How to Use Instagram to Test Startup Ideas and Quantify Demand

Jul 1, 2021
5 min
Nishant Modi
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I quit my job in Jan 2020 and decided to follow my passion to be an entrepreneur and work on the ideas I curated over the years. In the first week itself I started struggling with where to start.

My initial idea was to solve the problem of rising lifestyle diseases and the associated costs, by increasing awareness of holistic living through the concepts of ancient indian sciences such as Ayurveda.

This idea is vague and the problem is too big to solve, after all there are so many kinds of lifestyle diseases and why would one use my product or service? After researching I came up with the “five step idea validation process” on what was needed to test any hypothesis, but I still did not know where to start.

The Five Step Idea Validation Process —

  1. Define Problem Statement
  2. Find Potential Customers
  3. Reach Out To Them
  4. Ask Them Questions
  5. Repeat The Process (as needed)

On the morning of March 11th, 2020, I learnt about a few famous people greeting others with “namaste” instead of a handshake due to the rising Covid-19 pandemic. I said to my wife, that it will be great if someone can run a pledge campaign asking people to forsake the handshake and use namaste to greet each other. My wife said, “You can be that someone,” and this is how everything started.

If you can build and test an idea within 2 weeks, just do it.

I designed and developed a custom website within the next 12 days and released the website on March 23rd. It had Covid-19 daily statistics, benefits of namaste, and an email address form.

My hypothesis was that in the wake of Covid, people will pledge and as a result I’ll have email addresses of thousands of people. Forget about strangers. It turns out that not even my friends, cared to click the link or pledge.

Image: Namaste Revolution

This was a shock and a taste of reality. I realized that without promoting the website, no one would get to see it. So, I promoted it with google ads, and for $10 spend I got one signup.

At this time I knew that my idea and the dreams of going viral had failed. It was too expensive just to get one email address.

Imagine if it is so expensive to get signups for a “good cause” pledge, how costly it would be to actually build and then sell a product or service.

Just for the sake of marketing I created the instagram account on March 26th and asked my sister to manage it. Within 2 weeks we had around 60 posts and some 30 followers, growing by 1 — 2 a day. This was way more promising, I could post something and see the reaction immediately in the form of likes.

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By the end of April, we had around 70 followers, three times the pledges on the website. I stopped looking at the website and took it down with less than 50 pledges two months later. I put my focus on instagram and with experiments and luck, we managed to achieve 10,000 followers.

Customer acquisition can be defined as “having an opportunity” or to “actually” sell a product or a service to a new customer with a potential of repeat-sell.

Think about a restaurant you go to regularly in your neighborhood. How did they acquire you? Did you see their ad on some billboard, the local newspaper or a flyer? Or someone told you about this new great restaurant?

The point here is that there are only two primary ways to acquire new customers — 1. Advertise 2. Word of Mouth.

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A company’s success can be simply calculated by how many customers it can acquire, how fast it can acquire them and how much money it spends acquiring each customer.

You can ask people as much as you want to validate your idea but startups, or any new business, can only work if they acquire customers. In this social media age, if you can’t prove your idea on Instagram, it is likely that it won’t work. So the question is why would you invest so much to fail, if you can acquire customers, while validating your idea on Instagram with a fraction of the cost?

You can validate your idea and acquire customers on instagram at the same time.

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Next time when you think of an idea, just create an Instagram account for it, and start posting about your startup. You’ll learn a lot about the problem you are solving, the persona of the customers, and if your idea will work or not. If you find success in it, you won’t just have a validated idea but a potential brand at your hand.

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