Author Archives: David Arnoux

About David Arnoux

I'm David Arnoux, co-founder of Twoodo. I write about growth hacking, startups and lean methodology. Come say hi on Twitter or on Google+

guest-blogging-tips

How We Used Guest Blogging To Generate Traffic And Build Our Audience

This article shows you:

  • why guest blogging is an excellent strategy
  • a step-by-step guide on how to get started

Why should I care about guest blogging?

If you’re trying to build an online business, guest blogging should be a no-brainer. Guest blogging tips are everywhere for a reason. In the early stages, if the decision should be whether to write content for your own blog or write content for someone else’s blog, (i.e. guest blogging) go with guest blogging. When the time comes to make a serious effort on your own blog, you’ll have improved your writing skills and built up good connections with other blog communities. Basically, it’s a base for better publicity via connections you will have made, communities you will have become known in and impact positively on your SEO ranking.

There’s a great slideshare by Doug Kessler that explains why 2014 will be the year of the content marketing deluge. Everyone’s doing content marketing so it’s becoming extremely difficult to get people’s attention and gather an audience. Readers are also putting their guard up and relying more and more on a specific number of online publications. This is why we’ve put together our best guest blogging tips that we learned through hours and hours of experience.

Don’t give up!

Guest blogging, whereby you write content for someone else’s blog or online publication, is an extremely effective way of acquiring quality and continuous visitors for your website. Basically put, if no-one is reading your blog, write for one with a larger audience. In exchange, you are allowed to include a bio with backlinks to your desired webpage (typically the company website and Twitter).

guest-blogging-tips

 This has a dual effect of increasing your authority on certain subjects and attracting targeted readers to your website.  At Twoodo, we set up a guest blogging strategy about four months ago. We went from nowhere to writing for publications like The Next Web, Under30CEO and Lifehack. We’d love to share some lessons from our ongoing journey.

But first…a kick-ass example that inspired us

guest-blogging-tips

BufferApp famously grew their website from 0 to 100 000 users in nine months using guest blogging. The team at Buffer (and notably Leo Widrich) have openly described on many occasions how they achieved such rapid results. Guest blogging well-written, informative, interesting and useful advice about Twitter (it was still pretty new back when he started) helped grow the company from an early-stage startup into a fast-growing enterprise with a large audience. They became thought leaders and experts in their niche, and this has built them and their blog a strong audience over the last two years. The content marketing strategy is a powerful example to follow.

Following in Leo’s footsteps, we’d like to share with you the methods, tricks and mistakes we encountered on our way to guest blogging for publications like The Next Web, Lifehack and many other publications.

Step by step guest blogging tips – how did we do it?

1. Find someone on your team who likes writing.

guest-blogging-tips

It’s difficult to get guest-blogging right if no-one on your team likes to write. So if you don’t have one, hire someone who loooooves writing. This is critical because decent writing takes time, not to mention the time spent on creating nice images, graphs, illustrations etc. to add meat to the article. Outsourcing is an option, but we personally did not find it to be a good idea. After three tests,  the quality just wasn’t there. We wanted someone from within our team, experiencing the company growth to document the steps we took, and come up with interesting and relevant content to our audience.

Bear in mind, the first articles took quite a long time to write compared to four months later. We grew from one OK-ish article a week in the early stages to the two or three high quality weekly articles we achieve now. This can still be improved! We’ve also set up better co-writing and editing processes that increase the quality and speed of article writing.

2. Identify your audience

identify your audience

Before starting to write we sat down and asked ourselves “why are we doing this?”. The answer was pretty clear: we wanted to grow the top of our sales funnel. Increase the number of people landing on our home page. So before asking ourselves what we would write about we first asked ourselves “who are we writing FOR”. We took out our customer personas, put them on a table and started listing all the places where our personas like to hang out on the internet, what they liked to read, who their gods were, what did their gods read etc. These would be the places we’d try to write for.

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But this list was still too short and generic. So we used Technorati’s blog directory for a more extensive list of possible blogs. We clearly had our eyes set on reaching the top of that list right from the start.

guest-blogging-tips

Technorati results proved a bit overwhelming so we limited ourselves to the first 100 blogs listed in our category, “tech”. We listed them in a spreadsheet (here is a link), and then visited and read each of them and rated them for relevancy from 1 – 4 (did this blog have content related to our topics, was it an active blog, and did it accept guest posts).

Then, we tried out Prismatic and within the categories relevant to us, we read the posts we liked best, noting which blogs they came from. This was a good way to find lesser known blogs that had a respectable audience. Two other good resources for this are Blogmetrics and Alltop. We also read the blogs of our favorite companies for inspiration. They inevitably talk about and linked to blogs they like to read. Here are some examples:

And then of course, Google searches. For example doing a quick search for “best startup blog” brought us to this gem of an article which directed us to a number of great bloggers: http://platformsandnetworks.blogspot.nl/2012/12/managing-startups-best-posts-of-2012.html

Quora also proved to be very useful.

What you are looking for are people or publications who stand head-and-shoulders above the rest in terms of authority. Who are considered experts on this topic? Who generates a lot of buzz when they publish an article on the topic? Search for blogs with lots of active commentary and social shares. Look at the top authors and commentators. These are not only your peers but can also be your audience. These may be your future evangelists. When you have built a relationship with them, you can ask their help for pushing an article to their networks. Groove HQ have an awesome article explaining how they built up their network of influencers and got them involved in what they were writing. I strongly suggest you read it.

3. Identify your expertise

Write about what you know. If this is your first time writing, I’d suggest you write about the pain your website or app is solving. We brainstormed areas of knowledge in relation to our product, and thought about what we could share with the world. It is possible to compile guidelines and advice on something you’ve never practically applied, but authority will stem from hands-on examples and experiences that the team have had. Pro tip: DO NOT write only about what your app does, write about what your audience would be interested in.

One problem we found was finding the time for our product developers and coders to sit down and explain their work, ideas and tips. They have TONS of great stuff locked inside their heads – but no time to go through it. We set up a spreadsheet where they could vote on  and suggest articles to write (view it here).

guest-blogging-tips

The writer would send to-dos to the rest of the team asking for “brain farts”, tips and tricks on these topics, or links to their favorite resources. What we thought would be short sentences turned into long paragraphs full of rich content. It was then the writer’s job to make it readable. Another good idea is to find complementary topics between teammates and co-write on them. Mutual learning about each other’s jobs and new insights into how to tackle a problem are the positive side-effects of co-writing.

4. Separate the list of blogs into “accepts/does not accept guest posts”

It’s very important to study which blogs accept guest posts, and which ones allow you to have a bio with links. These were where we would choose to write. It’s not always 100% clear whether a blog or publication accepts guest writers.

choose the right blogs

However, not all websites will have such clear steps, such as the example below. If so, go to their contact page and simply ask them. Better still, pitch an article to them in the same message for greater opportunities.

guest blogging tips

Download/copy our guest blog preparation template from this link: https://docs.google.com/a/twoodo.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArweYPmTIiyjdDZ3UHE3dTc1T0xrMDMtUGZhekdSRXc#gid=0

Stumbling block: Sometimes, blogs don’t mention whether they accept posts or not. Try to get ahold of the blog owner’s email or twitter and send a query. Blog articles always have an author which you can look up, and if it’s a one-man blog there will usually be an “about” section giving you that info. A simple search of “[name] email” brought forth a surprising number of them. Also try LinkedIn in-mailing or “[name]@[theircompany].com”

Recap so far: we have someone who loves to write, a list of things we can write about, a list of places we can publish it – all industry relevant to our company.

5. List the blogs in a preferred order

We made a list of where we wanted to be published the most (even if it was outrageously beyond our level) and started contacting them in 48-hour cycles until we were accepted onto a blog. The steps of this cycle are listed in the next points.

6. Guest blog post email template

We designed the initial contact email and email headline that would be sent to the blog owners to grab their attention, and hopefully get accepted. A lot of time was put into this step, and even with this template created a lot of personalization was required for each blog owner we contacted. This skeleton frame ensured we didn’t leave out anything important (and is not to be confused with an automated email scenario). At the top of the email we noted that we were giving 48 hours for the post to be considered or accepted due to time constraints. This was a personal decision based on our rookie experience of waiting two weeks for a rejection email per blog owner, meaning that we went weeks without being published at the start. If you are working through a list of twelve people, and are sticking to emailing them on weekdays, this means it could take up to a month to get one piece published. Here is the link to the email template if you want to use it.

Stumbling block: our initial email had the 48-hour withdrawal at the end of the message rather than the beginning. This did not go down well with one editor of a rather huge online magazine…

stumbling block

7. The follow-up email template

We decided that two days was long enough for our email to be picked up or ignored. To check that we hadn’t been glossed over in the blog owner’s inbox, we designed a “hey did you get our email?” template (see image below). This one was less customised, as it required a friendly query generally inquiring about the initial email proposal. After spending a long time perfecting the first email, we wanted to direct the blog owner’s attention to that one rather than writing another long email. Some people just prefer short emails.

Stumbling block: in hindsight, we should have started using Yesware immediately to get notified when people open your email. 

guest blogging tips

8. Social media

Because of the high profile of the people we were contacting, we chose LinkedIn as the means to send follow-up messages to the email.

follow-up

Stumbling blocks: In hindsight, we now connect with all these people on Twitter, and tweet the editors of the blogs within 6 hours of sending the follow-up email (after confirmation from Yesware that it was opened) in case we did not stand out from all the other emails. We still use LinkedIn in-mails but maybe not everyone is a fan of using that platform

9. After publishing

We made sure to share the article on all social media, to thank the editor/blog owner publicly (Twitter) and privately (personal email). Every comment made was responded to (thanks to Disqus notifications!). We also set up a Hootsuite search column with the URL of the article for each and every one of the articles. As soon as it was mentioned or shared we send a little thank you tweet. If you are feeling bold, tweet your top influencers with the link and ask them what they think. Submit your article to all the link indexing websites that you found in your preparation stage and push them to all your social networks. Make sure to add 2 – 3 relevant and trending tags (short and long-tail).

Recap so far: email templates made for first and second contact; follow and tweet the influencers on Twitter; order the list of blogs by preference and contact them in turn every 48 hours; thank those who accept us and promote them and the article

10. Measuring your success

measure-your-success

It’s a fantastic feeling when someone tells you “Hey that’s an awesome piece, and I’d love to publish it”. But in lean startups, it’s not just about gaining authority. It’s got to be a profitable return on the time spent writing, editing, publishing and promoting it. How do you measure the ROI? This is where metrics come in.

We use Google Analytics, Mixpanel and a tracker that we insert in our author bios, so that we can track how many hits we get from each blog we are published on. You can also use Bitly links. If we are not acquiring enough unique visitors and signups from a website after three posts, we go back to the drawing board. We discuss if it is our writing quality or if the community on this blog was a poor fit for our material and decide the next move.

Lessons from being naïve

  • Your first articles probably suck
  • A lot of people don’t care about what you write at the start
  • The “official writer” can be limited to what he/she knows.
  • Not everyone on the team likes writing about what they know
  • Many blogs have no traffic or engagement – finding good ones takes time
  • Thousands of writers compete to get on the big websites
  • It takes AGES for some blog owners to reply
  • Make sure you contact the right people. You can usually find a list of authors of a publication.
  • August (or holiday time in general) – nobody is in the office
  • Even after being accepted, you may wait up to two weeks before seeing the piece published
  • The editors can change some stuff (e.g. take out links to your website, screw with your SEO efforts)

How to stand out:

  • bold, interesting headlines
  • headlines that offer solutions to real problems
  • be noisy (but not annoying) on social media
  • make sure the piece you submit superbly matches the content to the images and links

After starting small, three months later we had become guest bloggers on multiple websites. We were driving strong and continuous traffic to the website and we felt we had enough authority and know-how built up to get an article on The Next Web. An article on the Next Web typically brings us 3000 unique visitors within days and about 100 new signups to our tool – a great ROI from three days of on-and-off co-writing and editing. We’re now continuing to write for The Next Web and aiming for other large online publications.

Takeaways from the guest blogging experiment

  • Our major lesson was that “content is king” is for those who are established authorities on subjects. In order to maximise our visibility in search results, we also started to apply better SEO tactics, but without ruining the content. 
  • Relationship-building takes time and consistency, and there is absolutely no shortcut to that
  • Accept that there will be many hit-and-misses at the beginning
  • Eventually you need to decide on whether you will write one article for multiple blogs or become a regular contributor to a few blogs. Use metrics to track where the most conversions are coming from!
  • You need to decide what goes on your own blog and what gets placed on other blogs – does the best stay or go?
  • It’s worth the effort

ALSO! Don’t hesitate to use this awesome checklist when writing your articles and promoting them..

growth-hacking-tools

A huge epic list of growth hacking tools for non-coders

This article shows you:

  • what growth hacking is
  • a list of the most recommended growth hacking tools, with prices and deals attached

Growth hacking is the art of creatively Acquiring users, Activating them, Retaining them on your website, getting them to Refer you to their friends and colleagues whilst paying for your service (Revenue). It’s also an extremely analytical and test based approach that necessitates tools. You should also check out this community of growth hackers powered by the man who coined the term, Sean Ellis.

Ideally you should have growth in mind before you even choose your website name – check out this basic list of what your website needs before moving on to the rest of the list!

Finding the best growth hacking tools takes time, patience, reading, testing and recommendations. Based on all these we’ve attempted to come up with an extensive list of all of the tools we thought were important to analyze, measure, build, test and help grow your business. This post was largely influenced by Joseph Bou Younes’ awesome slide. We’re striving to make a more detailed and clickable version on top of his slide. Bear in mind that growth hacking requires the mobilization of these tools in the correct combination, rather than a step-by-step order. The order is close to the implementation order that would adapt to your sales funnel. For example, I tried using AAARR Pirate metrics as a framework but didn’t succeed.

Disclaimer: choose the right combination of tools for your company, not all of them! Please feel free to recommend more tools and categories in the comments section.

growth-hacking-tools

1. Landing page optimization and A/B testing. 

Landing page optimization and AB testing - SO important as it is at the top of your sales funnel. Increase conversion sign-ups and reduce your bounce rate by optimizing the landing page

Unbounce

unbounce

The marketer’s tool for building a landing pages. “Unbounce is designed to give non-developers full control, while not affecting the core site or application when making changes.” (full review here)

Google content experiments

google-content-experiments

A great tool to create A/B tests from within Google Analytics (full review here)

  • Free 

Optimizely

optimizely screenshot

Instantly generate and deploy changes, and track engagement. “Provides a dead simple way to get up and running with AB and MVT testing “ (full review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Basic plan: €14 p/m 

Visual Wesbite Optimizer

visual website optimizer screenshot

A bit more expensive than Optimizely and Unbounce but has more features. It’s users say it’s worth the extra money. Includes heatmaps and behavioural targeting. (full review here)

growth-hacking-tools

2. Metrics (see our complete guide to SaaS metrics here)

Mixpanel

mixpanel screenshot

One of the best tools out there to start tracking your funnel metrics. Offers engagement plans (general users) and people plans (specific individuals). They’re also super friendly and will not hesitate to Skype with you to help you out (full review here)

  • Free up to 25,000 data points/become a partner
  • Basic plan: $150 p/m

KISSmetrics

kissmetrics screenshot from techcrunch

Image credit: TechCrunch

The other “reference” tool for metrics. See the actions of every individual on your site. Also super friendly and ready to help you out (full review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $150 p/m (billed annually) 

Heap Analytics 

heap analytics screenshot

Another great analytics tool similar to KissMetrics of Mixpanel.

  • Free up to 25000 monthly visits
  • Pro plan: $149 p/m 

Flurry

flurry screenshot

Big data analytics to allow developers to build better apps. “Makes it easier for companies to follow the metrics that matter most to them, whether that’s user retention after three or seven days or the number of users who complete a transaction” (full review here)

  • Free 

Google analytics

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Image credit

Google’s website analytics. The most commonly used tool for web analytics. (full review here)

  • Free 

Trak.io

trakio screenshot

Customer analytics for data-driven and lean startups. “It is optimized for easy “pirate metrics,” which refers to their “AARRR” acronym: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, and Referrals.” (review here)

  • Free up to 250 people
  • Basic plan: $19 p/m 

Moz 

moz screenshot

Image credit: Marketingland

Analytics for SEO-heads (full review here)

Localytics

localytics screenshot

Marketing and analytics platform for mobile and web apps, including relationship management. “help not just with customer acquisition, but also with monitoring and maintaining customer relationships over the lifetime of an app.” (full review here)

  • Free up to 10,000 monthly visitors
  • Basic plan: $200 

Keen IO 

keenio screenshot

An API for custom analytics (review here).

  • Free up to 50,000 events p/m
  • Basic plan: $40 p/m
  • F6S deal, YES!!! $125/$1000 credit 

Adobe analytics 

adobe-social-screenshot

all-round business analytics including realtime and mobile (review here)

  • Pricing: unknown – broken website links
  • F6S deal? No 

Kontagent

kontagent screenshot

Image credit: The Next Web

Advanced mobile analytics. “Give social and mobile developers a dashboard so that they can better engage and monetize users.”  (full review here)

  • Pricing: contact the team 

growth-hacking-tools

3. SaaS needs. For the many SaaS-based companies; identify user needs

Totango 

totango screenshot

Helps you engage with customers throughout their life cycle. “Engaging customer, understanding how they interact with your application, and crafting specific products and marketing strategies for customers” (full review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Basic plan: need to contact through a form 

GoodData

gooddata screenshot

Integrate and visualize multiple data sources. “is used to integrate multiple data sources and create visualizations and dashboards to drive key business decisions.” (review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Basic plan: prices not stated 

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4. On-site retention.  Retain your customers by encouraging them to return and use your service

Bounce exchange

bounceexchange screenshot

Image Credit: Creative Rooster

Stop people from exiting your website. “Uses a combination of invisible javascript receptors, mouse gestures and acceleration to determine when a visitor is going to bounce off a website,” (full review here)

  • Free demo
  • Prices calculated by monthly pageview volume 

growth-hacking-tools

5. Email optimisation: get your emails read more often and grow your community of followers

Intercom.io

intercom screenshot

An awesome all-in-one solution to replace your helpdesk, email marketing app and customer engagement tool. Easy to use and full of cool features and reports.

  • Free up to 250 active users
  • Basic plan: $49/month 

Vero

vero screenshot

Track customers on your website and send emails based on what they do.

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $99/month (up to 20000 emails a month) 

Mandrill

mandrill screenshot

Image Credit: Heroku

From the makers of Mailchimp, the fastest way to deal with transactional emails. (full review here)

  • Free up to 12000 emails per month
  • Basic plan: $0.2 per additional 1000 emails 

Send with us

sendwithus screenshot

Image credit: Coroflot

Simple A/B testing for email campaigns (integrated with MailChimp) “make transactional email better” (review not found)

  • Basic plan: $19 p/m 

User fox

userfox screenshot

Image credit: Crunchbase

A/B email testing without the need for developers. “making split testing easy for anyone to explore.” (full review here)

  • Free trial (unknown length)
  • Basic plan: $49 p/m 

Customer.io

customer.io screenshot

Email sending service based on what customers are [not] doing on your app (full review here)

  • Free up to 100 customers/500 emails a month
  • Basic plan: $75 p/m 

Klaviyo

klaviyo screenshot

Email target groups of customers and measure the impact; integrated with MailChimp (review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $299 p/m  

growth-hacking-tools

6. User analytics. See what each customer does, how much they cost, what causes them to drop off

Fox metrics

FoxMetrics screenshot

Image credit: AdPushUp

Realtime web/mobile app customer analytics with metrics. “It is a real-time platform that not just collects and stores, but also analyzes the data to let you have more sales through a higher conversion rate.” (review here)

  • Free 2 week trial
  • Basic plan: $20 p/m 

Woopra

woopra screenshot

Analyse customer behaviour in real-time (review here)

  • Free up to 30,000 actions p/m
  • Basic plan: $79,95 p/m 

growth-hacking-tools

7. Integration. Multiple types of analytics tools customisable into your preferred order

Segment.io

segmentio screenshot

Image credit: Nathaniel Talbott

An analytics API for developers (review here)

  • Free for 100,000 API calls (1 week data)
  • Basic plan: $29 p/m 

growth-hacking-tools

8. Customer experience. Visualizing what your users/customers do on the webpage (e.g. heatmaps)

TestFlight

testflightapp screenshot

Image credit: Building iPhone Apps

Free testing for mobile developers (review here – it’s a little old, but everyone loves TestFlight anyway, so just use it!)

  • Free

Clicktale:

3 Must Have Tools for Website Optimization - Media is Power

Image credit: Media is Power

Visualize page behaviour (review here)

Crazy Egg:

crazyegg screenshot

Image credit: Datejs

Heatmaps, scrollmaps, overlays and confetti views (review here)

growth-hacking-tools

9. Survey. Collect soft data to build your company and tool on.

Qualaroo:

qualaroo screenshot

Understand and harness visitor intent with cool little surveys that pop up according to a user’s behaviour (review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $199

Survey.io:

Customer Development Survey

Part of Qualaroo. Extremely powerful tool to test whether you have product/market fit.

growth-hacking-tools

10. Realtime. What is happening right now on your website

Clicky:

clicky screenshot

Image credit: Yoast

Analyse every visitor in realtime (review here)

  • Free for 1 website/3,000 daily page views
  • Basic plan: $9.99 p/m or $79,99 p/a

GoSquared:

gosquared screenshot

Realtime analytics with more knowledge than Google Analytics (review here)

  • 14 day free trial
  • Basic plan: $24 p/m

Chartbeat:

Real-time website data for front-line action takers

Realtime data updates with no page refresh needed (review here)

  • 30 day free trial
  • Request pricing (only large corporate team prices available)

The list is never complete, it will be maintained…

Growth hacking tools are always evolving. Times are always changing. If we’ve missed anything out, if anything becomes obsolete over time or if you think one of the sections here is badly named, please tell us as we’ll try to maintain this list as much as possible.

Happy growth hacking!

beta-testers

Smart and free techniques startups can use to find beta testers

This article shows you:

  • an overview of common tools used to find beta testers
  • a list of methods and “how-to” steps to avoid paying to acquire beta testers

Liam Gooding from Trak.io has a fantastic list of resources to find beta testers here.

But how do you find beta testers for free? Paying for as little as possible (i.e. bootstrapping) is significant at the startup stage. Whilst I agree with most of his suggestions, there are some issues with the current “free” beta testing resources.

Why services to find beta testers are not so budget-friendly

Betalist, Startuplist and Erlibird are all extremely useful services – some SaaS startups might even say imperative to success – but:

  • some Erlibird beta testing services cost over $200 a day for the premium times.
  • Betalist and Startuplist are so full of startups that yours will easily be drowned out as there are few alternative websites (and pretty much the same startups are on both)
  • we estimate that from Betalist you can expect to get about 150 beta testers on average. Nice, but is it enough?
  • Killerstartups is great if you have the cash to pay for the quick review ($167) – otherwise they claim to take three to six months to review you, and even then you may not be featured very prominently on the website. Chances are that by then your startup has surpassed needing to find beta testers or, heavens forbid, imploded.

What else can I do?

The next resource that Gooding recommends is Quora. Quora has positive and negative attributes as a beta tester resource as well. Your best chances of getting people to click on your website is if you have a community built up based on showing your past expertise in a certain niche. The problem here is if you have not spent time on Quora, nor have you contributed the article-style responses that gain so much respect in the community. Unless you dedicate enough time per day building up a reputation, you are unlikely to gain many testers from this source. The same applies to Hacker News.

The best resources Gooding gives for the newbie on the scene with no cash to spare are tips 6, 7 and 8. These are:

And now for my 2 cents…

Whilst Gooding’s list is a great start, there are a few other free resources out there that you can tap into.

At the startup stage, you are looking for the right beta testers (aka: your early adopters, your audience, your future evangelists) – especially if you are also focussing on feedback-driven iterations (FYI: you should always be). Here’s an article that shows a cost-free way of finding the “right” people. The same principles can be applied to finding beta testers.

1) Use Google+ communities/Facebook groups/LinkedIn groups

beta-testers

I’ll expand on G+ as an example, but the same principles apply to all the platforms mentioned.

Step 1:

Go through the list of communities using keywords related to your product (for us it was “productivity” and “collaboration”) and join those that have more than 50 members (this was a number we set for ourselves – you may want to opt for a higher/lower number depending on what your company offers)

Step 2:

After an introduce-yourself post in these communities, and some commenting around on what was there,

Step 3:

Post a carefully-worded non-advertisement sounding request for the members to help you by giving feedback. We appealed in a genuine fashion to their interests in productivity tools and our need simply for their opinion. The first attempt went well. The second time we tried it we got booted out of a few groups because we got all “advertise-y” in the tone. Lesson learned!

beta-testers

It’s very important not to sound like a promotion. It helps if you have built a following already, but there are tactics a new person can also use as long as you don’t piss everyone in the community off. Be humble, open and honest – stress that you are asking for help, nothing more – and that they seem like the right folks to help you.

Here are some examples of beta groups on Facebook and Google+

2) Get infographics published

Step 1: content

Make the most out of your knowledge. If you have made slideshare presentations, there should be enough info to create some killer infographics. Here’s a guide on how to map out the content you need for a killer infographic.

Step 2: call to action

Make sure your call to action (BETA TESTERS WANTED!) and links are visibly included at the end of the infographic.

Step 3: design

Also, prettiness helps a lot if you’re gonna beat a similar infographic. If you are no designer, this might be a job for, 99designs, Odesk, Elance or Fiverr. Alternatively, pay $14 a year for Piktochart, and create your own infographics easily.

Step 4: publish

If you don’t want to publish it on your home blog, SocialMediaToday (or a similar site) is a good option. It has a big following plus an internal community that can promote your content (don’t worry – it’s also about biz dev, strategy, marketing etc. as well – not just social media). Sign up for an account, and submit content and infographics. You have to pass their standards (if they haven’t picked up your post in 48 hours consider it rejected). Once you do, however, you know that a) hey, it must be decent and b) you have a base of people who will promote it. I recommend Social Media Today because of past experiences with contacting blog owners or popular online publications. It can take a very long time. On this website at least you know in two days whether your content is acceptable or not, plus there is a community of avid marketers and bloggers ready to spread your great content.

Neil Patel of Quicksprout wrote a fantastic guide to making your infographic go viral, and also a list of directories where you can submit them to increase their visibility (beware – some now charge money for submission).

Twitter, Flickr and Pinterest are your best buddies if you post the infographic on your home blog. They require researching the right hashtags and a cracking one-liner to get clicks and RTs/RPs. Choose trending hashtags for a wide and active audience, but accurate hashtags (max. 2-3) are the best. Always check that there is substantial activity on a hashtag before adding it, because otherwise you are just wasting your time.

3) Hunt for the unhappy ones, and get them on board

What better testers than those unhappy with your competitors? Offer them a chance to influence and build your product. How? Take out your list of competitors and start with Twitter. Try combining “sucks” with the company name, eg. #AT&T:

beta-testers

Read through the posts and curate a list of people unhappy with your competitors. Reach out to them. The next step is to use search engines to find bloggers, journalists and forums where your competitors are getting bashed. Reach out to these people as well.

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*hint – Yammer is one of our competitors ;)

Careful now! This blogger ALSO has a competing company, which we only found out after we looked him up.

4) Blog comments

Step 1:

Set up a Disqus account, a gravatar account and a standardised bio with links to your company. In the bio, you can specify that you are looking for beta testers. Your avatar should be consistent across the web so readers easily recognise you. Also make sure that your bios on Facebook, Google + and Twitter have calls to beta test your product.

Step 2:

Draw a list of the top 20 blogs that come up on Google blog search/Technorati results for a specific expression that your personas would be looking for, eg. “online collaboration tool”.

Step 3:

Spend an hour a day on blog comments on these blogs you have identified. It’s a great chance to a) read up on relevant industry content and b) get seen. Don’t lie about what you’re there for. Here’s an example from us on The Next Web.

The message structure should be:

1. Say something nice about the article

2. State a story or user case of the problem you are solving. This can be your own story.

3. Problem with existing solutions

4. How your solution solves this pain

5. Kindly ask people to come check you out

You can also use this time to build up a Quora reputation if you think that’s more relevant to your industry, but I personally like to cast a broader net.

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Remember…

There are precious few short-cuts to free stuff, even including how to find beta testers for free. This list is as cost-effective as I could make it, but it will ultimately rely on your knowledge and industry savvy to make the maximum impact. Plus a whole bunch of researching and writing time!

If you need a guide on how to get started with beta testing, apply for a free beta testing plan from Centrecode here, and either use the results as a guide or employ them to execute it.