Strategies for Growing A User Base
I'm planning on launching my community on NodeBB in the next month or so and I'm wondering if anyone has had any tips for success in growing a user base and getting traction with engagement. I'm thinking about taking the How To Start An Online Community course over at FeverBee. Has anyone taken this? Is it any good?
I have little experience building online communities, but I'm a product marketer by trade so I'm well versed in things like acquisition funnels. My plan thus far is as follows:
- Create a sense of value by recruiting niche experts to commit to some level of engagement
- Announce an "invite-only" period to create a sense of scarcity. The invite list will initially be limited to current customers of my other products and those on my email list.
- Get 5-10 friends together and seed content daily.
- Promote a "waitlist" on social media and start collecting email addresses.
- Let in batches of 100 or so at a time (every 3-5 days).
- Reach out to websites in my niche, provide access as a "gift" to the user bases of those sites
- Full, public launch campaign with facebook ads, twitter promoted tweets, partnerships with similar websites, magazine ads, etc.
Once I have the users I just need a good moderator to keep the content quality high, which I can probably do initially.
Any critiques? I know this is general, but please let me know if I'm missing something crucial here.
I think you really need to ask yourself something first:
Do YOU want the forum you're making? Would you love to interact with the community you're creating? Would you register for your own site?
Because if you're in this to make money, you will fail. Cultivating a community is a labor of love, not a game. If you try to play this like a game, the community will eat you alive. And from your list, you're approaching creating a community in the same way a pickup artist approached women. And you'll get the same results. A lot of one night stands, but no user commitment or community.
The utter failure of Beme despite millions in marketing is proof of this. They did almost everything you listed, and are in the process of crashing into the ground. The internet is more fickle then you can imagine, and smarter then you're expecting. They recognize marketing plays, and they dont like it.
What you need to do is-
- Make sure your community is about something you're passionate about, and isnt too general.
- Start the site. No marketing bullshit, no waitlists, no invites, just start it. Dont astroturf, dont shadowpuppet. Start threads, and talk to your friends.
- Open the gates. Advertise, dont market. Put yourself out there, let people know you exist in a straight forward, honest way. Dont play games, just open the gates.
- Survive. Look at every successful forum today- then look at the internet archive. The most successful forums grow slowly and consistantly. You'll talk to yourself and your friends for easily 3 months. Then it will grow. If success is in the cards for you, which is simply a matter of how saturated your market and how good your ads are, it will take years. Not months, years. Expect at least 2 years before you're able to even think about going "hands off" on your community.
I've run various forums across various software suits in the past, and this is the method I've always taken. Look at NeoGAF, Something Awful, Reddit, 4chan- They all followed the steps above.
The internet is all about passion and determination. Simply go about this in a honest, straight forward ways, and stick with it. It'll take awhile, dont give up. Thats what success on the web is all about- loving it, and never surrendering.
I'm totally in agreement, I'm trying to create a real, thriving community to give a group a source of support that doesn't exist right now. In hindsight I can see how I sounded like a marketing tool. This isn't about money at all, this is a project of passion and I'm confident it will be well received, but I've seen too many good, promising things fail because of lack of traction. I'm looking to reduce the risk of that happening as much as I can.
@bhamrick Fair enough! I just figured it'd be fair to point out that marketing gimmicks are iffy at best- I find users appreciate honesty and straight forward business a lot.