Safe Ways to Test Your Marketing Ideas
As a communicator, you need a place to test your ideas. You need your own lab to run your mad scientist experiments. This is different than writing and delivering fully formed ideas into the wild. In this case, I'm talking about when you want to try some sort of ingenious (hopefully!) connection using IFTTT, or some other form of API connection. Or when you want to try a new tracking software. Or a new method of measuring engagement.
For me, whenever I propose a new method of either communicating or a way of measuring communication to clients, I need to have tried that methodology myself. It's helpful in informing my pitch, of course, but I want to know the details. I'm hungry for that knowledge myself, so I want to be on the front lines of testing to see what happens.
The last thing I want to do is find out in real time on a client's project or on a high-level internal project that something didn't live up to my expectations. That's simply a recipe for disaster.
How Can You Affordably Establish Your Own Testing Grounds?
Although this, of course, depends on your preferred communication formats, you'll want to look for opportunities to have "throwaway" accounts or personal accounts where you try out tests without frustrating your audience.
If the test relates to social media, I feel plenty comfortable running these tests on my own personal accounts after first posting a "warning" message that I'll be conducting some experiments.
Running some tests on Twitter / IFTTT. Bear with me. #fb
— Michael W. Roberts (@michaelwroberts) December 8, 2014
The funny thing is that I've even had some great conversations around some tests, due to the types of material that I share.
— Brew Sleuth (@BrewSleuth) November 21, 2014
Although, I have had some mixed results with my tests (they are tests, after all), so don't run these experiments on your profile if you're easily embarrassed.
One week I tried a tool that was supposed to thank my "top Twitter followers" each week, and I think I only had one retweet that entire week -- and that one was from a personal friend here in New Orleans. So, on Friday, this social media setting fires off a tweet thanking my friend for being my top follower for the retweet. Later on, we see each other, and he's like, "You really wanted people to know that the only engagement you got this week was one retweet? That's pretty sad."
We laughed it off, and I never used that social media feature again.
Good Testing Grounds
Where should you go to set up some laboratories?
For a Wordpress website, there are literally tons of options. I've tried out a few of them, and I'm currently using Site5. I've been pleased with their service, and they made it simple to transfer my sites from GoDaddy. Transferring Wordpress sites can be a real pain, and Site5 made it simple. That's a win in my book.
But, even if you don't have a website, a service like Site5 will help you get your site up and running with some predefined services rather than you having to dig into all of the difficult settings.
If you're looking to create a more professional-looking site out of the gate, and you don't want to play with code, then Squarespace may be a good option for you. My only drawback with this system is that it leaves me less control when it comes to playing with various settings of a website. That said, they have a beautiful platform on the administrative side and on the viewer side.
I always have a few test accounts on Twitter to be able to test functionality issues. Just be respectful of other folks on Twitter. Don't go spamming people in a test. No one likes to be on the receiving end of those experiments.
Since I use social media more from a professional standpoint, I'm more likely to test out Facebook pages than individual accounts -- especially since Facebook wants to tie a user account to a real person.
Google and YouTube went through a bit of a mess where they required everyone to have a Google+ account in order to do anything in the Google and YouTube family of products. It frustrated quite a few people, but the process is beginning to smooth itself out now. A YouTube channel can allow you to try out the tons of features that YouTube provides its content creators.
Google+ (for the sake of Hangouts)
Google+ is at a rocky spot, but Hangouts have been a genuinely cool addition to the online world. They're worth a peak if you
Pinterest / Tumblr / Instagram
Each of these image-based platforms has its own selling points, and you should know which platform best suits your sharing methods. I dabble in these arenas but feel no need to keep up an ongoing presence as a power-user. I mostly have them so that I can answer client questions about the platforms.
What about You?
Where else do you set up tests?