Every social media site has a brand that forms around it. Twitter is known for being acerbic and Instagram for showing only the good life. LinkedIn – the leading network for creating professional and business connections – has in recent years acquired the image of being a site that pushes corporate clichés and self-aggrandizement.
Based on this insight, 27-year-old Tom Orbach, a growth marketing manager at the Mine startup, built the LinkedIn Viral Post Generator. His website asks users to answer two simple questions: “What did you do today?” and what “inspirational advice” they wish to convey. After that, users define the “cringe level” of the post (i.e., the extent to which it should evoke horror or embarrassment). On the basis of these answers, a “clichéd post on LinkedIn” is then generated.
But Orbach could never have anticipated the responses his post generator itself generated.
Just a week after the website’s launch, Orbach received a shock acquisition offer from the French developer of a small startup called Taplio, which constructs tools for fully maximizing business potential on LinkedIn.
Orbach suggested what he considered to be “a particularly high figure” for creative work that hadn’t even required knowledge of code, but was immediately rebuffed. In response, he suggested embedding a link to Taplio within his generator, in order to highlight the business potential.
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Luck was on his side when several social media posts led to The Guardian, Business Insider, BuzzFeed and Yahoo all reporting on his LinkedIn post generator. The number of users spiked to 1.5 million and the acquisition deal was sealed – at the original sum quoted by Orbach.
Taplio developer Thibault Louis-Lucas confirmed Orbach’s version of events. He said he found the generator while looking at the feed on his LinkedIn account. He refused to specify the actual amount paid, but did say “this is the highest amount of money we’ve ever spent,” leading to a lot of traffic on his website.
Orbach built the tool using a “no-code” app-creation app called Adalo. He added another layer in its English version that identifies the text’s sentiment, determining if it’s sad or happy.
“For instance, ‘I’ve been fired from my work’ or ‘I just got a job’ will lead to completely different results,” he explained. “It takes the tool several seconds to generate a result. It first examines the sentences fed into it and generates a post accordingly. I believe this is why it exploded, with people feeling they’ve generated something on their own – which is why they’re happy to share it with others.”
In a Tweet in which he revealed his story, Orbach wrote (in Hebrew): “I created the generator for fun, with no expectations of making money. The idea arose when I did some scraping of posts on LinkedIn, filtering them according to high engagement, in order to reverse-engineer them and to understand what makes a post viral, before recreating it.
"The common denominator that jumped out of all viral posts on LinkedIn was obvious: they had a big dollop of self-love, even a bit of narcissism. You’ve no doubt heard of the crying CEO post that went viral. Everything was in that style. The thing is, everyone knows there’s a cringe element in every feed, but you continue playing the game and giving these posts some engagement.”