An Important User Acquisition Lesson From My Many Hours on YouTube

Those who know me know that outside of software, music is a great passion of mine. But not just any music. More specifically, music from up and coming unsigned artists on YouTube. What excites me about artists at this stage is you see them acoustic and raw, often just a guitar or piano and their own vocals. By following them over time, you also watch them grow in confidence and mature over surprisingly short periods of time. Many of them go on to sign deals with record labels, put on national and international tours, and much more. One of the greatest disruptions YouTube enabled was making it possible for individuals with talent to showcase it online, gain an audience, and become successful without the traditional talent scout approach.

But there is an even more interesting trend that has emerged on YouTube in the last couple of years - that of the collaboration. It’s become popular for up and coming artists on YouTube to collaborate with other such artists on a single recording. The recordings always ends up being richer with the combination of two different artist interpretations. But equally important is the cross-pollination of audiences across both artists. Existing fans of one artist are exposed to the other artist and vice versa, significantly growing the fan base for both. It’s a win-win-win user acquisition strategy for each artist as well as their fans. I know I’ve discovered many new artists in this exact way.

As I saw this phenomenon grow in popularity on YouTube, I thought about how to apply the same successful model to the software world. And in fact we adopted it as a core tenant in our user acquisition strategy for Connected.

Our first such collaboration was with Evernote. We started to receive a lot of requests from users to add note-taking functionality to our mobile experience. As we were strapped for resources and focused on the web experience, we decided to instead integrate with Evernote as opposed to building the functionality ourselves. We developed an integration where users could leverage Evernote’s suite of mobile, desktop, and web applications to take notes on their contacts and the note would automatically be associated with the appropriate contact within Connected. It was a great value for Connected users since it got them an even better experience than we would have been able to deliver ourselves. But more importantly, through out listing in the Evernote Trunk app store, we gained significant exposure to Evernote’s audience and saw an influx of users directly from the integration. Similarly, users of Connected now became aware of Evernote as a new integration option and often tried it out even if they weren’t using it before. This cross-pollination of similarly-minded users worked so well, we decided to repeat the strategy across many more integrations.

The next set of integrations we did were with Email Service Providers like AWeber, MailChimp, and Constant Contact. Our integration with each of these services enabled users to learn more about their email marketing list subscribers right within Connected. We also gained exposure to each of these email service provider's customers which closely mirrored our own. And many of our users started to leverage these products since they integrated deeply within Connected.

Given our success with this model, I encourage others to leverage the collaboration as a strategy for user acquisition for your own startup. While more costly to implement compared to running ads or other forms of user acquisition, it creates a win-win-win for all parties when done just right.
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