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How YesGraph Got Its First 1000 Users (yesgraph.com)
99 points by ivankirigin on Oct 9, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

>Blog. If you make great content, people will read it and share it.

This reminds me of a jwz quote, except I would rewrite it as such:

Some people, when confronted with a marketing problem, think "I know, I'll blog about it." Now they have two marketing problems.

The whole premise of an article like this is that a great product won't draw in users by itself, but it's assumed that a great blog will draw in readers magically. I'm not saying you can't build a large readership. We've seen it done many times. But I'm skeptical that you have to do any less work than you would just to promote the product in the first place. The internet is filled with blogs that nobody reads... I'm writing one myself.

Your comment is timely because I spent more time promoting this post than writing it. Compared to the last blog post on the blog, it got 100X the traction after ~3X the promotion effort.

I completely agree actually. The relationship between frequency, quality, promotion, and traction on a blog is fascinating.

How are you promoting the post? When I think of ways to promote blog posts I can only think of ideas which are quick (post to HN, tweet about it etc.).

What are you doing differently?

  - Posted links to my personal Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/Tumblr, 
  - Posted links to my company Twitter/Facebook/Linkedin
  - Quibb, Growthhacker.com, HackerNews, Reddit r/startups
  - Asked some experts to make comments
  - Asked some people to share it
  - Asked some people to upmod the story (but don't tell pg!)
  - Retweeted some people posting links to it
  - Promoted the Tweet from @yesgraph. Promoted the post on Facebook.
  - Ask people that got in touch after my /r/startups AMA to help spread it. 
  - Linked to this thread from the blog post
  - Engaged in the comments on HN, reddit, and the blog
I think driving the process quickly and keeping it socially appropriate is more about how you do it and not what you do. If you see another YesGraph post on Hacker News within 2 weeks, then I'll know what I'm doing it right.

I should also stress that I think this is a good post, better than my last one on the blog. That matters a lot too.

This doesn't really answer your question specifically, but one helpful way to think about it is to invert your process. Most people create content and then try to find a traffic source for it. The most successful marketers I know find traffic sources and then create content for them.

Thanks. That does resonate with me actually.

It's a lot harder than most people think. A fun exercise is to seek out some message board or facebook page for a group of people you have nothing in common with and see if you can repurpose or create content that engages them. Create a mailing list and see how many people you can get to sign up. It's great practice and you'll quickly realize how insanely difficult it is to interact with people regarding a subject they are passionate about without sounding like a paid shill. It's easy for those of us with a technical background to belittle the marketing folks, but there's an art to it that isn't readily apparent until you are staring at that proverbial empty piece of paper.

Edit: the oatmeal comics are a perfect example of this. The best advertising doesn't look like advertising.

Nah I totally get what you're saying. I'm just trying to teach myself some marketing skills at the moment (coming from a tech background) and I can't seem to get any traction at all. Interestingly I'm actually doing the exact mailing list thing you suggest already (conversionnewsletter.com). It's far harder than I though it would be from the outside and, as you say, great practice.

It's hard for me to make a justifiable comparison between product dev and content dev. There's just too much variability between the two.

I do think a blog is a product and it requires the same level of distribution focus that another software product would. It requires a similar level of instrumentation and analysis.

How does a blog post gain traction? I thought traction was a term used to define an increase in sales numbers over a short period of time. Maybe you mean it drew in more traffic?

Tweets, traffic, shares, comments. Mainly traffic though. Others have email subscription for future posts. It can get quite complex.

OTOH, I know of tech startups growing like crazy without a blog, or public facing website. Content is great and all, but its not a magic bullet.

Off-topic: The design of that blog. and the landing page feels weird. Doesn't really flow very well, and is hard to read.

>Off-topic: The design of that blog. and the landing page feels weird. Doesn't really flow very well, and is hard to read.

Bigger font size and line height would go pretty far IMO. A little more whitespace on headers wouldn't hurt either.

Less red would also help.

Just getting on the front page of HN means he got 10k+ views from interested people in the right field for their product for the cost of a blog entry. Just a link to yesgraph.com probably would not have done that. It certainly wouldn't have done that more than once like a blog can. You can't really claim the blog was a bad idea when it just succeeded wildly.

>Just getting on the front page of HN means he got 10k+ views.... You can't really claim the blog was a bad idea when it just succeeded wildly.

Ugh. I have no idea how you get such success with marketing (e.g. HN front page), beyond... wait for it... telling people how you were successful with marketing. If you're so lucky, more power to you.

And for the record, I never said a blog was a bad idea.

The problem is that the cost isn't just the time that it takes to write this one blog entry. You have to factor in the time it takes to write the blog entries which get very few views.

I think it would be interesting to see a followup to this about when they make their first $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 etc...

Getting free users is not the hardest thing in the world. People like free things. Getting them to pay you is a different thing altogether.

I had an insightful manager once who told me 'you'd be surprised how hard it is to sell something for free.' The point being, getting their attention and usage is in fact pretty difficult.

Agree. Especially since people are sick of signing up for services, especially when it requires username and password.

I've always had the opposite problem. Users were willing to pay, but I didn't have a good enough user acquisition funnel to justify it so it shut off payments.

It took me a while before figuring out how to get to 1000, then 10000, then 100000, but user acquisition and retention are imo the hardest things for a first-time product maker.

I actually think monetization is easy once you have the user base unless your product inherently does not provide any real value.

I bet anything that 99% of startups fail due to traction, not inability to monetize.

I totally agree! Getting 1000 people to stay is hard, which is part of the point here. We want to focus on engagement.

Getting 1000 people to pay if they stick around is much easier than if they don't.

Getting free users is not the hardest thing in the world.

Out of curiosity: have you done it, or are you just speculating that it isn't difficult?

Thanks for sharing, we're facing similar problems and comparison is always useful!

Betali.st and similar "tools" worked well for us, although users from these services are easily to get in, but harder to keep engaged (I guess as they're used to jump to the next novelty).

Did you compare the results across such alpha list tools?

The best for us was erlibird.com, say ~500 users in a couple of months.

I'd be particularly interested in hearing about different ad channels people tried early on. If anyone has any experiences to share, I'd really appreciate it.

In addition to Google Analytics, we tried Twitter, Facebook and Stumble Upon.

My feeling is that, at early stages, all outperform analytics unless you really know what you're selling and/or you've good landing pages. All have their specific "way to use it", e.g. on Facebook you need a page with engagement, on Stumble you need "something" that people can stumple upon :) e.g. blog posts.

Here I'm considering signups as conversions. Analytics (and Bing) were good to reach a lot of page views (that may still be useful).

When you say "Google Analytics" do you mean "Google Adwords"?

for mobile applications Facebook Mobile Ads are pretty good since you can target very specific audiences and built local critical mass. whenever you're bidding on non-branded adword ads you usually have to compete with some incumbent that have spent time on their optimization which means you probably wont be able to beat them with your new product

Great points. For us, we want to compare channels, because at the start nothing is optimized. So it isn't all about comparing to incumbents. I'll only see them in effectively higher bids to get the same attention.

Just started using Pinterest to post relevant infographics. I use buff.ly to manage all my social media postings, and I have them all linked together so that people interested in topics related to our technology can find us and learn about what we're doing.

Ghostery blocks this entire article for me... (first time I've ever seen that happen)

I think it's the linkedin widget. I'll remove it

This new post by Brian Balfour is related and super awesome http://brianbalfour.com/post/63581380690/customer-acquisitio...

doh!! Signed up for a trial just to realize yesgraph's a linkedin message cannon >:(

Actually we don't send any messages over Facebook and LinkedIn. If we did, it would be with explicit permission per message.

Here is how it works

  1. Describe a role
  2. Invite people to make recommendations 
  (using the invite link or the direct email flow)
  3. Connect to get contacts, and we make it easy to recommend good people
That's basically it! Try it out and let me know what you think: ivan@yesgraph.com

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