But wait - before throwing up a landing page and hoping to garner a few sales, it's worth giving some thought for how to get the word out about your release. And remember: we're trying to do this on the cheap, so the following strategies have everything to do with leveraging existing resources (excluding your wallet) to get the word out.
I know, in this day and age, it's almost cliche to recommend using social networks to publicize that you're releasing a project especially when it has such potential to be lost in the sea of other status updates.
But the point of taking advantage of the major social networks is to get as many relevant eyes on the note as possible. To do this, you have to consider who you're targeting: that is, users, fans, and other developers of WordPress.
After all, the bottom line is that you want to get them to retweet (or repost) your work.
Assuming you're on Twitter (and if you're a developer in the WordPress space, you ought to be!), this should be one of the first places that you publicize your work. Of course, you don't want to spam people about your work. Instead, do some research for what people who may be potential customers (or potential retweeters) are talking about or are sharing.
- Search. Quite simply, take advantage of search.twitter.com and do some cursory keyword research. See if there are any tweets related to WordPress and/or the target market of your plugin. Say you're working on a theme for new bloggers. Look for results that include those keywords. Tweet out something similar such that it appears in the results - others may be watching and see what you say.
- Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to get a number of eyes on your tweets. For example, dropping a tweet that includes the #WordPress hashtag links to the homepage of your plugin can help. Repeating this a few times throughout the week is an effective strategy.
- Lists. A large percentage of Twitterers take advantage of lists. It's worth taking a look at some of the most popular WordPress developers and bloggers on Twitter to see to what lists they belong. From there, you can see who follows a given list. I'm no fan of spam and don't recommend it, but you may discover someone - perhaps a blogger - that can help get the word out about your work.
Personally, I've had mixed results with Facebook. Though I'll share a link to the homepage or blog post that refers to my project, I rarely get any clicks. The primary problem is that he majority of people that know me on Facebook aren't developers, bloggers, or have any idea as to what WordPress even is.
But remember: the ultimate goal is to get eyes on your work and getting even one set of eyes is considered a win. So don't discount Facebook - share a quick post or link about your work and let it sit.
Don't forget about Facebook Groups, either. Some of you may be members of a bloggers group or WordPress fan group that would be interested in your work. Don't forget to share your work on the wall of the group.
Though Google+ is the least popular social network, it's still widely used by certain groups of people not the least of which are developers. Additionally, since Google+'s circles have been so successful, you can find small communities of people (and you may already belong to some) that can really help in getting the word out.
If you opt to share your work on Google+, be strategic about the circles with which you publicize your work. Say you have your peers grouped in Family, Friends, Geeks, Bloggers, and Developers, it may not make sense to broadcast it out to Family and Friends (unless they're bloggers or developers) because they would be less likely to convert to a sale (or +1) than someone else of a common interest.
The bottom line of trying to get the word out via social networks is strategically sharing your work with relevant eyes. Let that be the grid through which you make your decisions when sharing your work.
And remember: this is not something that you do once and leave it alone. Do this several times throughout a given week (or month, even!) to maximize the number of views.
Get Some Press
A second option - and perhaps more viable option - is to have your work published via blogs. Obviously, one of the easiest ways to share your work is to throw up a quick blog post that talks about your project and references the project's homepage.
If you've got a subscriber base or a relatively consistent readership, you've nothing to lose by sharing what you've been working on. In fact, if they're subscribed to your blog then they're obviously interested in what you have to share. Additionally, having a link from one site to your project's homepage can also help with search engine optimization.
Regardless of what you do, remember to at least bring the social networking strategy into your blog post - provide a Twitter Share button, a Facebook Like button, and a Google +1 buttons on the post and homepage for the project.
Don't limit yourself to simply self-promotion on your own site. There has never been a better time to take advantage of various WordPress blogs - the community is growing, active, and engaged. There are a wide variety of blogs that cover WordPress-related news almost daily.
I can tell you from personal experience that simply emailing one of the editors (or contributing authors) can go a long way in having them cover your story. In fact, some sites want to be the first to 'break news' about a new product, service, or piece of news about WordPress - reaching out to these sites for coverage can be a big win.
Regardless of the route that you take, pick a site that you like, that has a large reader base, and that would provide the best coverage for the type of product you're releasing.
And The Newsletters
Over the past year or so, there has been a resurgence in newsletters. As far as the WordPress community is concerned, WpMail.me is the most popular newsletter in the WordPress-community at the time of writing this article.
The guys behind the newsletter typically do an excellent job of aggregating all of the weekly WordPress news into a single digest so if you've been covered on one of the major sites, then you'll likely show up in the newsletter; otherwise, it never hurts to contact the team and give them a heads up about your project, its details, and its website.
Again, it's all about getting as many relevant eyes on your work as possible. Leverage your resources!
A Freemium Plugin
Finally, a quick note to those of you writing premium plugins: don't forget about the WordPress Plugins Repository.
Although theme authors are exempt from this option (as the Theme Marketplace is invite-only), plugin authors can always submit a plugin to the WordPress Marketplace. Assuming that you've followed strategies we've mentioned throughout this series - such as strategically naming your plugin - then creating a scaled back, limited version of the plugin for free release can also help with converting sales.
If you opt to do this, consider the following:
- Provide value with the free version, but limit the feature set in such a way that leaves users wanting more. That is, create a felt need in your plugin such that users will want to pay for the additional feature set.
- I'm no fan of nag screens or nag dialogs, but strategically place a notice someone in the admin screen of your plugin that calls attention to a note that links them to the premium version's homepage.
At the end of the day, you're likely to convert sales - I've witness this strategy work firsthand - but even if you don't, you'll have others using your work. You're building trust and this can go along way for future projects.
Assuming that your project takes off and becomes successful, you're likely going to want to patch bugs, add new features, and support your users through its lifetime. In the final post in this series, we'll take a look at some free strategies for managing a successful WordPress project.