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How we got 1000 organic users on our weird site in a month

My friend and I built an open-source, satirical, social media site (ShlinkedIn.com) because we were sick of our LinkedIn feeds. And about a month post launch, we've reached 1000 users, and 50-80 DAUs!

A little background: the premise of ShlinkedIn is that you create an alter ego, post inspirational content, write news headlines, create fake ads, and collect "ShlinkPoints." Naturally, it's a very weird, niche place on the internet -- which has actually been a huge help for us.

Here's the basic outline of what we did:

  1. We decided who we wanted to reach. This was easy, because we wanted to reach people who were exactly like us: (hopefully) funny people, dissatisfied with corporate life, working in tech and/or marketing, and dissatisfied with social media.

  2. Find out where they like to hang (on the internet, or in real life). Again, because we are building this for people like us, we knew where to go. We started by getting our friends to sign up (50 ish people), and then after we had populated a bit of content we went for our Product Hunt launch. In a couple days, we had zoomed up to 500 new profiles. It's not worth overthinking the PH launch -- set a deadline for yourself and go for it. Then, we went to relevant Subreddits, and Twitter. Most times our posts go nowhere, but once in a while one shoots to the top of a subreddit and hundreds of new people sign up. This stage is always ongoing, highly variable, and always a slog.

  3. Create a tight feedback loop with your users. Justin Kan has a great tweet about this (https://twitter.com/justinkan/status/1351605387288481793?lang=en). There's a big fat feedback button on our home page that texts us whenever it gets input. Every time someone new joins, we send them a message. We created a Discord server where we are always chatting with users, and occasionally doing audio hang outs. We've gotten a bunch of our best ideas from this (like the content generator and user-generated ads). We schedule time on our calendars daily to interact with folks on social, and to try and respond to every question we get elsewhere.

  4. Make something weird. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that ShlinkedIn is such a niche website has been our greatest ally. Most people don't "get" it, but the people who do "get it" love it. They'll accept bugs, play around with the product, and tell their friends to join. Because there's nothing else quite like it, it all feels fresh and new. The internet is so massive that there will always be people who are into the same niches you are. So go weird.

You've probably heard some of this advice before. But it's surprising how far following the basics will take you.

Now we're trying to figure out how to keep our momentum going, with the goal of reaching 10k users. If you have any thoughts we'd love to hear 'em!

  1. 4

    Weirdness as a secret weapon, I absolutely love it. How did you go about discovering the right subreddits? Discovery is kind of hard over there, IMO.

    1. 2

      What Charlie said! We also had a less precise method which involved 1) looking for places on reddit where people share their own stuff (r/sideproject), and 2) subreddits open to exploring the subjects we dealt with (like r/satire, which we found through Googling things like 'subreddits for humor'). Definitely less-than-perfect, but in conjunction with asking our users where they would post has been very helpful.

      Another thing you can do leading up to these efforts is just be active on the site (in this case, Reddit). That's gotta be the best way to really get a feel for it before you start looking to reach communities on there. Plus, if you use it honestly in a way YOU like, you'll probably come across some great communities with like-minded people who could go for whatever product you're building.

    2. 2

      Great q, we're definitely still working on this. What's worked best has been just asking our users directly where we should post! One of the reasons having the active discord is so valuable is we can quickly ask questions like this. This is verbatim what we said, and it's led to ~50 new profiles in the last day:

      "does anyone have suggestions for like, internet communities that would be interested in ShlinkedIn? Working on our outreach more. have had some good success w/ reddit if y'all know any subreddits etc etc"

      1. 1

        Great idea to involve your own early adopters...thx!

  2. 3

    I think your joke posts should bleed into the real world so make sure people can tweet out what they see on the site - as the humor escapes into the real world - with a backlink to you - it will bring in eyeballs. I would also consider knocking off other services - make a joke version of anything your audience uses daily - have a fake slack channel and call it crack or whatever - make an entire ecosystem of insanity.

  3. 3

    Haha - this is awesome. I needed to make fun of Linkedin content. Thanks guys!

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