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Ask HN: Hacking traction for Yoink.com (A free marketplace). What would you do?
12 points by allmakebelieve 1106 days ago | 16 comments
Hey HN - I'd love to get your thoughts on how we might be able to gain some traction for our new startup, Yoink (http://yoink.com), launched last month in NYC.

The idea behind Yoink is that it's a trusted place to give and get things for free. Kinda like the free section of craigslist but without the creepers, and like Freecycle but without the multitude of daily emails, no-shows and hassle. We want to create a transparent gifting economy, where people can give and get things, whether it's passing on old furniture, lending a hand to a neighbor, or simply baking some muffins to make a stranger's day.

By launching in NYC, our aim is to start small, iterate & develop the product to meet user's needs - but getting traction is (as with most marketplaces) proving an interesting problem.

So whilst there are a number of interesting things we're working on, and a ton of great resources we're referencing to come up with ideas (some listed below) - I thought it could be fun to open it up for a discussion to see if you had any thoughts on how we might go about tackling this problem and kickstarting things - looking forward to hearing your thoughts! :)

P.S. Some great resources on traction include:

http://www.growhack.com/ http://www.startup-marketing.com/ http://andrewchen.co/ http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/ http://blog.adamnash.com/ http://www.quora.com/Growth-Hacking

Before you start with the growth hacking business, you may want to re-organize your site to provide clarity especially for first time visitors. IMO, your CTA here is to have people browse through things..that whole sign up business on the left hand side is just a distraction. I would present 2 columns with clear bold headings... "Things Offered" vs "Things requested" . I don't think there is any reason to have them as one continous stream. Why do I have to give good things to great people around me? Why can't I just give things to people for free? Whether they are great people or not is not my particular concern. Nor do I care if it is good stuff, as long as the person receiving it wants it.. Case in point, I want to get rid of an old TV..I'd give it away for free to just about anyone who wants it..my motive? To reduce cluster in my house.

You guys have a good thing going, but you may be overthinking it


The niche you are trying to fill would probably be appreciated by religious communities, especially parishioners in mainline protestant denominations and "emergent" Christians primarily concerned with social justice and human need. If you create a way for groups to specify a push community (food banks, shelters, non-profits in X niche) that would periodically receive a list of the group's available items, it would automate part of their mission. Religious communities would also be likely to post a link to you on their website and encourage participation internally. Outside of cities, this demographic is older and would likely be those already afraid of Craigslist for security reasons but savvy enough to see the benefit in your system.


Thank you - great idea! We explored the idea of closed groups a little while ago but hadn't thought of the 'push' angle.. could be a very interesting addition. Really appreciate the input :)


Gamification, badges, recognition, social profiles. Offer some sense of gratification when they complete a transaction and give something away. Integrate with Facebook, both for inviting more users and for posting on their timeline when they have given something. It highlights their generosity. Focus on having the recipient give feedback to the giver - recognition, express gratitude, how much they enjoyed what they got.

Craigslist has the audience but no sense of identity, community. eBay has the feedback loop and score but no social network.


Brilliant perspectives, thank you. I think you're right - gratitude is SO important in the transaction. In time, we hope a focus on that will be one of the most remarkable things about Yoink - and we can really amplify the intrinsic rewards people get from giving.

To help virality, Facebook integration should roll out in the next week, and regarding gamification - I guess we just need to get a decent number exchanges happening before all of those feedback components really come into their own. Some good ideas in there - really appreciate the feedback.


A blog, as suggested is a nice way to attract some people, but you must write interesting things, please don't just write to get visits other way you will get the opposite effect. Also please don't try to force "virality" with social networks and other things. They are really annoying, focus on creating something that people will be genually willing to share. Word of mouth(and not virtual) is still the best way to go. Trying to force your website down the throat of users will just piss them off.


Completely agree - the blog has to offer value on it's own. I As a reference, the Kissmetrics blog is probably one of the best examples I've found of a blog done 'right' - I get a small rush of excitement every time a new post arrives in my inbox because I know that their content is also so insanely useful :) Far too many bloggers now write just for the sake of writing, and I wonder who exactly they're trying to help, other than themselves. Your advice is duly noted, thanks :)


I was in Prospect Park recently on a Saturday morning and saw some stands collecting people's clothes and stuff for recycling and thought of Yoink. There are probably lots of groups like that to collect things. I would imagine they are using physical stores to sell things, or have some partnerships in place to distribute it. Have you spoken to any of them about how they give it away now, and the challenges they face in finding good homes?


If it were me, I would try to figure out which niche is being offered/taken the most and move your entire product towards it. It will be easier for people to identify and remember your site and easier for you to reach out to the organizations in that space. I don't want to be thinking day and night about what to give, but if whenever people think about volunteering OR moving furniture they think of your site, it might gain more traction.


Indeed - so I'm taking from that, the notion of 'give things away' seem a little too abstract? How about if we suggested a select few types of item you might like to give - could that help?


I think this Udemy course, called HypeBomb, could help shine some light on Growth Hacking - http://www.udemy.com/hypebomb-growth-hacking-for-startups/?c...


I'd go with physical presence if you've got a limited market.

I mean, you're talking gifting, going down to where people are helping with Sandy and organizing gift exchanges might be a good place to start.


Maybe start a blog? Lots of sites use this to get traction.


Hey Cedric! A blog is a fantastic idea, one of the potential downsides is that we're focusing on a pretty tight geographic area - and blogs have a very broad reach. Inbound marketing is definitely something we're keen to develop over time, but with with limited resources, I'm wondering what might have the most impact right now in terms of kickstarting things..

I guess to clarify a little we see two sides of the equation: We want to reach people in NYC with a large volume of things to give away (movers might be a perfect example). We need to a) reach these people at a time when they're in the mindset for passing things onto others, and b) equally have enough people who're keen to pick things up so the transaction's as efficient as possible. Classic chicken-egg :)


Note: I previously commented on here[1] and I am reposting a similar response to what I posted earlier

Having previously dealt with a chicken-and-egg issue when I launched an online advertising company, I understand some of the problems you are facing.

Similarly having visited Yoink, I noticed you asked immediately to signup via Facebook, I’d remove that and let users just browse (I did manage to skip the signup process by clicking signup by email as it didn’t ask me for one) it would significantly improve the user experience. Moreover, I’d make it clearer the posts users are seeing are for “New York” as it is a little small.

Likewise, since you’re initially targeting New York users I would place a landing page & ask users to signup via email to express their interest – you can use browser detection to ask them for their region OR simply just ask them.

In terms of acquiring users & growing Yoink itself then, I would implement the following strategies:


This is a HUGE section but, I would definitely look at your On Page SEO to making it more “Local” & to improve some issues. For instance I would probably have Yoink operating from /new-york or /nyc – you should have a look at how Gumtree.com (eBay owned) are operating their site structure for “Cities” in particular.

SEO should be driving a large volume of traffic to your website which is why, I was emphasising the importance of HUGE in terms of the depth for this comment & the importance to Yoink.

- Social

Once again this is another strategy you should be using more effectively yet it feels like it’s an addon to Yoink rather than fully baked into the product. You should work on making it more baked into the product by encouraging people to post to Twitter/Facebook/StumbleUpon etc when they’re offering something, encouraging them to post when they’ve “Yoinked” something (in fact I don’t know if you do this but you should offer to “integrate” the services & provide the option to auto-tweet when they post on Yoink or Yoink something but give users a Yes/No option) or offering a leaderboard or something “This Month’s Top Sharers/User Referrers” etc you’d be amazed what people will do even for a $10-$25 voucher!

Likewise, you only have Twitter & Facebook – you should add Pinterest, StumbleUpon etc as well to encourage sharing & even a send via email to your friend’s option as well.

These are two strategies that are extremely important to the success of Yoink however, there are others you should integrate because; if there is an algorithm update etc you don’t want to be losing the bulk of your traffic overnight. As a result you should look to implement the following options into your growth & user acquisition strategy

- Advertising & Partnerships With Sites In Your Niche

- Bloggers & Other Webmasters Within AND Outside Your Niche

An example would be to use Guest Posting – since you’re targeting New York only look for popular blogs related directly to NYC or read by a lot of NYC users.

- Offline Marketing

Word of Mouth will be your biggest source of traffic which is why you need to encourage your friends to tell everyone about it as well as, even produce flyers & network with Students (the biggest lovers of all things free!)

- Online Communities

Go to where your audience is and leverage them discover relevant forums, blogs etc and leave thoughtful comments and participate in their communities then leverage them to grow yours!

- Social Media Channels - Twitter, YouTube etc

- Email

You noted that Freecycle send too many emails but a daily/weekly email with site updates & cool favourite new postings etc will encourage people to come back to your site and us the service.

- Effective Site Branding

- Have a Blog

As well as guest post, create a blog & post interesting but relevant content which will have people engage with your posts from inside/outside of NYC (adding a landing page & getting their email address as highlighted earlier is another reason to try and grow this as large as possible). Posting posts such as “10 Things You’d Never Believe Are FREE But Are!” and highlight things offered by Yoink users would encourage it to be shared (it the things are cool or shown to be cool – I saw an “underground dinner” highlighted when I was browsing that sounded cool to users!) which will aid in the growth of your service.

[1] https://twitter.com/Yoink/status/269142284522635264


Hey Nicholas, thanks so much for writing this up again! Really kind of you.

Good point about the FB stuff - we did have the option to browse, but that seems to have been missed in the latest update.

The SEO suggestion is spot on. It's something we've perhaps lost sight of a little in the throws of building the site, but in hindsight, it's something we should have been building in right from the beginning. Discrete geographic sections, as you suggest, could be great for this.

The social 'flow' too is something that's important which isn't fully developed yet. I agree with every post you should have the option to auto-tweet / post, in fact the app should lead you through this process & make it feel rewarding too.

The sharing buttons we have in there right now are (as I think you said in your original post) admittedly a bit half-baked - so also a great place to improve :)

In terms of community, it's a slow burn. We've been reaching out to a few local communities for whom Yoink really makes 'sense' - i.e. Burning Man, Freegans and Disaffected Freecyclers but as much as they've provided incredibly positive feedback, there's still a lot of friction to getting things listed. It's amazing how easy it is for someone to say they like something, but then the next step - taking an action - is immensely harder. Whilst some could see this as discouraging, we rather are trying to find out what the real 'mechanic' is for people who'd want to post. Ultimately I guess whatever we do it largely comes down to a lot of grunt work, which slowly builds inventory & traction.

I'll have more of a think about online communities, and potential ad partners.

Flyering has afforded limited success so far, Of ~500 flyers handed out to people, we calculated around 60 visits, 10 signups, 1 post.. So it doesn't seem to be the most efficient system just yet :) I wonder how effective it actually is.. if you think to yourself how many times have you ever taken a flyer and taken action...?

But a few interesting things to think about for sure! Really appreciate you taking the time to write this up again!


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