1. Customer Case Studies

Syften – building a social monitoring tool with Michal Mazurek

In today’s internet age, there has never been so much online content. Whether it’s images uploaded to Instagram or tweets posted on Twitter, the total amount of data uploaded and shared is mind-boggling.

And somewhere in all that content, people are talking about brands. It might be a question on Reddit or a comment in a private Facebook group. But wherever it is, brands want to know about it. Especially brands just starting out, when every potential new customer counts.

That’s why social monitoring tools exist. And one of the latest to join the market is Syften, an advanced tool designed specifically to help new startups track mentions online and respond. It’s a tool that startups can use to better understand their users’ needs and engage with the communities that are most relevant to their business.

To find out more, we caught up with solo founder Michal Mazurek to discuss what motivated him to build the tool and what he’s learned along the way.

Photo of Michal Mazurek, founder of Syften
Michal Mazurek, founder of Syften

Tell us a bit about your background.

I’ve programmed and managed UNIX servers all my life, since I was a kid. After graduating I worked for a few startups. And from that I learned two things.

First, life is better when you’re fulfilling your own dreams, not helping someone else fulfill theirs.

And second, startup founders are not superhuman as I always imagined them to be. They’re just regular people who put in the hard work.

When I turned 30, I quit my job and decided to bootstrap something on my own.

What is Syften and what motivated you to start this project?

My first product was Code-dog.app – a tool for GitLab and BitBucket users. But those are just everyday tools, something like a text editor – the users don’t exactly hang around any forums talking about them. So how do I reach them?

Syften started out as a few scripts for monitoring new threads on Reddit, Hacker News, Indie Hackers and a few forums for keywords that would identify someone as a GitLab or BitBucket user. I could then either participate in the discussion, or send the user a direct message.

I shared what I had on Indie Hackers and the response was better than I expected – several users immediately signed up. That’s how I knew I had something good.

Now I’m focusing on Syften full time, adding support for more and more communities like Twitter and Slack.

How have you attracted users and grown Syften?

It’s difficult to create a traffic stream when you’re just starting out. It’s easier to tap into existing streams and redirect some of it.

I use Syften to grow Syften. I monitor for phrases that identify new threads that my potential audience would participate in, and see what I can do there without coming off as spammy.

How do you use email with Syften?

Email is key for me. I use it in three ways:

  • Users who don’t use Slack can receive their daily report via email. As the reports contain user generated data from all around the internet, sometimes these get marked as phishing or spam. I ask my users to whitelist my domain to prevent that.
  • Users who sign up receive introductory and educational emails for the duration of their trial, one per day. In the past I’ve signed up for tools and forgot about them, only to get an email two weeks later telling me my trial ended. I didn’t want to let that happen to my users!
  • And I also have a free two-week online email course about social marketing – it’s a lead magnet.
An email in Michal’s two-week social marketing email course

Why did you choose EmailOctopus for your email needs?

I’m very technical, and I couldn’t stand other solutions trying to be user friendly with me. Just let me edit the damn HTML!

Did you consider any other platforms? And if so, how does EmailOctopus compare?

I tried Mailchimp and ConvertKit. I felt they’re designed for non-technical people, and won’t let technical people do what they want. Also the support was abysmal (nothing more frustrating than receiving a canned response). Thank you Magdalena from EmailOctopus support for being a human!

Recently I was asked by a company designing their own API if I could help them out, and point to the best API experience I ever had. I could only think of EmailOctopus. The docs are clean, the API is simple. I got my integration working in 10 minutes.

EmailOctopus has a great stress-free pay-as-you-grow model – it’s a no brainer option when starting something new.

Michal Mazurek, founder of Syften

How has EmailOctopus benefitted you most?

Email marketing tools face a tough challenge – how to fight spammers while keeping their customers happy? A lot of other solutions figured that not offering a free plan will help with that.

Well, if you’re only just launching your email course you’re not really that happy about paying from the start. What if you have a slow start and fail to attract many subscribers? Who’d want to pay $30/month if they only have 10 subscribers? EmailOctopus has a great stress-free pay-as-you-grow model – it’s a no brainer option when starting something new.

Try EmailOctopus for free

What have been your biggest lessons since starting Syften?

Nobody will read the docs. As a programmer that was a very difficult thing for me to come to terms with. I tried to put the docs right in front of users as best as I could, even adding this popup right next to the configuration field:

Screenshot of the pop up message Syften uses to put important docs in front of users

Still, very few people would even notice it. It pained me to see my users making basic mistakes, like separating their keywords with commas instead of newlines.

So I had to create a guided tour and gradually show how the tool worked:

Screenshot of the tutorial Michael put in place in Syften

Later on I explicitly ask the user to click on the examples popup:

Screenshot of the next step in the guided tutorial used on Syften

Which shows the user a few monitoring ideas:

Screenshot of the message showing Syften users monitoring ideas

This guided tour boosted my activation rates from 42% to 74%. I used the open source Bootstrap Tourist library for that. And a few days after releasing it, I received this heart-warming piece of feedback:

Positive feedback from a Syften user

Aside from EmailOctopus, what other platforms do you use in your tech stack?

To send the automated daily reports I use Mailgun.

What advice would you give other founders starting out?

Reading books can be key. But at the same time, reading books can be procrastination. Pick the right books, and balance reading with doing.

If a book did not change your behaviour then it was just entertainment.

Finally, what does the future hold for Syften?

I’m currently promoting my free two-week social marketing email course. You can check it out here: https://syften.com/course

Try Syften with a free 14-day trial or reach out to Michael on Twitter @MichalMazurek7


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