Facebook should allow you to 'friend' a business without having to be a 'fan' of it. I think if they allowed this, facebook interaction between business and normal users would be much higher, considering the much larger facebook userbase.
Facebook, despite their recent posturing, is for me still a personal sphere. Twitter, despite its flippant image, is for me about business. At the very least it's my web persona, rather than, say, my people-I've-known-since-I-was-11 persona. I follow a bunch of businesses (and moreso, business contacts) on Twitter. The only businesses I follow on Facebook are from friends who have nagged me about doing such. ;-)
I can construct my facebook to deliver the info I want to see. It's easy to hide info from a business when they start spamming and just as easy to remove them from my friends list.
So even though facebook started off as a personal sphere, I think it will have great utility for small business. It's possible to get personal with your customers.
I wonder what percentage of web users start their sessions at Facebook these days? It's clear that that's what Facebook is going for, and what you're suggesting with something milder than "fan" (see updates from..., perhaps).
One interesting thing to throw into the fray there as well is that if a service that I regularly use is down, the first place I check is Twitter, and pretty universally, it works. Facebook still I think has a ways to go before it's seen as a primary source for news in the same way. Twitter is kind of the new RSS.
And is your handle really "callingyouout?" Go back to Reddit where gimmick personalities are appreciated.
With twitter your window of opportunity is the 5 seconds that you show up in their feed. With Facebook that time is a lot longer.
You can have 10,000 followers on twitter, but only 20 people will see your announcement, since you'll show up in their feed for 5 seconds.
Anyone who follows a business account on Twitter, is most likely following more than 100 people(and most likely >1000), which means you are one of hundreds of people trying to talk to them
Which is fine, because my Facebook list is filled with people I went to high school with, who couldn't give less of a crap about what my company is doing this week.
(That's why I bothered writing two articles recently, trying to raise my twitter 'important people' follower count. It actually works somewhat.)
Not in a spammy manner, of course. But if someone's talking about your business on Twitter, engage them.
I do the @reply thing, but it's a little sucky, since that @reply shows up in everyone's feed.
1) They are the user you are sending the @reply to, OR
2) They follow you AND the person you send the @reply to.
So for example, if I follow @balsamiq and @fogbugz and @balsamiq sends an @reply to @fogbugz, that message will appear in my feed. But if @balsamiq sends an @reply to a user I do not follow, I will not see it in my feed.
With Twitter, your tweets easily get lost in the sea of tweets, whereas Facebook stories persist in the fans' News Feeds for a while, and then show up even more if their friends interacted with it.
I tried using twitter for business shortly, but it is too difficult to handle effectively. I've switched to facebook, and I'm seeing better results but I still dislike this 'fan' thing. People don't want to be fans, but they are interested in interacting.
> Facebook should allow you to 'friend' a business
That has the same connotations to me, how about "follow"
Page admins have no control over this, though, it's hard-coded per page type. So I can't imagine there's even that much work involved in changing the copy from "fan" to "follow" for certain page types (or even letting the page admin select among a few, pre-configure options when setting up the page).
Broadly, it's a tool that enables others to build their own sites but also their own businesses (and I think entrepreneurs like supporting each other as it helps prove that the rewards do indeed exist). It lets users share, in a sense, in the success to be associated with a product they've used while also being inspired.
Of course, there can be a thin line between sharing and bragging/offending his user base, but I think he treads it quite well.
Oh well, humility is good for the soul, right? :-)
As far as I can tell you didn't incorporate a single piece of advice you received in that thread. I'd print out patio11's comment and staple it above my desk.
The homepage still looks like the website for any random, academic OSS project. It doesn't say "hardcore," it says amateur, and there's no way I'm trusting you with my money, let alone my sensitive data.
I just don't understand what that homepage is designed to sell, and why you're so insistent on keeping the "minimalist aesthetic," the crazy pricing, and the walls of text. Is it for your sake, or for your customers?
If the former, I think I know why Balsamiq has higher sales.
For example, imagine I'm a potential enterprise client who, for compliance reasons, needs exactly what you're offering. How much do you think I'd be willing to spend? Does your site even let me spend that much?
You have a beautiful piece of technology. My background is in mathematics so I really appreciate the brilliance that went into building something as comprehensive and innovative as tarsnap.
But that is the first step of 10. The other 9 steps are about marketing and sales, and Balsamiq is better at that than you are.
EDIT: An illustration of your distribution strategy vs. Balsamiq's.
I filed a lot of it away for future reference, since I figured that having a website at all took priority over making it look as nice as possible.
Is [the current aesthetic] for your sake, or for your customers?
Both. Whenever I mention the possibility of changing the "feel" of the Tarsnap website, I hear an outcry from my current users. Of course, that is a rather biassed sample...
imagine I'm a potential enterprise client who, for compliance reasons, needs exactly what you're offering
If you need backups for regulatory compliance reasons, Tarsnap can't help you -- regulators need paperwork, and Tarsnap doesn't have it.
An illustration of your distribution strategy vs. Balsamiq's.
I absolutely agree, and I think this is my biggest problem -- getting people to the Tarsnap website in the first place, when the crowded market makes it almost impossible for someone to find Tarsnap via search engines (unless they're already searching for "Tarsnap").
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Google really cares about how flashy a website looks...
Balsamiq's sales are absolutely dominating tarsnap's. What are they doing differently and how can you learn from them?
Most of the answer, IMO, is contained in the thread from 111 days ago.
Your technology is awesome and deserves an awesome sales effort.
Well, if this is a pain point for your customers, then perhaps you should consider paperwork? Would also provide additional peace of mind to those not needing paperwork.
Sometimes the customers you end up with aren't what you had in mind at the outset. Don't know if this is how you'll end up, but you may want to consider it if you end up switching your marketing message from "this is only for true geeks who like to compile their own code. Others need not apply."
Huh. Really, that's it? I thought SEO was all about "optimizing" website text to include keywords multiple times and stuff like that.
That doesn't hurt, but I think that only really works for less competitive keyword phrases. SEO is mostly just best practices. Some HN member posted their site http://360voltage.com/ here, it will point out where your site is not following SEO best practices. If you can get 5 or 10 or 20 good links to your site, especially from weighty BSD domains, it should go a long towards improving your search engine rankings.
Another thing you can do is a yahoo search for your competitors, say site:mozy.com and then look at their inbound links and think about how you can get similar links.
As a start, how come you haven't been on Techcrunch yet? Your narrative should play well there.
I don't know enough about how Techcrunch selects its stories to answer this question. I'd certainly be happy to appear there.
Let them know who you are, why it's interesting, and why it's news. I think your narrative, "BSD security guy creates idealized secure online backups" is interesting enough by Techcrunch standards.
You should also watch Arrington's Startup School talk.
One of my former employers had a product that came about sort of by accident, providing a Perl hook into a Sendmail milter interface. It wasn't vastly better than a few open source CPAN modules, daemonized. Management found that it was taking time away from all the really cool geeky stuff we wanted to do. We, the programmers, complained loudly over and over again that at $700, this product was ludicrously overpriced.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, our customers were dealing with a rising tide of spam. They were bowled over that there could be such a powerful and flexible solution that fit right into their existing mail infrastructure. It was a perfect match for big institutions like universities.
The problem was that they wouldn't even consider a $700 product.
This is more than just institutional prejudice. At $700 a pop, they knew that we weren't putting any effort into this product. We wouldn't be there to expand for their needs, or respond quickly.
Everything changed when we started charging thousands of dollars. This product soon outstripped all others in revenue. It saved the company, gained us reliable customers, and led to an acquisition. Nowadays it's a very user-friendly system, with all sorts of GUI wizards, but at base it's just an elaboration of the Milter API.
So, the point here is, it is very possible to charge too little. You might be sending the wrong signal to your customers, that you aren't serious enough for the long haul. If your main product is totally secure backups that last forever, that kind of pricing signal might be important.
Joking aside though, I think that I see something of myself in your marketing. Your web page, for instance, is very plain, which to someone like me is great. But people seem to not like that, for whatever reason. Maybe you should do some A/B testing with a "flashier" (but no flash, please!) version? I would be curious to hear about the results. This is one of those things that irritates me about the world at times: people ought to be looking at your product and its price, rather than fades, drop shadows and the like... but they don't.
Also: he's targeting people used to paying for stuff, whereas lots of Linux and BSD people are, well, kind of stingy. Maybe a bigger push towards Mac would be another idea?
The tagline is "Backups for the truly paranoid". Yet the site looks like it was built by one person as a hobby. Why would the truly paranoid trust this web site to store his files?
Tarsnap requires the user to be a unix-geek that can compile the program himself and use the command line. But if I'm a truly paranoid hacker, wouldn't I just write a quick python script myself to encrypt and backup my files to S3? Why would I trust you? One thing that may help is that you should let the user upload the files to their own S3 account, not to your S3 account. That would certainly make me more likely to use it.
Also, nowhere on the home page does it tell me what makes Tarsnap so special. To me, it's just another backup program. What's special about it that makes it good for the truly paranoid? Tell me that up front.
My worst nightmare is securely encrypting everything with a single key and than somehow losing that key to a fire, a thief, a tragic laundry incident, or a filing error (oops, I changed keys and accidentally shredded the new one instead of the old one! Oops, I put the paper with the key in this bag but then I forgot about it for a week, and cleaned out the bag, and the piece of paper got picked up by the office cleaning staff!)
I wish I could afford to use nothing but the Linus Torvalds approach to backups: Upload everything to the cloud in plain text and try to convince people to mirror it.
For example, Jeff Attwood, a well known and "smart" guy isn't he? Well, he also thought his hosting provider was doing adequate backups...
Astalavista? They had backups, but the cracker logged into the backup servers using the credentials stored in backup scripts and deleted them. Did you know that tarsnap may use a key for writing, another for reading and another for deleting?
It's true that being an UNIX oriented tool makes it a "niche" product since most companies use a combination of UNIX and Windows servers. But there is still a big chance of success among web owners running small to medium webs for a living on cheap VPS or shared hosting accounts on foreign countries. They should get very nervous every time they hear an horror story detailing how some site dissapeared because of a bad backup strategy...
make deb and rpm packages, get it into the freebsd/openbsd/pkgsrc/fink port trees. make your installation page as short as "pkg_add tarsnap" and only link to the compilation instructions for other, less commonly used architectures. (do you have the ability to see what os/arch most of your users are using?)
FWIW, Tarsnap is in the FreeBSD ports tree already, but not in others.
good luck with that tarsnap thingy.
But I have no doubt the reason while your revenue doesn't make you happy yet it is because hackers are not the right target for it. I do differential backup using encFS and dropbox; it's not even remotely as cool as tarsnap but it's free for now. You see my point?
Promoting Tarsnap as a solution for OS X runs into the GUI problem: Most OS X users don't have a clue what to do with a command-line interface. Tarsnap will gain a GUI at some point in the future, but of course this is a rather non-trivial amount of code to write...
Maybe you misspoke here, but based on this quote I think your approach could be improved.
1) You went to a friend. Unless this person is an experienced designer of commercial websites, that doesn't sound like the right approach.
2) Your primary concern is preserving the site's "geeky/minimalist character", although that seems to be your Achilles heel. The last time Tarsnap was on news.yc, I made the same incorrect assumption, that this was not really a business, but just a side project of an academic. You and I even talked about that in the comments.
3) You're framing the problem as aesthetics, but it's really about poor communication. Engineers often make the mistake of thinking that visual design = making something look nice. This is like saying a database designer makes data nice.
Just like a database designer sees important patterns to capture, a great producer or designer understands how to drive website visitors to the right understandings and behaviours.
It sounds to me that if you go down the route you descirbe, you'll have all the pain of redoing the site, without solving the more fundamental problems.
I went to a talented web designer who understands my vision. I think understanding my vision is important -- otherwise I'm likely to pay $$$ only to be presented with a website which I hate and don't want to use.
I mean, if you're interested in pageviews, and revenue--and your comments wrt Balsamiq seem to indicate you are--you need to realize that the aesthetic you're looking for is likely costing you customers and hence money.
Nobody's going to fault you if you prefer to make less money and keep your website any way you want, but if you're going to complain about sluggish growth you've gotta realize that your customers' habits and tastes are much more important than your own.
In related news, the demographic you seem to be targeting is quite possibly either unwilling or unable to pay for it; the former because they'd rather hack something up on their own and the latter because they may not be the decision maker for their organization.
Think of it like the crackpots who submit their own math/physics theories. Sure, a professor can critically examine every submission, but it's not a good use of their time. It's easier to just read results in refereed journals.
If someone eccentric is doing something truly groundbreaking (Perelman solving the poincare conjecture), then most people expect somebody to tell them about it. Craigslist is like this -- if you saw the same layout on bobslist.com, you'd know it was some rinky-dink site. But craigslist built a reputation and that reputation is what made it spread.
Unsolicited advice, but long story short: people make snap judgements to save time, and often times they are correct (I suspect most unprofessional-looking sites are not run by professionals in that domain). This can be overcome with word of mouth, but it's ideal to not have to "overcome" their initial snap judgement and make a good first impression.
I mean, keep the existing website. And create a second one, using more traditional modern UX techniques. In my perfect fantasy here, this new one would be the .com and your current site would be the .net. That's likely not possible so you may need to find a variation of the domain or, hell, a completely new name for this "non geek" version. After all, "tar" doesn't have any meaning to the non-geek IT Biz Mgr anyway. Being sticky isn't a horrible visual for a backup service, but it's nothing special.
I'm dead serious, here. You have a vision. This is your vision. It's apparently not being successful in the marketplace. So why not just say, "hey, maybe I'm wrong" and go for an approach nearly 100% opposite of your current strategy?
But unless your customer demographics are vastly different than those of many of the people here who earn good money with proven UI techniques, I'd bet you could do better with different marketing (website, etc.). But you don't really have to bet. What'll it cost you, 10 bucks for a domain name and some time? The first rounds don't really even need a designer, though you'll save some time if you procure one now instead of later.
Test, test, test. There are a good number of qualified people (not me) that are giving good advice, but your test results are king. Start running variations, and you and HN can look at the data and start making progress.
Tarsnap has one of the technically best back-end implementations available, but the barrier to entry for an interested customer is incredibly high -- not just on OS X, but on UNIX as well.
Even on UNIX, producing a working backup setup requires writing custom scripts to do so, and implementing anything like snapshot-based backups is complicated enough that even I spent a couple hours getting everything working/tested, and I'm very familiar with this area.
I'll be bold: You solved the backup problem, now the number one hinderance to your growth is solving the user experience problem.
The UNIX utility should have an exceptionally easy way to configure backup schedules. Possibly even an optional web UI.
A Mac release must have a native OS X GUI (no qt!), be easy to use/configure, and be well-integrated into system services.
After the first iteration on the above you should consider implementing support for network-based backup administration, so that we can control backups/restores across all of our desktop/server installations from a centralized administration console.
If the above is not your forte -- if you're only interested in the crypto and backup issues -- then you need to find a parter or contractor who can step in and solve them for you.
I agree 100% -- and this was exactly my intention. I wanted to make sure that I had a solid backup system in place before I made it easy to use, because I hear far too many nightmare stories about backup software which is the opposite way around -- easy to use, but doesn't actually work.
A GUI will happen. Sample cron jobs for automating backups will happen. A web interface... well, that might happen, but really it needs to be built in to something like virtualmin.
That might be part of the problem as Davidw is hinting at.
Linux, BSD, Solaris, OS X, and Cygwin. Probably other UNIXy OSes too, but I don't know anyone using AIX or Tru64.
Tarsnap doesn't support Windows (except via a POSIX layer like Cygwin) or GNU Hurd.
EDIT: Ok, finished thinking. Let's see how much traffic $20 gets me.
Experiment day is Thursday, so I'll probably have useful numbers early next week.
(I recognize why you've made the decision that you did, but it is definitely preventing you from getting a certain class of customer who really actually cares about what you're selling vs other backup storage providers)
Really, tarsnap looks like great technology and you are obviously very technically minded. But tarsnap doesn't look like a real business but rather a technology-based side project of yours. Which really is fine if that's all you expect it to be, but to somebody like me who sees a lot of potential in your ideas, the lack of business development is puzzling and frustrating.
in the end, thank you for your contributions to open source. It is very admirable. I would love to see you make a tonne of money off tarsnap and I really do wish you a lot of success.
Smart partnerships and good networking are far more important than a pretty product. (When it comes to revenue)
EDIT: I do have one question though, how is your typical work day? With a release every week, thousands of customers to support and a full fledged family - how do you manage to even stay sane ? :-)
I have just read on your blog < http://www.balsamiq.com/blog/2008/10/14/personal-whats-your-... > how it all started and I found it so inspirational (maybe just because I am in a similar situation right now?!)
Can I ask you if you ever regretted moving back to Italy? It seems to me you managed to separate the good aspects of life in Italy (Bologna and the family) with the bad ones (taxes and servers, i suppose, are in the US).
Congrats. I've read your marketing advice in your blog. Do you have any other tips for small software companies getting their product reviewed or mentioned in the press / blogs ?
also a little bit more specific, so only post these if you want to...but can you post the top 3 traffic sources to your site for the last year.(if you have the user defined hack on Analytics, I'd love to know the specific urls which sent the traffic. But if not, just top level domain would do.) and maybe the top 3 keywords Google search queries that brought you the most traffic.
Traffic sources are here: http://skitch.com/balsamiq/np3w5/balsamiq.com-2009-traffic-s...
FYI, I practically NEVER look at any of this stuff. But maybe I should? :)
i.e. if you see that a particular site(that you never heard of), sent you 200 people, where each person went through 6 pages, compared to your average of 2...you know it's probably a good idea to go buy some ads there, since you know that site's audience will convert
Why don't you make it possible for the user to move the UI library pane from the top of the app to the left? It's a little bit of a pain to scroll left/right instead of up/down.
Thank you, kind sir.
Check it out:
My only feature request would be for more keyboard shortcuts. My fingers know Omnigraffle like they know Emacs.
(Also: from a technical perspective, looks like this is a Flex app. Very different approach than the 280north guys with their ObjectiveJ approach.)
Try the Desktop version for more keyboard shortcut support: http://www.balsamiq.com/products/mockups/desktop#download
Browsers "eat" so many key combinations :(
They've truly found a great niche and carved it out themselves.
Good luck with 2010.