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What You Need To Know About the Building In Public Movement
Originally Published:  
July 7, 2022

What You Need To Know About the Building In Public Movement

I’m going to cover a sensitive subject in this post: the “building in public” movement.

If you’ve ever posted a screenshot of your Triple Whale dashboard to Twitter or (*winces*) LinkedIn, you’ve been a participant.

The cat is out of the bag: marketers and brand operators love to hear success stories from other brands–especially if those success stores are paired with some simple steps for replicating the original poster’s (or OP’s) victory.

Because this type of content is so popular, it’s a great way to grow your following on social platforms.

And when a new way to make your follower count go up is identified, some unsavory characters are sure to latch on to the tactic.

By now we know that it’s foolish to trust everything we read on the internet. But that isn’t the only reason you should take epic Twitter threads with a grain of salt.

This content often contains tactical “how to” steps, but it rarely includes the OP’s breakdown of why that particular tactic or strategy worked so well for his or her brand.

There are a few reasons why we rarely receive the context behind the epic screenshots. Providing that context may require the OP to share more than he or she is comfortable sharing about the strategy or financials of the business.

That is absolutely fair.

The OP might not know the context yet. Sometimes you stumble on a win and need to reverse engineer why it worked so well. That’s…fair-ish.

And sometimes, the OP has an investment stake in whatever technology enabled the win. That is when “building in public” starts to wander into a moral gray area…at least in my opinion.

With that in mind, I want to provide a few questions you should ask yourself before you attempt to replicate something you saw in a Twitter thread.

We often have the mentality of “all testing is good” or “there’s no downside to a test”.

But if you’re testing constantly and seeing very few meaningful wins, that does represent a waste of your time, if nothing else.

Question 1: Do you trust the advice giver?

This is the most crucial question of the bunch. Everyone who shares advice on the internet is selling something, even me.

Gary Vaynerchuck is a polarizing figure, but he was right about at least one thing: to build an audience, you need to give more than you take.

But what if you have nothing to give, but still want to build an audience?

Well, some “true innovators” have found a way around that little hurdle: make something up. If someone on Twitter is sharing advice and screenshots, but won’t share the name of their brand or their employer, proceed with caution.

I’m not saying anonymous advice is completely without merit, but it’s definitely a red flag.

Another situation where you should tread carefully? Threads where the “big win” is essentially a case study on a specific software platform.

If the poster is an investor in the software platform or is receiving a commission for sales they drive, they should disclose that up front. But that doesn’t always happen.

Again, this doesn’t mean you should disregard any content you see where software features heavily, but be sure to ask a lot of questions (like questions 2-7 below).

Question 2: How does the brand sharing the win compare to yours?

I named my website and newsletter “No Best Practices” because there is no single tactic that works for every brand in every situation.

And the best way to get a read on how well a given tactic might work for you is to examine the brands who have been successful with it.

Industry vertical is a big factor in what works for you. Brands selling consumable products have a shorter repurchase cycle and higher retention rates than other brands.

Brands selling products priced under $50 have a broader audience than luxury brands. Brands selling shoes or apparel have higher return rates than brands selling items with no sizing.

The examples are endless, and they impact the dynamics of the business and what tactics will succeed.

Funding model determines what a brand even considers a success story. Venture-backed brands may not care about near-term profitability.

Publicly traded brands may be less concerned with true incremental impact than bootstrapped brands. And on, and on…

Finally, any tactic is going to work in proportion to your growth momentum.

If your acquisition costs are increasing and growth feels like an uphill battle, there is often a deeper problem that a one-off tactic won’t solve.

If your fundamentals are off, the impact of any single tactic will be suppressed.

Question 3: Is the tactic on brand and/or does it make sense for your brand?

Performance marketers hate to hear the dreaded phrase “it’s not on brand”.

But good brand guidelines are a value-add. They help you speak consistently to your core customer.

And part of that conversation is your brand’s choice of marketing platforms, digital experience and creative direction.

For example: a luxury brand like Dior or Louis Vuitton would never put a “spin to win” email capture popup on their websites. And a brand that touts “real beauty” like Glossier or Dove wouldn’t feature models with heavy, contoured makeup.

If the tactic would confuse or frustrate your core customers, the potential upside isn’t worth the long term damage to your reputation.

Question 4: How does it fit into your overall roadmap?

When you first launch a brand, success depends on finding product-market fit in a single customer acquisition channel, like Facebook ads.

Then you focus on scaling your successful channel. And after that, you need to figure out new ways to grow.

Without a roadmap, you’ll wind up trying a lot of distinct but unrelated tactics until you (hopefully) find something that works. This results in a lot of wasted time, energy and money.

So hopefully you have a roadmap that’s focused around a few strategic objectives. If a new tactic is a complete non sequitur, it’s often best to place it on the back burner.

For example: maybe one of your goals for the year is to increase customer lifetime value by convincing your existing customers to purchase from multiple categories.

You see a bunch of tweets about a new subscription app. Launching a subscription program might increase customer lifetime value, but it probably won’t encourage cross-category shopping.

It’s also a project that will require a lot of technical and operational diligence to get right. In that context, a subscription program is the wrong place to focus your energy.

Question 5: How familiar are you with the platform?

Every marketer should invest some of their time in new and emerging platforms. But the best way to learn a new tool is gradually, not in the week leading up to a launch.

Or worse…in the week after a launch.

How you use the platform is important, but how you’ll measure success is even more important. Sometimes the eye-watering screenshots you see on Twitter are based on incredibly generous attribution modeling logic.

The closer a tactic is to the bottom of the funnel, the more diligent you need to be in proving out the incremental impact of said tactic.

Make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with how a new platform works as an ecosystem.

There is always user behavior and consumer psychology underlying the tactics, and understanding these dynamics is the key to achieving sustainable performance.

Question 6: Do you have the capabilities to execute well?

When you start a new role, some of your recommendations will inevitably be turned down because “we tried that already and it didn’t work”.

Did they try it the right way? Probably not.

For example: launching your first Facebook campaign using creative from your magazine advertising, then running it with a traffic objective.

Did you technically “try Facebook ads”? Yeah. Did you give yourself a remote chance of success with that setup?

Nope.

Like it or not, many of the new ideas you try need to “work” on the first pass if you want your finance team or executive team to continue to fund them.

So if your team doesn’t have the capabilities to execute in a way that will set you up for success, it’s often best to wait.

In the Facebook example above, you’d need to be willing and able to develop creative that feels more native to the platform.

And you’d need to know enough about campaign setup to launch with a campaign structure that works for driving near-term conversions.

Question 7: Is the juice worth the squeeze?

You and your competitors all have the same 24 hours in a day. How you use those hours counts.

So if you invest a large amount of time and effort in a test that drives a lift, but the lift is only applicable to a small audience…it’s not really that much of a win.

This is another reason why building a roadmap (see Question 4) is so important.

Before you start testing anything, you can prioritize your ideas by the size of the potential lift in revenue and the ease of implementation.

That will help prevent you from going after ideas that might look cool but only address a small percentage of your audience.

Whenever you see a cool test idea on Twitter, a website or a newsletter, always ask yourself “what segment of my audience would this address”?

Wrapping It Up

Fun personal fact: I spent a good amount of my childhood as a competitive swimmer.

One thing our coach always told us: keep your eyes on your own lane during the race.

You might think that watching your competition will make you go faster, but it’s actually a distraction that will slow you down.

The same advice is a good rule of thumb for marketing and eCommerce. Seeing what worked for other brands can be good brainstorm fuel, but you can’t let it dominate your strategy.

If you ask the seven questions above the next time you see something you want to try, you’ll filter out the noise so only relevant ideas remain.

Everyone wants to build in public, but is it actually a productive way to grow your business? Give Triple Whale a spin, and start visualizing the most important growth metrics.

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