Product ideas from conversations in online communities
Online communities can be a huge source of inspiration when it comes to coming up with business ideas.
Your target customers meet online to talk with like-minded people about their questions, struggles, and solution recommendations. By finding these conversations, you can tap into a treasure trove of information that can help you find unmet needs in a market, come up with requirements for solutions, and get in touch with target customers to validate your solution.
GummySearch is a customer development tool for online communities on Reddit. This guide shows how to use the tool to dive into an audience and find inspiration for business ideas. Although it focuses on Reddit, the same methods can be used for communities on other platforms.
Finding problems to solve on GummySearch
Today we're going to take on the persona of an application developer that is looking to build an app but doesn't know what it should be yet.
Not sure where to start? Try picking an existing hobby or interest of yours. If you do pursue a new venture, you'll be spending lots of time with this type of customer, so you might as well pick someone you have common interests with :)
My pick for today's walkthrough? Gardening! 🍃🌳🍏🥦
If you prefer watching videos over reading text posts, I recorded this audience discovery session on Loom. The content of this page should be very similar to the video recording, so feel free to follow along with whichever format you prefer.
1. Finding your audience's communities
Reddit is a massive place, and the first thing we'll do is find the lovely corner where the Gardeners hang out.
I wrote a detailed guide on finding Subreddits which outlines the steps to take to find all relevant Subreddits and put them in a GummySearch Audience for easy research. I won't go over these steps here, so if you haven't made an Audience on GummySearch before, please read it!
Here's the end result: 6.1 million Gardeners across 11 different Subreddits. Wow! Let's dive in.
2. Dive into suggested targeted conversations
The Audience feature on GummySearch automatically suggests several targeted keyword searches, which let you dive into various categories of conversations.
Apart from Top Content and Hot Discussions, each suggestion category has various keyword suggestions that you can select from to find insightful conversations.
For example, in "Solution Requests", the first keyword suggestion is "Any tools" which in our gardening audience might lead to physical tools, while as an application developer I might find more use out of the "any apps" or "any websites" keyword searches.
Top content over the past month. Helpful to determine what kind of things these communities discuss and what the format is for top-performing content. This feature is mostly for those looking to publish content as opposed to coming up with ideas
The current buzz happening in these Subreddits. Helpful with catching up with your audience and participating in current community conversations. This feature is mostly for those looking to engage their community as opposed to coming up with ideas
People asking for various tools, applications, websites, and solutions from their fellow community members. Helpful with assessing the kinds of solutions that meet the needs of your audience. Be sure to follow through and read the comments on these posts, as that'll help you identify competitors and their gaps.
People asking for advice or resources. Helpful with figuring out what informational materials might be missing from your audience's day-to-day. If you'd like to pursue a content strategy for your business, these questions could help you assess what kind of content would be helpful to write.
Pain & Anger
These conversations are going to contain frustration and anger. Very helpful for figuring out what the most painful problems are in these communities, what the poster has tried, and what the community suggests as a way to solve the problem. If you want passionate customers, find passionate problems worth solving.
Conversations containing ideas for tools that should exist, or ways that the world could be different. Helpful for identifying ideas that people closer to the problem could have.
People talking about spending money, budgeting, and pricing. Assuming you're looking to start a business and not a charity, these are good conversations to stay in tune with to know what the spending patterns are of your target customers.
Conversations around things that could be better. This includes opportunities for automation, making processes faster, and making user experiences better. Here you will likely find conversations about potential competitors and their gaps.
3. Read & Organize conversations
At this point, you'll be diving into a good amount of insightful conversations, and GummySearch can help you get the most out of them and stay organized during your ideation process. Here are a few helpful features you'll use.
See the highlighted keywords we are searching for at a glance. View the full contents by clicking on it.
Click out to Reddit
Click out to Reddit to view comments. If you have viewed a post on Reddit, it'll have a green checkmark on it now, so you know you've been there.
Save conversations to lists
You'll likely come across several families of conversations that interest you. Save them to individual lists so that you can refer back to them later. When you identify a problem you want to dive deeper into, you can use the list to reach out to the people who posted them and ask to interview them.
4. Identify gaps from competitors
After diving into these communities for a few minutes, I found a shockingly large amount of Reddit submissions that were all related to one another. There appear to be a lot of people with needs around identifying mushrooms in their garden. They are either asking their community for help identifying based off of a photo, or asking about apps that can help them.
When following some posts to Reddit in order to view the comments, I found one app named "iNaturalist" that people referenced. Competitor names are fantastic keywords to search within your audience, so that you can see what the community thinks of existing solutions.
Flip from "Suggestions" to "Browse" to search ANY keyword within your audience.
Looking at some of these conversations, I found a lot of folks questioning the results that iNaturalist provided. It looks like it's a general app that is helpful with identifying other species, but is quite lacking in identifying mushrooms. Because there are so many people on Reddit asking for such solutions, it seems there could be an app opportunity here!
💡 So at this point I've found a problem within my audience, and I have an idea. I'm going to make a competitor app to iNaturalist that ONLY focuses on identifying mushrooms. Since it'll be more targeted, I'm going to make sure that the results are the best they can be. The people want are asking for it!
I know, this idea might seem like a plant (teehee) for the purpose of this guide. I assure you, I picked Gardeners by chance and the unmet need was quite obvious from there.
If anyone wants to pursue this app idea, go for it! I'll even help you get your initial users, I don't think it'll be very hard ;)
When browsing for specific keywords in your audience, you can also track them to keep up to date with new conversations as they occur. If a new Reddit submission gets posted within your Audience that contains your keyword, you can be the first to know about it.
Next Steps: Validate your Solution
Now I want to be clear, finding some conversations on Reddit is great for inspiration, but those conversations don't mean you have a fully-validated business idea on your hands.
I would highly recommend talking to some potential customers before building any product that serves them, to make sure the problem you are solving is a real one and one that you can make a business out of.
I wrote a guide to idea validation that could be helpful. Give it a read to find out how frame your idea, identify its risks, talk to people to get honest feedback, and more forward with building a solution with confidence that it's going to be a useful one.