2008 was an interesting year.
- Real estate bubble popped.
- One of my dog’s anal abscess gland popped.
- My 5 digit revenue per day internet marketing business popped.
- My sanity popped.
Imagine going from being on top of the of the world to becoming the scum of business society.
Yes, I know. Net worth isn’t self worth, but trust me, if you say that, you’ve never failed.
But before my fumes really ran out, I had an idea for a pet business.
Since I loved dogs and I still naively believed in that myth “build it and they will come”… and “do what you love”. (*rolling eyes*)
Instead of a boring pet tag, I would let dog owners upload a picture of their dogs and create driver’s license looking tag, like this
We’d print them out as physical tags and sell them for $15 bucks a pop.
It’s a huge market (50+m homes have dogs and/or cats) and who doesn’t love cute custom stuff for their pet?
Plus, no one in silicon valley (where I was at the time) was doing anything in real life.. so I’ll be going against the grain and make some real bucks.
I started PawshPal (like “posh” for pets.. hence “Pawsh”) as a custom pet accessories site.
Here’s what I learned:
- Zazzle, CafePress, and Walmart can do it 10x faster and 70% cheaper.
- Dealing with manufacturing people is like putting on your make up with an ice pick. Any wrong move = financial pit.
- Dog owners didn’t want this believe it or not (I am still shocked).
- Investing in real hardware (like custom print machines) is costly to buy and to maintain
- Shipping & handling sucks
- Returns suck on custom products suck even more
So after couple of tens of thousands of dollar of loss in marketing, advertising, and some initial R&D / hardware costs, I called it quits.
But I didn’t give up. I thought I would compete with those funny pet meme sites like ICanHasCheezeBurger sites where people upload images and put funny quotes, since I already had all the code for doing the image uploading, manipulating, tagging, etc.
Of course, when I changed it, it didn’t go crazy viral overnight.. I had to market it just like the most of us.
At the time, Facebook’s page & advertising thing was still very nascent.
So I jumped ALL over it.
For under couple of hundred bucks in content, Facebook ads, and lots of digital “hustling”, I managed to get the PawshPal Facebook fanpage from 0 to over 33k.
Here are some interesting things I learned:
1) When you post matters
You don’t have to be a marketing GURU to know that you should speak when people can & want to hear from you, right?
But believe it or not, most people don’t listen to their common sense gut instinct.
Figure out WHO they are.. and WHERE they are.
For example, (at the time I had about 10k fans) most of my fans are women between 25-45 who live in large cities on the coasts.
In another words, if I post at 9 AM EST.. only the east coast people will hear me while my status update gets pushed down for the west coast people by the time they check their Facebook.
So the best “bang” for the buck, so to speak, is around 10:30 AM PST because that’s when
- west coast people are done checking emails and is getting busy on facebook
- east coast people (1:30 PM PST) are coming back from lunch and check FB again
2) What you post matters
Post stuff about what your page is about, right?
On PawshPal fanpage, for example, it would make no sense for me to post about a political candidate’s message in an upcoming election.
You can always “spin” your content.
Now, what if the political candidate had a message about some political policy that supports animal rights or something along the line?
But in general, stick to why your fans “liked” you in the first place.
Here’s another reason.. as fanpage owners, people will try and persuade your opinions.
I came across this organization called “Humane Watch”, whose marketing message claims that the Human Society (the charity organization for animals) is basically ripping people off.
Of course, as a pet lover and a fan page owner, I wanted to tell the world about this. So I did.
And it BACKFIRED… it turned out that this Humane Watch is part of a for-profit lobby organization paid to attack organizations,
Of course, when I found out from a PawshPal fan about this.. i felt so stupid.
I had to delete the post and apologize to all the fans.
Be careful what you say. You have a greater influence than you think.
3) Emotion = Virality
When I posted about a very insanely messed up news story about a dog named Patrick that was found in a garbage compactor, it got people RILED up.
I mean, my server went down every 90 seconds.. people were emailing ME hatred emails (shit people.. i just wrote about it, don’t kill the messenger!)… people were linking like crazy… and of course, that drove the fan base even MORE AND MORE.
In pet community, the animal rights and animal abuse issues are quite sensitive.
Find out what gets YOUR community engaged and write more about that.
(BTW.. that dog Patrick is fine now. He looks like this after full recovery.)
4) Contests are insanely effective
Pet owners ALWAYS think that their ugly mutt is the cutest (yes, including me).
So I created a PawshMate monthly content where people can submit a picture of their dog and win virtual trophies
How effective was it?
The email subscriber shot up 30-60% every time I ran the contest.
Funny thing though… you’d think that suburban middle aged women don’t necessarily have the technical savvy to really “game” contests, but there was a lady with some nasty looking mutts that blew out the competition 20:1 every time she entered.
Yes, you are going to have people who game the system and some people are gonna be pissed, but hell, let them.
They’re gonna do all the marketing work for you.
5) Running ads to FB fanpage is NOW useless – Digital Sharecropping
(First of all… you might be thinking .. “What? Run facebook ads to drive traffic to itself?” Well, yeah…. it definitely helps with awareness.)
When Facebook ads were still a virgin territory, it was cheap and getting 1-2 cent clicks were super easy.
Now that the big brand advertisers moved in, those cheap clicks and cheaper fan likes have dried up.
But that’s not why I say the FB fanpage ads are useless.
Now, Facebook’s “algorithm” for what makes your fanpage relevant has changed.. and downright “mafia”.
You can have 30k fans, but depending on who you are (i.e. big brand), your “share” of that 30k isn’t even anywhere nearly as close as where it should be.
Why? Because you’re not “relevant”.
I can understand from Facebook’s perspective.. people who have tons of “likes” would get insane amounts of messaging and people would get overwhelmed… if they’re overwhelmed, they won’t come back and Facebook loses people to advertise to.
But from the perspective of a fan page owner who invests time AND money to drive up its fan count, this is an outrage.
On top of that, if you want your status to be seen by more of your fans, you can now.. well.. PAY.
I understand Facebook has shareholders and has to make money, but … call me crazy, but this is racketeering.
Do you have a fan page?
What have you learned that’s effective for your business? Leave your thoughts in the comment box
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