We haven’t posted anything for the past 6 months, and there’s a reason for that. This post shares what has been keeping Milkie Way busy.
While the idea was great, and we had put in good amount of work to make it work, we neither had enough time, nor enough resources to promote it and support the users that we may have gotten. We decided to shut down the external (public) portal of Maia, and continue to use it internally.
After launching in December last year, we started reaching out to users, sharing Announce. As we discovered, marketing a product, is a much bigger challenge than making the product itself.
We tried different approaches, of improving Announce’s discovery:
1. Sharing it friends and our networks
We shared the app on our social media, networks, reaching out to people and sharing the product on different channels / groups and so on. The general consensus was that people loved the product, but they would only use if there were more users (yes of course the, chicken and egg).
2. What if there was News in local areas?
Biggest feedback we got from online communities was that no matter which part of the world they go, there was just no data there. Announce showed up as empty everywhere.
To solve for this we thought what if we had “Local News” integration on Announce?
We experimented with scraping news and adding it to different parts of the world on Announce map. It would be similar to how Google News works, except hyper local. When users would open the app, they would see news in the panned map, and can navigate to the original site from the details page.
Local News on Announce
The strategy behind this change was that:
- the product was no longer “empty”. You could go to most populous cities, navigate and see the different features in the app.
- as there was more content, Search engines could index Announce details pages, and more users could discover Announce from Search queries.
But adding local news meant building a scraper, cleaning up the news that we got, dynamically adding it to our database, and having Google index each of the news titles. It was a very difficult task (explaining why would require another post!), but we did it. Since copying articles as is would be wrong, we used AI to summarize the article in few lines, and linked the post to the actual users.
As expected, it led to huge number of users coming to Announce from organic search (we had over a million pages indexed on Google!).
Thanks to Announce, I am now an expert in SEO
This gave us a lot of data about the usage, on which we could make informed decisions. But, it also meant a lot of necessary changes on the product. In an earlier version of Announce Google Map loaded on the details pages of the app by default, which led to substantial increase in our Map serving costs.
We eventually overcame these issues, along with some other UI upgrades to the app, based on user behavior.
On an average, we got about 100K users on the platform a month with the local news integration.
The issue here was that while many users came to the app, they didn’t really understand what Announce was about, and many of them left instantly. Yes we expected this, but as it was a way for discovery, we thought at least some of them would play around with the app. This was actually very useful data, as we understood it didn’t help.
3. TikTok and Youtube!
We also started working on discovery through popular content platforms like TikTok, and also made some really nice Youtube videos. We didn’t do justice to the nicely made videos as we never advertized them enough.
Video took several weeks to make. Only if we had budget to run it as an Ad!
How the world could have made Announcements in 2021
The content creation and distribution on TikTok did take off, and we started getting more users from TikTok itself. We got tens of thousands of views, over 4K likes in just 1 month.
There were several technical issues, for example: most of the users who tried to open the app within TikTok’s webview, couldn’t sign in with SSO because Google (and even Apple?) don’t let users sign in the webview of another app, which does make sense.
But the biggest issue was that the users on that platform had little incentive to try the app, vs. scrolling away to the next binge worthy TikTok. Either that, or most users didn’t really feel the need for the product. I don’t agree with the latter, because all the personal interactions led me to believe that there still is a big need about discovering what’s happening where.
Similar story to that of Announce in regards to creating content that we hoped would go viral.
If only (wishful thinking) Doordash or Amazon would integrate with Point Address, it would be the most successful address system ever.
I realized that it was a game of putting energy and resources into advertizing and marketing. What made me think so?
Because another company made a similar product spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on YT Ads and paid media, and got some good traction.
Original Goals for the summer of ‘21
Starting April, our plan was to double down on marketing for Point and Announce. We could spend the next several months promoting the products, and growing the user base, raising capital and hiring a team to both build the product and more importantly grow it.
It was at this point I had an epiphany that led us onto a different journey.
Viral + URL = YRL
By April, I had consistently been thinking, and researching about marketing for several months, and how we can partner with more Creators. While hiring Content Creators for Announce, I met dozens of Creators from different social media platforms who really were great content creators.
My first thought was, how can I hire all of them? It wasn’t possible so we ended up partnering with one of the awesomest creators. This continued to a deeper study of marketing, what makes things viral, the different marketing solutions in the market including Influencer, Affiliate and Advertising marketing platforms in the market.
As the world is consuming more and more content from individuals, the new world marketing is moving to partnering with Creators. But I found no technology to make these connections at scale.
There are influencer and affiliate marketing platforms, but none of them do what Adwords + Adsense have achieved : make connections at scale.
These thoughts lead us on the path of building and launching a Marketing platform, which we call YRL, and I be sharing more about in the next post.