Exactly one week ago, I launched Sweat The Product, a growing collection of stories from people who build product. After having thought about STP off and on for over two years, I still didn’t know what to expect from readers going into Launch Day. Would people shrug it off? Would the reactions be mixed? Would they hate it? Or, hopefully, would the reaction be overwhelmingly positive? Of course, I hoped for the best, but I’m always cautiously optimistic when I launch a new product. Let’s take a look together.
Launch Day Turn of Events
Launch Day was a whirlwind of activity, as everyone knows who has ever launched a product. You’re constantly refreshing Twitter and wherever else your product is mentioned on the Web. What are people saying about it? Are they sharing it with their friends? Are they choosing to follow or like you on social media?
At 9:14 AM, I sent the tweet that launched Sweat The Product, followed by a Facebook post on my Wall, text messages to a handful of friends whom I’d told about the product and several emails to around a dozen other friends who I thought might find it interesting. Then I wrote individual emails to all three of our inaugural interviewees to let them know that their interview was live.
Soon after I’d sent these out, I submitted STP to Hacker News as a “Show HN” submission, to Product Hunt and to Reddit. I was a little worried that all three posts would fall into the ether and not gain any traction, but I felt that they all had a chance.
After submitting all three posts, I sat back and refreshed all of them every few minutes, hoping for traction. While waiting, I tweeted the links and quotes for all three of our interviews, adding them as individual posts on our blog and our Facebook.
So how did it all turn out?
Launch Day Numbers
Let’s look at the raw numbers before I begin to break them down:
- 3,544 visitors browsed STP
- 7,090 pages were viewed with an average of 1.80 pages per visitor
- Visitors spent an average of 1:48 minutes reading the content
Where did these people come from?
- Direct: 1,154
- Hacker News: 1,122
- Product Hunt: 701
- Twitter: 376
How many people followed on social media?
- Newsletter: 64
- Twitter: 48
- RSS: 38
- Facebook: 22
- Tumblr: 3
Let’s break things down. Having had a few of my articles reach the top of Hacker News, I was fairly confident that if we could reach the front page we’d get a lot of traffic. Sweat The Product is right in Hacker News’s wheelhouse and with a little luck, we’d get thousands of visitors through them. While we received 33 upvotes, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t receive more. Within an hour or so, we fell off the front page, on to Page 2. We then crept back to the front page, after a little over an hour on Page 2, but we never had as much front-page time as I’d have liked. I was a little surprised by the lack of discussion, too. The comments were one-liners with very little substance:
- "Would love to see this turn into a podcast or a youtube series!"
- "Neat idea though I'm having trouble differentiating it from Mixergy."
While Hacker News is still my go-to website for curated Internet tech news, the commentary has gotten significantly worse over the past few years and there are more attacks than the kinds of support that could be counted on in the old days. Just anecdotally, it looks to me as if there is now a bigger emphasis on mainstream tech product news than there once was, which edges out the little guys. Stories about Airbnb’s new logo or Instagram’s new app will launch to the top whereas a little hack or new product will get significantly less attention than they once did. That’s not to say that they deserve more attention than the big guys, but they’re getting squeezed out. Big company announcements are more the norm than ever before.
I was very happily surprised by the traction and reception that we received on Product Hunt. While I’m an active lurker, I had never submitted a product before and I was nervous about whether Sweat The Product could beat out “real” businesses making their debut on PH. STP does have a 100% user overlap with Product Hunt, and that made me even more nervous about what kind of reception we’d get. If it was positive, I’d be ecstatic, and if it was negative then I knew I’d have to rethink some things.
While Product Hunt didn’t bring us as many visitors as Hacker News, those visitors spent 24s more time and viewed 0.03 more pages than those from Hacker News. While the raw numbers are great, what I was really impressed with was with the comments on the site. They were so thoughtful and positive:
- "Will you be focusing on really tough questions for your interviewees? Oftentimes the most interesting topics for the audience are the most sensitive for the storyteller, especially when it comes to people who aren't yet at the "success" stage. Curious as to how you might balance that."
- "A great read for mid-week schedule. Such stories usually give some positive directions. I would love to see a 'My two cents' ending question where they share their most valuable experience gained, in minimum words."
This is a real testimony to the community that Ryan Hoover has built. Their users are engaging, positive, and seem to care about product. My biggest achievement – if you could call it that – was being post #9 for the day on Product Hunt. Having STP positively received there tells me reliably that we’re doing something right.
Twitter is an interesting case. It brought in 376 visitors during launch day, but it’s more difficult to quantify the impact of these results than it is with HN and PH. It’s easy to retweet something or click a link on Twitter, but do you continue to engage with the product moving forward after you’ve done so?
Here’s some reaction:
- "Hey @SweatTheProduct, love what you're doing already. These are stories that definitely need to be told. Wishing you the best."
- "Coolest thing on @ProductHunt today is @spencerfry's @SweatTheProduct: collection of stories from people who BUILD"
Twitter will likely be a top referrer moving forward, because whereas subsequent interviews will be posted to our Twitter, blog, Facebook, RSS and newsletter, they’re unlikely to be on HN or PH. I have high hopes that interviews will get shared on Twitter, as we need that to happen for us to grow our userbase.
Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
While we didn’t get significant traffic from anything outside of Hacker News, Product Hunt and Twitter, we received 101 visitors from the rest of social media combined. I hope to grow our audiences on other sites to help build our brand, but I really believe that interviews are best served through a newsletter to your email address. Newsletters still result in the best engagement.
It has been a week since Sweat The Product was first announced and since then we’ve continued to get more readers. Readers are the lifeblood of any content platform and it really helps keep you motivated when you know that people are enjoying what they read and sharing it with their friends.
Our first new interview since launch is going out tomorrow, with another being recorded the following day. I’ve got a lot of great people lined up and I’m excited to sit down with them all and to share their product stories with you.
As far as the product goes, it’ll remain in the form of transcribed interviews as of now, even though a lot of people have been asking us to release audios. I might do that going forward, but I’d want to do it properly rather than rush into it. I also think that people are more open just talking to me than they would be if they knew the audio was going online for everyone to listen to. I may do a few selective audios to learn the process and then go from there. As always, your feedback is really helpful in shaping STP for the future, so please reach out.