Julie Tucker
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Creative entrepreneurs: LADbible’s fastlane to success

If you’re a user of social media sites such as Facebook, the chances are you’ll have seen all the viral video clips, such as a man changing a nappy while wearing a gas mask, or a Rambo-themed stag party. They are promoted on the website LADbible and then shared countless times on the site’s Facebook page by its 34.3 million followers.

The creative genius behind the brand, founder and CEO Alexander “Solly” Solomou, won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year North award in 2016. The Manchester lad set up LADbible in 2012, when he was just 21 years old.

Six years later, in September 2018, it had become the top viral publisher on social media, ranked number one on Facebook and boasting millions more followers on other sites such as Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. So just what is it that has spurred LADbible’s incredible success story and seen the brand grow so rapidly over the past seven years?

What is LADbible?
Putting it simply, LADbible is a mix of videos and photos, some of them posted by users, the remainder gathered from all over the internet. What they have in common is the unique way in which they tap into fans’ psyche and strike a chord with the millions of mainly young users worldwide. The target audience is men aged 18 to 34.

The brand’s sister sites, SPORTbible and FOODbible, are run with the same ethos – posting the best videos and pictures of sports and food respectively. It seems a simple concept, yet it has captured the imagination of millions of people and now boasts an estimated net worth of around £6 million.

They have created a relationship with their audience – they understand what they want and keep on giving it to them, time after time.

How did it begin?
Solomou, who prefers to be known as Solly, has a clear, long-term strategy and has been the driving force behind The LADbible Group’s massive growth.

He developed the idea for launching his own social media publishing business while a business management student at Leeds University between 2009 and 2012. He founded The Lad Bible Ltd in April 2012, further developing the project before director Arian Kalantari joined him later the same year.

The project had actually started prior to this, in January 2012, when Solly published the brand’s first Facebook post. It was an instant hit, attracting more than 75,000 interactions.

Spurred by its success and the interactions from all over the world, he launched a new Facebook page, specifically for Australian users, later in the year, making it more relevant to his target audience.

Two years later, in 2014, LADbible’s Facebook page had attracted almost two million likes and had more than five million unique visitors each month. Towards the end of 2015, the number of followers on Facebook had grown to 10.6 million – an increase of more than 400%. The number has continued to grow ever since.

The company is strategically positioned for further expansions in the future, with Solly leading the way in using technology to build social communities online. When he won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of The Year award, he was described as creating “significant and scalable” growth with a company that was set to “explode” – which indeed it has!

Content and campaigns
LADbible is also a socially aware brand, publishing a wide range of original and user-generated content including editorial, documentary, video and live content. The site has published more than 6,800 videos, generating more than 41 billion views on Facebook since August 2014.

They launched a mental health campaign called “U OK M8?” in September 2016, raising awareness of male mental health problems. The initiative attracted the support of several charities including the Samaritans, the Movember Foundation, the Campaign Against Living Miserably and the Mental Health Foundation.

Charities recognised the value of engaging LADbible’s huge youth audience, persuading men to open up to each other about their mental health issues. It gained the support of Olympic gymnast Louis Smith, who opened up about his personal experience of depression.

Later in 2016, LADbible launched a new campaign, Climate Change, aimed at promoting the need to protect the environment and our planet. It was shortlisted in the 2017 AOP awards for the best use of social video.

In 2017, LADbible became the official streaming partner of Kasabian and Sony Music, resulting in a ground-breaking real-time video for the band’s latest single, Are You Looking For Action, being streamed simultaneously on LADbible’s and Kasabian’s Facebook pages. The innovative video was the first of its kind, as it was shot live in one continuous take.

How does LADbible make money?
The company makes money through branding and partnerships, while it was reported that it made more than £1 million per annum from advertising. Many organisations and companies advertise on its site, covering the whole spectrum – from Sony PlayStation to Oxfam.

Much of the site’s appeal is its appetite for relatable content – for example, videos of ordinary people doing something funny, crazy, foolish, inspiring or brave, that you can see yourself doing too. It’s an ideal kind of content to lend itself to social media, with an ability to attract clicks making it highly sought-after by advertisers.

LADbible is pretty unique in its creativity and its ability to appeal continually to its target audience, which isn’t just lads. Research has suggested 20% of women also read and enjoy the site. The theory is that once you get a foothold in the market, you can start to expand and make yourself acceptable to a wider demographic.

Is it unique?
Other companies have tried the LADbible approach, such as fellow viral publisher UniLAD, which was ranked fourth on Facebook, behind LADbible. However, UniLAD’s collapse into administration was revealed in the media in October 2018.

LADbible reportedly offered to buy part of UniLAD’s £10 million debt. Buying the competition would appear to be a shrewd business move. UniLAD was described in reports as being a “very good business”, which was paying too much money for personnel.

It performed well in terms of revenue and profit, but reputedly couldn’t sustain itself – emphasising the difference between the two brands, since LADbible has grown and enjoyed a meteoric rise to global success over the same time period.

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Image credit © Drobot Dean / Adobe Stock

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