Here's How Product Hunt Can Help Startups!
The Good, The Bad and The Verdict
Product Hunt is a site that was started by a guy named Ryan Hoover. Ryan is very much integrated in the start up community, out in Silicon Valley. He's done a lot of great things, built some cool products, and just sounds like a great guy. He's the one that started Product Hunt. You'll see Product Hunt is now an aggregation of all of the latest, coolest apps, tools websites, as well as books, and things that help the startup community find the best resources. I look at Product Hunt as a resources platform, for startup and investors to find great startups.
Product Hunt provides instant exposure for startups and investors. If you've got a product, and you become what's called "Hunted" by Product Hunt, you get instant exposure. Once your site gets submitted to Product Hunt, people can recommend it by voting for it, and can comment on how great it is. That's instant exposure, and it's free. Number two is the increase in page views and site visitors. There have been many companies out there that have actually written blog posts about the fact that, as soon as they've had their product "Hunted", they've had spikes in page views. That means thousands of page views in that same day from potential users of their product. The third thing is Product Hunt has a large amount of collections and searchable content. This is something newer to the Product Hunt platform, but I enjoy it.
First off, there's little disclosure about who recommends these products to be "hunted", and what their connection is to the product or the startup themselves. For example, if John Smith is interested in a product and submits it to Product Hunt, it becomes hunted. Well, if he's the startup founder then he might get a lot of users to that site; on the other hand, he might be an investor. There's no clear distinction. If you are building a site that relies on transparency and encourages startup conversations, you need to make that distinction more clear. Are you an investor whose interest is directly related to why they would endorse the product by "hunting" it? Are you a startup founder who knows that the more votes you receive, the bigger and better exposure your site and product will receive?
Second thing is that there's an element of the 'bandwagon' effect which I think could potentially be dangerous. Let's say you have roughly ten to twenty companies that are submitted on Product Hunt everyday. Some of them are just not worth your time, but they're still "hunted" by people who use Product Hunt. Maybe they get ten, twenty, thirty votes. Guess what? If you're displaying the number of votes that one person is getting, it's not unlike a popularity contest. People tend to gravitate towards the most popular as the winner. There's an element here of consumer psychology that I think Product Hunt needs to identify. To keep the consumer's focus on the actual product itself, they should never show the number of votes on the product. Let the most deserving products get the actual rewards of the massive potential users they could receive from Product Hunt.
Finally, there's a one and done effect with Product Hunt that runs parallel to the instant exposure products receive. You get the instant exposure, and then boom, everything plateaus. Some users may stick around, but once the hype that Product Hunt brings to your product leaves, then so will your users. Since you haven't actually proven your product's worth by building a loyal consumer following, there's no reason for users to actually stay with your product. I think that can be disheartening to startups. If you're getting users through Product Hunt, if you expect your product to be hunted somehow, then you have to figure out how to connect the user, and continue that conversation so they'll bring you a higher lifetime value.
Overall, it's a great site to use. I love what they're going, I love the thought leadership that Ryan Hoover is creating. To be even better, here's what Product Hunt needs to fix. 1) Better product disclosure. If you're an investor, and you up vote or you hunt a product, disclose the fact that you're an investor. Make it clear to the end consumer, that "I'm an investor, but I still recommend it." That's totally fine, but you should disclose that. Product Hunt has an obligation, I think to the startup community, to make that clear. 2) Have a blind voting process. This is something I'm advocating for, because as people are becoming more dependent on Product Hunt, the more vulnerable it becomes to having a bandwagon effect with its users. Where somebody votes for something, or doesn't vote, because of the number of votes they see. That's just how consumer psychology works. 3) Create a sustainable user growth for the startups they endorse.