How To Gather a Community With 50,000+ Members For a Travel Start-Up During An Epidemic And Not To Screw Up

October 22, 2021

25 Mins Read

 

 

This is the case about the “Red Bull” of the travel world – a cheeky and tough project that aimed to slaughter TripAdvisor and Booking. How we fought Covid-19 with the blockchain travel app when traveling was a squab?

 

How To Gather a Community With 50,000+ Members For a Travel Start-Up During An Epidemic And Not To Screw Up

Onlife – is a blockchain-based travel app that serves as a platform for recommendations and experience exchange, booking, and rating. The very goal of the application is to connect travelers and allow them to make money on their adventures.

The application has a very simple goal – to pay tourists for their travels. We will explain everything now. Onlife wanted to shine among the many hipster projects that were overflowing with traditional travel features and long familiar routes like visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris and trying a cactus in Mexico City.

This is a cheeky and tough project, with its own pattern and a little bit of madness. The service allows you to exchange recommendations and impressions with other travelers, while earning points, ratings, and most importantly – cash. This was a slap in the face of pseudo-tourism. Small and medium-sized businesses also get a chance to receive their profit – clients, ratings, and sometimes the opportunity to find new employees.

Onlife = Touristic Red Bull. This is not just a meaningless comparison. This was our reference point and road map. At the beginning of the project’s existence, the Onlife team had ambitious plans for its development: from strategy to gathering of a trusting community. They needed a reliable team that would take over the full cycle.

 

First Things First: How Did We Start Making Noise?

With the strategy, of course. That was our first solution. After spending a couple of weeks on research and analysis, we created such a monster (yes, you can increase it as much as you want). This and a dozen other mind maps were created to distribute traffic flows, for the symbiosis of tools, and so on. And a standard bureaucratic document of 40 pages. But we choose mind maps as they are more useful. If you want the same one – write to us, our CMO loves creating explosive growth strategies:)

 

 

What’s next? So, question number one: who is the target audience of the project? Any movement of the project begins with a description of the portrait of people for whom it is supposed to work. That’s how we started our first audience segmentation. So who are they? We are talking about travelers and tourists, so the project will interest users who are constantly traveling – these are young people aged 24 to 40, living mainly in cities. Their lifestyle is very active – they move a lot, visit restaurants, hotels, and cafes. And there are a million competitors for this target audience…

 

 

Therefore, it was not an easy task to make Onlife visible and bright. And we started by developing a tone of voice for the project. Onlife is a badass, a bit tough, ironic, reckless, and not like other travel services. Based on these characteristics, we have made a unique voice that is “on your side”, is not afraid to challenge the audience, while sharing friendly vibes to all.

Next step: Brand Book and Website. How to Save Budget and Become a God of Google Results?

This is where the visual integrity of the brand is embodied. Some people call the brand book “The Bible of the Brand”, and we are not going to argue with that.

 

 

Let’s start with the concept. The key motive here is freedom. Lightness, dizziness, and no boundaries. We wanted to share the ease of travel, the mood “forward to adventure!”, the joy of freedom of action, and new impressions. Our slogan – “Turn on your life” adds a touch of extreme, freedom on the verge of a reckless approach to travels.

What about the site? This was a little challenging. Onlife is some sort of a semi-marketplace – it brings together many audiences: tourists, local businesses, expats, ambassadors, etc. And with such semi-marketplaces, there are often a lot of problems when it comes to planning traffic flows. The most perverted make a separate landing page for each segment of the audience and rejoice like children about their “very detailed targeting”. But…
This is not always the right decision. And in our case, it was completely needless,as the Onlife audience is a single whole. Therefore, here is a small life hack for you (and our solution) – we made one site that divides the audience into two flows using filters. At the same time, we were leading traffic to different pages of the same site.

As a result, in Google, we pulled up one site, instead of several. We worked on optimization and saved development resources. As you can imagine, we also won the organic flow.

 

Moving to CustDev. How Do You Know What Your Audience Really Wants From You?

We determined the identity. Now we need to find out what the target audience thinks about it. One of our tasks was to get the correct logic of the product. We had to build a community that would allow us to receive a lot of insights through customer development.

Why is this important? Very often startups make a product, waste huge amounts of money, release a project, but all this is not interesting to anyone. Why is it so? As usual, everything is extremely simple – they did not communicate with their own audience. Who the hell was the product made for!? Therefore, Customer development is a holy law for us.

 

 

If the mechanics are not entirely clear – write your questions to us in Telegram, we will talk things through:)

 

Then Content Creation: Travels, Drugs, and Aggressive Locals

At first, everything was quiet … Since the accent was on Telegram, the content was our main offensive power. We have come up with a number of entertaining, informative, and news (about the application) rubrics. We experimented with publications, created polls, communicated with the audience, and tracked our performance monthly.

 

 

There is no accounting for taste, so we compiled content and headings in such a way that each reader could find the information he needed. For example, in the “Locals” rubric we talked about the wonders and oddities of local customs from anywhere on Earth, in “Lifehacks” we were trying to make a guide for travelers and talk about insights.

But then … we came up with an idea to create ambassadors. In order to get closer to the people, we invited a guy named Chi – an experienced traveler.

Our solution worked: the audience easily fell in love with him.

He was constantly in sight, intrigued, filmed cool stories, and communicated with subscribers as if they were drinking Hennessy last week together.

What was the content about?

Life hacks, stories, just fun and tips. Fear and hate in Amsterdam. We wanted to make it interesting, so we took an ambassador with the most reckless stories. And then we decided to make it more interactive. This is how Instadriven traveling appeared – a live show, where subscribers decide what crazy steps the ambassador should take day after day. Just imagine – Chi visits a certain country, for example, Georgia, and subscribers delegate him a number of tasks and wishes: make a shelter on a volcano, fight with locals, seduce a girl, etc. Sounds cool!

 

 

We did not stop with one ambassador and invited other avid travelers as well. But very soon we had to close this thing down because of the coronavirus:(

Why do you need brand ambassadors?

  • To gain trust of the audience
  • A brand needs an image of a person
  • You can get better results from any interaction with your audience.

People trust people. Personalize your companies. Make your own Steve Jobs!

The Main Question: Covid-19 or How to Grow a Tourist Project with a Crown

Do you know how to survive another pandemic? How to protect your business from major losses? We don’t know as well:) But we know how to let the business dodge the bullet. First, let’s outline the situation for you.

When the coronavirus spread through the world, literally sending everyone home, we were shocked… What should a startup that specializes in traveling do in such a catastrophic situation!? Build up routes from the bedroom to the kitchen through the back door? Of course, we did not exclude such an option

but decided to do it differently. Everyone gathered for a session, and we figured out how to keep the Test Flight active even during a pandemic. Here is a cool life hack – do the damn Pivot (or at least its mini-version). Its importance was recently mentioned in an article on our channel in Telegram.

The first step and solution was adding a Map of Memories. Just think about it: while the air borders are closed, what is the best thing to do? We realized that sorting old photos with a cozy feeling of nostalgia is a great solution. The Map of Memories allowed users to upload photos, write comments, tag countries and routes. As a result, the effect was jaw-dropping – people wrote a huge amount of comments, liked the innovation, and supported it in every possible way.

How can people know that a particular place is virus-free?

We knew that very soon the majority of cafes, restaurants, and even hotels will open in search of lost profits.
We decided to make a viral checklist in conjunction with WHO recommendations.

So, people checked the locations for safety which includes the room cleanliness, the clothes of the employees, masks on the faces of those involved.

And all of this will result in a map of establishments that adhere to safety rules during the epidemic.

What were the results? Unconditional acceptance by the audience, and, of course, increased retention rate and the number of testers.

Next Step – Influencers. How to Use Them to Promote Your Brand?

The COVID thing made it clear that we are flying down rapidly. But even in such situations, there are solutions. And when the world has forgotten about tourism, simple targeted ads are not enough to increase the audience. Therefore, we decided to use heavy artillery – the bloggers.

Let’s go one step at a time. Influencers came to us with the audience that trusted them. It is obvious. Our trick was in the approach – instead of stupid advertising with a straightforward message, we launched a semi-native campaign in a few clicks. Do you want to know how it works? Don’t ask influencers to advertise you directly. It is just bad taste. Soft-sell advertising, with a little heat up, is the key to success. Here are two examples:

 

In the first version, you can almost feel the earnings on these stories, right? The second one separates and forms the request, the pain of the audience, and brings to the solution. And the native ad makes you trust the person and watch it till the end.

The influencer works in a few stages in order to gain trust. This is how they got integrated into the community. The results were amazing – our approach vs direct advertising – 7:1. One subscriber on a Telegram channel for $0.04 during the epidemic is a bright illustration.

 

Here you can see a screenshot with the results of direct integration:

 

Others, more specialized bloggers, made high-quality native ads, and their audience flew to us at full speed:

 

Therefore, write down and remember the rules:

1. You need a funnel script thought out to the last detail – a native heat up, appeal to the audience, pain triggers, and a call to action at the end.

2. Be sure to study analytics and feedback before proceeding with payments – many bloggers have an audience that is proper only for certain products, while others are flooded with bots.

3. Blogger’s artistry. This factor is extremely important. Many of them simply mumble words without emotion. But more than 50% of success lies in presentation – everyone loves cool stories.

And We Are Moving To… Enlarger of… Conversions!

While working on the project, we tested and used many different traffic and communication channels. Starting from simple media buying and ending with advertising on sites for adults (we believe in the power of experiments). The goals were different, and there were different results as well.

With targeted advertising, we have gathered decent traffic both to the site and to the community. As a solution we used simple and inconspicuous creatives:

 

 

The combination of quite simple creatives and audiences filtered by interests gave a good result. The main thing is to constantly clean up traffic hypotheses. After all, every time you greedily rub your hands when you see a click per $0.1, remember that you can do even better. So we rubbed from clicks per $0.01:)

 

 

But! Any result can be pumped. If we talk about traffic to social networks, then the welcome posting technology would be an excellent solution.

When your audience hits your channel, you need to catch them off guard with the most relevant, engaging content. You provide value, people subscribe, and most importantly, they stay on the channel.

We divided the posts of ambassadors into two parts, leaving intrigue for the end of the first part, and launched traffic. People saw the post, and they certainly wanted to know what’s coming next. And then – bang! An excellent channel for a cool project. With each new post, we continued to convert them. We recommend using this approach as its effectiveness is much higher than the usual CTA.

Why should you test different communication channels?

 

We tried every possible site and found what really worked for this particular project.

We checked:

  • Facebook targeting
  • Google Ads
  • TrafficJunky
  • Media buying

All this is important in order not to get stuck on one approach, but to try everything that can only work. Audiences are clearly different. For example, what didn’t work for a B2C audience worked for the business one. This is why you should always look for the most relevant traffic channels.

 

So, what did we manage to achieve?

 

 

  • Gathered a community with a total of 60,000 subscribers on all platforms.
  • At its peak, the EER achieved 70% (half-year median).
  • Conducted a TestFlight for several thousand users;
  • Prepared for a full-fledged launch;
  • Created a complete brand with its own language and style.
  • Developed and implemented three quarterly strategies.
  • Prepared the project for raising investments and carried out the entire process;
  • Scaled the project to hit Europe

 

Well, we showed you how to cooperate with influencers as effectively as possible, how to save your budget for website promotion, and, in the end, how to make a product that your audience needs. Now you understand how to grow an idea of a travel app into an energy monster, which translates a powerful vibe to its audience at all levels — from content and design to ideas with promotion. Really hope this was helpful. And if you want to do something crazy with your project or just grow up — write to us in PM. We’ll be happy to do some brainstorming together!:)

Testimonials

Eduard Sinelnikov, CEO Onlife: “They took our vision through the layers of marketing funnels and creative approaches, making it a competitive business with a huge community”.

Insight. The winning business strategy depends on the customer experience. Meanwhile, enhancing it takes more than understanding how people feel about the price of the product. The goal should be to figure out what customers really value about the product.

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