How to successfully launch a software application on Product Hunt in 2020?

How to successfully launch a software application

Launching a product or a project on Product Hunt is one of the most popular and easy ways for your newly created application or project to reach a mass audience. This was the case for GitHub Writer, a browser extension that brings WYSIWYG editing to GitHub. The goal was to get people to download this Open Source side project which is based on CKEditor 5. It offered a distinct value for its users, but for the CKEditor 5 brand, it also meant users could try its capabilities in a familiar environment. Product Hunt helped GitHub Writer reach 1000 downloads. It was one of the top 5 products on the day of its launch and as such was promoted in its newsletter and socials. GitHub Writer’s success was what pushed me to write this article. If you end up using it, don’t hesitate to give your feedback! 😉 But let’s get started with how you can make the best out of a Product Hunt launch as well.

The popularity, reputation, and the audience of Product Hunt gives you many opportunities to help your product excel. But before you hastily initiate your launch with the help of outdated articles, please keep in mind that Product Hunt is a community platform above all. The community consists of innovators, early adopters, founders, product makers and enthusiasts from all sorts of industries. They all share the passion to learn about new products, ideas, trends and the next big thing. The platform shapes itself according to the community’s needs and feedback. It is ever-changing, just like the software and other types of products users choose to hype. A good example of this is the addition of Makers which allows makers to communicate, brainstorm and give each other feedback or Ship which has tools to help makers launch their product.

Just like its community, the products the platform presents are also diverse. You will find all sorts of products: from conventional MVPs, new releases of popular software, everyday productivity and design tools, to book clubs, podcasts, curated lists of tools. And even the most eccentric products and services, like the prank product, Ship Your Enemies Glitter. The opportunities are endless, but they are what you make of them.

So for now, take a deep breath and don’t go crazy on it.


# Give it time

Yes, your idea, MVP, or product might be grand. But ask yourself, are you Elon Musk? Although they might be fun, put the flamethrower down for now and sign up for Product Hunt. Learn about the community and how to make it work in your favor.

It helps create a list of people who might find value in your product, which can be useful during the launch or if you decide that you need a hunter. If you are new to Product Hunt, study up on the basics. Set up your profile, find your contacts, and start building your Product Hunt bubble. Find products similar to yours, follow and note down their hunters and people who upvoted to contact them later on. Check out the comments for any useful feedback and hints about which features and specifications to focus on while making and presenting your product.

While moving forward from basics, consider when you are planning to launch and how much time you have to work with. If you have a couple of months until the launch and can commit to being active in the community, great! Make “opportunity search” a regular task. Try to check out the products daily, give feedback if you have any, sign up for the Product Hunt newsletter, follow Product Hunt and key people in the community. Use Makers chats not only to ask for feedback but also to give feedback to other makers on landing pages, strategies, and the like. Checking out how other successful products are doing will help you correct your pitch. Along the way, you will find more people who are likely to benefit from your product. Interact with them, not just on Product Hunt but also on other social platforms. You can even consider using Ship to share your product pitch with everyone from the start, but only if you have time to commit to the platform and use it as designed.

However, you might not have a lot of time on your hands and need to launch ASAP. Your priority should be using the little time you have to list the correct people to reach rather than trying to be active in the community. Product Hunt is about connecting with people who will see value in your product, so do not start by reaching out to random popular hunters with good statistics. If you get lucky and find a very popular hunter who would love your product and/or was searching for something similar, then by all means go ahead and contact them. However, it may be too late for them to check out the product or too short notice. There are bigger decisions to make about hunters, anyway.

# Hunter or “huntee”?

There are two ways to be posted on Product Hunt. First is as the “maker” of the product, where you post the product and become the hunter yourself. The second is when the product is posted by an interested third party, who becomes the hunter and you become the “huntee”.

First of all, a big chunk of popular (but outdated) posts claim you have to get yourself a hunter. This is in no way true. You do not simply have to get a hunter to have a successful launch – it has its pros but it certainly is not the only way to go. If you have a smaller launch window and you are new to the platform, here are some tips:

  • Not every hunter is interested in every product. Let’s say you have a productivity application. It makes little sense to contact a hunter who is interested in design. You will not fit their portfolio.
  • Having a hunter does not mean their followers will automatically like your product.
  • No matter who hunts the product, in the end, it’s all about if your product is useful or interesting.
  • Hunters, especially the popular ones, get many pitches just like yours every day.
  • Some hunters even offer their support, ideas and expertise as a service.

I recommend going through the discussions and products, as well as keywords on social media to find relevant people rather than asking random people to hunt you. This will also help you grow your contact list ahead of your product launch. I started gathering popular names to contact as far as a month in advance for my project. I followed them before I shared anything with them. I tried to filter them out by the earlier products they had hunted and checked their opinions about them on social media.

If you are looking for a simple way to filter top hunters by the products they have hunted before, this hunters leaderboard is the perfect place to search deep. Twitter advanced search is also a nice way to filter out what specific users said about specific keywords, as well as for general conversations about specific keywords.

After gathering a list of possible hunters, I chose to not contact them in bulk. Instead, I prioritized them and waited for their replies before I moved on to the next one. I think it is more respectful and saves you from the awkward situation of choosing between multiple people who would like to hunt you.

# Don’t forget the space outside Product Hunt

Launching on Product Hunt and making it a central element is more than fine, but whatever your reasons may be for choosing PH, do not forget that Product Hunt is not the only platform the launch takes place. For instance, if your goal is to reach more users, which was the case for launching GitHub Writer, Product Hunt cannot be the only place you interact with possible users. Although its user base has more innovators and early adopters than anywhere else, you have to take a look outside the PH bubble. Not everyone who is popular in Product Hunt circles will influence your particular product’s audience, and not everyone who would be influential in the dev, design or product management community is influential on Product Hunt.

Launching on Product Hunt should be a part of a larger launch and outreach plan. Just as with the hunters, you should be gathering a contact list of people who are outside the PH bubble. You can start looking for them on social media. I already had tracking in place for keywords related to our product. I followed conversations, and potential users that may be interested in GitHub Writer, so I added them to the contact list as well. Ideally, some of them will turn out to be on Product Hunt and some of them will have a following outside of it. Our hunter turned out to be the very first person I added to my list, who I thought might like our product based on a popular tweet they made. After contacting so many hunters and getting either rejections or the silent treatment, our hunter turned out to be the perfect example of who we were trying to target. Finding a hunter within our target audience also made for a bigger possibility that their followers would like us as well.

# When exactly should you be posting?

If you chose to actively use PH before launch, you might have noticed web traffic patterns. For example, Wednesday typically has the highest traffic of the week, which means the number of posts and competition is high as well. Although it would be a long shot, you can check how similar products did among others during the day of their launch to help you anticipate how yours would be. Another good approach to decide about the time of launch would be to post when your existing and target audience is more active, whether they are on Product Hunt or not.

When posting, you should also consider time zone differences. Product Hunt starts its new day at midnight GMT -8, also known as Pacific Standard Time. The sooner you post, the more time you will have. However, this does not necessarily mean you will have more upvotes or perform better. Product Hunt prefers posts that perform steadily throughout the day instead of products that peak shortly and lose activity. This means you need to perform well not only for your own time zone, but for other ones as well. This makes sense, as you are most likely to perform well in your own time zone due to the already existing audience for your product, or because of geographically close industry connections. Time your launch in such a way that you won’t miss the peak time for both your already existing audience and for contacts in your outreach list.

For example, CKEditor’s existing audience was already quite global. We are based in the GMT+2 (Central Europe) time zone, which means when Product Hunt starts its day, it’s 9 AM here. This was quite good for us because at least the local audience is just starting their day and it was still an appropriate hour for our connections further east. We launched on Thursday because it was historically the best day to reach our existing audience with socials and newsletters, and still a high-performing day on Product Hunt.

# Product visuals and descriptions

Because you have already checked similar products and followed how launches perform on Product Hunt for at least a couple days, you are familiar with the idea of the launch package. You have an idea of what kind of language and visuals perform well, like using GIFs for product icons. The Product Hunt package includes images, GIFs, videos, descriptions, the welcome comment and links. The best information about technical details like visual sizes is included in the official blog, which is always up-to-date. Although not included in the official blog, writing a welcome comment about your product, why you created it, and how it helps users to kick off the conversation is a must.

If you are planning on launching or sharing your product on other platforms, including socials, it is a good idea to prepare all the content for them ahead of the launch as well. Customize and prepare the images and videos with the proper dimensions and writing style for each tweet, and updates for Facebook and LinkedIn. On launch day, you will have other priorities.

# The day of the launch

Here comes the day you have been waiting for. Things are going to be quite busy, so it is recommended to have a checklist in order to not miss anything. This article offers the most detailed checklist for the day of the launch, as well as comprehensive checklists for pre- and post-launch.

The most important thing during the launch is to be active and have as many conversations as possible. On Product Hunt, reply to every question, feedback and praise. Drink some coffee and reward yourself with some sweets. Now, do everything you did for Product Hunt for other platforms as well. Share your Product Hunt launch on all your social platforms throughout the day. Don’t forget to share it from your personal accounts and ask your teammates and close circle to do the same. Share it on platforms like Hacker News, related Facebook groups and subreddits you are part of. If you have one, send your newsletter and include your Product Hunt launch there as well.

Be ready for an influx of visitors to your website and stay vigilant against any issues that come up. It would be best to check repeatedly during the day that your websites and demos are working properly.

Last, but definitely not least, reach out to your contact list. It is best to divide the contact list into time zones in order to contact people at appropriate times and keep outreach active throughout the day. Tell them about your launch and answer any questions they might have after trying out the product. If you receive any feedback related to your visuals, descriptions or website, you can quickly fix it. While reaching out is easy and straightforward, be sure to leave enough time for it; if there is a high number of incoming conversations, it may not be so easy.

When you pass 100 upvotes, Product Hunt will eventually tweet about your product and amplify interest in it. So keep at it until the day ends.


# Crush it every day

Now that you did your best, do it again. And again. If you made it to the top 5, you will be included in the Product Hunt newsletter and stay on the homepage for the next couple of days. This means there is still a chance for you to receive feedback, comments, and even upvotes. Do not skip replying to comments and messages just because the launch is over.

Getting feedback instantly is great, but it is also a good idea to try and contact people after giving them some time to use your product. This also acts as a reminder to check it out if they have not already. There were a lot of people among our contacts who said GitHub Writer looked great, but they actually finally tried it and after being reminded about it a week later. After gathering some quick feedback, include the requested fixes and features in your product if possible, or at least try to include them in your roadmap.

Keep following keywords related to your product because even though the main effects of Product Hunt last for around a week, its ripples can be seen for a couple of weeks more.

To make a long story short, Product Hunt is a great tool to bring attention to your product, see how users like it, and get some new ideas. I hope you find this article helpful and have a great launch!

You can reach out to me for any further questions and insights on maintaining a presence on Product Hunt. You can also check out GitHub Writer, powered by CKEditor, and do not forget to give us your feedback!

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