Disclaimer: This post is not a rant. We are not delusional, PH is a business and as such it needs to cater for their community as well as their business logic. This post is merely an outline of our failed product launch.
As you probably don’t know we officially launched our design focused cryptocurrency portfolio application, f0l.io this Wednesday. Not necessarily a life altering product, but it ticks all the boxes that we know Product Hunters would love. It has a very unusual UX and crypto is all the rage these days.
We did a ton of preparation before the launch. Read all the “How to make it on Product Hunt” articles available, and trust me there are a lot of articles. We also spent the month before the launch to build a small, but loyal following of early beta power users.
We have altered our website to offer a little bonus for our visitors that came from Product Hunt. We were a bit hesitant about the wording so we explicitly asked PH’s support team if it is all right and they gave us the green light.
We of course also prepared eye catching graphics and text for our listing
The night before the release I was confident our listing will reach at least the top 10. We had a solid launch plan, detailed down to the minute, and here it is:
- 7:00 GMT (00:00 PST): It’s time to post. PH’s server time is PST and day light savings started on the 11th of March, so 7am was the optimal time. We hesitated here for a couple of minutes, because Fitbit launched two new products that day and we were afraid that they can steal our thunder. In hind sight this might have been a mistake. This little hesitation resulted in us posting our listing to the #8 spot. Not on the “Popular” feed, but on the top of the “Newest” feed.
- 7:05 GMT (00:05 PST): Alessio posts the “maker comment” that explains the product’s back story and invites comments.
- 7:06 GMT (00:06 PST): Friends and family who were waiting readily to upvote, cast their votes
- 7:20 GMT (00:20 PST): We pinned a post on our small, but very active Telegram group announcing the listing. That resulted in some quality upvotes.
- 8:15 GMT (01:15 PST): Before the launch we gathered ~600 email addresses from our early users. We split those into 3 segments. At 8:15 we sent out an email to the first batch announcing the launch
- 9:00 GMT (02:00 PST): Posts on our personal social media
- 9:30 GMT (02:30 PST): Our medium post went live and we sent it to a couple of crypto related subreddits (Reddit loves crypto)
- 10:00 GMT (03:00 PST): Email blast to the 2nd segment went out
- 10:30 GMT (03:30 PST): Our Android version of the app was out for a while, installed on a couple of thousand devices so we sent out a push notification
- 11:00 GMT (04:00 PST): Post to Alessio’s friends italian cryptocurrency Telegram group went live
- 12:00 GMT (05:00 PST): Third email batch
It was a well thought out plan, following the rules to the dot and we executed it well. By 11am GMT our listing had around 50 upvotes. Amercia is still sleeping and we had 50. In fact it had the 5th most upvotes from all listings across the board. Yet we were still in the “Newest” section, which I found really weird.
Since we did our research on the topic we knew very well that the PH algorithm works in mysterious ways and it is heavily biased towards PH’s power users, but we never thought it is this much biased. We had a good amount of upvotes from relatively new members and a handful from mid level members, but it wasn’t enough.
Of course if you are not on the main page, you lose out on the casual users of Product Hunt, therefore you lose out on lots of eyeballs and lots of further upvotes. It is a self generating process.
It was really frustrating to see that there were products in the “Popular” category with 1–2 upvotes, while our app was actually going further and further down in the “Newest” category (which is ordered by the time of submission)
To channel my frustration I was looking to find some explanation. After reading the seemingly same articles over and over again I came across this one that was eye opening. Full disclosure: I have no way of verifying if this is still true but from what I’ve seen it is quite likely. TL;DR for the article (and some of our own observations):
- There are only a handful of PH users who have the power to move products from Newest to Popular b̶y̶ ̶u̶p̶v̶o̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶t̶
EDIT: we received a reply from the PH team:
This isn’t quite true: we (the PH team) look at every product that’s hunted and curate the homefeed. Upvotes from certain users is not part of the process. Certain community members can hunt directly to the homepage, but we look at every post. No magic “upvote” is part of it.
- Products submitted by these users are on the front page automatically when submitted, and they stay there no matter what
- PH allows one sponsored product per day, which will stay in the 4th spot on the main page through the day. I’ve reached out the sales team and asked for the price. It is bit expensive for us right now but I have to say it is not unrealistic.
- You can literally gain a thousand upvotes, you won’t break out of the “Newest” section unless someone big upvotes you.
Moral of the story
Product Hunt is anything but an equal playing field. When you are launching your product try to find a well respected member of community who is willing to “hunt” the product for you. Keep in mind that these members are being pitched constantly so make sure you have a unique selling point.
Failing this your only hope is luck. Cross your fingers and hope that your product catches the eyes of one of these power users. My advice is if you don’t have a power user to support you, aim your launch to around 13:00 GMT. This way you will be on top of the “Newest” feed when the US wakes up and also for Europe’s lunch break.
Fun (is it tho) side note
The last upvote on our listing (the day after) was in fact from a power user. He actually reached out on Telegram saying he can’t believe this product didn’t make it to the top.
Oh well, we failed. At the end of the day our grand total was 83. I had way better result with my previous product without any marketing preparation. I guess I was lucky that time.
We of course going to continue iterating over our product. The amount of positive feedback and encouragement we received is more than enough to continue working on this.