Product Hunt isn’t a household name, but its growing influence is impossible to ignore. Its impact on a certain segment of the market makes it especially crucial for entrepreneurs. This segment is one that most of us should lust after: early adopters. It’s a community of savvy, open-minded consumers constantly looking for the next great solution. If they believe in your product, you’ve got an inestimable leg up.
The site is usually compared to Reddit, appropriately. Users discuss various products in a linear format, up-voting the products they like and down-voting the ones they don’t. The more upvotes your product gets, the higher it (literally) rises. If it rises high enough, the multiplier effect kicks in and your product takes off. The community values feisty startups and creative thinkers, and prides itself as being a true meritocracy. If you’ve got the goods, Product Hunt users will reward you.
A Little History
Product Hunt was founded in 2013 by Ryan Hoover, an infectiously enthusiastic millennial entrepreneur who decided to parlay his love for innovative tech into something marketable. His Reddit-style approach to tech review was backed by the powerful and influential startup incubator Y Combinator, and quickly took off. By 2014, Mashable described Hoover as “The 27-Year-Old Who Tells Investors and Reporters What’s New in Tech.”
Since then, PH has been acquired by AngelList. Its community continues to grow in its influence on the market, but the beauty is that it hasn’t been hijacked by powerful corporate interests. Anyone can submit a product, and only the judgment of the community— not advertising or marketing— determines how high it rises.
The site divides submitted products into four categories: tech (including software, apps, and hardware), games (on various platforms, including mobile), books, and podcasts. The best become “Top Hunts” for the day (each day’s “Top Hunts” are archived), and the best of the best become “featured” products.
Getting Your Product on Product Hunt
All you have to do to submit something is sign up and provide the name of the product, a tagline, and a URL. It’s that simple. Whether or not a product actually gets reviewed by the community, however, is up to Product Hunt’s team. They sift through the submissions and approve or reject each, usually within 48 hours.
This brings us to the tough part: most submitted products never make it to the discussion. Product Hunt gets hundreds of submissions daily, and they only post what the team considers to be the cream of the crop. That generally adds up to about 1% (yes, one single percent) of what hits their inbox. Literally almost everyone gets rejected.
Don’t let that discourage you. If you believe you’ve got something good, there are a few strategies and resources to increase your odds of being in that 1%:
- Be scrappy. Product Hunt isn’t about helping big companies advertise. They’re about rewarding pluck and merit in entrepreneurs who need (and deserve) a helping hand. If you’re the “little guy,” you’re not at a disadvantage.
- Only submit finished products. No prototypes, no beta versions. Only submit completed products that are on the market and available to the public. If the product is worthy, the team and community will want to help. But you’ve got to have been selling it yourself first.
- Have your own presence. If the only place you sell your product is on third party platforms like Etsy, you’re not likely to make an impression. Make sure your website is eye-catching and has creative, original copy.
- Be original. When 99% of submissions are headed for the scrap heap, the only way to be noticed is to be different. Whatever you’re selling needs to be cutting edge. The best way to approach Product Hunt is from well outside the box.
Once Your Product Is Up
With your product up and eligible for review by the community, you’ve got to get in on the conversation. What’s most important to remember is that you cannot— cannot— advertise. This is a community, not an ad space. If you want to convince anyone on Product Hunt to give you upvotes, you’ve got to do it as a genuinely respected member of that community.
Start early. Join PH well before you submit a product, and start interacting. Make yourself known as a functioning user with something valuable to say about different products in your industry. Be genuine. If you show up to the forum with nothing to offer but a pitch, you’ll get nowhere. It’s better to already be a known (preferably trusted) quantity.
When your product is up, simply comment to say that you’re available to answer questions. No pitching. Obviously, encourage your own followers to join Product Hunt, but be very clear with them in saying that you’re not asking them to flood the forum with compliments. Even your own loyal fans should be asking questions or commenting on specific features of the product, not flattering you. An army of supporters artificially inflating your rating won’t be appreciated by the community, and you won’t last long.
Lastly, be sure to offer some special incentive to Product Hunt users. Whether it’s a bonus or discount is up to you, but showing the community some love goes a long way.
Whatever you do, don’t approach Product Hunt as something you can simply use (or, goodness forbid, hack) to boost your sales. You can’t. The only “trick” to getting something out of the community is to be a contributing member with a genuinely great product.
For further help with Product Hunt, I strongly recommend listening to Ashish Walia of LawTrade’s interview with Top Hunter Bram Kanstein. I also recommend picking up The Product Hunt Handbook by Justin Jackson. With an original product and a willingness to engage the community, nothing is impossible.