Growth February 25, 2020

How I got to #1 on two subreddits (and how you can too)

Tilo @hobonumber3

Working on a side-project can be lonely. It helps to get validation from others that what you are doing is genuinely useful. Does that sound familiar? It’s the same boat I was in (and still am, somedays). If you’re not aware, my side-project is Visabug.com. It lets you find new destinations based on your passport and interests.

In this post, I’ll highlight my journey over the last week where I went from no product validation to people thanking me for building my product. https://www.reddit.com/r/reactjs/comments/f90oi9/i_built_this_website_that_suggests_places_that/fip7fb5?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x

Reddit is a great website for mini-launches, as people cluster in groups (subreddits) related to one topic. My product is in the travel space, but it’s also a side project and built using React. I chose to target the sideproject (46k members) and reactjs (130k members) subreddits.

My general process was simple:

  1. 💻 Show the site
  2. 😃 Tell people why I built it, and tailor my post to something that would interest them
  3. 🙋‍♂️Be available to ask all questions.

I posted first on the sideproject subreddit as it was smaller. Here’s my post:

https://www.reddit.com/r/SideProject/comments/f6e2bq/i_built_a_free_website_that_tells_you_where_you/

The side project Reddit group is entrepreneurial so I spoke about some of the product decisions that I made. I answered questions such as “what makes my product unique”, and “why I built this”. I also openly asked for feedback. I’ve been keeping a Trello sheet of all feedback so I can see what the most important features to build are.

The post ended up getting ~80 likes, stayed #1 for 24 hours, and sent 3,000 visitors to my website. The bounce rate was super low (30%) which is great!

After a few days, traffic went down again. This is natural and I expected it to happen. However, it brings back sad feelings and thoughts. They call it the trough of sorrow.

I took this time to address some of the feedback that was provided by the Reddit community. I improved my SEO by building out a better way to filter, updated the user interface, and added Analytics to practically every user interaction. This would help me track usage metrics to figure out which features were actually being used.

After a few days, I posted on another Subreddit. This time it was the reactjs subreddit. It’s 3x larger (140k members). Since my application is built on React and Next, I figured people would be interested in it. Here’s my post:

https://www.reddit.com/r/reactjs/comments/f90oi9/i_built_this_website_that_suggests_places_that/

Since this audience is mostly developers, I created a post with more technical post. I answered questions like “what is my tech stack”, “how I collected data”, “how I designed the web app”, etc. Once again, the post took off and reached #1 almost immediately. As I write this, it’s still #1 and has around 200 upvotes and 60 comments.

There’s a lot of great feedback in here for me. I’ve been diligent in collecting them to iterate on this idea. Once again, I’d like to thank Redditors who took the time to respond.

Here’s what traffic looks like this week:

  • 8,200 visitors (up 3,800%) ✅
  • 9,220 sessions (up 3700%) ✅
  • 32% bounce rate (down 44%) ✅
  • 2m 12s avg duration (up 124%) ✅

    So what did I learn through this exercise? Here are a few things I would keep in mind:
  1. Create something polished even if it’s an MVP. A lot of people liked and upvoted me because what I built was considered to actually look like a real product.
  2. Write a thorough post explaining your product and tailor it to the audience in mind.
  3. Be open and available to answer questions.
  4. Collect the feedback in an organized manner and iterate on it.

Lastly, if you post somewhere and it doesn’t go anywhere, don’t get too disheartened. Before these two posts took off, I had posted in some other subreddits which didn’t get any upvotes. There is an element of luck to all of this. However if you see the same pattern occurring 3-4 times, then you may want to analyze the situation further.

Let me know if you have any questions, and check out Visabug.com if you want to learn more about what I’ve been building.

  1. 3

    The tool is realy useful.

    But it looks like direct idea clone of Visalist that was made by @1hakr, doesn't it ?

    1. 2

      I think the two apps are a little different. But yea, they are probably competitors. I combine visa requirements with travel interests, so I actually have data like cost of living, climate, tourist attractions, etc.

      It doesn't hurt to have multiple apps doing the same thing. How many chat apps are there? :) I think Visalist is great.

      1. 1

        Yeah. Good luck. And sorry for impolite question.

        1. 1

          Not at all! It's a fair question.

  2. 2

    Thanks for posting, @hobonumber3. I've been looking for ways to make my reddit posts more productive, and I haven't yet tried being the first to comment on my own post, with useful insights relevant to that particular subreddit. Will give it a try. Thanks!

    1. 2

      Good luck!

  3. 2

    I posted Walkway.io to one travel-related subreddit a few days ago and was instabanned. It seems like you have put a lot of heart to your posts so that might be something I can also learn from :) Good job!

    1. 1

      Thanks! Luck plays a big part in it. I've been banned from subreddits before too. Some of the moderators are really picky. Don't give up, unless you see a recurring pattern.

      Yes, being authentic does seem to help. Remember that your app is never going to be as important to others as it is to you. So if someone dismisses it, it doesn't mean they are dismissing the idea. Usually, they spent 5 seconds on it and didn't understand it and left.

  4. 1

    Hey, love that you shared this. I have been doing something similar. I know the feeling all too well. I just posted something about my side project on the same subreddit yesterday https://www.reddit.com/r/SideProject/comments/f9irqd/built_a_free_video_editor_online_by_myself_for/ didn't get as much attention as yours, but that's ok. I will keep at it.

    One problem that I am aware of is these subreddits are not exactly our target market. So these leads "feel" good but are not actually accomplishing anything money-wise. However, it's great for feedback and exposure. It's an easy way to create some momentum and possibly new connections that could be helpful.

    So for both of us, this could be some smoke, if we let it be. Still important to know where your target market hangs. My strategy in that would be to offer them extreme value. My goal today is to post where my target market hangs out and not to mention Story Creator. I am going to offer them 2-3 FREE videos, they just need to show me what they like and share any assets.

    If I can turn that around in 24 hours and deliver. Having the video created with Story Creator. I can then pitch them. Just a strategy. I don't know if it'll work.

    1. 2

      Hey,

      You're absolutely right. This is not our target market and doing well here jut strokes our ego. Similarly, not doing well here doesn't mean our app idea can be dismissed. Your idea to offer them extreme value seems like the right one.

      I think for your product, you need to define your market a bit better. Is it for everyone who posts instagram stories? That audience is really diverse. You need to pick a niche. Is it only for Influencers? But influencers already have a high engagement rate, they may not want to change their style. Maybe it's for small brands < 10k followers? You can reach out to them and tell them "Hey, I'll create a story for you for free, and if it boosts your engagement by 10%, you can use my product for free for 1 month".

      I think you need some marketing tactics like that. Just my $0.02.

      1. 1

        Yeah, fantastic 2 cents. Worth a dollar at least. I love it. I am still trying to hone in on the person with the most pain. All I know going into the project that was me. Someone who wants to stand out but doesn't want to spend hours in Premiere or After Effects.

        I'm working on a feature to make your content follow the Gary Vee format with subtitles, loading bars, and headings. I think that applies to all influencers who want to quickly make that type of content.

  5. 1

    Excellent job!

    Like the energies even due I don't share the travel bug

    What are your goals with this at this point? And motivation? As you mentioned it's up and down by feedback and such, how does the bigger picture look to you? Is this just a sample inital project?..

    1. 1

      Thanks! My ultimate goal with this project is to have a really comprehensive database with information and statistics related to countries, cities, and sights. I want to build a place where people can go to find destinations using data.

      Instead of googling "Best places to go in the summer" and reading blogs, you should have a place where this data is available and you are able to pick and choose destinations that match your interests. I strongly think this data should remain free (atleast some form of it). I don't like the sites that put paywalls in front of data. Maybe the site can have an API so others can use the data.

      So that's the long-term goal. In the medium term, my goals are:

      1. To prove to myself that I can build something people want. I think as indie-hackers we are insecure. We don't believe in our own marketing abilities and we don't think that people will use our apps, because we don't know how to distribute it. We follow others who are successful, but we should just focus that energy on ourselves.

      2. To understand how SEO works by building something that actually has good SEO and in the future will get most of its traffic from organic search. This is something I've struggled with before and want to get better at.

      3. To build something that solves my own pain points. I love travelling so I enjoy coding things related to it.

      1. 1

        Do you have these for yourself in a personal and goal format? What's in it for you? What does done look like?
        From outside I can say 1 and 3 are done and 2 would take you years not due to yourself.

        About the free and accessible mentality, just consider that building something bigger than yourself that is self sustaining will outlast yourself and keep providing value. Most free passion projects die as soon as the first wind comes blowing around. Currently your income from the project is emotional but the expense of time, energy and money is there and would get greater the better you do with the project. This is in no way to counter a desire to serve everyone with free access, just a consideration of an income source helping rather than hurting that vision.

        1. 1

          Hey,

          Thanks for taking the time to think about this and responding. I have a few additional thoughts:

          Do you have these for yourself in a personal and goal format? What's in it for you? What does done look like?

          I haven't thought super long-term about this project. It's not that I don't want to, but it's because I don't want to put pressure on myself. Right now, I'm enjoying the process and learning a lot by building this. Software is never really done, but I'll consider this project to be "a success" if it is eventually getting 50k visits a month via SEO. That's just a random number, but it's one of my goalposts.

          Most free passion projects die as soon as the first wind comes blowing around. Currently your income from the project is emotional but the expense of time, energy and money is there and would get greater the better you do with the project.

          This is very true, and I agree completely with it. I think for a project like this, I can't expect people to return to this site everyday. There's no "stickiness" in the product. This means the only way to get visits is:

          1. Via SEO (Monetization done through partnerships and affiliates)
          2. By introducing stickiness through a community (Monetization done through a subscription model)

          Right now, both of these options are open to me, but it's too early to understand which is going to be easier to do. I'm focussed right now on building something people want, and seeing which features bubble up. Simultaneously, I'll be focussing on getting the word out, driving backlinks, getting SEO up.

          In the end if people like it and I see traffic is going up, I could probably do (1) and (2) to drive some type of monetization.

          1. 1

            Many people regrets after a while of not collecting some user info (commonly emails) earlier to be able to build on top of all the traffic.. So you put a lot of effort, you get someone to visit, and then he is lost forever probably you could never be able to communicate with him again..

            Community is an interesting point as a long term thing, but maybe just for a thinking exercise, what might be some of the top interests in that community? Could you offer some portion of that as an early value?...

            For example, and as I mentioned, I'm not a travel guy, but lets say one of the top interests of a traveler is to get deals for his set of destinations... Can you offer for example "top deals of the week for X" in an email format, and offer them to signup on the pages for that?... that way you start creating some longer term value / relationship, something that makes the user interact with you for longer.
            You can start with an MVP just testing signups without implementing a product or you can join with others to provide a service if you don't want to build one...

            Or just signup to get updates for my Passport/s, about changes in Visa restrictions at least... as this is closer to your core current content...

            1. 1

              You're right. I'm going to actually update the app so I ask people to create a free account before using some of the filters. This way, I'll have their contact info and can reach out to them in the future with more updates.

  6. 1

    How are you going to monetize? I know you've mentioned it being free in comparison to Visalist; but assuming you get millions of hits, hosting that kind of load will cost you money. What is your plan?

    1. 2

      I don't think millions of hits will actually increase my hosting costs that much. The application can run as a static web-app so I can scale to a very high number of traffic. To be honest, I haven't thought much about monetization. I wanted to build a really really good product and make it free so that people actually use it. And from there, I'll see what the community wants and pivot accordingly. It's easy to monetize with ads but I don't want the user interface to get messy. Maybe partnerships would be a better way to go.

  7. 1

    That is some great numbers! Thanks for sharing this, looking at your profile you are obviously pretty active on Reddit, would someone who hasn't signed up yet be able to do this straight away (post to side project etc?) Or is it best to spend a few weeks becoming an active member of the community first?

    1. 3

      I don't think your Reddit karma is a barrier to posting something and it taking off. Reddit users don't usually care too much about karma. If you are a brand new user, Reddit may restrict you from posting as it wants to make sure you're not a bot. So take a week or so responding to comments and browsing the website before you post. But don't worry if you don't have any karma.

      1. 1

        Thanks for the tips,

    2. 2

      You can build reddit karma pretty quickly. I have a one account with similar numbers as OP, that I started last year and it's not particularly active. You just need to hit some popular topic like whitepeopletwitter maybe 10 times and you will have that many karma points.