Welcome to my first Podcast Junkie Review!
As a self-proclaimed “podcast junkie” who listens to at least one podcast episode a day, I have decided to capture some of the best business and marketing takeaways that I learn. Without further ado, let’s jump into my first post.
Have you listened to NPR’s new podcast How I Built This?
Here is the description:
Listen as Guy Raz interviews successful innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world’s best known companies and brands. If you’ve ever built something from nothing, something you really care about — or even just dream about it — check out How I Built This.
Each episode is full of tips that provide inspiration for all small businesses. I usually replay the episodes a couple of times just to make sure I captured all the ideas I had running through my head.
I really enjoyed the episode How Luck And Intuition Helped To Build Instagram which interviews the founders of (you guessed it) Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. In this episode they candidly talk about all the lessons they learned creating and launching Instagram, an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service.
And of course, I’m sure you heard that in 2012 Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, making it Facebook’s biggest acquisition at that time. So when it comes to starting and running a successful startup, I think these guys might have a few things to share.
I have captured a few of my biggest business and marketing takeaways below. At the end of this post, I embedded the episode so you can listen and receive your own inspiration and takeaways. Enjoy!
1. Start At What’s Trending
In the beginning, well not the very beginning…
After graduating Stanford University, Kevin Systrom worked at a travel startup during the day and at night taught himself how to code. During this time the big trend in social media was the “check-in” app.
Burbn was different from most other check-in apps because it allowed you to take and share photos after you checked-in.
2. Learn One Dance Move, The Pivot
Unfortunately after Burbn launched the downloads seemed to plateau and not move past 100 users. Kevin and Mike felt they needed a pivot on their product development strategy. They didn’t give up, nor did they keep throwing money, resources and time at Burbn trying to make it work.
They simply decided to pivot.
So, how does a business pivot exactly? Glad you asked.
Kevin answered that question with a quote from Eric Ries of The Lean Startup:
“Don’t ask why people don’t use your product or service; instead ask why the people
who continue to use your product or service, keep using it.”
They rolled up their sleeves and made calls to the 100 users of Burbn to ask “why, exactly, did they keep using Burbn.”
The reason? They loved the ability to easily take and share photos at places they checked in at.
3. Don’t Skip Your
Breakfast Market Research
The pivot was made and photo-sharing was the new product strategy.
First they had to analyze the current market and understand the user expectation and competition. Just like doctors tell you not to skip breakfast, never skip your market research.
It’s the first thing you must do and it’s critical to all product launches.
Here is what they found with the market research:
- This photo app had to be different. None of the photo apps on the market were good at socially sharing photos. At the same time, taking photos with a smartphone was on the rise because it was so darn convenient. But sharing them to Facebook, or Twitter was cumbersome and when a user shared a photo to these social sites, it looked all wonky. So here is the competitive advantage they needed to target and develop.
- Easy-to-use and understand. Simplicity is what makes or breaks a product, especially a product on a digital platform. A beginner had to easily and quickly understand how this app worked or they would never use it.
- Share the moments. Most other photo sites at the time, were “locked-down” and required the photographer to invite others via email to view uploaded photos. Kevin and Mike wanted an open-source “follow” that would allow anyone to see a user’s uploaded photo and they wanted it easy to share on other social networks — like Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Define and focus on the target audience. They didn’t want to appeal to only professional photographers. Nor did they want to be in the business of printing photos. They also didn’t just want to be a photo storage album which could eventually compete with Facebook (which would be too big of a competitor).
4. Connect The Dots
They tweaked and refined the product and launched a beta version of Instagram for testing.
Kevin was discussing with his then girlfriend, now wife, about the new app and the shift from check-in to photo-sharing. She was excited but commented about how she probably wouldn’t use it since she felt like she didn’t take very good photos. At least not as good as one of their mutual friends. Kevin replied back to say that one of the reasons their friend’s photos were so good was because he used photo filters.
At that moment Kevin realized they had to build in filters on this app. He called Mike and they both got to work on revising the app to include filters.
“They wanted all people to feel like their photos were worthy of sharing. The addition of the filters made that possible.”
Here was how it worked:
- Once you take a picture and apply a filter (or not), the photo is shared into your Instagram feed, very similar to Facebook’s feed
- Friends on the site can “like” or comment on your picture
- You can also share these photos to other social networks, with a slide of a button — revolutionary
- The posted photo is uploaded super fast! They knew how users were annoyed by slow connections so they built proprietary code to make it upload very quickly to the feed
In a nutshell, they made one steller app and used their market research to position themselves very differently than just another “smartphone photo app.”
Was it Luck?
To hear how Instagram was shaped by feedback from 100 people and one girlfriend could make you toss this story aside and assume “they were just lucky” (hence, the name of the episode), but I would challenge you on that.
This episode showed me that a good product or service starts by:
- Knowing what the current culture trends are in your industry
- Always being open-minded
- Having a positive mindset
- Listening to your current customers, no matter little of them you may have
- Using market research as the basis of a good product
In addition to the above, here is a summary of my business takeaways from this episode:
- Put your (business) finger on the pulse of what’s trending in your industry and launch
- Be aware and know if it’s time to pivot
- Have a good mindset and don’t throw your initial idea away, instead pivot
- Never forget: “Don’t ask why people don’t use your product or service; instead ask why the people who continue to use your product or service, keep using it”
- Eat your breakfast and do your market research
- Stay open-minded
- Use market research to position your product uniquely
Questions To Ask Yourself:
- What are some current trends that are happening within your industry or niche?
- What could you do to make your product or service more unique?
- What are some solutions that you could provide that would enhance your product or service?
- Are you currently asking your clients or customers why they continue to use your product or service, so you know what you are doing right?
If you have about 30 minutes, I highly recommend listening to this episode because there are so many more things I could have covered.
Do you have a product that’s not performing as well as you hoped? Do you need help with your product marketing strategy? I have a product launch consultation package that may work for you. Let’s chat and see what a partnership could look like.