8 quality Sites That Can Help Build Up Your Product’s User Base

Back in July I launched my latest product: Digital Profile (has it only been six months? It feels like a year! I guess that’s what you could call ‘Startup Time’). It is a platform to matchmake digital professionals with the companies who are looking for them. We’d worked very hard to deliver our MVP and since then we’ve been steadily building, testing and launching new features that will be the core of the platform — the algorithm based matching functionality.

With the first version of the site live and my co-founder building all the features for version 2, I needed to switch some of my attention towards building the site’s user base. I wanted to share a few of the sites that I found the most useful for gaining extra traction based on my own experience so far.

Of course, each new digital product is going to have its own target audience. With regards to my own platform I’ve long felt that the majority of generic recruitment agencies aren’t working all that well for digital companies, especially the small and mid sized ones. I wanted to create a new route for recruitment that was based on an entirely different business model.

So for us, it’s digital professionals and people responsible for posting job adverts for digital roles that we are after, but I think the same principles apply for most types of target audience.

These sites aren’t in any particular order, and it’s important to remember a couple of things before you post anywhere. First, do a bit of research on each site to identify what kind of posts or content goes down well — and what content tanks. Second, be prepared to adopt different strategies for each site. This takes longer but when it comes to this sort of marketing activity, quality trumps quantity.

Third (and most importantly), read the rules! A lot of high quality sites got that way because they have pretty strict controls on who and what goes on there. That’s how they keep their audience. If you ignore the rules or abuse the site in some way for a quick win you are likely to lose your chance to post again or worse, it could backfire and reflect badly on your company with the very people who are your potential users and customers.

Anyway, onto the list!

  1. Facebook groups
    In terms of reaching digital professionals I’ve found these to be the best. The trick is the find lively and highly relevant communities and then post good content. I have joined multiple groups such as those related to startup jobs in various cities. I share job listings from our site and messages about our mission to drive traffic back. Think about what goes down well when you post out personally to your friends on Facebook and use that as a guide for the way you should post here. As a little side note if you’re interested in advice and contacts to help your startup I’ve found the London Startups group to be packed with great people who are willing to help if your posts are genuine.
  2. Designer News
    For us this is an obvious one since designers are core to our audience and we have gained a lot of traffic from here. We found that posts talking about the branding and design of our site worked best as they stayed on topic. Obviously this is easier if you have a good looking site! Our most successful post was actually one that came from the guys that did the branding work for the site. It went down well since it was coming from the perspective of a designer. Make sure you share your post on social media so your existing supporters pop over and comment or upvote. Lots of other sites re-publish the home page news feed so if you can rank here even briefly you can multiply your impact.
  3. Reddit Startups
    This one is a little tricky to get right. Before you can get started with posting anything you need to comment relevantly. You need to spend a little time making decent contributions but this will pay off when you come to post your site. Be careful with reading the instructions and learn from the comments you made when it comes to starting your first topic. As elsewhere, spam doesn’t go down well, and you’ll be quickly downvoted off the front page if you try it.
  4. Startups Forum
    This is another strong community, and as such introducing yourself first in the Introductions bit is the best way to get going. Find conversations that are already live on subjects that you know about and add your thoughts. When it comes to posting about your product make sure you ask interesting questions or use it as an example for a wider topic — you won’t get far trying to use it as free advertising.
  5. Medium (you know this works — you’re here now!)
    This is a good one if you’re decent at writing. Articles that share lessons you’ve learnt on your business journey go down really well. As well as being really helpful for other founders you get a chance to talk about the philosophy behind your startup and build some goodwill for your mission. The onus is on you to get the post distributed through social media but there are also groups on Medium that may pick up and re-post your article if it’s relevant for them (such as this one that got picked up by Manager Mint). The offshoot of doing your own social media promotion is that you’ll pick up new Twitter followers and start to become known as a bit of an expert in your industry — the ideal place to get to!
  6. Awwwards
    Digital Profile has a great brand and website design (OK — I accept I’m a little biased!). If you do too, then I think it’s worth paying for entry to a few sites like this. We gained a lot of traction from this one with a good amount of conversion to users. On top of that, a lot of UX and UI designer types hang around on this type of site so it’s ideal for us. You might want to have a look around for awards sites that are likely to be frequented by people from your target audience. And just make sure that you do a little digging and research before you pay for entry to make sure that you are getting value for money.
  7. Design your way
    Another resource used extensively by the design community, we managed to get ourselves featured in Get Inspired From The Latest Well Designed Websites. Shown alongside efforts from Bigcommerce, 1Password and Uber we were thrilled to be recognised like that. The article generated a lot of traffic and some conversion — and of course it was the right sort of people clicking through. Find the equivalent industry news sites and speak to the editors or journalists about what you’re doing and see if they would feature your site, idea or design in one of their features.
  8. Product Hunt
    Product Hunt is a huge opportunity to build up your user base if used well. We’ve not posted here yet because you have limited opportunities to add your product — usually it’s only acceptable to post again if you have gone from beta to live, or have made major changes (and you’ll normally need to go through an admin to get this agreed), so timing is crucial. You want to have your site in a good place and have a strategy and action plan sorted out long before you get around to hitting Submit. Since you’ll probably only have one shot to get noticed it’s vital to give yourself the best possible chance. There’s good advice out there from people who successfully rode the wave such as this guide from my friend Neil Cocker.
    We followed Neil’s instructions and did fairly well staying on the home featured section in top 10 for a full day, driving plenty of good traffic. We also managed to get a tweet from Product Hunt on Twitter.

So there you go! Based on my experience these are some of the best places to go to build up your user base. What have I missed? Have you got your own perspective on this one? If so, please share — we are still early stage and always trying new ways to grow!

Also I’ve setup my own group on Facebook for founders in early stage startups to share this kind of advice between us. Please come join us.

Thanks for reading, I hope you find it useful.