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Startups going global: a guide to Product Hunt

ITMO University corporate blog Project management *Internet marketing Content-marketing Start-up development

Product Hunt is a Y-combinator backed discovery platform, founded by Ryan Hoover in 2013. Conceived as an email list, it has gone on to become one of the most popular directories, raised $7.5 million in backing and was acquired by AngelList — a social network for entrepreneurs — in December 2016.

Exposure on the platform contributed to viral successes of Yo and Ship Your Enemies Glitter, and brought multi-million dollar companies, like Robinhood and Gimlet Media, to the public eye.

Pic by Nick Iliasov (Unsplash license)
Pic by Nick Iliasov (Unsplash license)

Overview

The website features the directory itself. Any user can submit or hunt a product. Active ones gain contributor status, which allows them to review products and post comments. An upvote system determines the visibility of submissions on the front page. Apart from it, there are:

  • Collections — product lists, curated by regular users.

  • The daily newsletter. Features the best submissions of the day, handpicked by PH employees.

  • The weekly newsletter, centred around a particular trending topic. Features actual news from beyond the website, and links to a limited number of recent noteworthy submissions.

  • The “Ship” — a freemium customer engagement platform / launching page for upcoming products.

  • The job listings page, and more.

Ground rules

You can’t ask for upvotes, be it on social media or the website itself. This is an easy way to get de-listed or banned. Naturally, bribing users or artificially inflating the number of upvotes is also prohibited.

Don’t abuse your private messaging privileges. You can easily message Product Hunt team members or other users, and just as easily annoy them if you go overboard. Don’t do it — nobody likes it.

Don’t count on going from zero to viral, because Product Hunt launches often fail. Successful campaigns are results of preparation and networking efforts stretching back months.

Don’t re-list your app straightaway if you happen to attract little attention. As far as the website’s management is concerned, you’ve had your shot. Hunting the same product more than once every six months is considered suspicious. Such posts can be removed without warning, so direct message a moderator to determine your product’s eligibility for re-publication. The only valid reason to re-list your app is if it’s undergone a significant transformation — either in terms of functionality or design.

Don’t rush it. Product Hunt is known for its engaged audience. It knows effort when they see it.


Now that you know what not to do, let’s see how you can make the best of this great platform.

Doing It Right

For every app that got off on the right foot thanks to Product Hunt, there are dozens that went unnoticed. Here’s how to avoid their fate:

  1. Become a Product Hunt ‘regular’ first. Register personal accounts for your team members in advance, months before the expected launch date. It’s no secret that Product Hunt is biased towards insiders — freshly registered users may find it difficult to get to the front page. So, get to know the community — upvote others’ posts, leave comments and hunt other people’s products.

  2. If your app was previously hunted without your knowledge, ask a moderator to remove the submission. This is one of the few exceptions to the ‘double posting’ rule — no-one can rob you of the ability to hunt your own product.

  3. If possible, get a seasoned ‘hunter’ to publish your project for you. Doing that can expose you to a far wider audience, while still giving you credit for the work well done. Look for established hunters among your investors and peers — there might be a couple willing to help. While the official policy states that being ‘hunted’ by a high-profile member is not necessary to succeed, others still disagree —  so take this chance if you can.

  4. Ask long-time members for advice, even if you insist on ‘hunting’ your own product. They know this place better than you do and can give you lots of valuable feedback.

  5. Utilise the ‘Ship’ feature to create a landing page for your upcoming product. It’s a valuable tool for generating feedback, accessing the public’s interest and engaging your future customers. This will help you make adjustments to your campaign and timing. ‘Pro’ and ‘Super Pro’ plans, while costly, give you access to direct messaging capabilities and site-wide group messages. Investing in such a plan may greatly increase your chances of being featured on launch day.

  6. Promote your listing on social media and among your friends. By launch day, you should already have a list of people whose support you can rely on. Like many other online startup services, Product Hunt is an extension of real-life networking — not its replacement. Sure, you can get lucky and go viral, but don’t count on it. Leverage your influence on Twitter, Slack, and other social platforms. Ask for ‘constructive feedback’ — everyone will know what you mean anyway.

  7. Fine-tune your post —make a high-quality video trailer for your app and include great screenshots. Some people recommend using an animated logo: the front page is seemingly filled with makers following that advice. Proofread your copy and visually organise your future listing.

  8. Add tags (but not too many) — projects with 7-9 tags perform much better than their single-tag counterparts. By including tags you’re giving users an opportunity to find your project.

  9. Time your submission well. The busiest days of the week on PH are Wednesday and Thursday — perhaps consider publishing on Tuesday or over the weekend. Time-wise, the creators of Product Hunt recommend posting after midnight EST to reach both European and American audiences. Even then, make sure your launch doesn’t coincide with any major conferences — so that it isn’t overshadowed by big Silicon Valley announcements. Some recommend publishing your press releases at the same time, so that more people are inclined to look you up on Product Hunt.

  10. Engage with comments and reviews. Comments are often deemed more important than upvotes, because they represent an investment into your product important enough to engage with you. Even if it didn’t pay off, and the user is disappointed — it’s foolish to not leverage it.

Pic by Severin Höin (Unsplash license)
Pic by Severin Höin (Unsplash license)

Going live on Product Hunt is a lot of work, but still worth it. There are hundreds of other guides on the topic, some of which we provided links to throughout the article.


Further reading:


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