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Hacking your way to initial traction - how we got around 20,000 hits on our campaign for free

Akhilesh Lahoti
30th May 2016
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For most young startups, initial traction not only defines and validates their product, but also builds a strong foundation over which their startup can grow. It is evident that any investor (be it angel or institutional) looks for this initial traction before they even consider taking out their wallets. However, for young startups this is the stage that demands an out-of-box thinking to hustle their way up. We, at SocialE, tried multiple ways to gain initial traction and finally got over 20,000 votes on one of our campaign, organically. Here’s how we did it.

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Image : Shutterstock

SocialE is a social polling platform where you can can ask anything and get opinions from people in real time. Before the launch, we were confident that an idea and product like ours would go viral from Day 1. I mean, who wouldn’t use it? It can help you take right decisions after all. Turns out, the world was not really waiting for us to launch our product. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we understood that our potential users didn’t yet know about us and so it wasn't their fault. We just need to 'be more visible' market our product. We started off with all must-do marketing strategies in today’s social media-dominated world, but that could only lead us to a handfull of people. The equation is pretty simple over any social network - “Pay more money - get more engagement”. For a bootstrapped startup, this is just not the way to get traction.

We realised we had to defy convention in some way and come up with something that can boost our reach. We started creating campaigns on general topics (IPL, marriage, Game of Thrones etc.) and got decent engagement over social media. Our typical campaign included 10 polls associated with the topic, where users can vote and see the results straightaway. It got around 2,500 votes in total, but that was still not enough.

Reaching out to specific audience is expensive on Facebook and we wanted organic growth. Digging deeper, we realised that Facebook groups are a good way to reach targeted audience and pretty much every college has a Facebook group. Moreover, it was evident that the more personalised a campaign is, the better the chances are of people participating in it or sharing it further. So, we ran a college-specific campaign, which became an immediate hit, with around 20,000 votes received in total (over 10,000 in one day), 200 likes on Facebook post and over 100 shares. Here are the top five reasons why it was a hit:

  1. The Title of the post for the campaign for IIT Bombay was '10 things you can only understand if you have been to IIT Bombay!' The title was appealing enough to get attention of just the right audience for us. It connected to the IIT-B audience on a more personal level, telling them that this post is specially for them.
  2. The Post Image is the first thing that catches the attention. We had to be sure that it represents something that IIT-B people could easily relate to. A quick Google search for 'IIT Bombay campus' gave us plenty of wonderful images of the beautiful campus to choose from.
  3. Landing Question, which is what the first poll user would see after clicking on the link. We had to make sure it should be appealing enough for the audience to trigger curiosity to give their opinion and see what other students are thinking. Here’s what we chose (see screenshot).
  4. Reaching Target Audience was easy for us as we posted the campaign on a couple of IIT Bombay Facebook groups. That was sufficient to seed initial engagement and the post was shared multiple times, which triggered further engagement.
  5. Timing is one of the most crucial factors to decide success of any social media post. We knew that the timing had to be good enough to ensure most of the target audience get an impression of the campaign. To our luck, it was just about time the end-term examinations got over in IIT Bombay. We posted the link on the evening of the final exam for the semester.

The whole setup took us less than one hour to execute and the results were overwhelming. Following that, we have run campaigns for over 15 colleges so far. As with every startup, no one can tell you how to get the initial traction but yourself. The best way is to experiment, learn, repeat! And the beauty of this process is you eventually find a way that works, along with 100 ways that don’t.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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Authors
Akhilesh Lahoti
Akhilesh Lahoti is the Co-founder and CEO of SocialE - a Social Polling Platform. After graduating from IIT Bombay, he worked in the Oil & Gas Industry for over five years. To follow his entrepreneurial dreams, he quit his full-time job in Scotland, UK, and moved back to India last year.

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