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How Bugprove uses influencer marketing to grow word of mouth

Sep 13, 2023

Each month, we speak to a team enrolled in PostHog for Startups about the way they work and the challenges they face. This month we spoke to Bugprove about their approach to developer and influencer marketing.

Bugprove is a firmware analysis platform for IoT devices which helps security researchers and manufacturers meet their compliance needs. It helps teams scan for vulnerabilities, fix them with AI, and monitor emerging threats.

Yet, as a niche developer tool focused mainly on security researchers, it faces a significant challenge: how can it effectively reach its target audience and establish itself without wasting money?

“Basically the biggest challenge for any early-stage startup like ours is trying to find one channel that really works and that we can double down on,” explains Dora Meleg, Bugprove’s Marketing Lead.

Bugprove’s response was to experiment with channels and track results in PostHog, for which it has $50,000 in free credit. Influencer marketing has emerged as one of the most effective tools at their disposal — and Dora shares tips for how others can replicate Bugprove’s success.

1. Choose the right platform to focus on

There are lots of different platforms where influencers can congregate, including obvious candidates like TikTok and Instagram — but Dora has learned that YouTube has some inherent benefits for marketers.

“I’m not a big fan of newsletters or other sort of content where it’s read once and deleted,” says Dora. “One of the advantages of YouTube is that if you work with an influencer then the video is indexed content on their channel that leads to your site. We still see sign-ups coming from content that was created months ago. YouTube has a very long tail in that sense.”

However, this long tail could make YouTube a poor fit for other types of products, so it’s important to experiment with different approaches and choose the channel that fits with your goals.

“Basically what you have to do is try two or three different channels for three or four months,” says Dora. “Try some content marketing, try some influencer marketing. Do you get the best response with audiences on LinkedIn, or YouTube? It’s always experimentation at the start.”

Putting it into practice: Use a tool such as PostHog to track where users are coming from (often using UTMs) and think about what behavior you want to encourage. Then you can experiment with different channels and get a clear read on how each one performs.

2. Make room for authentic engagements

Influencer marketing can be a tricky business due to the inherent friction between influencer and marketer. On the company side, you want influencers to say lots of nice things about your product and to give an effective, on-brand pitch. Yet influencers themselves also want to protect their brand and don’t want to simply become company shills.

The best route, according to Dora, is to let go of the reins and remember that influencers know their own audience best.

“We had a funny moment that illustrates this,” says Dora. “We had an advertisement with John Hammond planned to go in the middle of a video. We watched, and it turned out great, but then the video continued and he decided to actually try Bugprove out.”

“So, he goes on, tries the tool, and we were just hoping that it would work well. Then he uses dark mode and we just weren’t ready for that at that point. It looked bad and our poor product designer almost fainted. Luckily, John found it funny and switched back to light mode and it worked great from then on. It was an authentic moment, so we were happy with it in the end.”

(Bugprove is planning to make improvements to dark mode in the near future.)

Putting it into practice: Trying to enforce strict brand guidelines or scripts will only stymie collaboration. It’s better to let influencers lead on how to best communicate your message to their audience if you can.

3. Choose influencers carefully

One of the hardest things about influencer marketing — especially within a niche such as developer influencers — is finding the right creators to work with. Unfortunately, there are few shortcuts to success here. You just need to put in the work and get out there finding people to work with.

“When we started experimenting I joined a lot of influencer marketplace platforms,” says Dora. “I spent hours and hours searching through these and none of them had anything to offer us. Now we’ve built an internal database of influencers and I reach out to them manually. It takes time, but it’s not a waste of time.”

While spending a long time on YouTube watching videos to research influencers may sound fun, Dora says you have to remember that you’re hoping to have a business interaction at the end of the day.

“I was surprised how well-developed the offer is even for influencers in this niche,” says Dora. “The influencers we work with are very clear on pricing, with no negotiation. Everything is on a business level and easy to work with.”

Putting it into practice: PostHog’s experience also supports avoiding influencer marketplaces and instead going direct to the sauce. It’s worth the time investment to curate your own lists, or to use social media listening tools to find who's talking about your industry a lot.

4. Consider scalability, and reliance

Bugprove has enjoyed great success with its approach to influencer marketing so far, but Dora points out that when you’re developing a niche product you always need to consider scalability. You can’t ever become reliant on a single channel.

“The challenge with influencer marketing in a niche is that there’s only so much scale before you reach the end of it,” says Dora. “Right now we see it as a great early boost to get the ball rolling, but we don’t have thousands of security research influencers to choose from.”

As a result, Bugprove is always exploring new channels and trying to find new ways to reach its users. PostHog enables them to achieve this by tracking website traffic and conversions, while HogQL queries enable more powerful analysis when needed.

“We use a lot of PostHog’s tools to research our users,” says Dora. “We use session replays to find where users get stuck…we use analytics to track UTMs and surveys are on my to-do list too. Our big goal right now is more user interviews to find other ways to drive word-of-mouth too.”

Putting it into practice: User research is a critical part of any marketing strategy, and you can never become compliant with a single channel. You need to constantly talk to your users to identify new opportunities.

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