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40 Comments

This Acquisition Channel is Likely to Explode in 2021

Short-form videos may be the biggest acquisition channel opportunity of 2021. Allow me to explain why.

Short Video Will Be A Major Content Format on ALL Platforms in 2021

What's the one thing Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, and Google have in common? Over the past four months, they all launched their own Instagram story-like feature as part of their main product:

In addition, these platforms are actively working towards giving short video more exposure. (More on this below.)

Short Video Will Get More Exposure in 2021

On December 29th, Google announced they're about to make short-form videos more discoverable in their search app.

Now I know what your thinking: can ads run on stories? On December 10th, LinkedIn introduced a beta version of LinkedIn Stories Ads. On the same day, Google announced the launch of Web Stories Ads.

Expect Twitter to follow soon. These social networks are actively pushing short-form content so more of their users can see & engage with it.

Want more posts like this one every week? Subscribe to my User Acquisition Channels series:

What This Means For You

If you're familiar with the law of shitty clickthroughs, you'll know that each acquisition channel/strategy declines over time. Facebook Ads costs get higher year-over-year. SEO gets harder and harder as time passes, and so on.

There is one thing you can do about this: Keep an eye on new channels, so you can be the first to reap the benefits in case that channel takes off. This is what happened to Austin, the co-founder of Morning Brew.

Recently, the co-founder of Morning Brew (a newsletter with 3 million subscribers, making $20 million in revenue in 2020) has made a Twitter thread on which channels were most important to their early growth. One of the keys to their growth, it turns out, was being the first one to make use of a new short-form acquisition channel (IG stories):

img1

The results changed their growth trajectory forever:

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The takeaway? Test new acquisition channels. It may be the key to unlocking your growth as well:

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Will YouTube/Pinterest/Google/LinkedIn/Twitter stories do the same thing for you as IG stories did for MorningBrew? Will they change your growth trajectory forever? Comment below.

  1. 3

    Wasn't aware that Google/LinkedIn/Twitter etc. all released a story feature over the past 3 months. Wow.

  2. 2

    This is slightly a tangent, but this movement toward the "story" format also represents a major shift away from the horizontal, standard YouTube format that everyone was trained to use. It used to be that you should film horizontal and then crop/edit to fit the portrait format, but I wonder if it's time to flip that process and go portrait-first?

  3. 2

    10 cents per subscriber? That's crazy. It's pretty much impossible for us to get to that cost nowadays with IG ads. Hopefully things will be different with Google/Twitter story ads.

    1. 1

      Agree. That # is pretty crazy.

      1. 2

        They send traffic to the squeegy page. You can't escape it without leaving your email address.

        1. 2

          You always have the X button ;)

  4. 2

    Wow, 6 platforms with major changes in 4 months? Everyone is trying to get stories right. If they work for them, you'll be definitely right.

    1. 1

      Yeah, these guys are trying to get stories right. This is just the beginning IMO.

    2. 1

      I just hope Reddit won't make a fail with Stories as they did with live streams.

      1. 2

        Agreed. I’m a long-time Reddit users and the live stream have been a distraction to me. Say I’m reading about business and then a live stream with some random dude playing a guitar pops up. Totally irrelevant and annoying.

  5. 1

    Interesting post and case study. There are definitely first-mover advantages in new social app and formats. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that people will be fed up of short videos.

    Vine fizzled on the short video format... TikTok is succeeding because of their FYP algorithm and also because of the sheer manpower and a capital they have behind them. With the pandemic and boredom from lockdowns, TikTok benefited. Some people are likely addicted to it too.

    All other social media channels are simply copying short video formats to keep users engaged so that more ads can be served, and they will also become more noisier and annoying to visit because of their lack of focus and feature creep.

    Also, some people already realize the mental impact short videos have on their attention spans and dopamine levels, so they avoid these altogether.

    While short videos will be a good channel to explore/test for user acquisition, I personally think diversifying your channels will yield better overall reach because no two audiences are alike.

  6. 1

    Awesome stuff! And good news for me :)

    1. 2

      Are you working on a SaaS in this space?

  7. 1

    Working on a tool to develop react apps using google stories. If there's anyone who wants to help me with the development: Here's the npm package https://www.npmjs.com/package/react-google-stories

    1. 2

      Nice. Weekly downloads: 101. Where are those coming from? Are you actively promoting this npm?

      1. 2

        Thank you! No, just noticed there wasn't any package addressing my issue and I used the most SEO friendly package name I could come up with. I think you also get some visibility when you upload new packages. If you have any react project and want to use it I can help with the setup

  8. 1

    Could you please share the example of Morning's Brew IG story ad?

    1. 1

      Can you try to get in touch with this guy on Twitter? This ad was probably from 3 years ago, back when IG story ads were announced (2017). If he can share the exact ad, that would be awesome.

      1. 1

        Three years ago? Wow, he published that tweet only now?
        Very sneaky.

        These types of tricks can work only when new platform emerges and it has lots of users to start with. MB was first to try it and based on the low auction competition, they could snag $0.10 per user sign up.

        1. 1

          Yeah, that's the point of this article. These Google/YouTube/LinkedIn/Twitter story features were released just 2-3 months ago.

  9. 1

    Hey @zerotousers!

    You did great research. Thank you!

    I see the same trend here. Many brands want to transform their content into one that is easier to consume. To speak with users in their language.

    That's why I'm building now b2b service - https://productstories.pro/
    We help eCommerce brands transform their products to Web Stories format to improve the first contact with users.

    Keep up the great work. It's always fun to read your research.

    1. 1

      This is really interesting, Alex. Have you tried AMP story ads on your products as well? What are the results so far? I think you'll have a lot of interesting case studies to share in the future.

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        To be honest, we don't have this data yet. But, soon we will integrate programmatic ads into stories and I hope will get some interesting insights.

        I also plan to start publishing some interesting cases related to Web Stories.
        So, see you soon 🙂

  10. 1

    This is great. Thanks! Subscribed.

  11. 1

    Amazing! What do you think is after short form video?

    1. 2

      Don't have enough data to make an accurate prediction unfortunately.

      1. 1

        Shorter video? 1 second videos for everyone!

        lol

  12. 1

    Great tip if you already got some money rolling in to spend on paid ads. Like MorningBrew you should always have a nice ad cushion in case things go really really well.

    1. 1

      If you live in a developed country, you can allow to spend 100 or so to test story ads.

  13. 1

    Great insights Darko! It's by keeping our finger on the pulse like this that indiehackers stand a chance against the big buys. Your work is super helpful.

    1. 1

      ps: you got a link wrong, the link to On the same day, Google, too, announced the launch of Web Stories Ads. -> links to reddit post

      1. 1

        Thanks for pointing that out! Will change it ASAP.

  14. 1

    Love this post <3 Keep up the good work.

  15. 1

    Amazing read, thanks Darko.

    1. 1

      Glad you found it helpful.

  16. 0

    Great insight Darko!
    This will make a boom for the micro-coaching industry and a lot of charlatans will start trying it out, but still interesting development of events.

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