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hugecity

How Hugecity got 1.25 million clicks without spending a dime.

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How Hugecity got 1.25 million clicks without spending a dime.

In past 3 months our Facebook posts were clicked on 1.25 million times without setting up a single promotion. We were able to target our audience for free by posting to Facebook event walls.

Facebook is a great way to get a message out to a lot of people, but the costs can add up quickly. With the right message you can get a lot more engagement by posting to Facebook event walls.

There are lots of benefits of posting to a Facebook event. First, it’s free. When you post to a Facebook event wall everyone who is attending that event gets a notification about your post. This way your message is not lost in the Newsfeed. You can target specific interests and locations. Unfortunately, Facebook events don’t have categories but simply reading the description you will learn the interests of the attendees.

You want to find an event on Facebook? It’s difficult! So we have made it easy for you. We have gathered all the events in your neighborhood, and in every city, and we have put these events on our map, www.hugecity.us.  Our map is as big or as small as you want it to be. It is the very best way to see all Facebook events by attendance and location. If you log in you can post directly to the event on Facebook.

Make sure your message is interesting to the event attendees. If it is not, someone can report your message or your account as spam. Experiment and find out what works best for you. A few reports won’t get you blocked. However, if your posts are reported enough over time Facebook will temporarily lock your account.

After verifying your account using a government issued ID you should be back up within two weeks. If you are using a fake account, Facebook could ask you to convert your account to a page.

Copying and pasting a message is easy but pace yourself.  If you submit too many posts too quickly Facebook will temporarily block your account from posting to events.

If you keep going you will get restricted from posting to events for two days. This can happen many times without your account getting temporarily blocked.

Hugecity’s Experience:

Like most first-time entrepreneurs we took the Field of Dreams approach, “If you build it, they will come.” We quickly learned that there is a ton of competition out there asking for your user’s time. Today, marketing needs as much focus and time as your product.

Goal: Make my target market aware of Hugecity

Available Budget: $3,000

Timeframe: 6 months

Target Audience: All event lovers on Facebook could use Hugecity. So it was natural for us to target Facebook events. We concentrated on rare and hard to find events. These events normally had little to no marketing budget. These public events were rarely known outside of the event manager’s circle of friends. If these attendees knew that there was something going on they would go out almost every day.  

Step 1: Bought Facebook ads (Cost per click $1.13)

Step 2: Market at local events and never bought swag again (Cost per click $2.50)

Step 3: Create a fake Facebook account and hire an intern to post in events (Cost per click $0.01)

Step 4: Automate Facebook event posting (Cost per click $0)

After we learned through A/B testing and trial and error, we were ready for automation. Apparently, people really like TOP 10 lists. So, we created a list of the TOP 10 Facebook events in every city and neighborhood every day.  Then we posted a link to the list to the walls of each of the TOP 10 events.

Even though we never asked for feedback but the messages and comments were amazing. We were showing people how creative and deep their event community really was. No newspaper or blog could ever have covered 12 million events all over the world. Our posts also reminded people about the event and helped undecided people buy a ticket.  

Starting from one city and we gradually scaled to 1084 cities and neighborhoods around the world. Using the Facebook Platform we could post to an event wall without attending the event with either a user or a page. You cannot do this on Facebook.

Mechanical Turk helped us identify the geographical boundaries for each target city. Then posted a targeted message in the local language in the ten most attended events within the bounds for each city every day. We had to built a city management system to modify cites as we went.

Facebook allows you to set up an unlimited number of pages so we set up 94 of them, one for each state and each major country. Each page had a weight corresponding to its number of cities.

Averaging less than 1 spam report per 10,000 views, we were well under the radar for Facebook’s spam filter. However, we were limited by how frequent we could post to Facebook. Through trial and error using the platform we discovered evenly paced 100 posts per hour per page would keep us from getting blocked. We enlisted some friends to be admins for our pages and we spread our posts over several time zones. We were posting through the page so my friends or their friends never saw the posts unless they were attending the targeted events.

We averaged one like and six clicks per post. On the weekends our 8,000 posts would yield 55,000 visits a day. Eventually Facebook Platform changed and closed the ability of being able to post to an event wall without attending the event first. This strategy is still possible if you attend the event first using a user.

Unfortunately, Facebook regularly makes changes to their platform. Anything you build is not guaranteed to work indefinitely. Still, its benefits far outweigh all the work.  Our underfunded neighborhood event guide from Atlanta was able to race up to the top of the millions being spent on our competitors.

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Y Combinator Interview

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Y Combinator Interview

On October 29th, I received an email that there were questions about my application for Y Combinator’s Winter 2014 cohort. I was surprised because our team had filmed our application video in one take and I had quickly answered the questions on the application. Our answers were brief. Event discovery is a very crowded space and our traffic was growing quickly. To stand out, I listed our current traffic in the elevator pitch question, “What is your team going to make?” I figured that line had the best chance of being read with the thousands of applications YC would receive. I had pressed submit without reviewing the application and forgot all about it. 

Product Demo Video

Founder Introduction Video

These are the questions I received after they reviewed our application.

YC Question 1: This is a pretty obscure event. How do you know 8 people are attending? 

My Answer: We know that 8 people have said that they are attending on Facebook.

YC Question 2: Can you please send us the url of a graph of unique visits per day since launch?

My Answer: Here is a link to a photo of our Google Analytics account: Facebook Post

On November 5th, I received an email asking if we could make it to Mountain View for a 10-minute interview in ten days. They were going to cover our travel up to $1100. We quickly booked our flights from Atlanta to San Francisco and an Airbnb on Castro.

I called Kyle Azevedo, the CEO of Viacycle, for advice for the interview. Viacycle was the only YC alum based in Atlanta that I knew. He got me in touch with his batch mates Nick Baum of StoryWorth and Aston Motes of YouThere. Everyone said pretty much the same thing. Have your answers ready and in one quick sentence and that YC hadn’t had any success with startups in the event space. Paul Graham, one of the founders of YC, had tried to get them to pivot the entire time they were in Mountain View.

Our interview was at 10:15am on Friday November 15th. We showed up caffeinated and a little early. The Y Combinator office doesn’t look like much from the outside. We watched multiple Teslas and a Fisker Karma pull into the parking lot. The doors were unlocked at 9:45 and we walked inside with a group of nervous and excited startups. Food and coffee was available but nerves kept us from eating.

In the interview the three of us sat across from four interviewers. The first question was “tell us what you do” and a flood of questions followed. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to demo Hugecity, which is normally the strongest part of our presentation.

One interviewer was on his phone playing with our app. Another was only interested in growth. I was able to satisfy him with a printout of different parts of our growth (see below). Another interviewer was only interested in engagement and another took notes.

It was a game about how many questions we could answer well in the time was given. There was confusion about how we were getting traffic, which sucked up part of our time. We also mentioned a small feature that had not been implemented yet and it took the conversation from 30,000 feet to 1,000 feet. It really showed how easily the conversation could be derailed. We had not read the fine print. YC is for founders only. They want everyone in the room to have at least 20% equity. One of the members of our team was not a founder even though we treated him like one.

It was surprising how quickly they honed in on our weakest link, user engagement. A regular user doesn’t look for events everyday or even every week.  So, just like Yelp, we have to add an event review layer. We had identified what we wanted to add but there would still be a lot of experimentation to see what would stick. We wanted to use our three months at YC to do just that. There was a knock at the door and the interview was over before we knew it.

We were told that we would hear something that evening. I would get a call if we made it in or an email if we did not.

We visited Google for lunch. Then headed to the Computer History Museum to clear our heads. Then we went to the mecca of personal information, Facebook.  We found out that Facebook only has three people running the largest event database on the planet and they don’t care about it because they don’t know what to do with it. “Events don’t move the dial for us.”

A little after six we got emails from the other startups we met in the morning. They had all been told that they did not make it in. 7PM came and went. My family was calling and every time our whole team jumped in excitement. Finally, at 8:11 we got an email saying that that they liked that Hugecity had seen growth in a space that most others had struggled in but they were concerned about our user engagement. “They did not know how to address our level of activity in terms of monthly visits/visitors, mobile app usage, and registration rates.”

Our trip to SF had us very excited. Ideas were pouring out of us before the interview. We were looking around for places to live and how much we would have to give up to live there with the higher cost of living. On the way to SFO we noticed New Relic and iPhone 5C billboards. We were the target market in San Francisco.  On the way home form ATL we saw billboards for Krystal and a church at Six Flags.

The Hugecity team is taking a week to decompress after our trip. We are very happy and proud to have been invited out to Mountain View. We met so many awesome people and quickly learned a lot about what was going on in the event space. Stay tuned for more.

The chart I showed:

The chart I wish I had shown:

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