(from the latest issue of the Indie Hackers newsletter)
Channing here. On the subject of breaking up Big Tech, 2020 has been the year of big talk and little action from the US government. That changed yesterday.
The Federal Trade Commission and basically every US state filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Facebook.
The juiciest piece of evidence against the tech giant? Probably this internal email from Mark Zuckerberg:
It's a combination of… [neutralizing a potential competitor] and… [integrating acquired products into Facebook]. The basic plan would be to buy these companies and leave their products running while over time incorporating the social dynamics they've invented into our core products. One thing that may make [neutralizing a potential competitor] more reasonable here is that there are network effects around social products and a finite number of different social mechanics to invent. Once someone wins at a specific mechanic, it's difficult for others to supplant them without doing something different.
After a large tree falls in the rainforest, smaller trees get a spike in growth from all the new sunlight. And right now, despite Facebook's acquisition-based network effects, plenty of small social media trees are nipping at their heels. So what'll happen to the landscape if the FTC cuts off a couple of Facebook's biggest branches?
On to the newsletter. Here's what you'll find in this issue:
Do you want to make Twitter Ads work for you? Have you thought about running ads on Reddit but didn't know it's if it's worth it? Is OnlyFans just a joke or a viable acquisition channel? Have you heard about Facebook News (a competitor to Google News) and the potential it has to bring you new traffic?
These are the topics I'll explore in this acquisition channel opportunities report below.
How? They made frequency caps possible for the platform.
A "frequency cap" controls the number of times your ad is shown to a specific user. For example, you could now configure Twitter to show your ad only once to 1000 users. You couldn't do that previously.
What this means for you: Potentially lower costs for running Twitter ads. If you've tried Twitter ads in the past and found them to be expensive, re-consider running again.
(By revealing the number of daily users: 52 million.)
This is the first official statistic to ever come directly from Reddit. They weren't hiding the reason for revealing this number:
We’re focused on daily usership and increasing this number as we continue to grow our community and scale our advertising business.
Their ad revenue has also increased (which means more and more advertisers are having success there):
The company’s ad revenue totaled more than $100 million in 2019 and is on track to rise by more than 70% this year
What this means for you: Keep an eye on Reddit Ads. These guys just announced they're getting more advertiser-friendly, which means they should probably release new advertiser-friendly features in the near future.
This gives news providers a major new traffic source.
Facebook announced it will expand its dedicated "News" tab to the UK in January:
As you can see, this is a pretty visible tab (located next to the home page). This gives news publishers another traffic channel for their articles.
What this means for you: If part of what you do is providing news, then take a look at what Facebook asks for in order to be added to this tab (look for the paragraphs starting with the sentence "How do we identify these publishers?").
What are the lessons we can learn here?
Peter Yang published this analysis with a pretty interesting graph. He also published another interesting stat showing that many OnlyFans creators make the most money from paid messages (and not actual subscription)
What this means for you: We may be getting to a point where people are more likely to pay for one-to-one interaction, rather than by yet-another-guy/gal who "subscribed" to something.
💰 Earnest Capital, which brands itself as "funding for bootstrappers," invested in Mailbrew, an automated newsletter digest. Speaking of which…
🐦 The Mailbrew team just launched a free new tool that makes it easier to post on Twitter. See what indie hackers are saying about it.
👀 Chrome extension developers are in for a change: Google's going to start limiting how these apps collect user data.
🤖 An indie hacker invites you to try out his AI-powered copywriting app to celebrate his launch on Product Hunt.
📱 Mobile app creators have benefited from a 25% rise in consumer spending this year.
Usama Ejaz was so confident his business idea would be a success, he quit his day job and put his education on hold to pursue it. And not only that — he also convinced his friends and co-founders to do the same thing:
We, the founders, are also all students. We've delayed some of our education to work on SocialBu. We risked our education, let go of our jobs, and fought anything that came in our way... Failure would be an unrecoverable and a critical blow.
To make matters worse, he had no funding, no users, and no experience making an app.
We started at zero, we even had to learn a lot of things to be able to start, and are still working to reach our destination. Things looked very blurry and confusing at the beginning.
But somehow, he overcame all these challenges. His social media management tool SocialBu now has 5,000 users and brings in $4,000 in MRR.
The first leg of the journey? Going from zero to one.
One of the hardest problems to solve in business is finding your first users. It costs money, time, etc., and if you don't have product-market fit, even the users you do manage to find will slip through the cracks.
In fact, this precise concern over product-market fit convinced Usama to forgo launching on Product Hunt, the most popular product-listing site. He just didn't want to waste such a big launch opportunity on an unvalidated product.
So here's what he did instead:
The initial version was launched on BetaList [which is smaller than Product Hunt]... I kept collecting the feedback and got a few users along the way... We zeroed in on online communities like Indie Hackers, startup and business related subreddits, and some Facebook groups... We also used Quora, where we answered questions relating to our area.
In other words, he worked his way up, tweaking and improving the product along the way.
This was no small feat. In addition to the above, there were cold emails, reaching out to influencers, and early experiments with SEO. Pretty much all of which doesn't scale. Usama and his co-founders had to claw their way along to get traction… without ever accepting a penny of funding.
And now? Usama and his team are on the lookout for their first office:
We are profitable at the moment (even if it is very low profit) but the future looks bright and better. I believe we are going to make good progress in the coming year.
Problem is, most of that progress happened before COVID-19:
We were almost going smooth and then COVID happened and it disturbed our productivity. It took a lot of time to adjust.
Read the full interview for more on how SocialBu is bouncing back.
Social media marketing in a line (from Matthew Kobach):
Find the overlap between what your brand wants to say and what your audience wants to hear
Go here for more more short, sweet, practical marketing tips.
Self-confidence, being positive, and trusting the process. I started noticing that the people I admire had mastered those skills ahead of time. It took me a long time to get this insight.
I have a long history of anxiety and depression, so taking care of myself and working on personal development was hard for me. I had big ambitions, big plans, but I always sabotaged myself before even getting started. Everything changed when I finally decided to get professional help. I am a totally different person now. I still have some "down" moments but they've become less frequent and shorter.
And I found that diet plays a big role in how I feel and how productive I am during the day. I want to share my experience. I want to support people who are in the process of changing to a plant-based diet. Because the decisions we make as individuals play a huge role in the change we want to see in the world. And it's always good to have some support when you're trying something different.
In the end, the majority of people who aren't doing what they want just don't believe in themselves. I didn't either for a long time. But now I do, and I'm proud to say I just hit 40 email subscribers. That feels like a great start.
Don't underestimate the value of working on yourself first.
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Special thanks to Darko G., Pete Codes, Halden Ingwersen, Harry Dry, James Fleischmann for contributing to this issue.