How Mark Zahra got Spotlight Instagram Feeds Plugin to 10k+ Active Installs in Less than 9 Months — Freemius

The next in our series of success stories is Mark Zahra, CEO of RebelCode — the company behind WP Mayor, WP RSS Aggregator and several more WordPress plugins. His team launched Spotlight Instagram Feeds, a social feed plugin, which has risen to over 10,000 active installs on WordPress.org in less than 9 months. Let’s see how Mark and his team made it happen!

Hey Mark, it’s great to have you with us — let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from and how did you get into WordPress?

I started my journey with WordPress about 8 years ago. I built a basic website for a hockey club, without knowing much about WordPress — I just started using it because it seemed like the natural choice.

Please tell us more about your latest plugin

Spotlight started back in January of 2020.

It’s quite a crowded market, there are many feed plugins — what’s your secret sauce and how do you differentiate your product from the others?

With Spotlight, it’s about doing something more fun and modern with the UI/UX, rather than a list of settings in the old WordPress style.

With Spotlight, it’s about doing something more fun and more modern, rather than a list of settings in the old WordPress style.

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We took inspiration from Gutenberg — after you connect your Instagram account, your posts appear as a preview with a sidebar on the right where you have your options. Every change is live and instant — you can interact with the feed as you’re editing and it appears just as the live version on the site front. We added a few customization options — filtering by hashtags, phrases of the caption or the comments, there’s also moderation — you can handpick which posts to show or hide. We want to capitalize on this WYSIWYG interactivity that Gutenberg offers, as it’s inevitably the future of WordPress.

Please tell us a bit about your pricing choice.

Mainly through competitor research and figuring out the value of our product. The best plugins in the niche were at a particular price point and many other ones were below. We don’t believe in competing on price and don’t think it’s good for the industry.

How do you market and promote your product?

We used WP Mayor of course, as many plugins do for marketing their products, we had some content where we mentioned social media and Instagram feeds, so we included Spotlight, and worked on other new content for our blog.

  • Reaching out to everyone in our network via social, email, etc,
  • Getting Spotlight listed in blog posts on WP Mayor and in guest posts on major blogs, like WPEka.

How did you first hear about Freemius?

We’ve been in the WordPress space for a long time, and we’ve been using EDD for a number of years to sell our RSS plugin, so when it came to Spotlight, we did a lot of research on what would be the best licensing and checkout option.

What is your favorite Freemius feature?

The main thing that helped us are the analytics and insights. On our RSS Aggregator we had to do everything custom and manually — we were using Google Sheets, Zapier and other tools, so this was much simpler — automatically collecting valuable data in the background.

How would you describe your experience working with Freemius? Please be honest 🙂

The experience has been great! It has helped us keep our minds focused on the things that are important to us, which has been brilliant!

What does your day look like? How do you balance your time and resources?

Typically, no one day looks like another. My duties range from support to business management and HR. Given the size of our team and the fact we’re working on 3 main projects, I prioritise as I go. With Spotlight, most of my time right now is spent on market research, speaking with customers and doing support, and strategising for the future. It’s not the first time I would wake up with a plan for that day and by the evening it would have changed completely!

What are your plans — do you have ideas for new products or expanding existing ones?

Spotlight currently works with Instagram, but potentially could expand into additional social media platforms. Right now, we are focusing on what we have.

I love your approach! It’s always great to hear how people got to where they are. Are there any tips you can share from your experience?

One thing I’ve learned, especially in the past year, is to speak to more people. Do reach out to people, ask questions, offer something in return, and be willing to help others as well. Building those relationships can open up collaboration or marketing opportunities you may not have thought about before and can have a big impact on your long-term growth.

I couldn’t agree more — the key is to experiment and validate!

Of course! Test and experiment with a number of things. If you are wrong — adapt, you have to! Don’t stick to something just because you have been with it for a long time. Adapt, change, everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made a few over the years, some small and some not so small, but you learn from each and every one of them.

Don’t fall in love with your ideas just because they’re yours 😉

Exactly! When it comes to your product, one thing I’ve learned with Spotlight, compared to other ventures that I’ve tried is — get an MVP, get it working.

Thank you very much for sharing your story and we wish you the best of luck in your success moving forward!

Thanks, and feel free to get in touch with me in the comments below or DM me on Twitter @markzahra.

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