Need advice on getting the word out about an open source and free site


A few months back I got tired of doing portfolio tracking in a spreadsheet and sat down and made a site. I got a few friends and family to start using it as well for their portfolios but have been unable to spread the word further.

The site is totally free, with no advertising, and the code behind it is under the Apache license and open source.

My goal is not to make money of it but to slowly grow the user base, enhancing functionality as I go. The ultimate goal is to have something useful for self directed investors like myself.

I am seeking any advice about getting the word out about the project to attract users first, and hopefully contributors later. I've added the FB like button, reddit/digg buttons as well as simple sharing functionality so far but have not had any take off. I've even spent a some money on adwords to try to get users in but I am not sure if they are the high quality early-stage users I need.

For anyone who is interested in the site itself it is at (Oh, and I know I need a better domain in the long run).

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asked Apr 2 '11 at 14:39
313 points
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4 Answers


Two suggestions bearing in mind your comments about wanting to keep it free.

First, add a few basic nationalisation options - UK £, Euro € etc, and ability to set default display exchange - for instance .L for London etc

Second, join in properly at a few personal finance forums and have link in signature - it's likely to be very slow, but there is so much out there for personal finance and investing that I think you have to take the slow route.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 06:36
2,552 points
  • Thanks for the answer. On the first point, I currently don't have the ability to do this since data feeds across exchanges are expensive. I am piggybacking on an existing, and semi-legal, free feed at the moment for US traded securities. I may extend in the future though. I like the approach to the second point. Would you happen to know any such forums offhand? – Gennadiy 13 years ago
  • Try just adding .l to the security name in whichever feed you're getting... works in more places than I'd expect! So III is a US stock, III.L London. You could try perhaps? I used the for a while but the forum s/w is horrible. Most of the rest I know are UK centric. – Matt 13 years ago


There is more to social networking than just putting a Facebook like button on your website. In order for the like button to be effective, you first have to have actual, real users using your software so that they will actually be motivated to join your Facebook community.

The only way for you to spread the word about your product offering in the initial stages of your product -- using social networking tools -- is for you to monitor the social networking sites and look for recent, active, conversations that relate to your product offering.

For example, let's say you're promoting a Cooking Q&A Stack Exchange site, and one of your friends posts a question about cooking on a rusted skillet. This is a real time opportunity for you to respond to this inquiry and softly promote the Cooking Q&A site.

(Look at the second response to the question) :

This same concept can apply to your investment software. If you see posts on your wall or other friends walls about investment portfolio monitoring, this is the time to strike by posting a link to your product or service.

It's important that your post be made in a timely manner so that it becomes part of the conversation. It's a thin line between appearing helpful and appearing spammy.

This same social networking approach applies to recently posted tweets, Linked In comments, blog articles, and other forms of social networking.

UPDATE: Additionally, here is The Dealer's Guide to Automotive Social Media. On page 8, there is a similar example of how to use Twitter to interact with people and promote your dealership. The techniques here will work for your software as well. The main difference between the Facebook example and the Twitter example is that, with Twitter, the author uses Twitter's search feature to locate active conversations about the topic and then contribute to those conversations. The advantage of using Twitter to promote your software is that you can reach far more people than those who are only part of your network.

answered Apr 3 '11 at 06:18
James Mortensen
363 points
  • An excellent suggestion but one I cannot apply at the moment for several reasons, although none are permanent. The first is the fact that I quit facebook about a year ago. I know this is not an excuse. The second is the fact that anyone in my friend list before I quit (about 200 people) who deals with investments is already using the site. This was my first way to test and get the word out, get people I know using the site. – Gennadiy 13 years ago


Get rid of the "bullsh*t" word that is so prominent- in my view (and I may be a minority), that is totally unprofessional and I instantly clicked back away from the site. You're putting your site in the "non-professional" category with that word.

answered Apr 4 '11 at 08:24
1,747 points
  • Ah, that one was already mentioned by one of my friends. The top copy was rewritten yesterday and will be updated midweek with other features that are pending. I am glad to know he wasn't the only one to whom it seemed offensive :) – Gennadiy 13 years ago


  1. Charge for it. Monthly. That way you can easily spread the word & use advertising, because every new user will be bringing in substantial profits.
  2. Get a "spokesperson" - Tumblr has Gary Vaynerchuck, Posterous has Guy Kawasaki and i don't think any of them has a big stake in the company, they just promote it by using it themselves because it is awesome. Find someone who already has the attention of the marketplace you are targeting, offer to give him a lifetime account for free (if you'll be charging for it, which i'm a big fan of :P) and any special modifications/setup that he'd need in exchange for him using it and giving some feedback. Taken the service is awesome enough, he is likely to become your best PR person.
answered Apr 2 '11 at 18:14
394 points
  • No, don't charge for it. No one will pay for it. See, does the same thing, free, but automatically imports portfolios (note plural) from multiple institutions. Investment sites have very high advertising rates and that is how they stay in business. – Tony Ben Brahim 13 years ago
  • I will not charge for it for several reasons. The main one is that the functionality is available somewhere else, just not in the same convenient form (IMHO). @Tony: wikininvest, mint, and others have import. I may offer it as a premium feature later on (much much later on). I have had experience with the backends of those systems and they are simply not accurate enough. Wikiinvest's numbers are off by as much as 2%, mint's as much as 5%. As mentioned in the original post. The challenge is to promote a free site that I think has value. – Gennadiy 13 years ago

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