Don’t you wish you were one of those big businesses, with millions of dollars in their annual marketing budget? They can execute creative campaigns that you and I can only think of. Their teams are huge with an incredible assortment of talented people.
On the other hand, there are fledgling startups. They generally consist of a group of passionate hustlers hungry to make an impact. Generally, they have a few thousand dollars of marketing budget, if that. But, they are ruthless and like to take action.
But, the cards are obviously stacked towards large businesses…
Or are they?
Let me tell you a little something:
Social media doesn’t care about a business’ marketing budget.
It consists of users that regularly await interesting and amusing stories. As soon as a user sees a post with a story that’s relevant and that awes him – he puts the effort to share the story.
So, even small businesses manage to go viral on social media and put their brand in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
That’s why social media is a fertile marketing channel for an average Joe, like you and me. In the past, businesses have built an audience on social media by sharing entertaining, high-quality and useful content.
The best part is that social media moves at an insane speed. Unlike SEO, you don’t need to wait for a long period to see results. Even one viral success can be the growth trigger that your startup is after.
In this post, I want to show you 4 social media-based growth hacking strategies. I’ll also share case studies of startups that have executed them. Let’s start with the first growth hack.
1. The viral YouTube video sensation
10 years ago, the internet wasn’t the centerpiece of our lives. Consumers mainly got exposed to new products through TV commercials, radio jingles, ads in print publications and the like.
It was a challenge for small businesses (especially, those starting out) to afford hundreds of thousands of dollars that they needed to produce and run commercials.
So, small businesses missed out. Indeed, Entrepreneur.com points out that 79% of marketers were unaware of the term web 2.0, in 2006. Little did small businesses know that a new era of internet advertising was going to be handed to them.
Download the cheat sheet of action steps you can learn from these 4 famous social media growth hacks.
A few smart business folks realized the importance of the growing digital platforms. Maybe they read the November, 2006 MarketingExperiments.com report, stating that viral video marketing campaigns increase click-through rates by 750%.
One of them was Dr. Bob Wagstaff. After inventing the Orabrush tongue cleaner, he decided to create a TV infomercial to sell the product.
It set him back $40k.
The number of orders generated?
A measly 100.
But, Bob didn’t quit. On the recommendation of a local student, Jeffrey Harmon, he decided to advertise Orabrush on YouTube and listed the product online.
The first quirky video titled “Bad Breath Test – How to Tell When Your Breath Stinks” was produced with a $500 budget. Watch the hilarious commercial below.
The video went viral (it currently stands at 27 million+ views). Orabrush kept experimenting with videos and growing their YouTube channel.
And, in a year, a million dollars worth of Orabrushs were sold. In 2011, Orabrush struck a deal with Walmart to get their product distributed across 7000 stores.
A major factor that worked for Orabrush was that they were one of the first few businesses that banked on YouTube advertising. As per their own estimates, Orabrush bought about 90% of YouTube’s inventory. It was hard to miss their videos.
For startups that took to YouTube later, the competition has increased. Still, with entertaining, useful and quirky content, you can stand out and build customers quickly.
It’s likely that you’ve come across Dollar Shave Club (DSC) – they were recently acquired, for 1 billion dollars, by Unilever.
Do you know how they started selling their razor subscription service?
Through a hilarious video that attracted great attention and went viral.
Within 48 hours of debuting their video on YouTube, 48k people had signed up for their service.
My second example is a company that helps you get more out at every washroom visit (literally). Meet Squatty Potty.
The business had a weird product used for an activity that people don’t like to talk about. But, Squatty Potty had health benefits. So, they decided to spread awareness for the product, by releasing an out-of-the-box video on YouTube and Facebook.
With over a million Facebook shares and 65 million views, Squatty Potty raised their sales by 600%. Sure you might feel slightly grossed out after watching the video, but their innovative marketing efforts paid off.
Which brings me to another startup that hilariously addressed the tabooed subject of menstruation. Hello Flo launched a tampon subscription service and had multiple viral hits that generated over 10 million viewers.
Data on the improvement of their product sales isn’t available. But, Hello Flo managed to create an ad with edgy humor and a funny story that’s relatable for its audience. It was a brilliant attempt to clear the taboo around the discussion of periods.
I am sure many viewers would have bought and recommended the Hello Flo subscription service.
In my last example, I want to introduce you to Chris Stoikos. He has built two viral businesses. In his first business, he built The CoolBox and raised $250k through an Indiegogo campaign. He kicked off the promotion of the product with a couple of Facebook Ads.
Chris went on to launch his second company, Dollar Beard Club. The name suggests that it’s a rip-off of DSC. Indeed, Chris spoofed the viral DSC video and developed his own unique brand narrative.
2. Impress gatekeepers with your products
Kurt Lewin is generally regarded as the father of social psychology. In 1943, he instituted an important theory that shows how information gets broadcasted after filtering. It’s called the gatekeepers theory.
The theory was meant to determine the dissemination of information in the mass communication world. The gatekeepers decide the information that you’ll read and when you’ll read it.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created a similar model that demonstrates how creative work is transmitted. If you want, you can read the detailed explanation of domain, field and person in this article by Jeff Goins. Essentially, it defines if a work is authoritative and worthy.
In the internet-driven information world, the authority to guard information isn’t limited to traditional gatekeepers.
Then, why did I introduce you to these theories?
Because, in essence, a few people continue to rule every field on social media. They can help you put your work in front of thousands and even millions. I am talking about influencers.
A great example of a brand that leveraged this kind of marketing is GNC. They leveraged influencers in various micro niches to grow their Facebook page, adding 383k fans and 60k Twitter followers.
Social platforms, like Snapchat and Instagram, are also ripe for recruiting influencers. You should also consider people beyond your niche. People with a huge following can be models, celebrities or any social media influencers.
You can read my personal Instagram influencer marketing study, where I generating over $330k in 3 months here. Let me share a few more examples.
UWheels is a great example of a brand that reached $1.2 million in sales through social media. Their main method of selling was getting models and celebrities to post about their product.
The result was almost $5 million in revenue, the next year. Mind you, they didn’t need outside capital and used only their 21 employees to achieve this feat. The company founder, Arvin Lal, shared that they grow their gross revenue by 15-20%, month-over-month.
Shredz shares a few athletes that they work with on their website.
Mr. Lal sums up the tremendous opportunity on social media, for all kinds of businesses, in these words:
Social media is the driving engine; in the back-end, we are actually a marketing company. We just happen to enjoy fitness and see it as a market where you can make good revenue and help people.
The last example that I want to share with you is of email marketing company Convert Kit. From losing money, Nathan has taken the company to $318,000 in revenue, at 51% profitability.
Want to know how Nathan built the company from the ground up?
He did a lot of direct sales.
Here’s an example email that he sent bloggers who were using other email marketing services.
Indeed, most of his outreach emails weren’t cold, since he had a lot of connections in the industry. He convinced very successful bloggers, like Pat Flynn, Leo Babauta and Bryan Harris to use his product.
Bryan, Pat and other influential bloggers continue to do webinars with ConvertKit and recommend it to their followers.
Pat Flynn has made over $10k in affiliate income through ConvertKit, every month since April. So, imagine the revenue that he alone has driven for ConvertKit!
3. Gamification with social media share buttons
80% of American houses have a video game device. Even adults love games. So, gamification is a no-brainer growth hack.
A famous startup that successfully pulled off the technique was Dropbox. They made it easy for users to share Dropbox with their friends. They even offered incentives, like a free 500 MB, to encourage referrals. This helped Dropbox increase their sign ups by 600%.
At their launch, they created scarcity, by throwing a huge invite-only event and even kept their service invite-only. Other people were offered a place on a waiting list.
To give a flavor of the product, Dropbox released a demo video. Within 24 hours, the video got over 10k Diggs and blew their waiting list up, from 5,000 to 75,000.
Next, Dropbox offered free space to people for connecting/following them on Facebook and Twitter.
Similarly, Groupon also offered incentives to users who referred their friends.
If you want to get started with gamifying your content, then refer to the techniques that I share in this Quick Sprout article.
4. Tease with interactive and engaging content
Still, you know secrecy and mystery attracts people.
Meet one of the world’s hottest startups:
They are building an augmented and virtual reality system. But, it’s under wraps and they haven’t announced a launch date.
So, why are they getting covered by the media? And, how have they built over 36k followers on Twitter and over 66k fans on Facebook?
Because mysticism gels well with social media.
Plus, they share engaging and interactive content on social media.
Haven’t I already mentioned that building an audience, before launching your business, is a great marketing strategy?
Build your tribe by posting engaging content on social media.
Understand your audience. Be unique. Share engaging and high-quality content. Build relationships with influencers. Incentivize sharing. Create anticipation. Rinse and repeat.
That’s how I would sum up the four techniques that I’ve shared in this article. I Hope that the examples and case studies got your creative juices flowing.
Now, I want to hear your social media based growth hacking stories. Would you mind sharing them with me in the comments below?