An Experiment in Social Promotion

April 5, 2007

For those that don’t know, I’m one of the founding members of an icon design firm called the Iconfactory. We’ve been designing icons, interfaces and other neat stuff for over a decade. Some of our clients include companies such as Microsoft, AOL, Oracle, and Apple Computer. Since the start of the Iconfactory in 1996, we’ve been giving away freeware icons and occasionally pieces of software, widgets and other stuff to the Mac community, in part to keep people visiting, but also as a creative outlet to balance the more restrictive client work we do from day to day.

One recent piece of freeware has been a little application that many people have come to know and love called Twitterrific. This helpful app lets you easily post and read “tweets” to the popular Twitter social network. Twitterrific started out as recreational programming for our lead engineer, Craig Hockenberry. Craig created it so all of us at the factory could Twitter without having to use the web interface. The software has been incredibly popular and we couldn’t be more pleased with its adoption rate and the wonderful comments we’ve received about it. There’s only one problem… we don’t make a dime from it.

Being a small company (fewer than 10 employees), the Iconfactory needs to constantly try and leverage the time and effort we put into our projects to help keep the company healthy. So Craig and I came up with an idea to try and play off Twitterrific’s popularity by giving away free copies of our other paid software to the first people who could answer some trivia questions via Twitter. We gave away 20 pieces of software, raised awareness of Frenzic & iPulse, and made history via Twitter’s first online contest.

While the promotion itself was a success, some Twitter users were concerned that the contest basically amounted to spam and several people actually “de-friended” Twitterrific over the brief course of the give-a-way. Although we tried to keep the promotion as “light” as possible, I can see their point of view and it gave us cause to think about better ways to handle similar promotions in the future. One way would be to separate general Iconfactory promotions from that of Twitterrific. Craig set up a new Twitter account today that we’ll use if we ever decide to do this again. Users who are then interested in winning free software can decide to “opt in” to the contest without having to worry about promotional messages coming down the Twitterrific pipe.

Today was an experiment, and one that we learned a great deal from. We take our responsibility as Mac developers very seriously and do not intend to abuse it. To all of those who enjoyed the contest, thanks for making it as fun for us as it was for you, we had a blast! To all of those with lingering concerns over “tweet spam”, rest assured we heard your tweets the loudest of all.


2 Responses to “An Experiment in Social Promotion”

  1. victor Says:

    Next time you run a contest, please try to space it out in time. I missed on it for being on the wrong time zone :(

  2. Ged Says:

    VIctor, sorry you missed the contest, perhaps you’ll catch the next one if and when it happens. No matter what time of the day we have it, someone will always be in the wrong time zone I’m afraid.

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