19 Mar 2014

Hacker News: What Every Startup Marketer Must Know About This Unique Community

I’m running an experiment in learning about social voting sites with which I have little experience, and more recently I’ve been focusing on HackerNewsThe site matters to a lot of startups and marketers who want to stay on the cutting edge, and can also be a good place to get usability or other feedback.  Not to mention that if your product appeals to this site’s demographic (software startupland’s developers, marketers, investors), you can potentially jumpstart your customer acquisition by hitting the front page. 

Hacker News is a vote-based social news site,  centered on the interests of the software startup community, and in particular the startup accelerator program, YCombinator. The community often shares great insight into product development, code, tech/geeky matters and startup marketing.

Hacker News is a vote-based social news site, centered on the interests of the software startup community, and in particular the startup accelerator program, YCombinator. The community often shares great insight into product development, code, tech/geeky matters and startup marketing.

Obviously, I want to learn how you get to the front page of Hacker News. Turns out it’s not so different from how social voting sites worked 5+ years ago and still work today. I’ll let you see for yourself:

Now, the above guides advise you to post compelling content. Jaw-dropper, I know. In any case, what that might be varies by community. So understand the background to the community as well as what works:

It won’t hurt to read the site’s guidelines and FAQ  either.

As always, nothing will beat your own experience and analysis on what works at a social media site; this is true of Hacker News as well. Here are the top posts and people on HN.

And some keywords that people follow:

It also helps to be self aware, regarding how you use the site. If you understand how people interact with something, you can optimize the something to make interaction easier. It’s usability 101 – understand what the user does and why.

Well, not everyone browses the site via its web interface. So you should get familiar with alternative interfaces:

Amongst some of the more interesting interface variations are tools to:

  • Make HN more legible, essentially restyling the CSS, allowing users to collapse or expand comments and hide threads etc – there’s a big spredsheet of HN interface tools, found via Quora.
  • Filter threads by keywords, number of points, number of comments, submitter, domain, whether it reached the front page and post type. HNapp got lots of upvotes on Quora and works well in my brief playing with it.
  • Search HN… lots of search engines for this.
  • Various other items such as an HN newsletter.

How can you use this info? You could reach out to HNapp or HNWatcher, for example, and find out what are the most followed keywords, or the keywords most excluded. Who should you buddy up to? See which submitters get the most follows etc. Or you might do some usability testing videos and see how people interact with hacker news and create your own better interface to address the relevant problems.

If you’re using or have used Hacker News,  especially as a way to get feedback on your product or improve your startup, please share in the comments!

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