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Ask HN: Cracking the Chicken-and-Egg Problem
3 points by mansigandhi 1621 days ago | hide | past | web | 11 comments | favorite
We're a small startup that launched the beta version of our app at Stanford University 10 days ago (www.shoutt.me). Shoutt is a location-based information sharing platform...and thus, a social network of sorts. We decided to launch at Stanford due to various reasons like proximity to us, % of iPhone users, etc. We do plan to launch at more schools next semester, but right now we're stuck!

Being a social network, we face the classic chicken-and-egg problem. To overcome that and get users on board we did this: 1. Have a very niche launch (Stanford) 2. Run a competition where we give out a great prize every day for 30 days to the most active/creative user that day 3. We distributed over 1500 flyers across dorms announcing Shoutt & the competition. You can see them here (http://shoutt.me/Marketing/) 4. Posted on student mailing lists about Shoutt and how it is useful 5. Emailed several student organizations about using Shoutt in a way to best benefit them as a group 6. Hired 3 undergrad students to help spread the word

What we are seeing right now is: 1. Users are trickling in, growth is stagnant and not upwards 2. We do have a couple of evangelical users, but not many 3. After speaking with many students - we've realized that most are aware about the existance of Shoutt due to our initial push, but it iss passive knowledge. There hasn't been much conversion from knowing to downloading.

It has been just 10 days, so it is still early...but we're not seeing as much traction as we'd like so we're starting to get worried. I was wondering if any of you had experience or tips to offer. Thanks guys!

What Shoutt does & how it is helpful: Shoutt is a location-based app to share information with those around you. We're bringing the act of shoutting to the phone - when you shout only the people around you can hear you. This works as a great way to share information with students around you and thus helps connect hyperlocal communities. It can be used to connect places as small as a dorm or a department to as large as the entire campus/city - the distance is decided by the shoutter. Also, unlike other networks there are no friends or followers and is focused primarily on the shared information.

Shoutt can be applied to a wide range of scenarios -- Announcements (events, publicize, news), Collaboration (homework, study groups, hobbies), Marketplace (buy/sell, recruiting for orgs, help), Random chatter (updates, celebrating Cardinal victories) and Asks (ride shares, Freshmen questions).




I can't say I have practical knowledge that will be of help, but here are a few thoughts. If people know about your app and don't download it means that they perceive the value of the app to them to be less than the effort of downloading it. That could be because you have failed to explain the value of your app to them. It could be they understand what your app does and they see it as yet another "me too" social app and they are simply burned out of dealing with yet another app. Is your app something different that solves a real problem in their life? If it is, then make sure you communicate the value to them.


Hi thejteam,

Yes that could actually be one reason. The marketing till today has been more to tell that it's available and less to explain what it does. Maybe we should try changing our App store desc/screenshots to reflect the why.


Its a college, so why don't you make a shoutt launch party? Buy some beer, get some female students to attend (then the male will follow), have them download the app to get into the party, and make some weird game where they use the app to meet people in the party. Alcohol + young people + app = traction. One of Facebook's primary functions still is helping people to hook up with others at parties (and getting them laid). This is also something you can repeat on other colleges with minimum investment.


You aren't using any ammunition here. What is in it for the user? Sit down with some friends and ask them - what does this do? I think you've actually got a good concept here. But you have to read the second paragraph of your 'about' page to understand it.

You need just one use case. It's too confusing you're trying to be everything for everyone too early. You have no traction because people don't find it useful so try and find out why.

For what I understand (I might be wrong), but shoutt is an instant way to find people to do stuff with every moment on your phone. Simple as that.

Ask - where are people really losing out because they don't have this service. Then subsidise those people to build up your platform and attract others. Then when you find out what this is useful for right now then do all your PR. But make sure you having a concrete message.

You could use it to organize parties on campus. People could shoutt to get everyone to a party because there is going to be some mega hot girls etc. That might be a useful use case to start that would spread the word really quick.

Some thoughts that might help anyway :) It's got potential I think. I would have used it to go surfing. I can never find anyone.


1. Looking at your flyers, I have no clue what its about. I'm most likely going to ignore it.

2. Prize incentivization isn't hugely compelling for me personally although it may for others

3. Since I can't see what you posted on the mailing list, I can't comment on whether or not I find it useful. (I no longer have access to my Stanford email and thus no longer get mailing list emails either way).

4. Same as #3 regarding emails for student organizations (are you guys even tracking their activity?)

5. From what it sounds like, there is no compelling reasons why people feel they should need to use your service (I'm still confuse as to what it does beyond what you describe it as here or why its useful). This might be the biggest issue but since I don't know what feedback you guys have had so far, I can't comment much further.


1. We had created those more as a way to create awareness - but you're right...by leaving out the what/why made the eyeball conversions really low. Big mistake on our part!

5. As you've both (thejteam and you) rightly pointed out - our need fulfillment doesn't come across and this could be possibly be the biggest reason.

(Yes, we're tracking all activity including email). I'm adding what Shoutt does and how it is useful to the question now.


I'm on the site, and I don't see the reason why I want to engage. Can you give me your elevator pitch?


I just added it to the question itself. Copy pasted here:

Shoutt is a location-based app. It is a platform to share information with those around you. We're bringing the act of shoutting to the phone - when you shout only the people around you can hear you. This works as a great way to share information with students around you and thus helps connect hyperlocal communities. It can be used to connect places as small as a dorm or a department to as large as the entire campus/city - the distance is decided by the shoutter. Also, unlike other networks there are no friends or followers and is focused primarily on the shared information.

Shoutt can be applied to a wide range of scenarios -- Announcements (events, publicize, news), Collaboration (homework, study groups, hobbies), Marketplace (buy/sell, recruiting for orgs, help), Random chatter (updates, celebrating Cardinal victories) and Asks (ride shares, Freshmen questions).


I think I've encountered a similar app in the past that was working with Twitter API to do something similar (don't even remember who they are). Irrelevant to the point anyway.

Anyway, here's my initial thoughts and PLEASE take it with a massive grain of salt as I don't speak for everyone else...

This idea seems way more appealing to businesses than it would to users i.e. I need to hire a ton of Stanford students, announce job posts, etc... When I was in college, the marketplace argument sounds great in theory but eBay, half.com, and craigslist are not too far away (plus rentals online now that removes reselling problems). If I want to resell, I want to get mass market reach, not just local (whatever is best).

I can also see this as a potential app that rings up too much spam, too many announcements (shouts). I can't find an immediate need for why I would want to make announcements so often and more so, I can't find a reason why I would engage in the app frequently because of such. I can see some power users that may want to do so (for things you've listed), but on a whole, I can't speak for others but I don't see a strong compelling reason why I would want to "shout" anything generally. Particularly to such a niche demographic (unless again, I was a business or something similar in nature where I have a reason to pitch to users, but this doesn't provide a good reason for why users would want to engage).

On the surface, I don't seem to have a problem this app is trying to create a solution for, and there is no strong compelling reason on why (even after the pitch) I would want to use it or continue to engage frequently enough (daily active).


Honest feedback is really appreciated (and wanted) so I'm really glad you replied with that.

We have taken some of those into account - 1) shoutts get categorized into channels (#AskStanford, #gocard, #CS106A etc) and that is one way of making it organized and not overbearing to a user, almost like subreddits 2) when a user opens it at any location, say a gym, they know instantaneously what's popular around there and at that time - the primary reason to use it daily or at least often.

Given that, the above are still just assumptions made by us that will get validated/in-validated soon enough. Again, I really appreciate the feedback it was really helpful.


Yeah the flyers don't describe the product at all. I would create new flyers.




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