Online literature platform Wattpad is conserving its ad dollars, leveraging organic growth on social media and prioritizing its own channels to boost community engagement through exclusive interviews and comedy videos Tik Tok.
“There’s all this engagement on Wattpad already,” said Abby Yew, Wattpad’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We haven’t focused on growth at all.”
Wattpad is an online literature platform, founded in 2006, where users can create and post written content. According to the brand, around 90 million people use the platform, including five million Wattpad writers. Wattpad has 1.4 million followers on TikTok and nearly double that on Instagram, where it has 2.2 million followers. Instead of spending big on ever-higher CPMs in a crowded digital marketplace, Wattpad relies on a mostly organic social media strategy, tapping into existing communities like #BookTok on TikTok to drive engagement and build its online community.
“When you talk about our channels, because we’re not focused on growing advertising and paid media, we’re really using and leveraging our own channels,” Yew said.
For example, a TikTok book influencer will organically recommend a story written by a Wattpad creator. To capitalize on this movement, Wattpad’s social team is joining the conversation, responding in real time, according to Yew. Other times, the company posts exclusive content with Wattpad’s most notable writers. Any paid media is reserved for retargeting purposes, “but it’s really very low, lower funnel, focus versus any outreach and engagement. It’s all organic,” Yew said.
That’s not to say the brand doesn’t spend on digital media at all. So far this year, Wattpad has spent at least $250,000 on paid digital media, according to Pathmatics. This figure is significantly higher than last year’s expenditures, which were only $46,900. According to Kantar, the brand spent just under $700,000 on media this year. (Kantar’s numbers don’t include social and digital spending like Pathmatics’ numbers do.) Last year, those expenses were less than half at $255,000.
Besides social media, Wattpad has also invested in desktop and mobile display, according to Pathmatics.
Wattpad isn’t alone in relying on online communities and trends like #BookTok to gain traction with users. Earlier this year, Penguin Random House signed a deal with TikTok that allowed users to link to books in videos using the hashtag, according to previous reports from Digiday.
While organic social can be a key part of any marketing plan, marketing experts say growing pressure on social media platforms to make a profit through ad revenue could limit long-term organic growth.
“While a feature may start for free as a way to test use cases, at some point in the future we anticipate having to pay to play,” said Shalanna Clark, chief marketing officer at the marketing agency. Code3, in an email to Digiday. . While brands should look for ways to improve their organic social presence to build an authentic community, “the fickleness of social media requires a level of paid delivery to ensure the user sees your message, let alone s engage in it,” Clark said.
Wattpad has attempted paid efforts in the past, but hasn’t seen the return on investment. Hence, why the company is now bullish on organic marketing and building its own channels, per Yew.
“We’re so lucky that the product is so sticky on its own and then we can just focus on preferences, brand loyalty and getting into that conversation with our audience,” Yew said.