Using organic social media to grow a new app

Pepper, a new social media cooking app, used TikTok and Instagram to grow their app by more than 600% in 3 months.

Publish Date
Mar 17, 2022
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What is Pepper?

Pepper is a social cooking app where users can create and share recipes. Think of it as a digital social cookbook.

👨‍👨‍👦‍👦 Target Audiences

  1. Everyday Chef (home cook, parents, college student, etc.)
  1. Food influencers - people making content around cooking
  1. People following influencers

📝 Briefly describe the growth project

Like most startups, Pepper started from scratch with no product or brand. This is especially difficult as a social media app that relies on network effects. The team started creating the app in May of 2020, and launched in September of 2021. That means they spent over a year marketing a product that didn’t exist, with no brand presence. What would be a nightmare for most growth people was made into an opportunity by Kayla and her team.
They started out with brand awareness, (it’s difficult to have a brand presence without a product). Kayla created a community on Instagram. The message was:
“If you like to cook and connect with people around food, we are here for you.”
Figuring out social media as a growth channel involved a lot of trial and error while throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, but Kayla stayed focused on who they were targeting.
screenshot from the Pepper app
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While Instagram was their pre-launch platform of focus, TikTok became their post-launch platform. When they launched the product, they worked it into existing habits (like tracking recipes via notes apps). They found people were most influenced to join the app when cooks they looked up to used it. This is how they came up with TikTok idea.
Kayla and her team started building relationships and partnerships with different creators. She realized that TikTok creators didn’t have a good way to actually SHARE the recipes they were making. The Pepper app filled this existing gap. It gave creators a way to make their lives easier when sharing content.

🚀 How does their organic social media generate growth?

Simple brand awareness and referrals! People see chefs and home cooks they admire sharing the recipes they make on the Pepper app. So when someone wants to try the recipe, they download the app to get it.

📈 How has it gone so far?

Using this organic social media channel, Pepper grew from 10k users to 73k users (630%) in 3 months 🤯
They were even featured as the App of the Day on the iOS App Store!
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😍 Why is organic social media a good growth channel?

  1. It’s free!
  1. You grow by connecting directly with your community.
  1. Heavy viral and network effects.

🤔 Downsides to using organic social media?

  1. Takes a lot of effort and experimentation to figure out.
  1. Your product must be good enough to get organic virility.
  1. Need a product that has viral effects itself (or at least is inherently sharable).

🏗 How to build your own social media growth channel

  1. Find where your community scrolls their favorite content. Where are they “influenced” on social media?
      • Instagram and TikTok are filled with food.
  1. Look up important algorithmic advantages of that social media platform.
      • TikTok and Instagram reward you for posting every single day.
      • Video content is also heavily favored on these platforms.
  1. As you play around and grow, start organically connecting with influencers.
      • Ideally you want both inbound and outbound connections. Aim for about 50/50.
      • For big accounts, connect with media managers of creators.
      • For those interested, develop a partnership program for each. Make something creators will want long term, and share with their own network.
  1. Leverage your own platform for scaled growth. Some examples from Pepper:
      • Every day chefs will post recipes they are using.
      • Creators (influencers) get a new feedback loop because they get to see what recipes of theirs people have tried.
      • Virality - you don’t need to have a lot of followers to get credit for your work, so it’s easy to join (like TikTok)
      • Pepper created an API where you can share Pepper photo to IG, and copy link to other social media platforms (a growth channel for another time!)

💡 Advice for someone trying to build something similar?

  • Be creative - what doesn’t work is just a story, don’t be afraid to fail. Keep throwing things at the wall until they stick.
  • You will fail a LOT before works. Kayla tried a TON of things that didn’t work before they.
  • Find someone who loves the social media platform you are focusing on to grow it. They’ll need to spend most of their time there.

You can follow Kayla and Pepper’s adventures on Twitter!