Just like a rocket launch, a product launch takes a lot of planning and preparation.

But it doesn’t have to feel as complicated as rocket science.

Whether you’re launching new software or a physical product, a successful launch isn’t about luck. It’s about planning.

And our seven-step product launch checklist has you covered.

We’ll help you lay the groundwork for a smooth product launch using the power of social media to inform every step.

Your seven-step product launch checklist:

  1. Define your audience
  2. Position your product
  3. Set your launch goals
  4. Time your launch
  5. Prepare for customer support
  6. Schedule your content
  7. Analyze your product launch

Dive deeper below, then download our product launch checklist template to ensure you’re ready to say, “We have lift-off.”

1. Define your audience

Can you think of a time you were served an ad that had nothing to do with you? You’re not alone—nearly half of U.S. consumers in a recent Sprout survey had seen an ad for irrelevant products or services.

At best, this is worthy of a funny Tweet. At worst, it’s a waste of money and time.

You can’t target an audience with guesswork. And the best way we know how to research an audience is through social listening.

What is social listening?

Social listening is using social media to find honest, relevant conversations people are having about your business, products and competition.

Essentially, it’s being a fly on the digital wall.

Social listening goes deeper than sifting through your followers’ comments, casting a wider net to capture conversations that exist beyond your channels. This can give you actionable business insights by answering questions like:

  • What are your audience’s demographics? (Age, location, etc.)
  • What are their pain points?
  • Which of your competitors are they using?
  • What are they saying about you?

This process can be expedited by using a tool that can help you conduct more in-depth searches to find your ideal customers. Sprout Social’s Listening tool, for example, scours social media for comments and posts related to your product, market and competitors based on keywords you set.

Sprout listening query builder

Once you’ve done your audience research, use your learnings to create personas to guide the rest of your launch.

2. Position your product

When you think of Nike shoes, what words come to mind? Athletic? Sleek?

How about Converse? Maybe, nostalgia? Classic?

Both brands sell sneakers. But Nike and Converse shoes stand apart (no pun intended) in your mind thanks to product positioning.

Product positioning identifies where in the market your product fits and what makes it unique by answering questions like:

  • What are its features/what does it do?
  • Who does it benefit?
  • What pain points does it solve?
  • What differentiates you from your competition?

The best way to do this is with competitor and audience research.

Luckily, you already started audience research in step one of the product launch checklist. Now, it’s time to conduct deeper competitive research.

Who are your biggest competitors? What is your audience saying about them? What makes their product unique? What industry gaps could your soon-to-launch product fill?

Let’s see this in action. Your coffee shop is launching a new seasonal blend and you want to identify your biggest competitors and the sentiment around them. In Sprout’s Listening tool, a Competitive Listening Topic shows you everything from how people feel about your competition and keywords they use to talk about them, to audience demographics and more. 

A screenshot of Sprout Social's listening topic that shows how starbucks as a brand is performing on social media and in the market when compared against competitor performance.

Here’s an example of how this can lead to actionable insights: In the Messages tab of this topic, you can see Tweets mentioning the brands you’re analyzing.

A screenshot of the message tab inbox in Sprout’s social listening tool that shows a feed of tweets mentioning coffee brands and the audience sentiment of these tweets.

Tweets like the second and third feature customer feedback on other brands and their products that you can use to spark ideas for your product launch.

Once you know your target market’s pain points, identify industry gaps your product can fill and know more about your competitors, create a positioning statement that states who your product is for, how it fits their needs and how it differs from competitors.

3. Set your launch goals

Launching a product with no goals in mind is like driving without a destination—how will you know if you’ve arrived or if you need to reroute?

Setting goals and deciding which metrics you’ll use is key to knowing if you’ve succeeded, making real-time changes and improving future launches.

The goals you choose may vary from team to team. You can set sales goals that you can measure in your ecommerce platform, like Shopify, or website traffic goals that you monitor in Google Analytics.

If your goal is brand awareness, social media can provide a goldmine of data. There are dozens of social media KPIs available to you:

  • Impressions
  • Follower count
  • Engagement (especially shares)
  • Share of voice compared to competitors

All of these KPIs can be analyzed in presentation-ready reports in a tool like Sprout Social. And if you’re using Sprout, you can even create a tag to label every comment that comes in about your launch to pinpoint any increases in conversation and awareness around your product.

Pro tip: Make sure you set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Making $2,000 on the day of your launch ticks all of these boxes. Gaining 10,000 followers after your launch, however, may not be attainable.

4. Time your launch

Getting the timing right for announcing your product launch can mean the difference between making waves or ripples.

Consider your business hours and traffic patterns—do you want to launch in the middle of the week so the majority of questions coming your way happen during regular working hours?

You also want to make sure your announcement is shared when your audience is most active on social media—the more active the audience, the more likely they are to make a purchase or create buzz. You can determine this by looking at your most successful posts—do you see a pattern of posting times where engagement was higher?

Sprout’s Post Performance and Profile Performance reports speed up the process, helping you pinpoint timing and engagement trends to inform your launch strategy.

A screenshot of sprout social's post performance report showing three posts and data points showing how they performed

Two final factors to consider for timing:

  • Is your product seasonal?
  • If your peak times are outside of business hours, how will you coordinate customer care?

5. Prepare for customer support

An exciting new product launch can mean an influx of comments and questions that you need to be ready for—on social media, responsiveness is crucial. According to research conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Sprout Social, more than 75% of consumers expect a response in less than 24 hours when they reach out to a company on social media.

Here are some ways to set up your customer support for success on launch day and beyond.

Set up chatbots

When it comes to customer service, bots are your best friend.

Setting up a chatbot—or updating an existing one with info about your new product—can limit the questions you receive during launch and increase response time. They also keep responsiveness up outside of work hours.

Southern California Edison’s Twitter chatbot offers options for emergency and low-stakes immediate help during their off hours, in this case late on a Sunday.

Chatbots create real impact. Southern California Edison reported that in the first quarter of 2018, their Sprout bot interacted with over 1,500 customers, 17% of which were able to resolve their issues without human assistance.

If the idea of “building a robot” for your social platforms has you in a panic, don’t worry. Many chatbots are easy to set up, edit and customize.

Screenshot of Sprout's Bot Builder showing the wireframe and preview of the chat for building a customer support bot.

Sprout’s Bot Builder is so easy to use, you can get a Facebook and Twitter bot up and running in minutes.

Prepare FAQ answers

Having pre-written answers to FAQs you anticipate receiving about your new product speeds up response time and ensures consistency.

OREO recently dropped retro OREO Cakesters in partnership with “the last Blockbuster on Earth.” The announcement drew nostalgia-filled excitement, but also prompted the same question coming in from fans everywhere: when is this coming to my area?

In the rush of the announcement, OREO had a few consistent answers for those who were eager to acquire the resurrected snack, with flexibility to shorten or personalize.

Some social media management software even allows you to save go-to answers. In Sprout’s Smart Inbox on the Advanced plan, you can populate your media library with ready-to-use FAQ responses.

Make sure every channel is covered

It’s easy for questions to get lost in the rush. Especially when you’re balancing multiple social media channels on top of emails and phone calls.

If you haven’t invested in a tool that brings all of your social comments, questions, mentions, DMs and more into one master view, now might be the time.

Alt txt: A screenshot of sprout social's message inbox showing comments and questions directed at Sprout's fictional coffee company.

In Sprout’s Smart Inbox, you can see and respond to mentions of your brand, comments, DMs and posts you’re tagged in, and you can assign cases to co-workers—all in one place.

This helps establish centralized workflows and lets others know when items have been completed.

6. Schedule your content

The magic of social media is to make even pre-planned posts look spur of the moment. There’s nothing wrong with creating product launch posts on the fly or day-of using user generated content (UGC).

However, scheduling some of your content ahead of time can save you a lot of headache on launch day and beyond—here are a few reasons why.

Stay organized 

Your launch day is bound to be busy. Considering 34% of consumers use social to learn about products, services and brands, you don’t want to accidentally leave a channel out in the rush.

Scheduling your content ahead of time using social media software that allows you to publish posts not only keeps you organized on launch day—it can also double as an editorial calendar.

Take a look at the calendar view of scheduled posts in Sprout’s publishing tool. This can easily double as a content calendar where you can edit, save content and get a daily, weekly or monthly view of upcoming posts to avoid missing a day or spamming your audience.

A screenshot of Sprout’s publishing tool displaying a weekly calendar of posts scheduled across a user's social channels.

Post at your peak times

Relying on memory alone to post at specific times every day can be time-consuming and easy to forget.

Scheduling your content ahead of time allows you to schedule your posts when you know your audience is most active and gives you one less thing to worry about.

You may already know your peak times from the research you did in step four of our product launch checklist. But you can also do this with Sprout’s suggested Optimal Send Times, which calculate the best times to post on specific days based on engagement factors.

Remind your audience about your product

You don’t want to drop off the face of the digital Earth after your first announcement. Not everyone will buy your product the moment you launch it, and not everyone will see your launch post.

To capture these audiences, you want to continue posting after launch day ends.

For example, ethical shoe brand Nisolo recently launched a “nutrition label” showing how sustainably made each product is. They posted this on announcement day:

Several days later, they followed up with a video post.

And several days after that, they continued posting about this announcement on their Instagram story.

Scheduling your content ahead ensures you’re maintaining a healthy balance of posts about your exciting launch and staying discoverable.

7. Analyze your product launch

You made it through your product launch…now what?

Time to revisit and report on the goals you set in step three of our product launch checklist.

If you met or exceeded your goals, congratulations! If not, what can you improve on next time? How are people responding to your new product on social media?

You can also use your social listening knowledge to see how audience sentiment changed around your launch. Analyze comments, reviews and questions about the product to get the full picture. This can also help you find user-generated content and positive reviews to reshare on your social channels—a creative way to show how people are using (and loving) your product to gain trust with future customers.

Some user-generated photos, like the post below from Beautycounter, can function as a positive review, use case and user content all at once.

If you’re using Sprout, this is a great time to dig into the Analytics tools for presentation-ready social data that you can share with stakeholders to illustrate your launch performance. The reports you choose will reflect the goals you chose earlier.

Sprout’s Tag Report is a powerful tool that helps you visualize how much engagement and buzz your launch created. By tagging incoming comments and questions, you can gather insight into how your audience received your launch and track progress on everything from engagement to brand awareness and sentiment.

It’s all you

You’re ready to launch your product—cue a deep breath in, deep breath out.

Launching a product certainly isn’t easy. But if you do your homework and prep, you’re in a much better spot to launch with confidence. Don’t forget to download the product launch checklist template to guide you through the process.