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How to get your first 500–1000 users for your product, project, and/or service for free.

sakun profile image Sakun ・5 min read

So you’ve built a cool product: perhaps a website, blog, app, social network etc. and you don’t know where to find your first users and grow organically. I’ve worked on different projects (from forums, to apps, to websites) over the years and can attest to the fact that finding early users is one of the hardest part of launching a product/service.

The list you’re about to see started off as a personal collection of free websites and resources I’ve been assembling over the past year. I’ve since added my own annotations in hopes that they’d help shed light as to how effective they really are (at least from my own experiences).

Depending on your product or service, you may want to use most of these resources, mix n’ match, or use none of them at all. It all depends on what your product/service is and what you’re trying to offer.
If you know any other resources, please let me know in the comments or tweet me @sakofchit so I can update my Medium article accordingly :).

The 2 “must-use” Platforms

  • ProductHunt I think we’ve all accepted now that PH is the place you go to when you’re ready to launch your product. When/if you get featured, you’ll see a surge of thousands of unique visitors flocking to your website. A lot of journalists/bloggers browse PH and write about cool products they find. When I launched my weekend project, ReadShitFaster I had reached the #2 spot on PH and it was featured on Gizmodo, LifeHacker, etc. which was sick!

  • HackerNews Like PH, HackerNews will send in thousands of unique visitors to your site if you get put on the front of HN/ShowHN. HackerNews has over 5 million monthly page views, so you’d be making a mistake if you aren’t sharing your product here.

Other Platforms

  • SideProjects Alright, I’ll admit that I’m being a bit biased here as this was something I’m currently building; however, this is a platform where you can share your side projects and get feedback, ideas, and even support on them. It’s 100% free to use as well and you’re more than welcome to post on it. We’re working on some cool stuff for SP, so stay tuned! (Also feel free to join the discord server).

  • IndieHackers is a phenomenal platform that has a bit of overlap with SideProjects.net. You can share projects you’re working on and discuss a wide range of things. They’ve even got a “milestone” widget that allows you to share updates to your project which are then displayed on the site’s homepage.

  • Reddit There’s a lot of great communities on Reddit where you can post your product/service and garner early users + feedback. But if you want your post to be received well, be respectful when posting and avoid spamming/reposting at all costs. Below is a list of subreddits where you can share your project (unspecific to your project’s niche).

r/sideprojects
r/javascript (Showoff Saturday Threads)
r/webdev (Showoff Saturday Threads)
r/coding
r/alphaandbetausers
r/betatests
r/gamedev
r/programming (Certain exceptions)
r/usefulwebsites
r/developer
r/opensource
r/opensourcegames
r/iosapps
r/androidapps
r/testmyapp
r/androidapptesters
r/apps
r/webapps
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There are tons of other subreddits you can post in. I recon that you determine the niche that your product/service fits into the most and to post in subreddits dedicated to that niche.

  • BetaList I have mixed feelings on this. It will help you gain users, but it usually takes over a month to get your project featured (if accepted) on their site. Posting is free, however if you want the review process for your project to be expedited, you’re able to pay a fee — which I personally don’t recommend paying for.

  • HackForums I’m aware that HackForums has a conflicting reputation, however the site has evolved into a platform for developers and they have sections where you can share projects that you’re working on.

  • BetaBound allows you to submit your product/service to accumulate beta testers. From my experience in using it however, you may not get very many users.

Miscellaneous

  • Quora This one takes more effort: answer questions people post on their site that relate in some way to your product/service and weave your product/service into your answer. Strive for writing answers that are still actually helpful so that you don’t come off as an advertising snob in your responses.

  • Participate in Forums Building a reputation in certain communities can help bolster your reach. Actively participating in sites such as StackOverFlow, Dev.To, and IndieHackers can help you build a reputation + audience. Post content that’s actually helpful.

  • BetaFamily This one’s for IOS/Android devices. BetaFamily is an incredible platform that was really helpful for me back when I was working on building a now-defunct video-sharing application. You can feasibly recruit testers to beta test your app and give feedback on it. I was able to accumulate over 100 beta testers from this site alone. Now whether these testers will convert into long-term users is another story — it all depends on what your app is and if it’s captivating.

  • Podcasts Podcasting is becoming increasingly popular. If you’re able to get featured on a (popular) podcast and you’re given the opportunity to talk about your product/service, you’ll have a handful of listeners flock to it.

  • Backlinks are vital to SEO. Back when I was about 14, I was into running forum communities and I used backlinks to foster growth. I would host downloads for Minecraft maps on my website and restrict the downloadability to only people registered on my forum. I would then go onto other forums, posting download links that would redirect users to my site. Eventually, when people would search for a specific map by its name on search engines, my website would end up being the first link. By the time I had sold the site, it had roughly 10k users and was growing at a rate of 100–200 users per week and I hadn’t spent a dime on advertising.

  • LinkedIn Assuming you’ve got connections on LinkedIn, you could make a post talking about your product/service. You’re likely not going to generate much buzz from using LinkedIn alone though.

  • Blog I’ve yet to do this as this is something I probably could never commit to, but blogging consistently about some aspect of your product/service and sharing writing on HackerNews, DevTo, Social Media (namely Twitter), etc. can help you garner an audience.

  • Word of Mouth is probably one of the oldest methods in the book, but believe it or not, it still works. Reach out to friends/family and let them use your product or service. Word will get out, and it’ll help you generate a bit of buzz. If you already have a following on social media, you already have an advantage, so use it.

Hope this helps :)

See the full article on Medium!

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