Welcome to SaladCast! In this podcast series, we introduce you to Salad Chefs from all corners of the Infinite Kitchen. We hope you'll join us as we get to know members of our community, indie developers, and teammates from our very own Salad staff.
In this episode: Bob continues his journey to open source the day-to-day efforts of Salad's lean, "non-fat" team. Join our intrepid CEO and Director of Channel Partners Jared Carpenter as they peel back the layers on Salad's guerilla marketing rollout, the history of the Salad Chefs Discord, and our burgeoning creator partnerships.
Highlights content has been edited and slightly reordered for clarity.
One day I'm going to write an article called How Answering a Reddit Post Changed My Life—because it really was as simple as. Y'all picked me up in September 2018 when I replied to Salad's post on r/HireaWriter looking for game writers. At the time, all I wanted to do was get involved in game writing and build my portfolio. I was up late every night freelance writing for different game review sites or doing tutorials. I saw your post pop up a week too late, but something told me to fire off a direct message anyway.
That's correct. My experience with other places had been dodgy. I was fine with contracting, and I had no expectations with the companies I was contracting with. If they were paying me, I was happy—and y'all were paying me, so I was good. But I remember seeing the logo and thinking, "That's a schnazzy logo. I can tell there are people involved in this." And then I saw your faces—we got on a call pretty early into my contract—and I thought, "Okay, real people exist at Salad. It's not just Skynet messaging me, telling me to write this crypto crap and tie it into gaming for some nefarious purpose."
BOB: You just touched on a common misconception. Around 2017, a lot of people believed that crypto was a virus, or somehow dodgy—not to mention the sentiment among gamers that GPU mining could damage their computers. (Editor's note: clean yer fans, ya casuals) Along comes this company with a completely new value proposition: share your computer for rewards. How did you convince users to give it a go with Salad's alpha?
I bothered people, over and over. In the beginning, even I was a Salad doubter. I figured I'd work here for a year, I'll move on from this crypto scam stuff—and, of course, I quickly began to learn once I became part of the team. The toughest part was educating myself about the pain points and concerns from users. Will this hurt my hardware? Is this profitable, or efficient? Do I have to worry about privacy? These are unfounded criticisms when you know how we operate, but they're all valid questions because the general zeitgeist says there are bad actors in the space.
I would describe it as "swimming against the current." The go-to-market strategy was all about getting the proper information put in place, under our brand and in our voice. Some of these articles now have hundreds of thousands of views, but at the time we really had no plan for pay-per-click or influencer campaigns. We just needed people to use the app and help test the dang thing out. So we took to Discord servers and basically spammed our invite link in lobbies. We'd get banned immediately, but sometimes people would notice and take interest, like, "What's this? I want free money from my PC."
Then we'd go through the whole list. Being upfront about electricity use and profitability helped us to convince people of Salad's potential. Our addressable market was much smaller then, because we were mostly talking to younger gamers living with their parents or in college dorms. You also didn't make nearly as much as what you do today, but it was a great deal for that key demo of people who didn't have access to credit cards or any other traditional financial resources. That was our first unlock: solving a huge pain point for the people who would be willing to educate themselves, rise above the FUD, and get that five bucks. All you need to do is turn on your PC.
BOB: You're talking two to three hours of one-on-one education. That was impactful in generating our first few hundred users. How did that become a scalable model?
Conventional ads were cost prohibitive at that stage, so we came to rely on core power users and moderators like Tasha to help us get the word out and build up the Salad Chefs Discord server. To scale our acquisition strategy, we took advantage of Discord's unofficial ad ecosystem, where people trade server pings for exposure. We partnered with about sixty big servers—with some pretty trash ones among them—and cross-posted invite links. That was useful, but it only generated a trickle of ten or 15 users per day. We eventually held a Nitro giveaway with Gamer's Garage, an LFG server, and that was the secret sauce. That brought a few hundred people to the server, and our first hundred users on the network.
Right. When we started focusing on growing the Discord itself, we saw how meaningful it was for new users to interact with our community moderators. Getting that social proof from someone who volunteered their support means a lot more than when a community manager like me says, "Try my freakin' app!"
Influencer marketing was the big step change. It helped us transfer that intimitate, person-to-person conversation we'd perfected at the start into a scalable and viable solution. The most important thing is to remain fully open and transparent about our value proposition—one of our brand values is "All Truth, No Bullshit." Now we're able to transpose that one to three hours with an individual user into a few hours with an influencer, who then does what they do best and creates short, entertaining content about the subject.
It was a natural evolution of our Discord strategy. Isaac was a huge Discord content creator I had met at the time, which was kind of a niche market. We got introduced by a server moderator and he was like, "Yo! You guys do free Discord Nitro stuff. I think that's cool. We could partner up and do something together." His video went out, and suddenly we were seeing thousands of new users per week instead of hundreds. From there, it was a networking effect. He introduced me to other Discord content creators like SoftWilly, CustoName, and Rishab Jain, whose videos always drive countless people to Salad. We did a video with Original Ace in 2019, and there are still like 500 people who show up to Chop on Salad every single day. It's amazing. With influencer marketing, we're able to do the same kind of intimate contact and tap into that social proof, but with a much wider reach.
Liked this episode? Stay tuned for a continuing series of interviews featuring Bob and other faces from Kitchen HQ in the weeks ahead. These upcoming episodes promise an open-source look at the Salad recipe. In the meantime, browse our full SaladCast episode catalog.