Visitors and Organic Growth

A question that has come up on several occasions is how to build a large user base for a website that depends on its users for content. The first users will have little incentive to stay – after all, there’s no content there yet. Later users will not arrive, since the earlier users have not provided anything yet.

There are, fortunately, a few options available to you, each with its merits, each with its shortcomings.

Self-Production

This method is useful when the content in question can be produced by a single person, but is too much work to be produced by solely one person. An example would be a collection of data – collecting the data isn’t difficult, merely time consuming. The owner of the site can therefore spend a few weeks collecting some data to get the site started, raising the conversion rate for new users.

Simulated Users

Sometimes, you need the appearance of social interactions in order to grow the site. The easiest way is to create a few “fake” accounts, or get your family and friends to create accounts, and keep it up for a few weeks. As new users join, some of the originals can drop off, or, if they’ve enjoyed the site, keep on using it.

Buying Users

Sometimes you need a large influx of users, well beyond what you can arrange directly through your social network. In that case, you may need to buy users – give them free accounts, increased privileges, or send them tangible merchandise.

Which is for you?

There’s no single answer for all new sites. I’m working on one site that is giving away accounts to all users who sign up pre-beta launch. Another site I’m building will be giving away a one-year membership to the first users who sign up. Yet another site I’ve been involved with worked with creating a dozen demo accounts, which were replaced with the first dozen real users.

If you have an idea for a site that relies on its users for content, get in touch with me, and I can help you understand how each of these systems might apply to your project in particular.