How We Built An Audience Of 3.7M Fans In Under A Year

It’s not quite a year to the day, but it’s pretty close all thing considered. We launched our video site Nothing Cooler on April 18th 2015 with little to no fanfare.

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There was no opulent launch party, no media coverage, no celebrity endorsement. We just flicked the switch and there we were floating around in void of the internet hoping someone would find us.

Find us they did.

In 346 days over 3,700,000+ people have tuned in. Watching an astounding 61,000 hours of continuous video in the process.

That’s not bad for a site with a marketing budget of $0.

So how did we do it? Pure luck? Did we dabble in the dark arts?

Today I wanted to share with you some insights on how we achieved such a result plus lessons that you can apply to gain traction with your own site or startup.

1. Focus On Being Different

When we created our pop culture hub So Bad So Good (the big brother of Nothing Cooler), we always had a specific vision and feel for the site. We wanted to bring stories to people that were interesting, that left you feeling amused, shocked or inspired. Stories you felt compelled to share with friends.

But we were always very clear that we never wanted to become a trash tabloid-esque site. You know the ones, where you have to scroll through endless galleries and where the site is littered with misleading headlines, low res images, terrible ads and a poor user experience.

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Yet in between those two extremes, one of providing quality content and the other of flooding your screen with throwaway GIFs of Kim Kardashian — we always thought there was a comfortable middle ground.

Content that was quick and enjoyable, but didn’t lower your IQ whilst you were watching it. Stories and interviews that were risqué and fun, rather than sensationalist and underwhelming.

That was the inspiration behind Nothing Cooler — we wanted to bring people videos they could watch on their daily commute, help pass the time at lunch or enjoy on the couch at home.

We had a pretty simple concept to go along with it too. This was and still is our original vision:

Every day we hand-pick 9 kick-ass videos from around the web, designed to amuse, amaze and surprise you. That way, you can spend more time being entertained and less time being disappointed.

It’s really that simple.

No gimmicks, no filler — just awesome videos you’ll love watching and enjoy sharing.

Welcome to your daily dose of awesome.

We saw a gap in the space, we had a simple scalable premise and we launched quickly.

What makes your service / site unique? What problem is it solving? What advatanges do you offer over your nearest rival?

2. Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Design

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In our case there are literally thousands of content curation sites out there. What made Nothing Cooler so different? Our initial branding was a huge part of it.

We opted for a pretty bold colour scheme, it might not suit everyone but it is distinctive. We chose the fluro green because nobody else was doing it and because it reminded us of the old MS-DOS days long before computers morphed into smart phones.

Our tag line ‘Everything else sucks’ might seem confrontational, but it deliberately ties back into the name ‘Nothing Cooler’.

Combined they form the ideology that “We know what’s good, we’re the purveyors of cool and everyone else looks to us to define what’s worth your time”.

It’s certainly brattish and arrogant, but at least you know what you’re getting. Admittedly, there’s little room for misinterpretation when you call yourself ‘Nothing Cooler’ and say ‘Everything else sucks’!

When it comes to branding online, you can’t solely rely on the content you feature — you need an aesthetic. From the logo, to your domain name, to the layout, to the font you use — it all has an impact.

Most of the brands in your bathroom use blue because its considered fresh, hygienic, clean and sterile (imagine if your toothpaste was brown!). It’s why fast food chains use red to inspire energy, movement and desire.

It’s why soft greens and warm yellows are used to promote health and vitality. Apple constantly use white in their adverts to envoke a sense of minimalism and sophistication.

Pay attention to colour contrast when creating your design.

Whatever creative you choose, it needs to reflect the values of your brand and appeal to your target audience. Your design needs to tap into specific emotions for it to resonate and become memorable to people.

If I went to your site right now and I had no idea what your business was — would I be able to clearly state who its aimed at and catering to?

3. The Essentials You Need To Build An Audience

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There was literally millions of blogs and articles that claim to show you how to gain traction. But how many of them have achieved it themselves with any type of tangible success?

Not many I’ll wager.

Getting people to use your service or visit your site can be achieved in an infinite number of ways. If I were to list them all, we’d both be here for a very very…very long time.

Instead, I’m going to keep it simple and because I’m assuming you don’t have a team of hundreds of staff you can dedicate to acquiring new users.

  • Make your site responsive — we all hate navigating around a site that hasn’t been optimised or designed for mobile.
  • Tap into and exploit the social network your audience is likely to use. Be a consistent presence there but don’t spread yourself too thin across multiple networks. Post consistently. If you wouldn’t share it, why are you posting it?
  • Messaging apps have now surpass social networks. Make sure you include share buttons for these on your mobile site.
  • Enable comments on your site to increase engagement and build a relationship with your audience.
  • Offer incentives for them to subscribe to your e-mail list. Once you have their e-mail, set up a series of notifications that encourage them to perform specific tasks or recommend actions for them. This might be to download your app, submit a story, give you feedback etc
  • Form partnerships through social with brands that are complimentary to your own or with companies in your industry. This can be RT’s, FB swaps, newsletter mentions or branded content.
  • Use Google Analytics to drill down into the demographics, location and technology of your visitors. If they don’t match your target audience, you may need to adjust the timing, style or tone of your content.
  • Look at specific pages with a high bounce rate. What is causing your customers / audience to leave? See what changes you can make to entice them to view more pages / make a purchase / take a specific action. This might mean adjusting the layout of the page or even the navigation.

4. Helpful Resources

5. Ask Away

If you’re one of those awesome people who has visited / shared Nothing Cooler I’d like to say a HUGE thank you for your support.

You’ve played a key role in the success of the site so far and I hope that in a small way we’ve been able to introduce you to some amazing content creators along the way.

If you have any questions, need some advice or just want to know more — I’m always here and happy to help.

You can also find me via Twitter | LinkedIn | Personal Site

Former founder of sobadsogood.com & nothingcooler.com. Proponent of fountain pens. Slightly obsessed with my pugs.

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