How to Product Hunt

A playbook on how to stay cool and not act a fool.

So. There you are. It’s week 8 of team all-hands meetings. You’ve got the first hundred customers for your new product. After all that continuous deployment, your product is in a good place. Not great, but good. With a cold-pressed juice in your hand — your whole team’s got smiles and juices actually, hey does anyone else think this is like elementary school? — you’re on a high note nearing the end of the meeting. Finally, someone says it:

“Is it time for us to post to Product Hunt?”

I’ve been around Product Hunt for a while. You can find me @thetylerhayes. I wouldn’t consider myself an OG but I really like PH. I like studying products that fit into the category of: built for people who like the Internet. PH fits into that category, along with some of my other favorites Disqus, Reddit, and GitHub.

I know a thing or two about PH — some of my successful hunts:

This is what a Product Hunt post looks like.
  • 942 upvotes: Autopsy, “A collection of post-mortems & lessons from failed startups”
  • 143 upvotes: Thrive, “Manage your SMB from your iPhone”
  • 131 upvotes: Upsie, “Get a warranty for all your cool things”

But I don’t know everything — some of my less successful hunts:

  • 60 upvotes, Patient Portal Finder, “Find where to view your results and doctor’s notes”
  • 23 upvotes, Guestlist, “Gorgeous online event registration & ticket sales”
  • 13 upvotes: Meme Generator, “Meme while you Mac”

All of which is to say: I will attempt to share what I know but don’t come to my house if this post doesn’t automatically bring you a $5m seed round.

What is Product Hunt?

Do not skip this section. (I see you scrolling past.)

Product Hunt is, first and foremost, a community. Do not forget that still even in September 2015 roughly only 3,000 people have the ability to 🎯 post products to PH. And “only” 20,000 have the ability to 💬 comment. (Everyone can participate in LIVE Chats. Thanks Ryan 👊 for clarifying.) This is a tightly-run community with an influential core membership.

Like any community, the core community members tend to share characteristics, preferences, and opinions. This is also why only certain types of products can achieve breakaway success on PH.

Nuances to know about Product Hunt’s community:

  1. Positive, optimistic people. Kind, constructive feedback givers.
  2. Generally skews toward people with an appreciation for craft. They like products and makers who care about the details. They won’t shun you if you don’t sweat the details, but they won’t upvote you.
  3. Along with #2, they have an eye for design. As in: the whole experience of a product. They notice little big details. E.g., nice things like including a text-to-download link on your home page so they don’t have to take their phones out of their pockets. Or gross things like if your site takes over their browser’s scrolling.
  4. Makers who spend a lot of time thinking about making.

If you yourself are similar to the above traits, good on you — you will fit in naturally. If you’re not, that’s ok — just be yourself.

Product Hunt likes when you are yourself.

Best practices for Product Hunt

Besides Product Hunt’s own Pro Tips, what tactics should you abide by?

  1. Never post the same day Apple is announcing something.
  2. Your product description is what your product does, not what it is.
  3. UPDATE: Post around midnight. (Outdated: Post around 6am.) PH’s ranking algorithm is always changing (as it should) but generally speaking it ranks for hotness, not just most upvotes. For example, consider two products: Product X has 20 upvotes that it got right away posted at midnight vs. Product Y has only 10 upvotes but was posted an hour ago — Product Y will likely be ranked higher on the home page because it has more momentum. In other words, you are shooting yourself in the foot by posting too early because you’ll lose momentum by the time most people are awake looking at PH.
  4. Get someone else to hunt you.
  5. Get someone else to hunt you whose submission will be featured. This is an important nuance. There are two sections on the PH home page: Featured and Upcoming. Not all PH hunters are equal; some hunters (as best as I can tell, early and influential users) can post straight to the Featured section.
  6. Get as many upvotes you can as early as possible. The winners are picked by lunch Pacific time, if not breakfast. Cf. PH Trend, a great site that tracks each hunt’s movement.
  7. Your goal is to be Top 5 for the day. That means you’ll get a second traffic boost the next day, because the Top 5 get emailed to all PH users in the daily digest the next day.
  8. Don’t expect to be Top 5, or even get many upvotes, unless your product fits into this category: built for people who like the Internet. PH is​ young and​ Silicon Valley. There’s a reason the main category is called “Tech” and not “Products”. It’s not about what vertical your product is in — plenty of telecom, farming, healthcare, etc. products have done well. The point is your product needs a tech spin.
  9. Unless you have to, do not post on the weekend. Weekends have less competition per day, yes. But weekends are more competitive to make the Top 5 because Friday-Sunday posts are grouped into one Monday digest. Not to mention also less visitors per day. Breakaway hunts do happen on the weekend (Autopsy was posted on a Sunday) but it will give you less eyeballs and you are now dealing with extra digest competition. At the end of the day, your product still has to fit with the PH community to be a breakaway hit, and you’re going to have that (or not) regardless of what day it is.
  10. Consider a PH-specific benefit. You don’t have to, just some people do. E.g., offer a special deal code to PHers or move PHers to front of the line.
  11. Don’t re-hunt a product if it’s already been hunted.
  12. Don’t cheat. Don’t game the system. Don’t buy upvotes. Don’t sign up fake PH accounts.
  13. Don’t mimic hunts from well-known products like Facebook and Slack. Their products will get massively upvoted no matter what simply based off their brand. You do not have that brand, so your goal is to cut through the noise. Be concise, specific, and valuable.
  14. Share with your friends. But tell them to go to PH’s home page and upvote you from there. Don’t link them to your product page directly; like Reddit, upvotes on directly-linked pages may not carry much weight.
  15. Get in the discussion. PH is first and foremost a community. Be yourself.

If there’s anything I want you to walk away with, it’s this:

Plan ahead.

Product Hunt will not make-or-break your company — that’s always on you — but it’s not the little leagues anymore. If you have the right product, at the right time, and plan ahead, PH can deliver you tens of thousands of visitors. You have one bullet; don’t waste your bullet. Email me if you want help.

A final thought: Product Hunt is not for getting your first customers. Unless you are a master of product launches and you know PH is pinpointedly your target market, do not launch to the PH market first. I have more thoughts on Product Hunt as part of an overall sound launch strategy but that is out of the scope of this post. Another day.

That’s all I have for now. Go and do great things.

Thanks Ryan Hoover, Andy Santamaria, and Josiah Austin Gulden for reviewing early drafts.

UPDATE: As promised, I wrote another post on How to Include Product Hunt in Your Launch.

Header image: malaysian trio via photopin (license)