How Do You Acquire Customers as a Startup? Well, I Got My First 100 Via Reddit

26 Apr 2024

Getting your first 100 users isn't easy. Here's how I do it with Reddit, where most people don’t care about your products and hate advertising

Sitting in our office (a fancy word for our favorite coffee shop), I mumble, “I thought I would do A/B testing and analysis!?” Man, was I naive! Where do you find the data to do that when the only people who know about your app are four dudes you have hung out with since high school?

After devouring almost everything I could about growth for early startups, I realized the solution: Do things that don’t scale.

And the first channel: Reddit!

“It’s gonna be an easy game.”

I thought, 'It's going to be easy because I built my TikTok channel from 0 to 2x thousands of followers. I will have hundreds of sign-ups in just three days.” Right?

Over the next few weeks, I immersed myself in Reddit, exploring every possible subreddit related to my industry (notetaking), and did two things:

  • Write heartfelt posts about why I built my product, its features, and how it will help users.

  • Reply to comments as quickly as possible to build momentum and generate buzz.

It seemed easy as I sat sipping my coffee and typing away. I had dozens of subreddits to explore and hours to spare. Plus, my product vision is superb – who wouldn’t want to try it? It was a no-brainer. Within a few hours, I had already posted dozens of posts and comments.

I noticed that my Reddit notifications were blowing up – I must be doing a good job. Ha ha ha.

“Uhmm, I don’t expect this”

As I opened those notifications, I geared up to respond to the enthusiastic comments from my beloved early adopters.

But, surprise, surprise, by being a dedicated “advertiser,” I found myself banned from some of the biggest relevant subreddits. Not only that, but I received a barrage of downvotes for what seemed like explicit advertising!

“No worries,” I reassured myself, “it's just some outliers.” However, as days passed, it dawned on me: the outlier was me. With early responses branding me as a scam, I couldn’t help but smile wryly and wonder, “Why do I have to go through this? Is it even worth it when you receive so much criticism?” When hundreds of people are downvoting your every move, such thoughts inevitably arise.

I contemplated shifting focus to another channel, convincing myself that Reddit simply didn’t align with my product— “Focus on the Channel Product Fit,” I said

The Change

But fortunately, I didn’t take that route. Instead, I resolved to make it work. I delved deeper into what resonated with Reddit and what didn’t. I realized that to succeed in this channel would take blood, sweat, and tears.

I then opted for a more subtle approach:

  • Write an added post; mention your product only when allowed to.
  • Instead of writing a post, find a post where people are looking for solutions that are relevant to you.
  • DM people looking for those tools

And I was relentless. Every post, every person—I reached out to them all. Yes, I mean every single one. I still stored the hundreds of post links and the people I DM’d back then. It wasn’t a scalable approach, but it was what I needed to do to get the word out when I was just starting out.

How to be good at this? I’m still learning, but the key is:

  • Don’t explicitly advertise unless permitted.
  • When DM, instead of directly selling, ask about their problems to determine if your products are relevant.
  • Relevancy is crucial; seek out relevant individuals, subreddits, and posts.
  • How do I find them? I typed every relevant keyword in the chat and joined any relevant subs from the search.

After putting in a lot of effort, I finally managed to make some headway for my product on Reddit. I accumulated hundreds of thousands of views, attracted initial users, and continue to receive a decent number of referrals from Reddit every day.

find customers

So, there you have it – how I find customers via Reddit.

Next up, LinkedIn – Hm, wait a second, was I just scolded?