I was recently involved in launching Epiloge a community for students and professionals to connect with people in the same field of interest by sharing not just where you work or study, but by also sharing what you're working on.
We've already grown Epiloge to a small but active community through friends, family and our own connections, so, the next logicial step for us — having ironed out most bugs and UX issues — is to have more people get interested in Epiloge, check it out, and of course give more feedback.
Product Hunt (PH) is pretty much made for helping start-ups in this scenario.
But... how do you successfully launch your product on PH?
After reading several articles, we found that there is a lot of conflicting advice what to focus on and how to go ahead with putting your start-up on PH… not to mention that all of the articles and blog posts we found were a significant time AFTER they listed their app on PH and had already had success with upvotes.
That means the information we got had a clear bias towards how specific apps and products got to “app of the day” or “app of the week”. And even more so, aggregating all the advice, you could spend weeks or months preparing to put your app or other product on PH without knowing whether it helps you at all.
We thought that clearly, there must be some middle ground between not planning at all and just uploading a few screenshot and investing massive amounts of time in the preparation.
So, to figure out what will benefit our PH launch, we started looking at various PH entries and tried to see a trend. Doing this for half an hour, we had a sense of what makes sense and what not, but there were still open questions what we can and should do.
So we ended up doing the only thing you can do when you want to confirm your own bias: a small statistical analysis… because you know, statistics don’t lie, right?
We screened all listed new Product Hunt entries with more than 100 upvotes for Feb 3 to Feb 5, 2020 (as of Feb 6). *
The results are below for others who have asked themselves the same questions… or just want a confirmation of things they already figured out themselves.
Oh, and if you want to see our Product Hunt launch page— here you go: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/epiloge-2
*Note that we excluded 2 entries that had 100 upvotes, one was a Google product someone hunted and the makers weren’t involved in that list entry, while the other one was a joke entry about an Amazon Dating App.
1. Make a GIF from your logo
It sounds odd to start with that, but honestly, creating a little moving GIF as your logo for Product Hunt seems to really make a difference to attract the Product Hunt crowd.
60% of all Product Hunt launches we looked at used a GIF as a logo.
While we didn’t do any analysis of the entries with less than 100 votes (or those with just 1 vote…), it is safe to say from an overall glance, that pretty much all of the “ignored” entries didn’t use a GIF.
While statistics can lie and correlation doesn’t equal causation, we think you should consider a GIF logo, if you can get a hold of it easily. The problem we quickly realized is that googling “free GIF logo maker” turns out a large list of results, but none of them work. The reason is pretty simple: it is very hard to get to a somewhat nice looking result with simple tools you find online. And sure thing, we unsurprisingly found an article that confirmed our suspicion — there are just two ways to get to a result that can actually help you on PH. The most common one is: ask someone who does animation work and say “pretty please” to get an animated GIF made for you. Well, the problem with that is not everyone has such a person and often the result you want may not be the result you get.
There is a second alternative, however, which works and if done right doesn’t take forever, but more of an open mind. Use a professional animation software like Adobe After Effects. Sounds daring? Well, it seems so at first. But our steps to get to an acceptable result was pretty easy: A. we signed up for the free 7 day After Effects trial period — you get access to the full product, which we downloaded for MacOS, it installed, and launched, B. we watched two Youtube tutorials, one on keyframes (that is really the one you need to get the hang of some basic animation) and one on morphing shapes (if you want to spend an hour or two more for a cool animated logo idea), and C. we went ahead and just created a spinning and size increasing and decreasing GIF. Voila.
2. Write your tagline
When you start your PH entry, you’ll see that the first “obstacles” is the tagline. If you are like us and worked on your app for quite some time, it may just be hard to distill it all down into a 6 to 7 word tagline… we suggest to just go through several of the other taglines of Product Hunt apps of the last week. You will notice a trend.
For the most part, we found the taglines used surprisingly uninventive messages.
In a good way, that is the best voted apps and products just describe themselves in a simple phrase without much marketing slang.
To be clear, there are examples where a more provocative approach has helped apps to get noticed. Peter Vu describes it as one of the points that can make a difference in an example in his article on his successful Product Hunt launch.
3. Add your website url and the body of your launch post
We found that over 80% of the Product Hunt launches with more than 100 upvotes had more than 1 line in the product launch body, with most just staying at 3 lines of text (260 chars is the maximum, but it seems nobody actually goes to the max text you want).
In other words, the description is pretty short, often so short that it seems to not add much more to the what you get out of the tagline.
It doesn’t need to include any marketing speak or describe all the features or parts of what you developed. It just needs to give users a sense of what it really is what you built. A 10 seconds glance is what people actually want to see, rather than a wall of words. Oh… and just don’t forget your website url and make sure you got the correct link … there have been cases when the link someone included didn’t actually open the website in question such as leaving out www. with https like this which on some pages doesn’t seem to work: https://”yourwebsite”.com.
One reason why the main description is so short for the products we reviewed is that in nearly all cases we looked at, the maker of the product also put the first comment below the product. Only 15% of the launches we looked at had no initial comment by one of the makers. The first comment seems to just be an entry into having users comments, a way to say “hey I am here and ready to get feedback.” There is another section below on the first comment.
To be honest, we found the most tricky part for a Product Hunt launch is to decide what best fits in terms of images to describe Epiloge. Product Hunt launches use a diverse combination of screenshots, images with text, videos and some (but only in rare cases) also used gif screenshots showing short snippets of how the use of an app looks like. There was really no clear direction. 36% used a video as the first “screen” with lengths between only 10 seconds and over 3 minutes (the PH entry form lets you specify only 1 video link, so if you want to show several videos, you are out of luck!). Most were “how to use the app” videos showing key features or in-app use. In contrast, the most common type of image included was the “screenshot with explanatory text headlines” type and not just a simple screenshot without any added text. As to the number of images included, they varied significantly between 3 and 10 images, with the most common number 5 or 6.
The most common type of image included was the “screenshot with explanatory text headlines”
In other words, there is no golden bullet how to do it. One thing that we found worked best though is if the screenshots / video etc. were aligned in design with the application itself. So a generally “white background” design of an app also used white slides for Product Hunt. Below is what we came up with — we stuck to how our website frontpage looks like and used both desktop and mobile screenshots to show that our webapp was mobile friendly.
5. You don’t need to ask a “hunter” with lots of followers to put your product up
When we first found Product Hunt, we thought it is important to contact one of the “hunters” there to put your app up. “Hunters” are users who have included various apps before and have followers and friends on Product Hunt. We actually contacted Product Hunt last year to ask if there is a significant difference as to having our start-up “hunted” by one of the top users on there or just described it ourselves. We got quick feedback back by the Product Hunt team that they have tried to change their site to don’t really give an advantage to apps that were included by one of the prominent “hunters”.
It turns out, the “hunting” vs self-uploading should not make that much of a difference. 63% of the product launches we looked at were self-hunted. And those self-hunted entries included most of the top apps of the day. In other words, the users on Product Hunt really don’t seem to differentiate too much between those apps “hunted” vs. just self-uploaded ones. You can get upvotes and site visits either way.
6. The first comment to your launch
As mentioned above, the first comment to a new Product Hunt entry is nearly always made by one of the makers of the product. The length of the comments varied in our analysis. A few makers just briefly said “hi” with a few comments on what the app was about, but a majority of all entires we look at actually wrote quite an extensive post. Some included features or what problem they were solving, others the story of how they came to make the product in the first place.
Ultimately, it is up to you to post whatever you think suits best as the first comment. Still, don’t forget the comment. We kept it simple and just explained why we ended up creating Epiloge in the first place and what the core features are. Product Hunt focuses on the first comment quite a lot and the team at PH even wrote an article with extensive examples of what they think are good first comments.
7. Timing of your PH launch
One of the most common question is when to press the launch button? On a Tuesday afternoon? On Monday 0:01am? Well, the best answer we figured out is that every new PH “day” starts at 0:01am Pacific Standard Time (that is 8:01am London time or 9:01am Berlin time) while the day of the week, contrary to a lot of Quora questions etc., shouldn’t actually make that big of a difference (that is just our interpretation of various advice, if you look at Quora several people say launch at Sunday night and not on Wednesdays and Thursdays :) ). The reason why you should schedule your launch after the 0:01am PST time is that this way your app has the whole day to gather votes, comments etc. for “Today”, while if you launch at the end of a day, your app slips to “Yesterday” and may just not be found by the most PH user.
8. Once your Product Hunt entry is live, is there anything else you can do?
Yes, but first there are some no-nos too. Product Hunt actually doesn’t want “vote manipulation”. So if you want to create 100 fresh accounts to get 100 upvotes… just don’t. They use algorithms to check if that is happening and that will impact your ranking on the site. We understand the same thing also is happening with contacting other users on ProductHunt to upvote your launch. Would you even benefit from any type of these methods to get more votes? Our assessment is no… at the end what Product Hunt is good at is giving you a boost in traffic to your site, a small… or even larger number of signed up users and potentially contacts who like your product and want to collaborate or even invest. If you followed steps 1 to 6 and have an interesting app or product, don’t try anything funny :). The Product Hunt community does the filtering, people actually look at the apps they find interesting based on the logo, tagline and screenshots… simply because they are interested in a particular application or product.
There is of course still things you can do. If you came across an interesting bit of information that wasn’t that clear to you but could be useful to others launching on Product Hunt as well, write it up. Share it on forums or even write an article like we did. It sure would have made our life easier if we had a step by step guide how to approach our launch!
Also, if you know people who have been active on Product Hunt, ask them to maybe write a comment. That doesn’t hurt, a lot of comments are from some of your early users or maybe friends who like your product and just want to give a thumbs up or say they have followed your app for quite some time.
Ultimately, only a few launches on Product Hunt stand out…
We launched Epiloge, a platform to connect through work and knowledge, in October 2019 and after inviting friends, family and other contacts, we naturally also wanted to just put it on any platform that could help with user sign ups. If you haven’t seen the link to our PH entry in the intro, here is it again: Link to PH site.
If you are still building a first core userbase and have bugs and UX problems to battle, don’t launch on ProductHunt just yet. And we are not the only people who say build your early user base elsewhere while you can still work on your product and iron out the early kinks — read this interesting blog from marketingexamples.com on their launch on Product Hunt which also suggests to wait until you have ironed out all the early bugs and have a small community going. They outline that they got over 2000 newsletter signups from Product Hunt alone, because they waited until their early problems were ironed out… of course, they also have a product the PH crowd likes.
Lastly, the more we browsed Product Hunt and looked through the apps and products there, the more we realized there is a degree of fairness in the whole upvoting, commenting and “launch of the day/week/month” process — but Product Hunt doesn’t work for everything that is well developed and working well. Several of the entries with only a few upvotes actually look like very decent products which work well. So why were they ignored? Our assessment is they aren’t what the community on Product Hunt is really looking for, such as business software targeting a different crowd.
In any case, good luck with your own Product Hunt launch and we hope some of the tips we wrote up may help you!