The first project I launched was called TapTag. The idea was to create a new social network based on geotagged content. You'd share something about where you are and anyone who visited that place could find it. I spent a year learning and building the first version of the app with a couple of friends.
The launch was disappointing, with only a few downloads but a couple weeks later that changed when it was included in a post on Gizmodo. That was amazing to see. Several more articles followed and downloads soared. Pretty soon the app had 1000 users and I was fixing bugs, adding new features and learning marketing while trying to market. It was exhilarating.
Eventually, the traffic from those articles dropped and getting new users and keeping existing ones was difficult. Only a small group of users actively posted. We tried a ton of techniques to get more users and increase engagement. We held contests, events, redesigned the app, and added new features but nothing seemed to work.
For a couple months, I knew what needed to be done but wasn't willing to give up just yet. Gradually I realised there was no shame in failing. In the past 18 months, I'd built my first apps, launched my first product and learnt a lot about marketing and startups.
The truth was the app was cool but it didn't solve any real problem and would never get the growth it needed without that. There's no hustling around that point. The problems were further compounded by the focus on geotagged content. Having enough content in a regular network is hard enough, limiting that content by location is even harder. The writing was on the wall but I learnt a lot of what works and what doesn't.
- A pre-launch beta test is a great way to get feedback and have an email list to reach out to when you launch
- Email is one of the best ways to bring people back to your product. A newsletter is a must and anything else you can deliver through email (within reason) you should.
- Welcome emails, in particular, have a nice effect
- Making your most active users feel special can help keep them active and they provide great feedback
- Focus on user retention at first
What doesn't work:
- New features are nice but won't save a product that doesn't solve a real problem
- Press is an unreliable way to grow. Eventually the traffic it generates dies.
- You need to have a clear vision of what your platform will be used for from the beginning