About two weeks ago, BaseCamp’s CEO Jason Fried wasn’t very happy with competitors bidding on the brand “Basecamp.” He decided to make a cheeky ad, and then take his grievance to twitter.
The tweet was a massive success, by most digital PR measurements. It got tens of thousands of likes, and then translated into mainstream media coverage in places like CNBC. Two weeks later, the ad is nowhere to be seen, and companies are still bidding on BaseCamp. Was this all just a great PR stunt, great marketing, or just luck?
Less successful Brand Bidding Bitching
Just a month or so before that Tim Soulo of ahrefs took to twitter to complain about a very similar thing.
This effort was not nearly as successful. Much lower engagement numbers, and the tweet was quite a bit ratioed by PPC practitioners and SEOs who disagreed with his thesis, even if they agreed with his sentiment. It garnered no press coverage. Perhaps it even inspired Jason’s tactic, but if it did there was no acknowledgement.
Why were these two efforts so differently received?
Lets consider a three part framework that might shed some light on the attention these two were able to garner.
- Build an Audience First
- The larger follower count that Jason has built helps amplify his message much faster. Jason has around 225K followers, but Tim only has around 12K. Influence in networked systems like twitter rely on the power of weak connections, and the audience advantage is powerful. Its influencer marketing 101. Don’t wait until you have a important message before you start to build connections.
- Make it Memorable
- Jason took the opportunity to not only complain about the situation, but to do so by using the very platform with which he had an issue. There was a sense of humor in what was a situation normally devoid of such. He also didn’t expect people to find his effort by serendipity. He actively sought to let people know what he was doing. This makes it easy to have the message amplified. Tim was merely confrontational. Lord knows there’s enough of that on twitter.
- Consider your advocates
- Basecamp is used by all types of businesses, many of whom likely have experienced a similar feeling. Ahrefs is used primarily by search engine practitioners. Search Engine Marketers understand the benefits of bidding on your own brand, and have numerous cases where it’s been positive for companies to do so. This made Tim’s tweet find far fewer advocates than the broader user base of basecamp. In essence Tim was biting the hand that feeds him, while Jason could be the David to Google’s Goliath. The empathy a small business owner could feel made this easy to advocate.
Hot Takes aren’t all bad, or good either
It’s important to have a point of view. Not everyone agreed with either tweet, and it’s important to consider how you’ll respond if it doesn’t go like you think. Bring in someone from the PR team to talk about this if you really want to figure out the best methods. They can likely help you amplify the effort, prepare for any potential backlash, and even secure media coverage if it goes well. Otherwise, it’s just an old man yelling at a cloud.
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