message boards at Microsoft for Word. Page after page after page of problems, for perhaps the most ubiquitous software application on the planet!

      We all get lulled to sleep by the incredible advances in software development. Just imagine the technology behind TiVo, or iTunes — literally hundreds of thousands of man hours, untold millions of dollars, and still there are glitches. We forget that, in the grand scheme of things, we are still in the Gutenberg Press era of the web.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fschlegel Fred H Schlegel

    The power of a checklist? *Test login. Check. *Remember to twitter. Check.
    In the rush to market sometimes it's the simplest things that slip by because everyone thinks someone else has it covered…'cause it's so obvious, how could it not be?' Sounds like an interesting platform once the bugs get worked out.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I'm afraid we have all been guilty of this.

  • http://www.modernekklesia.com Rodlie Ortiz

    anyone know of any other codes floating around? hoping to get in.

  • http://www.LynCote.net Lyn Cote

    Is this Su.pr anything like Bit.ly?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Best, I can tell, yes. (Of course, I haven't actually been able to try the program!) But, I think it's a whole lot more.

  • http://tweetfurther.com/ Paul | TweetFurther

    I'm in the middle of launching my own viral marketing campaign right now, so I know how important it is to check and double check that everything works.

    Even so, things can go wrong… the chain can break… but at least I'll be spending the next few weeks watching it like a hawk :) I'm surprised a company with the resources of StumbleUpon weren't doing more of that.

    Paul Hancox

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Yes, it is surprising. You think by now they would have already picked up on this blog post and contacted me. I know I have Google alerts and Thomas Nelson Twitter searches set up to notify immediately when our name is mentioned.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/JakeSchwein JakeSchwein

    Law of first impressions : FAIL!!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stephenbateman stephenbateman

    That's weird…I got on Su.pr at once without any problems. I guess everyone has different experiences…