Ebyline recently caught up with Brad Hoover, CEO of Grammarly, a San Francisco online-based grammar checking app/site, to discuss how the company markets itself – from word of mouth to social media. Grammarly, founded in 2008 by Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn, checks writing for upwards of 250 types of punctuation, vocabulary usage, grammar, and spelling errors. It is used by individuals, writers, businesses, and schools/universities.
The following interview was edited for length and clarity.
What makes Grammarly unique? What sets it apart from other grammar checkers?
Hoover: Grammarly uses sophisticated algorithms and powerful cloud-based computers to identify and correct English spelling and grammar mistakes. Grammarly’s technology catches significantly more errors than competitors, while also offering unique features such as writing enhancement and citation suggestions. Grammarly can be accessed 24-7 via the Internet.
Through which channels do you market Grammarly?
Hoover: Grammarly’s product meaningfully improves people’s lives, so we rely heavily on word of mouth. In addition, we use paid search, display, SEO, affiliate, social media, web partnerships, email and public relations.
What social media platforms do you use, and what are your goals in using them? Through which do you see the most engagement?
Hoover: We use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram. Currently, we see the most engagement on Facebook, as it is our ‘content hub’ and the place where we try and focus most new campaigns. We’ve nearly reached 1 million fans.
What are some specific examples of marketing campaigns that have been successful for Grammarly?
Hoover: Many of us on the Grammarly team are – or have been – participants in National Novel Writing Month. It is a great mental exercise for participants who want to get into the habit of writing more frequently. However, life is busy. Some people are scared away from signing up for NaNoWriMo by the 50,000-word writing requirement.
We wanted to create an opportunity for writers to participate in NaNoWriMo that would be less time-consuming, so we created an integrated marketing campaign incorporating our blog, Twitter, and Facebook. We ultimately brought together thousands of highly engaged people to collaborate on a single novel.
Talk about a campaign that hasn’t been so successful. Why wasn’t it successful? What lessons did you learn?
Hoover: Some Facebook contests flopped, perhaps because users prefer content consumption on Facebook. Our fans prefer to engage with funny, educational, and unique content that Grammarly distributes via Facebook — often via specially designed memes. We’ve noticed that engagement drops significantly when we ask fans to participate in contests.
For example, in February we ran a T-shirt contest on Grammarly’s Facebook page inviting fans to submit a grammar-related T-shirt slogan to be printed on a Grammarly shirt. We had only 472 entries in this contest, which is a drastic departure from the thousands of people who typically engage in each of our Facebook posts.
What are your biggest marketing challenges as a startup, and how do you overcome them?
Hoover: There is never enough time or bandwidth to try everything that we want to try at Grammarly — our team is full of awesome ideas. However, by remaining laser-focused on ROI, we’re able to prioritize marketing initiatives and work through the backlog accordingly.
How do you measure return on investment?
Hoover: We measure ROI in a variety of ways depending upon the campaign. For example, in social media, our goal is brand building so we’re looking at engagement.