In this article, you will learn about the different methods we have used to publicly build Bootkamps, our platform that enables anyone to organize online bootcamps. This is not by any mean an exhaustive list, it only covers what we have tested and found to be effective and/or enjoyable (our theory is that this approach must above all be driven by your passion). We will talk about:
And so much more. Let’s get started!
But first of all: what does “Building in public” even mean?
Indie hackers realized the power of it a few years back already. Indeed, #buildinpublic is an efficient marketing strategy that requires little budget: it allows to have material to communicate about a project even when it is only in its early stages, and it allows to project an image of transparency, integrity, authenticity, and proximity.
In a way, building in public is the exact opposite of the “fake it until you make it” approach sometimes over-embraced by the startup nation (even if many startups also use the #buildinpublic strategy, and many indie makers hide behind startup-like projects funded by investment funds).
Obviously, your target audience must be somewhat receptive to the transparency discourse and be willing to accept using a product under development for this build in public approach to be relevant.
In Bootkamps’ case, the niche targeted for the launch being precisely the community of indie hackers, makers, freelancers, and no-coders, the choice to build publicly was quite evident.
However, there is another aspect that, in my opinion, is at least as beneficial as the marketing aspect, if not more so: it is the motivation that comes from publicly setting goals to achieve.
To continue on Bootkamps’ example, the initial version was developed in 3 weeks (working on the project after my regular 9 to 5, from 10 pm to 3-4 am almost every day of the week). I think I would have taken much longer if I hadn’t committed to the community to launch in January (well, I would also have taken almost 1 week less if I hadn’t gone directly for a bilingual version, and I would have saved another week if I had used a standardized design system, but that’s anecdotal 😅).
Now that we’ve set the stage, I wanted to share with you some of the ways we’ve used and/or continue to use for building Bootkamps "in public".
Publish articles and blog posts on your progress
What's probably the most common method consists in sharing your progress, your research, and your findings through featured articles. It is, however, a very time-consuming method (with Emeline, we limit ourselves to 1 article per month). Still, it can generate a strong engagement/attachment of your audience and medium/long term benefits thanks to SEO and mentions.
Post updates on social networks
Pretty much similar to a blog, posting on social networks is of course less demanding because the posts are meant to be shorter. Social networks also make it possible to post more frequently without annoying your audience since the idea is precisely to give regular updates on your progress. At the top of the list of networks that work for Bootkamps: LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook seems to be really out of breath, and Instagram does not give very promising results so far, partly because of the target, but also because on Instagram, we do not benefit from a pre-existing audience as we can have (proportionally) on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Naturally, there are many specialized communities and networks that are just as relevant, if not more so. It’s up to you to find the ones that are relevant to your needs. For makers/indie hackers, there are, for example (in no specific order) WIP, NoCodeFounders, Indie Hackers, and, on the francophone side, the Slack of No-Code France or the Discord server of LeChantier.
In this case, we don’t focus on SEO aspects but rather on building a base of followers that we will try to convert into long-term users of our product, and that can also spread our messages to boost word-of-mouth.
To this day, 37% of Bootkamps.fr visitors come from social networks!
Share your product roadmap
A not so common yet easy to implement method is to share your product development roadmap. This resource will probably only interest a small part of your audience, but it is the one most likely to convert into a customer for your product. You can even involve your audience in creating/managing your roadmap, allowing you to add comments, suggest new features, or prioritize your backlog. (Canny is the perfect tool for that).
We share Bootkamps' product roadmap here; it's a simple Trello board in our case. Comments are open if you want to share some ideas/feedback. ✍️
Stream your progress
Streaming on Twitch or Youtube is probably the most transparent way to build publicly, considering that it is literally what’s made for: allowing everyone to see how you build your product, live! Plus, it doesn’t require any extra effort; you just maximize your time by working and communicating on your product at once.
If this format doesn’t look exciting in theory (and indeed, very few people will follow your live sessions the way they binge TV shows on Netflix), it will at least generate interest from your audience who will come and watch you for a few minutes, and this will be enough to convey the image of transparency (and potentially expertise) that you are looking for from your audience.
For Bootkamps we regularly stream our sessions on Twitch via Contournement's channel. Subscribe there is you want to get notified when we go live.
Show how your product is designed
This is an approach that is not always possible, but that it is well suited in the particular case of a digital product. The way to do it will depend on the tools you use to develop, and of course, the purpose of doing so.
For example, Bubble shares access to the editor of a duplicate of its bubble.io app (the part of the website that manages marketing pages and user accounts).
As a personal example, when I started doing freelance work on Bubble, I published my website detailing my services as a free template, which led instantly to highly qualified traffic.
Teaching the techniques that made it possible to build your product
This is of course something obvious for Bootkamps, but it is a method you can use in more cases than you might think. For instance, if your product is capable of automated image analysis using artificial intelligence, you can set up a course (or a bootcamp 😁) explaining the basics of using artificial intelligence, using your product as an example to illustrate the theory. The idea is to communicate about your product in a non-commercial way, bringing value to your audience.
In the case of Bootkamps we set up a bootcamp to share some of the advanced techniques we used on Bubble to develop Bootkmaps. Here are the recordings of the sessions for those who are interested:
Center elements in vertically or render elements at full height using CSS (replay) ;
Create an ultra-light counting system that can scale without impacting the performance of your app using Regex (replay) ;
Group your RepeatingGroup items visually by subgroups without nesting different RGs and while maintaining optimal performance (replay).
Use your own product (publicly)
Pretty similar to a “demo,” this one is about openly sharing a concrete and real case study of how to use your product, applied to your own context. A kind of case study in which you are the hero. This concept is also called “eating your own dog food (or dogfooding for short)” except that for it to be a #buildinpublic thing it must be done publicly (obviously).
For Bootkamps, it involved organizing a bootcamp ourselves, with the Bootkamps platform (see videos above). The experience was so rewarding and positive that we will soon do it again, stay tuned 🙌).
Share your metrics
Like other “open startups”, you can join the trend and publish your key figures in full disclosure. Clearly, this is the ultimate level of transparency because it’s no longer possible to pretend to be something you’re not when you reveal your turnover.
One of the Bubble co-founders, Emmanuel, for example, shared its revenues as early as 2017 during an interview for Indie Hackers. If you think that you need to make more than tens of thousands of Euros/Dollars of sales before sharing your figures, you can’t be more mistaken, on the contrary!
For Bootkamps we will soon set up an “open” page of this type, with our first key figures. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s online!
Hopefully, these few tips will give you some ideas on how to build your product publicly. It is difficult to accurately quantify the “ROI” (efficiency) of this approach because the benefits are both marketing/growth and getting earlier user feedback on your product. Above all, this is something you need to do if it matches your core values and the way you want to grow. For us, it is a crucial driving factor, so we will continue experimenting and testing new methods to build publicly. Feel free to share your ideas with us!