Hi everyone, my name is David Lombardo, and I run an entertainment website for people who are interested in aviation called ATC Memes.
Originally geared towards air traffic controllers (hence the ‘ATC’ name), ATC Memes features comedy that appeals to people who work in, or are interested in, the aviation world.
Throughout the last few years, the page has also expanded into the realm of aviation based apparel, stickers, lanyards, mugs, and other various smaller products under the brand name Radar Contact.
I wanted to share a few things I have learned running a site like this, as there are many who have reached out to me for advice over the past year or so. I also did a formal Starter Story interview a few months back.
While ATC Memes has been growing for years, I learned nearly everything about running a large social media page by trial and error, and by experimenting on what works and what doesn’t.
The accounts that I run
I run the following accounts:
All together we have about 340,000 followers on these platforms combined.
The following is, not surprisingly, mostly aviation hobbyists and professionals. However, the demographics of the fans are actually very diverse.
We have fans in nearly every country with internet access, and of all ages. While the majority of our fans are men (as aviation is predominantly a male dominated industry), we also have a substantial number of female fans, as well.
I also run RadarContact.com, which is the online store of ATC Memes. To monetize, I try to share the actual link to this store everyday.
Earlier products feature the ‘ATC Memes’ name, but later production runs say ‘RadarContact’. I changed the name to make it appeal to more people, not just air traffic controllers.
Getting started with the memes
ATC Memes started on Facebook, where a few hundred air traffic controllers were sharing simple ‘meme’ images on the page.
Once the page reached about 1500 fans, I began experimenting with audio skits, in which I used to my voice and experience in audio/music editing to create somewhat realistic sounding parodies of air traffic control tapes.
At this point, the page began to grow exponentially, and within a few months the page had over 50,000 fans. I am not entirely sure how or why this grew so fast, but I think it was just the novelty of the thing.
In a way, it was something that was never really done before, and I think personally, for me, the idea that some people didn't even know if the recordings were real or fake was thoroughly entertaining.
More content and more platforms
It was imperative to keep generating content, and so every week or so I would post a new audio skit.
Eventually, the page reached nearly 100,000 followers, when I decided to start an Instagram account. Instagram was an entirely new demographic, many of whom had never heard of ATC Memes.
I slowly started growing that page, by simply reposting some of the older Facebook content. I was also sharing hundreds of posts submitted by my fans! After about a year, we had 50,000 fans there.
As of this writing, it’s nearly 100,000. Many people were submitting their own content as well. It was very win-win, because fans love to see their own content/memes/jokes get shared on such a large page.
How often I post
I try to post at least once every day.
Typically, I post about 2-3 times a day, and a large number of these posts are things that I have discovered, or things fans have submitted to me.
Yet, I also try to create one or two big original posts every week or two, and these often involve either audio or video.
Some examples of content include memes poking fun at stereotypical pilots, or air traffic controllers.
Getting a hashtag trending
I also have tried to get hashtags to trend, such as our #squawkdirtytome (“Squawk” is an aviation term used in air traffic control to identify an aircraft).
This has become synonymous with ATC Memes and RadarContact and that is one of the most powerful things you can do: get people to identify things with your brand/page.
Poking fun at your niche/culture
Some of the most well known ATC Memes running jokes include nerdy aviation college students. Ironically, many of my fans are students at these types of colleges, and they are big fans of the page.
Yet, they poke fun of themselves endlessly, and some of the content they share to the page is comedic gold. Some of my favorites include videos of an entire dorm with guys hunched over their computers, playing flight simulators, while their non-aviation-college counterparts are out at a frat party.
Or perhaps another favorite is the video of people watching Top Gun in an airplane hangar. On at least one occasion, someone was flipping hamburgers on the grill with an airplane propeller.
These are videos that you can’t make up, but they really happen, and the vibe between the shared content and the audience is very, very real and just so cool. I also have a lot of fun making video ‘skits’ of strange aviation situations, which has significantly grown our YouTube subscriptions. Here’s the video:
Here’s an example of one of our basic photo memes:
Making money by selling apparel
On the apparel side of things, I have had a huge response from including photos of people wearing our clothes.
This sounds very simple, yet I don’t think a lot of pages that try to crossover into clothing do it as often as they should.
Balance between entertainment and selling
The key here is balance; you want to post entertainment and comedy, and you also want to show off your clothing and other things you may be selling.
As a side note, I am also into photography, and I have done many photoshoots of people wearing our apparel. It is something that I genuinely just have a good time doing, and I feel that my personality comes through in the photos just as much as the audio and video memes; there is definitely some level of awkward humor in the idea of people wearing aviation sectional charts.
Our page also prominently features women in aviation, which I believe is a very underrepresented demographic! Our sectional chart (aviation map) women’s leggings series has proven to be a big hit. I also try to keep things fresh and new. This summer, I did a number of photoshoots with girls wearing sectional chart bikinis.
examples of the bikini photoshoots/leggings
How to create good content
There is no simple answer for this. But here’s some tips.
I am a big fan of taking notes or recording ideas I have had over the day, but some of the best work I’ve done was improvised.
I have also had some content that I painstakingly took hours stitching together that wasn’t really that popular, or just ended up being pretty lame.
You will find what works
Sometimes that’s a bummer, but other times, you just realize what works and what doesn’t.
As I stated before, a lot of content is submitted via fans, and that is one of the more enjoyable parts of running a large social media page. Some of the content I get is hilarious. It’s world class comedy. I have also collaborated with fans before, which also yields good synergy and helps both of our pages.
Capitalize on news events
Sometimes current events trigger a huge influx of new memes and content. The biggest example I think I’ve ever seen of this was when the doctor was dragged off of the flight due to the oversold situation last year.
I literally had hundreds of memes submitted, and it encouraged me to make some of my own, many of which became the most popular the page has ever shared, and in fact some of them crossed-over into mainstream media.
How to go viral
Make content for yourself
The most important thing I’ve realized is that you sort of have to make the content for yourself, in a sense. If you enjoy it, you’ll get better at it. I really am a big fan of trying to blend seemingly unrelated topics.
Like what do girls in bikinis, audio production, or comedy have to do with aviation? Practically nothing, but that’s sort of the underlying humor in it.
If you can combine things creatively now and then, it can be really fun and perhaps open some unknown doors. It’s at that point people start noticing.
Focus deeply on your niche and your own skills
I know what I’m good at, but I am ever increasingly aware of what I suck at! The key is to focus on what you do well, and get excellent at it.
Many people jump around trying to please too many in a short amount of time. I am really comfortable editing audio, video, and meeting people; networking. But I am not very confident in graphic design, for example.
So, I don’t focus on graphic design, and get other people to help me. Believe me when I say, I think I have tried just about every job and creative endeavor on the planet! You have to stick with what you're good at.
Consistency and personality
You have to stick with what works, and when it comes to social media, this means being consistent with your posting, and not being afraid to bring your personality into the content.
Not only will this grow your page and following, but it will also help inspire other people to jump into the action as well. That’s really when you know that you’ve reached the next level of content creation and entrepreneurship. But that’s just my opinion.
It’s important to stay consistent and try to continuously produce new and exciting content, but it’s equally as important to try to have fun with whatever it is you’re doing.
Next time you’re feeling stuck, maybe think of a hashtag that you can run with. As always, keep creating content, always, and don’t take it personally if it isn’t an immediate hit!
Content, delivery, and timing
Going viral takes content, delivery, and timing. You might have the great content, but the delivery was poor, and it never catches on.
Perhaps the comedy would have worked better in a cartoony meme, and not an audio soundbyte? Maybe the video you made had bad production. Many factors can ruin delivery.
But the more common theme is just poor timing, and nobody can control the timing. Generally speaking though, if you consistently create good content and deliver it in a clever way, eventually, something will go viral.
From memes to paying customers
Focus on posting content that you think is fun and exciting, and usually what happens is people start sharing your page with their friends.
And then, if you’re lucky, the viral effect may begin, in which people who have never heard of your page start sharing it and telling their friends.
The way I see it, those people are now your potential customers. It’s important to not piss them off and bombard them with worthless ads. But if you tastefully keep it related to the page (in my case, aviation), and make it clever (or in many cases, just weird and different), people will comment and share it as well.
It is really surprising how responsive people are if they’re used to visiting your page often. Also, keep people talking! Post things that facilitate discussion; even debate! It’s not all bad.
I think the bottom line is just balance. You’re going to want to keep people sharing, talking, and generally just having a good time at your page/content. But at the same time, you want to make conversions.
The best situation is where you can combine both! In my case, this usually means including our products and apparel in memes. Video is a great example of this, and in most of the skits (and when I go live), I try to have some sort of RadarContact/ATC Memes shirt or lanyard on.
It sounds so basic, but it really does work.
A thanks to my fans
ATC Memes and the RadarContact brand have both been growing consistently, and it’s largely due to our fans and the amount of excitement and energy they bring to the page.
I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read this article! I invite everyone to visit our social media pages, it’s simply @atcmemes on Instagram, or ‘ATC Memes’ on Facebook and YouTube.
As I’ve stated previously, the best part of running a large social media page is the fans. I cannot even begin to tell readers the stuff I have learned from simply networking with other, like (and unlike) minded people.
There is always satisfaction in networking, at least for me. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, comments, rants, etc. I am very often checking our messages on all of our social media platforms. Thanks again, and remember, wave those wands high! #squawkdirtytome
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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