Two weeks ago I started a series that I knew would ruffle some feathers. I knew there would be people that would agree with me and I knew there would be people who vehemently disagreed with me. I knew there would be people telling me that I was simply writing this series to get traffic (ummm, I like people reading my stuff, do you?) and others that would simply resort to calling me names. In the end though I am glad it worked.
We are a very emotional community. It is easy to get us excited and even easier to piss us off. Tell us you have a new redesign coming out and we get excited and the anticipation starts to kill us. Attack one of our peers and we will quickly form an attack right back. With this in mind you can understand how easy the hype machine can be built up amongst ourselves.
Some companies like to start hype on purpose. For instance, Blinksale had arguably the best hype campaign in the community this year. It was tough going a day without seeing it linked from some designer’s site singing praise for the invoicing web application even before it launched! The problem with all of this hype? Many will argue that they didn’t deliver due to a large amount of downtime. In this sense, the hype worked against them (I don’t use Blinksale so I cannot speak on the quality of the application or its uptime).
Many of us seem to frown on the hype machine, but I enjoy it. I love studying it. If you have a company I am sure the people who run it are interested in it as well. That’s why you see many companies today wrongly jump on the blog bandwagon because they believe they can create buzz with a blog. Creating buzz is not hard if you already have an audience. However, many times you will find that companies work more on creating buzz than creating a quality product.
And that’s where the hype starts to get annoying.
Mike Davidson is a good friend who is working on his own startup company. He won’t tell me a damn thing about the company and for good reason, he doesn’t want to start any hype (but I think I just started some for him). But that’s crazy! Hype means you have an audience. Hype means you have customers from day one. He knows though that he is not creating the world’s most revolutionary app (or maybe he is) and even admits that when people see it many will just say it simply is App 1 mixed with App 2 mixed with App 3. But he also believes that it will be a great app/service that people will use and that’s what’s important.
With the way information spreads on the web there really is no need to hype our products anymore because many times we fail to live up to the hype. Hell, all Inman did was put a signup page for Mint and you can already feel the electricity. We all know it will just be a stat tracking program, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get excited about it.
What do you do if you are in Inman’s position though? You simply let the app speak for itself and I believe he is doing a wonderful job of that.
On Business Logs last week I jokingly wrote an entry about our redesign and did some major hyping of it. I mainly did it to poke fun at all the hype going on this year and to also freak Rundle out a little bit because he knew that the redesign wasn’t anything revolutionary. That’s what hype does to people though, it pressures them to achieve better (I think).
If you continue to hype every product you release, hype will no longer be generated. This is what 37signals was doing wrong in my opinion. It’s not that they are releasing a number of products or that many of them, some will argue, share the same qualities. It’s that instead of just telling us that a new app will be launching next week or simply just launching it, we get a taste of our 4th product marketing speech which begins to wear on people. Apple gets hype because they don’t bother hyping anything themselves. The rumor sites take care of that. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Microsoft hypes every new OS and has no chance of living up to their own hype.
I am not saying you shouldn’t bother trying to get the word out about your product or service, but once the word is out the product should speak for itself. If you are too caught up in your own hype then you lose focus on what’s important. Small companies need all the help they can get to spread the word of their product, but I feel many are starting to put the focus on the marketing and not the product. That was the main point of my series.
Tomorrow starts another four part series on sites that get hyped and how they are able to achieve the hype, whether you believe they deserve it or not, because we all can learn lessons on how to create buzz. Even freelancers can benefit from a bit of buzzmarketing about their services.