About 2 months ago, I asked if ListChat was cool. Here's what I discovered.
What is ListChat?
ListChat connects people with similar interests via email.
- Join a list (like this IndieHacker members list) by answering its two questions.
- We'll randomly match you with another list subscriber over email.
- Every match includes your answers to the list questions, so you immediately connect over something real and skip the formalities.
The Raw Stats
- 68 subscribers;
- 209 matches (groups of 2 or 3);
- 77.0% open rate;
- ~14% turn into conversations;
- 3 new list creations;
- 5 unsolicited "love listchat" emails (awesome);
- 1 inbound collaboration inquiry (great idea, @shaunkelleher!);
- 1 independent IH post shoutout;
- 1 independent reddit post (since removed);
- 12 upvotes, 24 comments;
- A lot of great feedback;
- 3 'leave conversation';
- 1 list unsubscribe;
- 2 bounced emails;
- 2 manual email address change requests; and
- $28 hosting (2mos on heroku), free firebase instance, $35 domain name.
- Real users and thoughtful feedback > IndieHackers is an awesome community.
- High incidence of real email addresses > people took ListChat seriously;
- High open rate > people value the prospect of connecting with likeminded people.
- Low-ish match-to-conversation rate > list questions/answers aren't enough to spark conversation.
- Email open and match-to-conversation rates remained fairly consistent, varying less than 4% over the last two months.
Other than the first IndieHacker post, only a few mentions here and there were attempted to grow the ListChat user base. As an experiment, I wanted to learn how long it took for lists to lose steam, and take some time to observe and think about how to organically grow lists and monetize the platform.
- Organic list creation + subscriptions
ListChat's initial subscription base is primarily comprised of awesome IndieHacker members who tried something new. And although there were a few additional lists created by a few of them, those new lists unfortunately failed to reach a substantial number of subscribers.
ListChat is built on the premise that communities (of any size or type) benefit from one-on-one (or sometimes small group) engagement. As a result, I expect that home-grown, community-maintained lists will thrive on the service.
A few members of the IndieHacker community actually took it upon themselves to create lists in this vein; supplement their existing communities (outside of IH) with their own ListChat. But it takes work to get the word about your list and its benefits to your community members. How do you create an ongoing awareness of your own community's ListChat without actively pestering people to sign up?
Not only are ListChat's initial open rates quite high, but match and reply email views are nearly 4-5 times as high; it appears that some people will re-read emails a number of times before deciding how to reply.
@shaunkelleher actually reached out with an idea to monetize ListChat: match advertisers to the communities you grow lists for. Shaun's idea was to build a list that matched future brides with each other to trade ideas, tips and frustrations over the wedding-planning process, and find an advertiser in the wedding space to sponsor the list. This approach is not unlike one eventually taken by findkismet (essentially a list specific to YC's Hacker News, and the inspiration for ListChat!).
While we decided not to move forward on that particular niche, the monetization strategy makes sense - advertisers want to get in front of their prospective customers; if we figure out how to organically build lists for niche communities, our open + view rates make sponsoring a list a no-brainer.
- Better matchesAlthough ListChat benefits from a very high open rate, only about 14% of all matches are engaged and turn into conversations. We thought that each list's custom questions/answers would help break the ice and spark conversation, but it's clear that we have to do more.
Perhaps addressing match engagement rates is as simple as defining better default questions (they're customizable by the list creator but, in the few other lists that were created, only one changed the default questions).
Alternatively, maybe we have to do more to match people based on their answers to a list's questions, though addressing the issue this way seems like overkill so early in the product's life.
ListChat is certainly not perfect; it is definitely still in the proof-of-concept realm. That being said, it has good bones, specifically defined areas of improvement and an overall promising future. Here's what it needs:
- Identifiable niche communities that would benefit from ListChat - what lists can we build for communities (before they're building them for themselves) and help cultivate?
- Your feelings about seeing (highly relevant, short, non-intrusive) sponsored messaging in ListChat match emails - if this is the most obvious monetization strategy, let's make sure the community is open to it.
- Service improvements - ListChat's open rates suggest a significant interest in connecting with likeminded people; how do we increase engagement? Is it better copy? Automated 'hello' emails from match A > B?
Want to Sponsor a ListChat?
While it's still early and there are only a few lists to select from (the IndieHacker's ListChat being the largest one), I'm interested in exploring a partnership with someone to put subscriber-relevant, short and non-intrusive messaging about your business into match emails. Here's what I can offer you:
- A short, non-intrusive, but obvious space for messaging in match emails. We can work together to select an existing list and develop highly-relevant messaging for subscribers; and
- Detailed statistics on views and clickthroughs. Reports delivered weekly with commentary and the ability to modify/a-b test copy.
At any rate - turns out that ListChat is a pretty cool product. It has worked to connect people over product, life and even real life cups of coffee. Definitely interested to hear what you think about what you've read and your personal experiences with the product.
If you haven't already, you should subscribe to the IndieHackers ListChat and chat with some fellow hackers about what you're working on.