"I made about 37 infographics that generated almost a million views."
Though he may not realize it, Vip Sitaraman is a genius of content creation, as he rattles off the statistics of his most recent exploit. At just age 18, Sitaraman has graduated from the University of Arizona, traveled the world, and raised a round of funding for his multi-faceted digital media/marketing startup, GMTRY Inc. (pronounced 'geometry').
Considering GMTRY's high-profile clientele--ranging from Tilt and P. Diddy to Nobel Laureates and American Scientist Magazine--it's clear that they have figured out the keys to digital marketing. Sitaraman started off our interview with an equally outrageous second claim, "You can increase your sales by 20% for $0, today." Here's what he shared:
Provide value, then sell.
More broadly, that's just the philosophy behind inbound marketing--but infographics are (still) the best. The idea is to attract potential customers with content: blogs, giveaways, lead magnets--bring them in, rather than going out to find them. Then, get their email, retarget them, and turn a click into a lead into a sale into revenue.
Brian Halligan of HubSpot coined the term back in 2005. Yet at this point it's alarming how many companies--even large ones--have such weak content marketing strategies. Of course, outbound marketing in the short-term is more appealing because it readily sources leads. But scaling outbound is difficult, and if achieved, linear. Meanwhile, inbound marketing takes patience and domain expertise, but is far less time-consuming, scalable, automated and drives exponential returns.
Moreover, inbound marketing is better built around the evolving concept of intention economies. While your product may be static, your content can tailor your messaging via content to target several different customer segments with several different intents.
Infographics are the best tool in content marketing. That belief is why Vip chose to specialize his design team in making infographics. Their team members' skillsets range from UI/UX design to full-stack development.
Vip finds repeatedly that infographics have the highest ROI when trying to build viral content marketing strategies for their clients. Studies say infographics receive over 94% more social engagement; their clients report numbers as high as 5 - 10X (1000%) increases. Moreover, infographics are more cost effective than any other content except copywriting. So, to condense that:
The good: Infographics are fast, cheap, shareable, SEO-driving content marketing tools.
The bad: Very few people know how to create good infographics that capitalize on these traits.
That's why they launched Explica labs: to create viral content and growth strategies that build SEO backlinks while sharing valuable information to attract potential customers.
Why does Vip prefer being called a growth hacker?
Here's the simple difference between a traditional marketer and a growth hacker: A marketer will tell you that one-step opt-ins are less time-consuming and thus better. A growth hacker will tell you Bounce Exchange conducted a study with TOMS proving that two-step opt-ins beat their counterparts by at least 20%. Growth hackers shun assumption and hunger for data.
In that sense, as a growth hacker, I can validate the quality of my work pretty clearly with numbers: cost per acquisition (CPA), conversions, bounce rate, etc. At my core, I'm still a scientist--my degree is in Molecular & Cellular Biology--and growth hacking is built off rigorous A/B experiments and multi-variate testing. I've seen the color of a button change conversion rates by 60%.
What's the future? Video? VR?
Still infographics. Going back to the fundamentals of growth hacking, I did some pretty simple customer/user discovery with Snapchat's "Discover" feature. I had a small, definitely statistically-insignificant group of young (18 - 24) users scroll through Discover and observed their behavior. The result: ~90% bounce rates on videos before they ended; 40% longer spent on reading content with large pictures and small text blocks.
The conclusion: people have less patience for a video. The average attention span fell by 8 seconds in the last two decades; media players responded by adding 1.25, 1.5, and 2x play speeds. Virtual reality and 360 video, on the other hand, are trendy but ahead of their times in terms of hardware - I see them as the Macromedia Flash of this decade: too feature-rich.
Obviously, there is a niche for video and VR content that an infographic cannot fill. But, in a recent conversation, I asked Neil Patel, "what is the best way of communicating complex information?" And without pause, he declared, "infographics."
Let the data speak: studies have shown people are 80% more willing to read visuals over text, learn 85% more, and are 43% more likely to be persuaded. It was seeing these statistics, as well as running my own aforementioned trials with infographics, that convinced me that this was the way to go: both for marketing and media.