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Do you feel safe downloading a program from the Internet? Do you give more thought to visiting a web site or installing a piece of software? It’s questions like these that create challenges for web applications. If you’re offering a software download, you’re already operating at a disadvantage in the mind of the consumer — whether it’s conscious or not.

It’s an act of trust when a consumer downloads and installs your product. You’ve been invited into their life. That invitation is a powerful opportunity to connect with that user over a potentially long period of time. Don’t blow it. Here are some of the things we do and have learned to encourage adoption of our interactive browser themes.

1. Full Frontal Disclosure

In the connected world, it doesn’t pay to try to hide information. You will be found out. Just ask John Edwards. That’s why we put our disclosures upfront and prior to install. We include a default search engine with our product. Even though users can change it any time they like, we tell them up front that it’s coming.

It’s the proper protocol for software distribution on the web. Your user can then make an informed decision about everything they are receiving. It won’t protect you from negative comments, there are always dissenters. At least you’ve been open and can avoid greater negative fallout.

2. If You Love It, Let It Go

The best move we made was to change our product and allow consumers to switch between any theme they want. In the web 1.0 world, you got your hooks into the consumer and you didn’t let go. That doesn’t cut it anymore. Your fans are going to go wherever they want, whenever they want. If you’re doing right by them, they’ll be back.

Our themes help create return visits to our client site, and it’s powerful. Having messaging capability in the browser means you can reach them whenever they’re online. So, making it easy for your fans to change the theme and step away from a client’s experience can be a hard thing for clients to favor. It’s shown to be the right thing.

Our sports teams have a steady core of users that stay with the theme throughout the year. There’s also a large number that return each pre-season or join as the season rolls along. Recognizing your fans may have other interests and welcoming them back each season makes for a much stronger relationship. Giving the ability to switch between themes means you keep a foot in the door instead of creating a complete uninstall scenario.

3. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

We all wish we could remove the barriers to entry. We try to minimize them by making the call to action clearly visible to the user, reduce clutter on the page, sell the sizzle and so on. Showing the graphics included in our themes is a big boost for us.

With Firefox at roughly 25% of the browser market, offering a Firefox-only theme would generally be perceived as a huge barrier to entry. Fortunately, the visual strength of our product and the affinity to the brands we work with has greatly reduced this obstacle. We’ve had clients double their Firefox penetration – outpacing Firefox’s own overall market share. We’ve also had clients get 30% of their total audience using their custom theme. Quite astounding numbers.

4. You Don’t Have to Shout

Our browser themes are an affinity marketing tool. We build them to help brands connect to their fans. And let’s face it, brands and the companies behind them are out to make money. If you’re sending stuff out into the market, it’s eventually got to make you some money or you’re out of luck.

As much as our product offers new sponsor and ad inventory, and there’s a persistent communication channel available to them, I think it’s great that the product owners tread lightly in this area. This is not the place for the hard sell. To coin the phrase of social media, this is for joining the conversation – you’ve got to be a part of the dialogue. Ongoing, timely and useful information will make the long-term connection where the marketing appeals are accepted. We’ve seen this respect around communication rewarded with an average of 10% click through to commerce offers from within our themes.

5. We Interrupt This Program

As mentioned above, timely and useful information is vital. The power of putting a message up front and visible to the user has resulted in phenomenal return visits to our partner sites. Most sites have feeds that are great tools to reach your fans when they’re not on your site. The question is “Are you offering enticing news?”

There are two items to consider. One, a killer headline gets attention. The Huffington Post is a master at this. You can also look to leaders in your industry to find out how they write to engage their readers. Two, inside information is a powerful way to build a relationship. Relationships get tighter when you share personal information about yourself. This can apply to businesses as well. You can get a good feel of this if you look at how Toyota mishandled their PR crisis. Take a page from the Tylenol scare years ago – open and immediate information sharing goes a long way to shoring up your consumer’s trust.

These are some of the things that are working for us, and why. What would you add to the list?

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