Mandatory post since life is busy… a good list on audiobooks for SaaS apps.
- The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky
- Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Projects to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore
- Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin
If you like to build stuff online, these are awesome books full of actionable advice and immersive anecdotes.
Not a thorough post… more like sticky notes…
- Growing from 0 to 100 feels like a slog
- Growing from 100 to 150 still feels like a slog
- When you’re near 200, going beyond feels really fast
- Growing to 350 feels like a lot of work
- Growing 50-100 users per week is doable provided you post regularly
- At 150 followers, you’ll start getting bombarded with tons of spam messages
- Growing at a good clip means 10-15 posts a day
- Posting fewer than 10 posts will lead to a net negative
- Posting more than 20-30 posts a day will yield a net positive
- Using the right hashtags will far beat out any posts with few and/or unpopular hashtags
- Definitely use more than 10 hashtags per post … 20-30 is ideal
- Posting original content at 20-30 posts/day if it’s not a full-time commitment will deplete you
- If you can’t post 20-30 original posts/day, #repost
- If you edit too many posts within a short time frame on the same day, expect captions to be disabled on your account the next day
- Most followers will thank you for a repost
- Some followers will promote you for a repost
- Posting in the mornings will yield more likes
- Getting into a posting rhythm is fun … if you can commit to the timesuck
- Posting on a large variety of topics will make a very time-consuming and arduous growth in followers
- Using the right niche hashtags makes all the difference
- Finding niche tags means following the hashtags rabbit hole
- After posting hundreds of pictures, you’ll notice the fragile and vapid existence of social media
- Everybody is doing the same thing, hence, all the spam
- #moodygrams are awesome
A funny thing happens when your web traffic starts to travel up and to the right … you tend to overlook the outliers. Sure, you’re aware that those tiny spikes can offset your overall raw dataset by a small margin, or even a relatively significant one. But what about 30% of traffic? What if almost one in three uniques is screwing up your whole data? That’s what happened after postponing data due diligence.
In effect, what I thought to be exponential growth was just normal growth, after removing every single spike to smooth out the overall data. My new data is more accurate, less exciting, but it’s also more motivation to try harder and see if there are any improvement I can make to drive it up higher, faster. If you’re analyzing your data through Google Analytics, I implore you to clean it all up by removing data from yourself, your friends (maybe even your town if it’s fewer than 80,000 people) and any cities that have spiked only once a year (I’m looking at you Ashburn, VA and Boardman, OR). Set up those special segments in GA and dive a little deeper into your data. Mahalo.
Last year ended on whimpering note for one of my passion projects. Just as I was recovering from the growth slump following two months of seemingly exponential growth, December 2018 proved to be even more dismal. Numbers stagnated across the board for every single metric and that’s when Gary Vaynerchuck’s advice of “deploying massive patience” kicked in. I chalked up the cruddy stats to the holidays — a drop, not a dip, north of 30% — and went about my usual business of running things.
Fast-forward to the last day of January 2019, every metric across the board jumped beyond the 30% drop. That is the reality of setbacks. They stink. They make you question decisions and keep your mind analyzing on how to solve them. But, sometimes, it’s the actual act of waiting that’s all you need. So, note to self: keep it cool and chill out a bit for this year’s drop in December.
It’s my freshman year for a hypothesis: hyperlocal journalism just needed to be approached from the right angle. True statement? All signs point to a resounding yes after launching countless content aggregators in various locations this year. But more on that on a different post. Here’s what I’ve learned in running my side project …
– A picture isn’t necessarily worth 1,000 words. Having stripped off everything but the title and lead from the aggregated content, people are still willing to peruse through dozens of headlines, irregardless of any imagery.
– News readers don’t want to be patronized. For each post on my network, readers are encouraged to rate each headline as “fair and balanced” or “false or misleading”. In a two-week A/B split test, I changed the wording to “boring” or “interesting”. All things remaining the same, the user interaction dropped by almost more than 20% when ratings came into play.
– Dot coms are still preferable over other domain extensions, but not why a whole lot. TLDs ending with .com are easy to remember, and they’re also much more expensive than their alternatives, but sometimes the other extensions can perform just as well. If I had to pick one, I’d always go with .com, but not at the heavy expense of having to dole out four-figure amounts.
– Google Adsense sucks. Don’t get wrong here … if you’ve got millions of monthly readers visiting checking out your content online, then you can make a great living off of it. But trying to monetize a small crowd by plastering ads everywhere on the onset of your journey will most likely hurt your traffic instead.
– Suppress your outliers. Throughout the first year of running my network, there were several times when traffic spiked enormously and the resulting traffic would’ve suggested a growth curve that was seemingly exponential. However, after several weeks when those numbers dropped, the growth looked more gradual and steady … and very boring.
I remember launching FolsomPress.com and thinking, “it’d be awesome if a fraction of the 80,000-plus people who lived here used the site.” After a few weeks of running some experiments on that site, I decided to go wide rather than deep and expanded to other cities, which eventually led to the 86,000+ users that have since used the site over the past year. Not a small feat but it also felt rather underwhelming, as well, because we’re not talking DAUs here … yet. So, off we go into 2019. Mahalo.
This one’s another one-liner: Add Google AdSense tags and watch traffic take a dive as it makes your site load like a slug. August was a great month as traffic spiked to nearly 14,000 MAUs. So, what to do next? I know… let’s slash that number in half by splattering banner ads everywhere!!
Here’s a fact: Google AdSense will slow down your site. And, generally, people will not care to see any ads — two bad things, especially when your CTR is crap. There was a brief period of about two to three weeks where I thought, “hey, this network is actually starting to make some revenue,” but that came at the very huge cost of slowing down the sites of loading said ads. Awesomesauce. Lesson learned: when you’re first starting out in building an online network, don’t fall for AdSense, the quick buck.
Epiphanies: AdSense isn’t terrible. It won’t slow down your site by 10 seconds of anything, but if you’re trying to score that sub-1,000ms loading time, AdSense feels like it’s adding an eternity. Also, the revenue isn’t terrible at nominal traffic but, on a personal preference of disliking display ads myself, it wasn’t worth keeping them up. It was distracting to me and my users, so back to the drawing board!
This one’s a one-liner: Upload a song to YouTube, let it gain traction to reach about 10K views, and then delete said video. Ok, let’s back up a little. About two years ago, I started uploading some songs to YouTube. Some of them gained traction while others didn’t, but it never bothered me. I wasn’t trying to become the next Majestic Casual, as much as I just wanted others to experience new sounds. Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, one alt-pop-rock track did really well and reached 10,000 views really fast. From there on, that one video started feeding views to other uploads. But it never felt quite right to me. Gaining so much momentum in such little time was about the equivalent to winning a game of War at a casino — just arbitrary. So, I deleted the video. Following that, I realized that another channel started copying some of the tracks I posted, so then I deleted those, too. And, somehow, throughout that process I learned that YouTube wasn’t going to be my thing, hence, I forged a path to building something that would be more of an extension of myself. And, somehow, that has turned into a fun hobby. Hakuna Matata.
As of this moment, I have 11,177 play racked up on Soundcloud, which sounds decent until you dive into the granular part of the stats. Given the whole story, this figure seem rather boring, considering the amount of plays breaks down in a nice 80/20 tier, which is the typical business breakdown of any customer. Eighty percent of folk are responsible for a nominal portion of your sucess, whereas, 20 precent are responsible for the bulk of it. In this case, there’s one track by Mike Milosh and J.Viewz that has garnered the attention of most of my listeners through Glossy Hooks. It’s interesting but also a bit of snoozefest. The takeaway from this is that I’m glad that there are others who can appreciate this chillout-type music and that’s all I’ve ever wanted from this side project =)
A couple of years ago, I built an online marketplace for musicians. It went so great, it wouldn’t even cover my server costs. Awesomesauce. If I had to do a post-mortem of the now-defunct service, there were several red flags, where an older me would’ve said, “hey, you need to fix X, Y and Z if you want this to take off.”
Perhaps, the easiest starting point and the biggest red flag is that I had trouble explaining exactly what it did. A common trait I’ve noticed with other developers/designers is that, once we put on our hats, we get really technical and granular about things. So when a guy once asked me what the service did, I replied, “well, musicians can upload, sell and buy their stems, or they can upload, sell and buy full tracks.” Terrible. Just terrible. I’d then try to explain what stems are in relation to tracks, which are just synonyms for songs. The whole marketplace just took too much explaining, which is partly to blame for the verbiage I used as well as the many things I tried the service to be capable of handling (ie. stem management, track management, musician catalog, split payments, virtual downloads, online payments, etc.).
Chael Sonnen said it best in one of his podcasts: “If you’re explaining, you’re losing”. With every time that I tried to explain what my service did, I took too many words. Having been part of the Wonderful World that is Product Design, simple is almost always better. With every other project that I’ve built, I start backwards now by creating a simple statement — X helps Y by doing Z. That’s the litmus test. If the project cannot translate into those simple terms, it is too complex and vulnerable to failure.
The other day, I was trying to figure out why I’ve had so much cognitive dissonance in my head, regarding some of the features I’ve built for one of my side projects. In fact, I even started this post several days ago and had to go back to it, because I didn’t like the original title — “Removing Features You Love”. Having watched an episode in Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Hasan Minhaj put it more succinctly, saying that one of the most difficult things to do when creating your comedy routine is to “cut what you love”.
I’ve spent a great deal on my Supporter Badges, thinking they’d be one of the coolest features on my network. They weren’t as intrusive as your run-of-the-mill popups nor as seemingly innocuous as your 300×250 sidebar adverts. They were cool and pretty and round! But after several months of tweaking and testing, they just never took off. Additionally, removing them temporarily from mobile view actually increased every single metric (user engagement, time spent on page, bounce rate, etc.)! So, clearly, these badges were useless.
When you spend so much time investing into ideation, design and development only for it to go south, it’s really hard to cut it out. But when all data definitively suggests that this is exactly what you have to do, then you have to cut all ties. Pretty sure I’ll get better at this, but it’s a tough pill to swallow up front. Mahalo.