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How to launch this site ... Catch 22

can't get new users without existing users?

     
6:01 am on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have what I think is a very unique and profitable idea for a website/online community. The only "problem" is that a user won't get much benefit from the site until there are lots of other active users as well. So my question is, what is the best way to launch this type of site? I guess a good analogy would be a dating site. How do you launch a dating site i.e. I can't imagine anyone is going to sign-up when there are 7 other people in the database. Or am I wrong? Do I need to come up with some type of temporary incentive or special offer to get the ball rolling? This will be a tremendously valuable service to the user once it gets going, but I'm not sure of the best way to get it going. Does anyone have any insight? I would *really* appreciate it.
6:05 am on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This is a very interesting question. I have been considering the same problem when thinking about opening a new message board. It is hard to get people to come out and post when there are no posts to comment on.
6:50 am on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hm, someone more experienced may come along and offer some insight. I think the dating service type sites probably spend some bucks on an advertising campaign so they get quite a few people visiting and signing up in the first week.

For the message board, that's one where you need to build a site with information (or something) that's going to draw people before inplementing the board. Once you're listed on the search engines and getting a nice flow of visiters the board should work fine.

8:05 am on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The best way is to BUY not BUILD - if you still want to BUILD, BUY few to BUILD it up :)

Hope that helps...

12:02 pm on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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You could contact some kind of existing association, e.g. one without a web presence, and give them some incentive to introduce a bulk group of people into the community. Depends on the subject of course...
1:10 pm on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just fake a lot of users and user activity until you get it off the ground.
1:32 pm on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I just took on a similar task. After seeing how my last site has grown in it's first year, I decided to just put the new site together, give it a little push with PPC and see how it goes.

I don't have any results yet, it's only been live for about 2 weeks now. But I think the key is to check on the site constantly, if something isn't working fix it, and if someone asks a question answer it immediately.

Also, you need to try to put as much content on the site as you can so that it gives people a reason to keep looking.

So far I have content on the site which is relevant, but a little broad. After watching my traffic for the past week (PPC has only been running for a week) I now know which content to work on to take people a little deeper into the site.

Just keep working on it. It may take a year to get going like you think it should, but after all of your hard work you will have something that should really make you proud.

6:15 pm on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'm having a similar "network effect" problem for another site. To use the dating site example, there are guys signing up but no girls. I think it gets much easier to encourage people to sign up, the more people that are already listed.
6:29 pm on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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We had to launch one like this about three months ago.

We started with an announcement on the appropriate mailing list for the topic and followed that up with PPC and a press release. Reminders go to the mailing list in the footer of each message.

There were over 500 registered users after the first month.

We added another one last month and have three more under way.

11:26 pm on Oct 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have the same problem with my directory that I'm buidling. Once I'm done coding it, I'll have to do a lot of cold calling to get the first "users" listed.

In your situation, you could do the following (given that its a dating site). Contact as many people from various sources for personal ads as you can find. Tell them that you'll list there ad on your site for free.

That, along with faking a few, will help you get started.

5:40 am on Oct 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just fake a lot of users and user activity until you get it off the ground.

Thats a bad advice, one should not do it.

5:51 am on Oct 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have been playing with this problem too. Best solution I could come up with was a free trial period whcih would be phased out over a period of a few months. That, coupled with judicious posts to appropriate forums and mail lists might prime the pump.

WBF

6:00 am on Oct 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Thats a bad advice, one should not do it.

And yet, I've seen dozens of communitiy-type sites successfully jump-started that way.

A bad advice is telling someone to run PPC campaigns for an empty-looking site. That's truly a bad advice.

9:36 pm on Oct 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I have done it a few times and since I am cheap, I always use the time over money theory.

- Offer free things, or extended memberships to get people in the door. People will pay up front, if they feel they are the "first" or a getting a "special deal"

- Actively SEP the site and promote across mailing lists and other sites. Remember to ask for help, most people will always help someone who asks nicely.

- Let your users know you are growing (with pains) some people like to be part of something that is just starting.

- Get your users to spread the word. Give them the tools.

BZ

5:51 am on Nov 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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And yet, I've seen dozens of communitiy-type sites successfully jump-started that way.

By filling up fake database one will kill his own site. Imagine a community site who has half of it's community all fake, the remaining half will never come back.

5:20 am on Nov 4, 2003 (gmt 0)

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the remaining half will never come back

The remaining half will not notice and will become the whole over time.