Pay a Blogger Day, a lost bet and 945 pushups

As I’m writing this my hands are a bit aching from making 290 pushups (out of 945) which I said I would do if Pay a Blogger Day minisite doesn’t get one million unique visitors. I lost the bet, the site only got 45 thousand uniques over the first week. A shameful lost bet, but I’m doing these pushups with a victorious grin, because Pay a Blogger Day worked like a charm.

Some background: my client Flattr provides a simple way to make small donations online, which is really handy for software developers, bloggers, charities, etc. It’s a service Dave McClure would call a vitamin rather than pain killer, in the sense that although it’s a good thing you never feel an acute need for that. There is not a single person in the world that wakes up one morning with a desire to make a small donation to his or her favourite podcaster and types “small donations service” into Google. So how do you find more users to a service like Flattr? One of the ways is to make people think (about the various people that deserve their money). Or so we thought.

The basic idea for Pay a Blogger Day formed quickly and naturally, almost by itself. The thinking was that if we make more people to pay bloggers at least one day a year, more people would want to do it regularly, and of those, a share would want to use Flattr for that. Grow the pie kind of thing.

So we created a minisite, prepared a video, got a few partners aboard and talked to some bloggers and journalists. So on Nov 22th Mashable wrote a piece about Pay a Blogger Day. GigaOm soon followed, as well as Telegraph and more than 50 other blogs around the world. There were lots of great quotes, like:

While the day is obviously a great marketing ploy by the micropayments website it’s also an easy way to pay fractions on the dollar to your favorite writers.

See them all on Storify (also embedded to the end of the post), along with many great tweets. Almost all of them mentioned Flattr too, so from purely from coverage point of view it was a (if not raging then at least growling) success.

topsy%20flattr%20mentions.png
Flattr needed more than just PR though, so how about other metrics?

In terms of donations we don’t know how many more donations and purchases we drove that day. Looking at anecdotal evidence it’s probably a number in thousands of euros. One blog reported receiving 70 dollars, another one 150 dollars, Jeremy added a donations button just for a day and collected even more, this beer blog got about 10 dollars, and so on. Number of flattr clicks was 10-20% bigger than on previous Tuesdays, but this figure has been known to fluctuate quite a bit. So, in terms of donations this day bought coffees to some hundreds of bloggers, but (we hope) no one quit their day job just yet.

In terms of Flattr signups Pay a blogger day added some hundreds of users, which is less than I personally expected but it’s still a decent number.

So in terms of hard numbers Pay a Blogger was a moderately successful campaign. However, in terms of raising awareness there are now some hundreds of thousands of more people that have given some thought to the need to pay bloggers, and that now know about the existence of Flattr. As the numbers suggest, the vast majority of these people didn’t do much ie. they didn’t pay a blogger and sign up to Flattr immediately, but a seed was planted. Not everyone is an early adopter and most people need to be reached a couple of times with a message before they start taking action. Brian Chesky of AirBnB talked about their PR stunts at LeWeb this week, and he mentioned a similar dynamic.

Other learnings
Lots of tweets are no silver bullet. We planned (and built in) three main traffic sources for Payablogger.org site: tongue-in-cheek widgets people could create, tweets, and the video. Banners worked like a charm, Little Gamers alone generated more than 10000 visits to the site when they embedded the widget. But the huge amounts of tweets we got (at peak 4-5 per minute) drove relatively little traffic. According to bit.ly each tweet only got us about 3.1 visitors. So in our case banner/widget real estate on a blog or website paid off better than lots of tweets and RT’s. Video had the least impact, though people really liked it. Should have added some bare skin on kittens…

Allowing users to interact in simple ways works, be it entering URL, Twitter name or doing the FB connect. Almost 10% of people that came to the payablogger.org site entered a blog URL and generated the forementioned banner.

Invest time in doing press and blogger outreach. More than 10% of blog posts and articles came from people we reached out to, including the Mashable piece which sparked about a third of coverage. So even if your campaing is interesting for bloggers and viral, it doesn’t spread itself.

Partners buy you credibility, especially if you’re a relatively small startup. Having Posterous and some other names listed on the site or in an email to a writer from Mashable greatly helped. Also, in our case partners added info about Pay a Blogger Day to their newsletters, which generated much more traffic than their tweets or blog posts.

All in all a great campaign, with some great learnings. Shout outs to Flattr folks for buying into the idea and getting this somewhat risky campaign out. But I guess that’s what all startups need to do, take some risks and do things that are paid attention to.



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