Getting Free Exposure For Your Software Products: Community Sites

For those of us who are marketing on a budget (or lack of thereof), development community sites such as forums and Q&A sites (such as StackOverflow) are an excellent place to get free exposure for our software products.

When a developer has a problem that your product solves, there is an excellent chance that s/he might be interested in your product. When this developer leaves a question or a comment for the community on a forum or a Q&A site asking for help in solving his problem, you have an opportunity to expose your product while helping others. What’s more, the question the developer has shows exactly how hard it is to build what you built, and how many obstacles and issues one might run into while developing it on his own.

But how do you mention your product without it becoming shameless self-promotion? Most community sites have rules of conduct, explicit or otherwise, that do not look kindly on blatant advertising on their site. Some community sites, such as StackOverflow and the other StackExchange sites, have a built-in mechanism to rank answers and shameless promotions will probably get buried quickly.

Promoting your product is important, but keeping the site helpful and free of spam is even more important. So here are a few ideas and guidelines for successful promotion on community sites:

  1. Find relevant questions – Look for questions that are related to the problem your products are solving. Use relevant keywords and tags to find them.
  2. Use subtle promotion – If a developer is struggling with the last line of code to complete a similar product to yours, there’s no point in telling him about your product as a solution directly. It would be much better to help him complete his project, while briefly mentioning yours as a footnote for credibility on your experience with the problem being discussed.While he probably won’t use it, don’t forget the hundreds of people who will see this post in the years to come, who might consider using your component instead of building something from scratch. You are not answering just for the original poster, but for many more passive visitors who will see your answer in the future.
  3. Always be helpful – For newbie questions consider being a bit more straightforward, but try to offer value in your answers, not just self-promotion. Even if your product is free, it sometimes might look as if you’re self-promoting, so try to offer some value in your answers, like in-depth explanation of how you managed to overcome obstacles while developing your product.I honestly believe that giving away your secret recipes will make you more money in the long term. In fact, I believe that the more you give the more you make.
  4. Always give proper disclosure – Don’t try to offer your product as a solution to a problem without mentioning that it’s yours. And again, don’t forget to add some value. If your answer is just a link to your product, people might vote you down (if there is a ranking system) or flag your answer. Remember that if your answer is voted down (sometimes unfairly, just because people don’t like your “tone”), it becomes less effective. Be a good sport, be honest, and above all, be helpful.
  5. Add links in your profile or signature – If you are promoting your Binpress component, don’t forget to add your Binpress profile as a link on your Profile. If you use keywords in the description it will probably help promote your components on Google.For example, write something like “I’m the author of PHP Coffee Making Class” and link it directly to the component page on Binpress. When people look for a “Coffee making php class” on google, they are more likely to find your component this way.
  6. Get involved in the community – Contribute answers to questions not relevant for your product as well, if you find them interesting and feel you can help someone. When people see you making active contributions and not just ones the promote your product, they are much more likely to be receptive when you do and it will help you gain reputation points in sites that use a reputation system.

Some great community sites to get started with

  • StackOverflow – one of the best, if not the top development Q&A site. Covers all the languages and platforms you can think of, and could get you excellent exposure for your products.
  • Stack Exchange, the platform behind Stack Overflow has 46 similar sites (as of writing this post), and some of them, like Webmasters and programmers might be worth checking out. On this list you will find more topics (among them: Database administrators, WordPress, Drupal, User Interface (UI), IT Security, and more…)
  • Quora, a more general Q&A site, has topics on development that are very relevant and are quite active.
  • Gamedev.net – one of the premier sites for game development and a very active community.
  • Apple developer forums – for iOS, Mac and Safari developers.
  • Devnetwork forums – for PHP, Javascript, MySQL and related technologies.
  • jQuery forums – for jQuery plug-in developers or jQuery troubleshooting.
  • Forrst – a community for developers and designers.

There are many more great community sites. Add your favorite in the comments!

To sum it up

Promoting your product on community sites is an easy and effective way to get free exposure. If you are being helpful and showcase your expertise, your reputation increases and people are more likely to consider your product (whether free or commercial) when faced with the problem it solves.

Author: Adam Tal