The Only Link You'll Ever Need
Linktree is an online platform that allows creators to attach all their key web pages to a single link, which can be used on nearly every online platform where their audience can be found. This includes multiple social media platforms, email etc. When combined with powerful analytics functionality, a single Linktree link connects all these platforms and gives creators a single view of their customers. The result is that creators can set up their digital shopfronts anywhere.
Linktree was a unique solution to the single ‘link in bio’ restrictions placed by platforms such as Instagram. Linktree continues to dominate the category it created with an 88% market share. This first-mover advantage gives Linktree more customer data, allowing them to innovate with relevant new features and stay ahead of competitors.
Linktree was founded in 2016 by brothers Anthony and Alex Zaccaria along with Nick Humphreys. The idea for Linktree came from the ‘link in bio’ problem they faced in Bolster Group, a digital marketing agency for music and events they founded in 2011. Bolster Group’s unique approach was to connect different websites with analytics to provide a single view of the customer and increase ticket sales. Linktree’s strategy is therefore similar, albeit on a much grander scale.
Linktree achieved 12 million users after only 5 years and was bootstrapped until recently. It has the ingredients of Instagram’s viral growth, being a simple product, easily shareable and facilitating the continued growth of social media accounts and social media platforms. With a great product that sells itself, a dominant market share in a growing market and a founding team with real empathy for their customers’ journey, Linktree is well-placed to achieve its goals.
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How I Came Across Linktree
Recently, I wrote a blog post on Feather. In this post, I wrote about the Passion or Creator economy. The creator economy can be broken into 2 parts:
1) Independent content creators (the ‘creators’) such as social media influencers, bloggers, videographers etc. These people may have spent years working for a larger corporate learning their craft or developing relationships and are looking to reach out directly to an audience
2) Software and other tools that help these creators with the growth and monetisation of their service or content.
Linktree, like Feather, represents the tools that help these creators make a living out of their passion by monetising their audience. In fact, co-founder Shori Hijikata used a Linktree link for her Sydney Fitness Project, which has given me a series of solid workouts!
Linktree gives its clients the ability to link multiple sites to a single link. i.e. mapping a ‘tree’ of links to a single link. Personally, I love the product and how it allows me to control my online identity across platforms. I also found it far easier to set up than a landing page.
As an example, here’s my initial Linktree setup for https://linktr.ee/venturejourneys
Linktree was initially built to solve the ‘link in bio’ problem that I will touch on later. Understanding Linktree’s appeal would require an understanding of Instagram’s early journey and the growth of social media, which I will discuss before coming back to Linktree.
The Rise of Instagram
Are you an Instagram user? If so, you are one of the 500 million people who use Instagram Stories daily, according to Statista.
Instagram’s rapid growth is the stuff of startup legend. A Reid Hoffman podcast detailed their early journey. Instagram had 25,000 downloads on the first day. In 18 months, they had 30 million users with just 13 employees. This was a remarkable achievement.
How did they achieve this level of viral growth? There were 3 main factors.
The first was simplicity. It wasn’t about having complicated functionality for users to capture the ‘perfect’ photograph. Instead, it was about allowing users to capture the perfect moment with its killer feature – filters. Filters allow anyone to create compelling photographs and post them quickly. This allows them to experience what Startmate’s Michael Batko calls the ‘Aha, this is epic’ moment quickly and get hooked on the product.
This level of focus and simplicity is rare and stems from founder Kevin Systrom’s personal journey. While in university, his professor forced him to use a cheap, no-frills plastic camera rather than Kevin’s own expensive, complex camera to document a trip to Florence!
Simplicity also helped with the second factor, shareability. The key to shareability is to allow excited users to tell their friends about the product in a single sentence. People understand the joy of creating and sharing a photograph.
The third factor is the ability to ride a powerful trend. In Instagram’s case, it was the increasing proliferation of smartphones and their ever-more-powerful cameras.
The growth of Instagram coincided with the growth in the use of social media.
Social Media Growth
Social media has increasingly become the place where people devote their time and attention. In the last 10 years, social network platforms’ total user base grew from 970 million in 2010 to 3.8 billion users in 2020. Additionally, there are now 11 social networks with over 500 million active users. As a result, the average person now has 8.8 accounts per person compared to just 4.8 accounts in 2014.
Social media platforms allow for a different type of advertising based on an authentic or more personalised relationship with consumers. Brands and businesses are increasingly recognising the value of these relationships with influencer marketing spending growing from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $9.7 billion in 2020, according to the Influencer Marketing Hub.
In many ways, social media’s growth has lowered the barriers for creators to monetise their interests or passion. This is because these platforms allow them to build a community of followers or potential customers with these interests. However, they face 2 challenges
1) Key platforms such as Instagram and TikTok do not allow website links to be included in posts. Influencers are only allowed to post a single link in their bio or profile (i.e. the ‘link in bio’ problem). This makes it difficult for businesses advertising multiple products or influencers representing several brands.
2) With consumers having nearly 9 accounts per person, these creators have to manage multiple social media accounts, making frequent updating of links challenging.
Linktree provides a simple solution to these problems.
Back to Linktree
Linktree was founded in 2016 by brothers Anthony and Alex Zaccaria, along with Nick Humphreys. They detail their story in a podcast by Lawson Media.
In many ways, their journey embodies that of creators attempting to make a living out of their passion. Anthony and Alex were from an immigrant family who set up what was, at one point, one of the biggest music distributors in the country. This began their involvement in music which continues to this day.
After university, Anthony worked in digital marketing for the music industry while Alex was running events such as parties and managing DJs. Along with Nick, the brothers founded Bolster Group whilst living together in Melbourne. Bolster provided the genesis of the idea that would become Linktree.
Bolster Group is a digital marketing agency for music and events. A feature of the music industry was that different parties managed the various parts of the ticket-buying cycle. For example, company A might be promoting or educating the consumer about the music festival, while company B would be selling the actual tickets on a different website.
This meant that no one owned the entire funnel or had a complete view of the customer. Bolster’s unique approach was to connect these websites together and provide analytics, such as remarketing and conversion tracking, which gives a more complete view of the customer. Their niche focus on the music industry and their results allowed them to grow the business via referrals. i.e. growth was product-led.
As Bolster (and social media) grew, they struggled with the single link limitation on Instagram. They had a single developer on staff who solved the problem in just 6 hours.
Thus, Linktree was born as a simple solution that would create an entirely new category.
Linktree’s growth has been explosive, reaching 12 million users globally in just 5 years. This was achieved with the business being entirely bootstrapped until their recent capital raise in October 2020.
While competitors such as Carrd and Bio.fm have appeared, Linktree still dominates the category it created with around 88% market share. This first-mover advantage gives Linktree more customer data, allowing them to innovate with relevant new features and stay further ahead of competitors.
This viral growth bore all the ingredients of Instagram
1) Simplicity: A Linktree page can be set up in minutes, thereby solving a real pain point and allowing the user to experience the ‘Aha, this is epic’ moment quickly. The end-user experience is also very simple, which increases the chances of them clicking through and converting.
2) Shareability: Linktree’s simplicity makes it easy for clients to spread this via word of mouth in a single sentence. ‘Linktree allows me to link multiple webpages to a single link that I can use everywhere’. Linktree’s branding is also displayed clearly on free accounts.
3) A powerful trend: Both the number of social media accounts and the number of social media platforms continue to grow. Linktree provides a simple solution to manage across these platforms.
The last point, in particular, is worth noting and speaks to the potential of Linktree.
Linktree’s Multi-Platform Potential
Linktree allows creators to attach all of their key web pages to a single link which can be used on every online platform where their audience can be found. These include social media, email and even mobile text messages.
When combined with powerful analytics functionality offered in their Pro version (US$6 per month), a simple Linktree link connects all these platforms and gives creators a single view of their customers. This is essentially what they achieved with Bolster Group years ago but now on a much broader scale. AirTree Ventures Partner John Henderson described this as Linktree becoming the online front page for every individual creator or business.
Linktree’s multi-platform appeal also makes it less exposed to adverse changes by Instagram compared to the past. Instagram now accounts for less than 55% of profile traffic. Perhaps the best defence against these platforms' adverse changes is that Linktree is simply a great product loved by millions of verified users. Instagram actually apologised for temporarily blocking them after 40,000 users advocated on Linktree’s behalf in under 20 minutes.
Linktree just had its first capital raise of US$10.7 million led by Insight Partners and AirTree Ventures. The capital raised will fund additional innovation in analytics and an increased global roll-out. These well-regarded venture capital firms also provide valuable networks for Linktree to source talent from and grow the team.
With a great product that sells itself, a dominant market share in a growing market and a cohesive founding team with real empathy for the customer journey, Linktree is well-placed to achieve its goals.
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