I was introduced to graphic design at an early age. My father is an illustrator, my grandfather ran an advertising agency, and my great grandfather was a painter. When I was in middle school, my dad bought a Mac. I started using Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash, and became infatuated with programming and web development. I studied sculpture in art school, and took a couple computer science electives, all while freelancing as a web developer. I worked at an advertising agency for a few years before launching Six Overground, my own digital agency – which was essentially me working out of my living room.
Six Overground is now based out of Asbury Park, NJ. We share a private office in a co-working space, and are surrounded by other creatives and technical talent. This provides us with a flexible network to tap into as our workload fluctuates. Our client work is our primary source of income, and we dedicate our side-project time primarily to Link My Photos.
The birth of a side project
As the social media director for an international brand, my wife was looking to connect multiple Instagram accounts to rotating web content. She looked at the solutions available, and they either did not meet her needs or were prohibitively expensive. I listened to what she was trying to do, and said I can built that right now. I built a proof of concept in two days, put a subscription plan behind it the following week, submitted the app for approval by Instagram, and Link My Photos was born.
Link My Photos provides a service for Instagram brands to drive their followers to their awesome website content. Instagram photos and captions are not clickable. The only place where brands can add a link to their website is through the URL in their Instagram profile. Link My Photos provides a landing page for this one destination, with a personalized page full of clickable photos automatically synchronized with a brand’s Instagram feed. Premium subscription plans can display unlimited photos, and connect up to five Instagram accounts at a time.
Photos can be scheduled from Link My Photos in advance, and posted to Instagram at the perfect time. The Link My Photos landing page also provides seamless selling through PayPal so brands can sell their products without having to setup a full e-commerce store. And everything is measured with detailed analytics so brands know exactly how their Instagram content is performing, and converting to actual leads and sales.
Link My Photos is built on Ruby on Rails, which provides a streamlined framework for building web applications. The front-end is built in React. It’s hosted on Heroku, which handles all the tedium of dev ops. The mobile apps are built in their native environments.
I use Intercom for incoming customer communication. I use a Trello board to organize customer feature requests, feedback, and bug reports. As customers reach out with questions, I attempt to fine-tune the app to avoid having to answer the same question more than once.
We silently launched Link My Photos to one paying customer. Within one week we had three paying customers without any marketing because someone found us on Google and wrote about us on Quora. I knew we were onto something right away. After the first year, we launched our iPhone app, and added our PayPal seller feature. We then launched publicly on Product Hunt, and received a great response. We’ve since added our Android app.
The great thing about this type of product is it’s inherently viral. Typically, when we obtain a new paying customer in a new industry vertical, almost immediately we gain several more in the same vertical, because they’ve seen their peer or competitor using our service successfully.
Amazingly, Link My Photos has been profitable from the start. From our very first day, we had one paying customer and very little overhead. We’ve since grown to over 400 paying customers, over 280,000 monthly visitors, and over 5,000 app downloads. We’ve received enthusiastic responses from our customers. We fill a niche that a large number of brands struggle with.
Our current focus is on integrating the latest Facebook Instagram Graph API to deliver more detailed analytics for Instagram business accounts. After that, we plan on exploring some machine learning techniques to offer helpful advice when generating or scheduling Instagram content. I see Link My Photos as a comprehensive tool to convert a brand’s Instagram followers into paying customers.