How to Hit the Jackpot on Product Hunt
If you are building an innovative product that solves real pain points, at some point you will consider opening it up to the community of tech enthusiasts on Product Hunt. For many, it is the first stop to find product evangelists, get early feedback and adopters.
Product launch is never easy but if you plan and prepare in advance and do the right things, chances are good you will turn up trumps at the end of the day like Krisp, Facehub, Expper, Podcastle and many others (most of them SmartGateVC portfolio companies) did by becoming Product of the Day and more.
So if you are planning a launch on Product Hunt and don’t yet know how to start, roll up your sleeves and let’s begin!
What is Product Hunt
Product Hunt is a community-based website that allows users throughout the world to share and discover the latest tech products. It allows product makers or hunters to showcase their products to a wide audience of tech enthusiasts who can review, upvote, discuss, and share. All newly-added products are automatically featured on the Newest feed and only those that acquire the most attention by the users also appear on the Popular feed and compete with each other.
The website was launched back in November 2013 by Ryan Hoover and was initially backed by Y Combinator. Three years later, when it was the go-to destination for tech makers to showcase their products and for investors to spot new ideas, it was acquired by AngelList (which had previously invested in the platform) for $20M. In the words of Ryan Hoover, the rationale behind the acquisition was that the long-range plan for Product Hunt resembled what AngelList was already doing. There were two options on the horizon — enter into a fierce competition with AngelList or combine the companies and accelerate their growth together. With the acquisition, AngelList helped further build the community. Currently, they have an average of 5M visitors to the website per month.
Why Launch on Product Hunt
With a targeted approach, Product Hunt can offer a bundle of perks and benefits. Primarily, it is a way to:
Build awareness about your product.
Get early adopters and product evangelists.
Accelerate your traffic and hopefully grow your user base and maybe make some sales. When Krisp Mac was launched, they had a skyrocketing traffic to the website and an unprecedented number of downloads driven from the platform; though, this is not a guarantee it will happen to you as well.
Krisp Downloads after the Product Hunt launch (Source: Epic Guide on How to Launch)
Earn press interest: if you rank high on the list chances are journalists will be interested in what you are doing. Being in the top 5 ensures coverage by the Product Hunt Newsletter itself and gives an exposure to an even wider audience. The reality, however, is that journalists rarely knock on your door themselves. If you want to be featured by the press, you will need to take the initiative and reach out to all relevant (niche!) journalists yourself.
Get useful feedback from a highly relevant audience of tech enthusiasts and influencers. Along with positive remarks, suggestions will help to further improve your offering.
Acquire investor interest (possibly and hopefully).
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Every successful launch on Product Hunt has an untold back-story and weeks’ (or months’!) commitment. Here are some steps to help you get the ball rolling.
Like in every other initiative, you need to set your goal clear. What do you want to gain? Is it awareness, customers, media attention? When you have this clear, then you can develop your strategy based on that. If your primary goal is to be noticed by the press, make sure you have a press release at hand or an article explaining your product that you can share with journalists. If you plan to acquire paying customers, this is not the place to be frugal. Include special offers and mention it in your opening comment.
Let’s first go over the to-do items on the Product Hunt website.
1․ Get into and explore Product Hunt. Build your PH network, follow other products under your category, get to know the hunters, make friends in the comments, follow the topics you’re interested in and just be active and leave your mark on the website. Explore the top products (put * into the search bar and hit Enter — there you go!). Befriending with people from the Product Hunt community will translate into valuable support on the big day so start as early as possible (at least two months) and you will reap the benefits when you launch.
2․ Find a hunter. Hunters will help to disclose your product to a wider audience due to their well-earned popularity. Hunting yourself is always a choice but why would you want to miss out on an extra icing on the cake. 500 Hunters is a constantly changing list of top hunters with most upvotes and products. You can follow Chris Messina — the top hunter as of the time of writing who has hunted Robin the Robot, Facehub, D’efekt 2.0, 10Web, and QuarantineFiction initiated by ForgeFiction. You will only need to fill out the form on his page, pick a date on his calendar and tip him a coffee or two. Keep in mind, that the top hunters’ calendars are booked even two months’ in advance so don’t procrastinate.
3․ Create the Product Page. To start, you will need the following:
Product Name — avoid emojis here;
Tagline — keep it concise, to the point, and free of cliche descriptions and buzzwords (remember, a good tagline matters a lot!);
Description — 3–4 sentences about your product and value proposition;
Topics — pick 3–4 topics that indicate the categories your product falls under (learn more about interesting statistics from 10M Product Hunt posts here);
Gallery — this is the place to add some photos, a video to show your product in action and maybe some screenshots to highlight certain features, uses and benefits of your product. Maximum size is 2MB for each file.
Thumbnail — make it catchy and engaging as the thumbnail is most probably the first thing people will notice. GIFs capture most attention (compared to photos and videos) and draw more engagement. Just remember to keep it under 3MB.
Makers — mention everyone in the team and engage in conversations. You can also link your accounts to both Facebook and Twitter and make it easier for users to connect.
Check out Preview Hunt to see how your product page will look like on the launch day.
As soon as you launch, kick off the conversations by putting the first comment yourself — tell your followers about the makers, product, the value proposition and why you are building it. You can also share the backstory of the product and, importantly, ask people for feedback to increase engagement.
The most important items on your checklist outside the Product Hunt website include the following:
1․ Scrutinize your network and make a roster of influencers who will be willing to support you on social media when you launch. Let them know about your plan beforehand and don’t hesitate to reach them out again on the big day.
2․ Transfer your audience to Product Hunt. Reaching out to your users and wider audience early will ensure enough time for them to open a Product Hunt account if they don’t have yet and show some activity before your launch so that their upvotes and comments are valuable (and I will explain the Product Hunt algorithm in the sections below).
3․ Get early subscribers! Making a Landing Page is the old truth about getting early subscribers. You can also create an Upcoming Page with the Product Hunt Ship Program to show the Product Hunt community what you are building and keep the vibes alive with periodic messaging but you will need to promote the page to make it visible.
More items on your checklist should include the following:
1․ Prepare a Timetable and plan your posting schedule. Make a list of Facebook groups, Slack channels, Reddit communities, and other relevant groups as well as a list of influencers who will post, reshare or tweet about your product. Check their geography to decide on the best time to post or reach out to them so that you don’t miss anything or anyone on the hassle of the big day. Prepare the captions in advance as well.
2․ Prepare visuals for social media posts. As your product thrives in popularity, you will be excited to (and you definitely should) share the news on social media and attract more attention. Having design pieces at hand will allow you to give real-time updates to your followers and save a lot of time. Here is a very relevant article for more insights.
3․ If you don’t yet have a Twitter account, it’s never late to make up for lost time. The Twitter format is more friendly for casual thoughts, conversations and endorsements. Most influencers and people with tech backgrounds have a vibrant presence on Twitter which makes it far easier to build relationships with thought leaders and decision makers who usually ignore emails.
4․ Prepare your website beforehand. You want to make sure that when people land on your website, they navigate easily and find all they need (not to mention your website’s capacity to handle the traffic). Detailed answers to common questions in FAQ is also a good idea. Importantly, you can put a welcome banner/widget on your website like Krisp did that serves two purposes. Some visitors may land on your website without being aware of your launch on Product Hunt and such a widget will draw more exposure. For another thing, it is a nice gesture to welcome those who have landed on your website from Product Hunt. But avoid making last-minute changes on the website.
Also be aware that if you’re building a really cool product, hunters may grab and launch it without waiting for an approval. A similar unplanned launch happened with Fronty, image to HTML converter powered by AI. The Product Hunt community loved it so much that they were selected as #1 Product of the Day with little effort from their side. However, if the first try doesn’t go well, you don’t get a second chance for relaunch unless there is a major update or pivot. Krisp, for example, has hit the road four times — Krisp Mac, Krisp Windows, Krisp for iOS and Krisp Rooms. If your case is different, you will need to contact firstname.lastname@example.org as these cases are approved case by case.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that products that are ready for the community to use, download, or purchase get priority and it should be clearly indicated on the website how people can acquire it. Robin was moved from Popular to Newest (and thus removed from the competition) because they didn’t have a pricing button on the website. Even though they had “Subscribe for Updates” CTA, it took quite a while to Karen Khachikyan, the CEO of Expper Technologies, to negotiate back and forth with the Product Hunt team and finally bring Robin back to Popular, after adding pricing for Robin the Robot. In such cases, contact the live support team.
Don’t ignore grammar and spelling. If you have typos, it’s a red flag right there. Whether it is the press release, website content or Social Media captions, keep them neat and clear.
The Magic Time
When you prepare the product page, you have two options — Launch Now or Schedule (a maximum of 7 days in advance). Time Travel helps to analyze the competition on different days. Every new product is added 12:00AM PST time (if you are based elsewhere check for the time difference since California is following Daylight saving time). Most products get launched before 9AM PST time so Eastern Europe has a huge advantage in this regard as launching at midnight sharp California time gives full 24 hours and an opportunity to gain traction with tech enthusiasts well before the US wakes up.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the most competitive days with the most traffic to the website but also tougher competition. Weekends are less fierce so there is a higher chance to be #1 Product of the day but there are also less users to attract.
There is no magic time to launch. Just hope not to get into competition with the giants. Though, if that happens, you can win the race and turn the impossible into real magic :)
On the Big Day
Keep your eyes wide open for 24 hours and keep the hype around your product! Stay hyper-active on social media — post about your launch on Twitter, Facebook and Telegram groups, Slack channels, Reddit communities; give real-time updates about the progress; re-tweet and re-share other people’s posts; reach out to your connections individually with personalized messaging; and stay active in the comments both on Product Hunt and social media. Tag (rather than hashtag) Product Hunt in your posts and they might re-share. Vibrant groups to consider are Product Hunt Upvote Club, Product Hunt Exchange, Product Hunt Upvote & Promotion, Armenian ProductHunt & HackerNews users, Yerevan Startup Mixer by Al Eisaian, HyeTech and many more.
Right messaging is key! A big no for asking people directly to upvote. There are many other alternatives — “Join the discussion”, “Leave your feedback”, “Show some love”, “Discover us”, “Check us out”, “Come let us know what you think” to name a few. Don’t try to trigger their voting ring detection. At Product Hunt, they are really serious about it!
Some may say linking directly to your product page is dangerous as it may signal the Product Hunt team that you are building an artificial ranking on the website. That’s not exactly true. Product Hunt is absolutely fine if you promote the product unless you are asking directly for upvotes. Following the logic, they have no issues with linking your product page directly rather than the homepage.
The Beauty of Product Hunt Algorithm
The Product Hunt ranking algorithm has a few key ingredients. It is a secret sauce but these attributes are likely to impact product rankings:
Engagement around your product which includes upvotes and comments;
Active conversations including upvotes of the comments and answers;
Weight of the user — active accounts weigh more than first-time users;
High response rate from the makers — be there to respond to the questions and comments quickly;
Geography of the users engaged with your product — 28% of the Product Hunt users are from the US so you definitely want to dig deep and revive your connections with the other side of the planet;
Time since posting the product — products posted early in the day usually get more exposure;
Hourly spread of the activity — equality of the hourly-spread is valued;
People checking out the website from Product Hunt.
Don't overload your product page with fake upvotes. They do no good. Product Hunt is proficient at detecting fraudulent activity so play fair!
When all is said and done
Launching on Product Hunt is not a cinch but if you do things right, you will be noticed. In the past few years, dozens of Armenian startups have hit the road with top rankings and even won Product of the Year awards. Golden Kitty has found its home in Krisp in Audio & Voice category and Facehub in AI & Machine Learning. Arto Minasyan, co-founder of Krisp, has an epic guide on how to become the Product of the Day on Product Hunt. In one year, all three products they launched became Products of the Day and one was selected as Product of the Year. Asti Piliposyan has more to share about Armenian startups that made a killing on Product Hunt in one year. The most recent success story — #1 Product of the Day from the Armenian startup scene was Podcastle — an amazing tool that converts your favorite news and articles to podcasts. Now time is yours to buckle up and hit the race in 2020!
Please note that the information and recommendations above are based solely on my previous experience of working with different companies on their Product Hunt launches.
Should you have further questions, contact me on LinkedIn.