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How we got to 3000 GitHub stars in 2 months?
- Vlad Matsiiako
GitHub stars are a vanity metric. That's true! In reality though... even if by themselves stars aren't gonna help you build a successful business, they have many other indirect benefits. As an open-source company/project, stars are one of the most obvious success indicators for users/contributors/investors. When your stars are high and growing every day, users trust that your product is good, contributors are sending PRs, and investors are reaching out every day. Now, the question is... how do you get them quickly?
Ever since becoming open-source on November 21st 2022, Infisical has been growing purely organically - without any cold outreach or other methods typical to B2B SaaS companies. In this blog, I will try to tell you everything that worked and didn't work for us to build up this organic growth.
When we launched, we were already at around 90 GitHub stars since this repository has previously contained the code of our old JS CLI.
One of the main growth channels for Infisical turned out be Reddit. This was the channel that we tried out on the day of our 'launch'. We posted in a few subreddits like r/opensource, r/github, r/node, etc. - and people really liked it! Keep in mind these things when you post on Reddit:
- You want to have a lot of Karma on your account. In our case, our co-founder Maidul had Karma of 2000+ which I think helped.
- You also want to post/comment about something else before your launch day (even though we didn't do this). General Reddit rule is to not self-promote in more than 10% of your posts. Some subreddits are very serious about this and may even permanently ban you.
Next day, after our Reddits posts, we were published in the TLDR newsletter. One of the largest newsletters in the programming/tech community. A few days later, we woke up to another wave of activity because were mentioned in Console.dev. Newsletters are a great way to get many eyes on your repo very quickly. Unfortunately, you can't really force them to publish about you. You can pay to be mentioned as an ad, but personally I think it is not worth it at such early stages, and I would assume it also has a smaller effect because people treat self-promotion differently.
If you product is good or promising, people will start talking about you. Tweets, Facebook groups, Reddit, and various niche forums can be big here. In our experience, we were lucky to be tweeted by Guillermo Rauch (CEO of Vercel and founder of Next.js). This definitely brought a lot of interest and growth as he is a very influential person in the open-source world.
Another time, we were also posted on the Korean Hackernes (called Geek News) where we stayed at the top of the page for over a day. These local forums might be a great growth channel but they need to be discovered. If you have friends in various countries, ask them!
A huge growth channel for us was Hackernews. I've seen many examples of companies doing using Hackernews as a launch platform. There are just a few things you can do:
- Show HN. Create a post to show the Hackernews community what you've built. Here you can find the guidelines for this post. In the case of Infisical, our post became #3 on the main page and brought us a lot of users/stars/contributors. This post also has a very long half-life - in our example, we are still getting some activity from it even 3+ weeks after posting.
- Repost blogs. Write blogs and repost them to Hackernews. If you get lucky and the audience likes it, you will get a lot of visitors to your blog and some of them will check out your product too (especially if the blog topic is relevant to what you are doing).
- Launch HN. Y Combinator companies get to do a Launch HN which generates an enormous amount of traffic (from what I've heard; we have yet to do our own).
What's next for us?
I should note however, that we are only in the beginning of our path, so there are many things that we haven't done yet but will pay more attention to in the near future:
- Blogs. Until now, we haven't been focusing a lot on this. From talking to other founders, this has potential to increase trust towards your product as well as bring in new users. SEO is very important here but content is king!
- Product Hunt. We're planning to do PH launch around March. Over 30% of Product Hunt users are developers and eng managers, so this is will be an important launch for us.
- Facebook groups. We want to spend more time finding the right Facebook groups where developers hang out. We were once posted in a Taiwanese Devops Fb group, and it was quite great traffic-wise.
- Slack communities. Same goes for Slack. In addition to that, we will keep building our own Slack community which you can join here.
If you launched once and no-one has responded, think of what you could do differently next time, and… do it again! Do it on all kinds of platforms: Twitter, Reddit, HN, Lobsters, Newsletters, Blog posts, PH, Dev.to, Hashnode, Medium, etc - and drive them all to your GitHub at the start.
Lastly, don't focus on gettings stars - build a great product, and stars will follow you. 💫
If you found this blog useful, feel free to checkout other blogs as well as what we built at Infisical. Infisical helps developers manage secrets and configs across their devices, teams, and infrastructure.