Real World Signs that your Side Project won't make it

By taking a critical look at my newest side project CatchIt.io, you can see numerous signs that the product won’t last very long and it’s best to focus on something else.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash [large]

How CatchIt.io came to life

2 weeks ago I launched my second side project which is an Instagram post notification service. It came out of a need to grow my first business which helps students learn Japanese with mnemonics. It all started with a friend whom I told that it was difficult to attract users to my site. Him being active on Instagram for a few years recommended me to start my own Instagram account. I started out by creating a simple image generator for my mnemonics. It converts HTML elements into PNGs which I will then upload. I needed that because of my non-existing GIMP and Photoshop skills.

Instagram photo editor [large]

After creating various posts during the first half of the year, I didn’t see the growth that I was expecting. People didn’t come flocking to my account. And, I didn’t yet understand how the Instagram algorithm pushes content to none followers. Then in June, I noticed that most social media platforms have a voting system to their comment section. The first people who comment on a post typically receive the most likes. This is due to the fact that early commenters have the opportunity to present the opinion of the whole audience. They also have the freedom to choose what they say while not reposting what someone else has said before.

Another advantage of posting early and always engaging with an influencer is that they will start to notice you. If you take a look at your Instagram Explore tab, you will see that Instagram also pushes content that the people you follow have recently liked. This means, if you have an account where you want to have a similar audience as the one of an existing influencer, you need them to like your content. The best part is that it’s free advertisement. The hard part is getting people to notice your small account. One way of doing this is by always engaging with influencers in your niche. Additionally, if you leave comments on their posts, their followers will see your account name too.

Signs you should stop

Unfortunately before starting out, I did a bad job at researching existing products. That’s why I missed Instagram’s own post notification. It has been pointed out by a member of the Indiehackers community after I had finished my minimal viable product.

Indiehackers comment [large]

After reading that comment, I was heavily discouraged. But, the community proposed another path that I should take. The main focus of CatchIt evolved around the idea of thoughtful and highly targeted comments. A member argued that in their own social media activities they saw a pattern of repetitive comments where people often respond with the same comment on different posts. You can read up on it here. Some other ideas were:

  • Comment usage
  • Drafting of comments
  • Educate users on how to use comments effectively
  • Follower growth

After a week of reflecting about the suggestions, I don’t feel like that they are compelling enough to make the product stand out. My own Instagram usage doesn’t warrant these features, so I’m wondering if anybody else actually needs that. Especially, the feature of drafting comments for Instagram. I never saw that need on Instagram because every picture is unique. There isn’t any possibility to reuse a previous comment. This would make it look like it was written by a bot which I try to avoid at all costs. They also argued that YouTube could be a viable alternative for early comments because they sometimes have problems with notifying subscribers about new videos. I took a look at it last weekend by subscribing to many channels and enabling post notifications. Unfortunately, YouTube sends notifications instantaneously as the video goes online. Now, I feel even less compelled about going that route.

Reddit comment [large]

I also tried pitching the idea as a comment on /r/Entrepreneur. A user wanted to know different strategies for growing an account except the well known “Follow-Unfollow” strategy. I tried to propose my idea, but I got downvoted to the bottom.

There is also the fact that not a single visitor signed up for the free notifications of the 148 American visitors, which are my target audience. This also makes me think whether I should pursue the idea or not.

US visitors to CatchIt.io [large]

Conclusion

In conclusion, I could have avoided this had I done my homework more thoroughly before starting out. I still believe that the product has value. Simply because of the fact that notifications are repeated on someone’s iPhone. If they miss hearing a notification, they will get another 9 notifications on iOS. Instagram’s own post notifications can’t do that. But, had I known that Instagram has post notifications, I never would have started building it. You may prove me differently. Truth be told, it took quite a lot of engineering to make it work but that’s a story for another time. By the way, I also created an [instagram helper] as a web extension (https://schleiss.io/open-sourced-instagram-web-extension/) for growing your account without bots if you are into that sort of thing.


The mind agrees.