I Got 22,000 App Downloads In One Weekend with A $0 Budget

I reached out to my target audience on reddit for my app. Here are the results:

- 22,000 users
- 1 million interactions on my app
- 13,000 upvotes on Reddit
- 76 awards on reddit
- 3 angel investors reached out
- 400 followers
- $15 in donations

Thanks for 1,000 followers :)

— joshua fonseca (@_joshuafonseca) May 9, 2021

Holy crap! Before we get into it, let me give you a quick overview of what my app does.

WeWatch: Tinder For Movies

A few months ago, I launched an app. It's a simple concept. You swipe right on movies you want to see, and then you can find what you and your friends both want to see.

I made it to learn React Native, to learn how to build a mobile app, and to use with my S/O & friends. I never thought it would get anywhere, but I posted it around, and people liked it! At least, people liked it much more than anything else I've ever built.

When Do I Reach Out To My Target Audience

My target audience is easy: film lovers! But when do I reach out to them?

Before I did reach out to them, I would post my app around in entrepreneur/tech communities to share what I'm up to. I got a lot of feedback and kept updating my app. I use it myself, so at some point I thought , "whoa, this is actually pretty good..." (at least, in comparison to the initial version).

I stopped cringing when I watched other people use it. That's when I knew it was time to reach out to real movie fans :)

Reaching My Target Audience

To reach out, I did what I always do. I found the subreddit where people who would like what I have to say are, and made a simple post. In this case, it was easy: r/movies.

At first, I got downvoted. I post to reddit a lot, so it was no big deal... Just another post that didn't probably wouldn't make it. I decided to go back to work. I had a deploy that night from 7:30 PM to 1:30 AM, so I didn't really have the bandwidth to refresh my reddit post.

I checked my phone a few hours later & holy mother of pearl!!! I had 2,000 upvotes. But I had something even better than 2,000 upvotes... I had 2,000 app downloads. I literally doubled my userbase. I was so happy, I honestly almost wanted to cry. I've been making things for years, and nobody has ever wanted to use them, so I felt... honored. Yeah, that's the right word.

Remember, I'm still in the middle of my deploy. So at this point, I am on a call at work, actually performing a data migration, responding to user feedback, hotfixing bugs and trying to manage the traffic increase on my $5 Digital Ocean Droplet. Here's a video my smoking hot, beautiful, amazing girlfriend took of me at the peak of all the action:

My girlfriend took a video of me doing the following:

- responding to thousands of messages about my app
- hotfixing bugs
- horizontally scaling

I was really feeling the pressure 😂 pic.twitter.com/XxwaqsSrav

— joshua fonseca (@_joshuafonseca) May 8, 2021

I was really feeling the stress. I saw my app starting to slow down because of the uptick in traffic... At around 1:30 AM, my reddit post had around 8k upvotes, and I knew it was only going to get worse. I was really tired, though, and just had to go to sleep and pray for the best in the morning.

Overload

Funny how I can wake up at 7 AM for this with 0 problems, but can't for impactful events. Like I said in the intro, I woke up and just like I suspected... my app was so frickin slow. It took about a minute to load a set of movies... There were about 100 swipes per second at the peak!

I looked into Vertical Scaling, but that would mean my app would have to be completely down for a period of time, but I was still getting hundreds of signups an hour! (I know, wrong choice) I literally asked Twitter for help.

My app has had 15,000 users sign up overnight!!

My server is very slow right now, never expected this 😅

How do I upgrade my droplet without turning it off? Ahh what do I do

— joshua fonseca (@_joshuafonseca) May 8, 2021

Luckily, I have built up a good group of friends on Tech Twitter, and they actually gave me advice :') Shoutout to Angel Lo! She rocks!

I added a Load Balancer and cloned the droplet. It took me a bit, but things were much better. I never thought this topic in college would be relevant, but I'm glad it is! I definitely lost some users, but what can ya do ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Success Feedback Loop

When I posted on Twitter about my results, I ended up getting about 1,000 followers. So cyclical! Anyway, These were my results once things officially slowed down:

I reached out to my target audience on reddit for my app. Here are the results:

- 22,000 users
- 1 million interactions on my app
- 13,000 upvotes on Reddit
- 76 awards on reddit
- 3 angel investors reached out
- 400 followers
- $15 in donations

Thanks for 1,000 followers :)

— joshua fonseca (@_joshuafonseca) May 9, 2021

Now, one week later, there have been 2,000,000+ swipes, 26,400 users, and everytime I've looked at my server, someone is swiping! You can see live analytics here at anytime.

Am I Lucky?

People keep asking me how I did it. And while the success of this reddit post was an anomaly, I do consistently get high traction on my blog posts, reddit posts, etc.. How many times in a row does it have to happen for me not to consider it luck anymore? I don't know. When people ask me, I say, "I just tell people what I'm doing... Like I'm talking to people at a party!"

I always think that's a good answer, but then people follow up with, "Yeah, but how do you do it?"

I don't know, I guess I just like making people smile and laugh. I'm glad it's working out :)

Thanks For Reading!

If you liked this, follow me on Twitter!

If you want to hear a more complete rundown, you can listen to my podcast episode with Aprilyne Alter.