When Satjot Sawhney and Ankit Ranka decided to write a blog showing the redesigned iOS7 apps for companies like Twitter, WordPress, Venmo, and Pandora, they had no idea it would go viral. But that’s exactly what happened: they posted the article on Hacker News and it took off. TechCrunch, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, and The Next Web wrote about it.
“Last month we had 80,000 unique visits on the site, and in the last two days alone we’ve had over 100,000 unique visits,” Sawhney says. He can’t wipe the grin off his face.
Sawhney and Ranka co-founded TapFame, a portfolio making site for mobile developers that has a community of 11,000 people on it. TapFame has only been around for a year, with four full-time staff running off the fumes of an angel round.
Sawhney emailed TapFame’s community to get “before” and “after” shots of the app redesigns everyone was working on for their respective companies. “The idea was to help our developers see what the transition from iOS6 to iOS7 looked like, since they’re all going to be updating their apps.” Sawhney says.
But when the post went viral, it became an excellent branding opportunity for the company, which could help legitimize it in the eyes of both the developer and institutional investor community. “One of the investors we’ve been talking to told us, ‘Think about it. No one owns news around mobile,'” Sawhney says. “If you have this community of mobile developers, than you’re in an excellent position to own it.”
TapFame is experiencing the thrills of a successful content campaign, the trend of which has crept into marketing more and more in the last few years. Companies produce non-advertising content like blog posts and videos to brand themselves and gain their audience’s trust. For example, Whole Foods sponsors a blog with recipes. Among cynical millennials who hate ads, content marketing is more likely to be shared socially.
It’s a trend that both larger corporations and smaller companies are cottoning on to, and it’s creeping into the Silicon Valley ecosystem. VCs are betting on content marketing companies, and startups like Contently launch with the sole purpose of matching corporations with content creators.
And of course, startups can make a name for themselves by producing their own content too. Birchbox has been particularly commended for running a blog with fashion, fitness, and beauty stories, and Buffer runs a blog about productivity that it credits with helping it nab 100,000 users.
Up till now, the founders of TapFame has spent hardly any time and no money managing their content marketing, but with their runaway post success that’s about to change. They had been debating internally whether to spend money on a full-time content creator. “We had been talking to a marketing person for three months,” Sawhney says. “So we made an offer to her yesterday…seeing the money and the branding value it’s obvious that this is so important.”