My Product Hunt launch: what worked and what didn't

Yesterday I launched Mugshot Bot on Product Hunt as a solo founder. It was a wild ride and I’ve never been glued to my computer like this.

The launch finished with with over 250 upvotes, 39 comments, and #5 Product of the Day. It generated close to 1000 visits, over 70 sign ups, and 6 paying customers.

I even got a cute little badge from Product Hunt!

Here’s my journey on what worked, what didn’t work, and things I wish I spent more time on. I’m not guaranteeing following these will make your launch a success. But hopefully you can pick up a tip or two.

Oh, and for newcomers, Mugshot Bot is a tool that automates link preview images for your website without design tools.

Mugshot Bot in action generating link previews
Mugshot Bot in action generating link previews

What worked

The single biggest contributor to the success of this Product Hunt launch was the work done, well, before the launch.

Build in public

First, I’ve been building Mugshot Bot in public, sharing progress as it happens. Almost every day for the past two months I’ve tweeted about a new feature, an idea, design progress, or a question.

Anything worth elaborating on (but not quite long enough for a blog post) I’ve been posting to Indie Hackers.

I’ve also been very active in the Weekend Club community on Slack. Shout out to Charlie for running an amazing community.

Weekend Club is a weekend co-working community and a very supportive Slack group. Mention WEEKENDJOE when you sign up for a free month.

All of my metrics are publicly available, too: total visitors, registered accounts, MRR, etc.

Get early upvotes

You only get one day on Product Hunt, and those 24 hours are based on the Pacific time zone. Ideally, you are launching early in the morning so you can maximize your time for upvotes.

I’m in Eastern time and didn’t want to get up at 3am to start promoting my post. Instead, I had someone in London help me out.

Shout out to James for getting the ball rolling. He shared the post with other indie hackers and makers in his circle which bumped the post right from the get-go.

Live tweet

About five seconds after I woke up I tweeted a link to the Product Hunt post. I followed up on every milestone, every mishap, and every little victory.

Beginning of Twitter thread about Product Hunt launch

I also pinned the tweet to my profile and set my URL to the Product Hunt page for the day.

In total, the tweet received 7500 impressions and a whopping 500 engagements. I replied to the thread 20 times.

This was where people showed their excitement. If you click through the thread there’s a ton of people interacting with me, letting me know they upvoted, and just being generally awesome.

It was a highlight of the day for me to connect directly with people about Mugshot Bot on Twitter.

Shout out to David for this idea and for providing a ton of feedback while building Mugshot Bot.

Be genuine

Product Hunt has a strict policy against asking for upvotes. Instead, they recommend asking folks to “check out the page.”

What worked well for me was being genuine. I wanted support from my audience so that’s what I asked for. “I would love if you could show me some support” seemed to resonate.

I also called out in my initial tweet that I was nervous. This was met with a lot of positive reinforcement from folks that went a long way towards ending the day feeling great.

What didn’t work

Not every second of my launch day was productive. Here are some things that I tried but didn’t seem to help very much.

Engaging out-of-target audiences

A big portion of my Twitter followers are indie makers, developers, and/or bloggers. Mugshot Bot helps content creators and hackers the most, so there’s a ton of overlap.

That isn’t the case for my Facebook audience. Most of these folks are friends from high school and college. I’ll also be the first to admit I don’t post on Facebook much anymore.

The takeaway is to pick the audience that matters and focus on that instead of spreading yourself too thin.

Email campaign asking for support

This one surprised me the most. Before the launch I had about 100 registered accounts. I sent an email letting them know about the importance of the Product Hunt launch and asking for support.

Oddly enough, only 9 people clicked through the Product Hunt post. Here’s the email, if you’re interested.

Screenshot of email campaign announcing Product Hunt launch
Screenshot of email campaign announcing Product Hunt launch

Looking back, I can’t tell if these folks didn’t care enough or my messaging was off. Probably a combination of the two!

Twitter ads

As soon as I got my first new customer I set up a Twitter campaign for the same amount. I focused on getting clicks to the Product Hunt post and promoted the first post in the Twitter thread.

I cancelled the campaign after two hours.

In 2 hours I received 2 clicks. For $15. This might make sense for a direct acquisition channel, but $7.50 per click was nowhere near worth it for potential upvotes.

Obsessively refresh metrics

In the spirit of building in public all of Mugshot Bot’s metrics are publicly available.

Mugshot Bot public metrics
Mugshot Bot public metrics

I probably refreshed this page over 100 times throughout the day. Sure, there were a few dopamine hits when a number spiked. But overall, it was a waste of time.

Metrics are important but being glued to them is a dangerous habit.

What I wish I’d also done

There’s only so many hours the day. But here are a few things that I wish I carved out some extra time for.

Post to Indie Hackers

Early last week I posted to Indie Hackers documenting everything I did for seven days leading up to the launch. It was really fun to update this throughout the week.

But for some reason I completely forgot to post on launch day! I think this could have strummed up a bit more excitement but nothing getting too upset over.

You could post in the Product Launch or Product Hunt groups, they both have about 150 members.

Fine-tune a welcome e-mail

Late in the day I added a click-to-tweet link to the welcome email to people who have signed up for Mugshot Bot. A few people used it, too!

The link uses Twitter intents to automatically prompt a drafted tweet with populated content. I used Twitter Intent Creator to generate the link.

In hindsight, I wish I added this earlier in the day to capitalize on some more reach.

Your Product Hunt launch

That’s everything that I learned during my first big Product Hunt launch. I hope you picked up a tip or two for your launch!

My tl;dr is to build an audience before your launch. Without this you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.

If you used this post to help your launch I’d love to hear about it. Reply to this tweet or send me an email and we can talk shop.