Pixoto – Beautiful Images and Dubious Sign Up

Pixoto is a crowd-ranked photo marketplace and community that has currently raised $350,000 in funding on AngelList. One of the main investors is David Cohen, the founder and CEO of the Techstars accelerator program and a frequent WSJ contributor. What makes Pixoto unique, is that every image uploaded to the marketplace is ranked. The engaged community has grown to over 200K members who have submitted over 2 million images and have voted 100+ million times. How does Pixoto achieve these staggering numbers and what is their customer acquisition strategy?

Currently, outbound marketing is almost non-existent as far as I can tell. A simple Google search for “royalty-free images” yields no Pixoto results on the first page – not exactly a good SEO result, considering that the key-word is part of the company’s logo.  The website itself is very clear (that’s a plus) with no ads, emails or events notifications.

Almost all of the website’s growth has been organic. The strong inbound marketing is making it easy for the marketplace to find Pixoto and its products.  Pixoto has a very active twitter account (8k+ followers), Facebook presence and a blog that could use more updating (usual frequency is about once a month). Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic than those that don’t and Pixoto is a prime example. The images are powerful and easy to navigate, earning attention and awareness through traffic and free channels. A simple search around the web reveals many discussions and blog posts about Pixoto from curious visitors – here, here and here. This in itself is impressive – you know you are doing something right when other people feel the urge to blog about YOUR product.

Signing up for a trial was, however, a disappointing experience for me. Pixoto allows you to sign up only using Facebook. On the one hand, I can see the clear advantages to that system – with just one additional user Pixoto receives access to that person’s public profile, friend list, email address and photos – that is powerful data! On the other hand, however, I have no Facebook profile and don’t plan on opening one just so I can browse stock images. I realize I am a minority in a world where everyone’s grandma seems to be browsing Facebook, however, I can still see that ticking off people who already have Facebook but don’t want to share all of that data with Pixoto.

Outside of this weird choice, Pixoto seems well run and fully socially integrated. Its unique rewards system gives badges to leading images and auto shares on Facebook and Twitter. Photographers promote their standings in the leaderboard to increase their credibility. I have no idea what the artists’ and photographers’ community is like, but maybe this popularity context is exactly what they crave? Either way, Pixoto is a shining example of the Web 2.0 business model and testament to the strengths of a well-run inbound marketing strategy.

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