Interview of F5Bot Founder Lewis Van Winkle

F5Bot is a free service that emails you when your selected keywords are mentioned on RedditHacker News, or Lobsters. Use it to monitor your brand, your projects, or just topics that you’re interested in.

Check it out at

What motivated you to get started with F5Bot?

A couple years ago I saw a Reddit conversation about one of my products.
However, by the time I stumbled onto it, it was already old and well out of
the spot light. Had I arrived only a little sooner, I could have joined in the
conversation and answered questions.

So that’s when I built F5Bot to alert me when my products are being discussed on social media.

What went into building the initial product?

F5Bot started as a simple script I threw together in a few hours. Eventually I
thought it would be useful for others, so I spent a weekend adding
account-management features, and I put it online for others to use.

How is F5Bot different from your competitors?

The most important thing is that it’s fast and reliable. Without that
it’s nothing. Google Alerts is very well known for keyword monitoring, but it mostly doesn’t work on Reddit. People are usually surprised when I tell them that, but you can try it yourself and you will that it misses most any post that doesn’t come near the front page. When it does catch comments, it’s often days too late.

The other companies that specialize in social media monitoring all have
expensive paid solutions with lots of complicated options that detract from the core of what I’m trying to do. I think the most efficient tools just do their
job and get out of the way.

How have you attracted users and grown with F5Bot?

I haven’t done a very good job with this. I posted on a few social media sites
when I launched, and I posted on my blog ( Since then most of my users have come from word of mouth.

One thing I have done that helps, is I use F5Bot itself in marketing. I
use it to monitor social media, and sometimes I find a person that is
looking to solve the exact problem I can help with. I’ve found this very
valuable because these people are already looking for a solution, and they are often very grateful to have found something.

Another thing I do, is I ask existing customers to recommend F5Bot to their
friends. I often get emails from users that want to comment on something or just express their appreciation for F5Bot. I always try to make time and reply to anyone that contacts me, but now I like to include a request that they tell their friends about F5Bot.

And finally, I’m trying out the strategy of guest posting on others’ blogs.

How do you define your key performance indicators?

I look at active accounts, how many alerts are being sent, and how often
they’re clicked through. I’m also careful to not over optimize on these

For example, a user sets up an account, adds some keywords, and gets emailed when those keywords show up. These emails have links to the posts with their keywords, and I count whether these links are clicked or not. If somebody is getting emails but never clicks the link, then they are probably ignoring my emails and not getting any value. However, sometimes a hit just won’t be relevant to the user. If I can convey that from context, I save them a click and add value that way. My point is, I try hard to make sure that optimizing metrics doesn’t impede making a good product. The product is always first.

How do you define your market?

Anyone with a company, a product, or a reputation is a potential client.

What are your goals for the future?

I’d like to continue growing my user base. I’m also planning a roll out of a
new priced tier with more advanced features and many additional sites monitored.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome?

Growth is a little slower than I’d like, but I’d say I haven’t really faced any
big obstacles. Implementation of the product was straight-forward, and things have been working pretty well.

If you had to start over, what would you do different?

I would have done a more aggressive marketing push on launch. It’s easy to get away with lots of free promotion on a brand new product.

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Joseph Brady
Joseph Patrick Brady is a designer and developer who prefers the K.I.S.S. aesthetic. He recently graduated Drexel with a degree in Interactive Digital Media and Web Development with a minor in Computer Science.