One of the most common things that founders do to start gaining traction for their product is sharing something about their product in existing online communities.  The goal here is often to get feedback, beta testers, product validation and early customers.

In the founder tech world, for example, HackerNews, Indie Hackers and Product Hunt are popular places to share news about what you are up to.  Sub reddits and Facebook groups are popular choices too.

The reality is that people are faced with frustration when they don't see the response and traction they had wished for. Heard of the phrase 'build it and they will come?' Well, how about 'announce it and they will come!'.  I say it in jest, because building or announcing something is a very poor strategy to rely on.

Often this is purely down to not spending enough time within each community to understand the mechanics of how they work and what kind of things actually make a popular post. What works for one community won't necessarily work for another.  People will show up, post something, and keep their fingers crossed for a great result.  On a rare occasion will this actually happen.

Here's the thing though - communities are not built for spamming your product.  The quicker you understand that, the better off you will be.

It's important to remember that at the end of the day people that run communities want :

  • discussions that will help people and add value
  • discussions that will keep them on the community, not take them away
  • people within communities to make connections
  • people to stay around longer term

If you are building a product for these people then you should probably:

  • hang around for more than one conversation
  • get a feel for what works in that community
  • talk about and understand  the things that people care about
  • find a connection/story between your product and the things that people care about, then talk about that
  • understand the challenges (pains, wishes, stresses, failures, etc) that people have
  • ask some questions and help a few people
  • become known as a good person with good intentions, not 'the person that spams and disappears'
  • understand customer related conversations can be had without talking about your product directly
  • realise you can't offer this for too many communities as there is not enough time in the day
  • focus in on 1-3 communities, see how you get on.

You'll probably come across people who will happily hand out links to hundreds of places that you can post details about your product.  The problem with these are that usually they are out of date and then because there are so many in the list you feel you have no choice but to post (spam), leave and most likely never check back in (unless you've received some kind of comments/notifications).

Everyone is selfish, and that is ok.  We all have our needs and goals. But really to make an impact you have to start with something that spreads. In communities, selfish behaviour does not spread. Thoughtful, considerate and helpful actions do.