3 things I did before app launch and what I wish I have done
October 20, 2022
Earlier this month I launched Notionkey, an iOS custom keyboard designed to make writing easier in Notion. This is the third iOS app I launched. This time I wanted to do the launch right so I spent some marketing effort in pre-launch.
This is a write-up of what I did, the outcome, and what I wish I have done.
I decided to launch on Product Hunt because I heard good words about it on Twitter. For people who are not familiar with it, it’s a website devoted to new digital products, be it a website, a desktop program, or in my case an iPhone app.
You cannot actually launch a product on Product Hunt per se, my app is still only available on Apple’s App Store. This is more for marketing purpose so that people can know about your app when it is launched. On launch day, you make your product page available for vote. The products launched on the same day are then ranked by upvotes. The products ranked high got the benefit of getting lots of traffics.
However, I immediate found that I was already late to the game because the number of upvotes are quite related to the number of followers you have. True, it does not matter if you have a killer product that the community cares about. But followers will very likely upvote your product.
Because of the voting mechanism, people will have more time to vote when you schedule your launch. So make sure you don’t launch right away even if your app is already available.
The app did ok, gathered 40 something upvotes on the launch day. Enough to place the app within top 20.
Take home for Product Hunt
- Should have been active in Product Hunt 3 months before launch.
- Overall still quite useful for newcomers.
About a month before launch, I decided to start building my twitter account to generate organic traffic. At launch I may have like 50 followers…
During development, I tweeted a demo video to the Notion community and asked who want it free at launch, and separately who wanted to be beta testers. Twitter works in a way that if your post generates good reaction, the tweet would be amplified exponentially. Those two tweets received a lot more attention than my number of followers deserved. I gained some followers and recruited about 10 beta testers. But I think the result would be greater if my followers are in the thousands.
Take home for Twitter
- Giveaway tweets are effective
- Recruit beta tester in niche community
- Should have built Twitter profile early
Out of the three social media, my effort in Reddit is the most successful one. In fact, I used Reddit to validate my app idea.
In the very beginning, I conducted a poll in Notion subreddit and validated the idea that writing in Notion mobile app is really a pain. 90% of respondents said it was hard to reach the formatting buttons. I knew I was on to something and started building the app.
Mid-way in development, I posted a demo video of a working prototype and received 200+ likes. On launch day, I posted another update and got 400+ likes and a lot of compliments.
Two factors contributed to the success. First, Reddit is organized in special interest groups which allowed me to reach a niche audience. My post got a lot of likes because I am solving a problem the Notion community cares about. Second, unlike Twitter, content, not connection, matters. It’s a more merit-based platform. Your post will go viral if it is something important to the community. In contrast, it’s hard for a tweet from a small account to go viral in Twitter, unless it is retweeted by a big account.
One drawback of reddit is, unlike Twitter, you cannot post anything you want. You have to be careful and read the rules of the subreddit. Although my launch day post went viral and got a lot of likes, and I thought it was ok to post, the mod eventually determined I violated the self-promotion rule. The post got deleted and I got banned for 2 weeks. To the credit of the mod, they only did that a week after the launch day when the app has already reaped all the traffics. If I were to do it again, I would make the app free for the first two weeks so the post stays within the rules.
Take home for reddit
- Use poll to validate your idea
- Get feedback by posting demos
- Read the rules of the subreddit
So what’s the final outcome? A classic launch-day spike and more importantly users who find the app useful and stick around. It’s a great feeling to know I have made something useful to other people, be it an app, a Notion template, a blog post or a tweet.
To sum up, Reddit is the most successful approach for me. In part because it’s more democratic than other platforms. It doesn’t need any followers for your post to go viral. What counts is the content. On the other hand, if I were to have more followers on the other two platforms, they could also be equally if not more successful.
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