After 8 months of working on my new app PG Commander in solitude, I felt it was time to share it with the world. I wanted to start a public beta to collect feedback. But how do you tell the world about your app?
I spend a lot of time reading stories and comments on Hacker News. It seemed to me like the obvious place for the announcement. It's a perfect fit: There are often discussions about web development and databases, and now and then stories about Postgres make it to the front page. So where could I possibly find a more suitable audience for my new Postgres client app?
So I submitted a “Show HN” story linking to the PG Commander website. People have written a lot about submitting to Hacker News at the right time. Others suggest getting all your friends to upvote your article. Of course I completely ignored this advise, because my app was such a good fit and the community would surely upvote my submission anyway.
I was wrong. PG Commander collected a measly 2 upvotes in the hour it had in the ‘new’ section. 10 people followed the link, and one person downloaded my app.
The Postgres Weekly Newsletter
Luckily launching on Hacker News wasn't my entire launch plan. I had been in contact with a well known blogger in the Postgres community, Craig Kerstiens, and he had been beta-testing PG Commander for several weeks already. It turns out that Craig is the editor of Postgres Weekly. He asked me to write a blog post about my app, so he could announce it. It took me some time to write that announcement, but I got around to do it and sent it to Craig.
It turns out, that newsletter was a much better fit! 800 people clicked through to my blog post, and 350 people downloaded my app that day.
Wikis, Mailing Lists and Twitter
I didn't stop there. I tried to think of everyone who would be interested in PG Commander. An obvious place was the pgsql-announce mailing list, where Postgres related events, services and products are announced. So I sent a message to that mailing list, and I got another bump in my download statistics.
I started googling Postgres-related websites, and found a wiki page containing a long list of Postgres client applications. I added my app at the bottom of the appropriate section. It turns out that even this obscure, confusing wiki page brought more traffic than my unsuccessful submission to Hacker News.
A few days later, Kenneth Reitz from Heroku tweeted about my app. He has many thousand followers, so that gave me some additional visiblity. When I read the friendly things people were saying about my app, I decided to finally sign up for Twitter myself.
By directly contacting members of the community, and finding places where people are interested in my product, I was able to reach many people in a short time. Over 900 people have now downloaded the beta and I received lots of valuable feedback!
When launching a product, don't aim for the broadest possible audience. Rather, find ways to reach exactly those who will actually want to use product. Getting to the front page of Hacker News might have brought more exposure, but I doubt I would have found so many eager beta testers.