What are your suggestions or past experiences with this kind of situation?
Gmail: Google geeks -> well-connected geeks -> all geeks -> non-geeks
Facebook: Harvard -> Ivy League -> all US universities -> etc.
Stack Overflow: Joel's blog readers -> programmers at large.
A good proportion of success stories contain a similar history, and for good reason. It is particularly easy to see why this is so effective by considering Facebook.
Anyhow, guess and check. If you write and cannot rank for competiton, go down tail. If you write and cannot profitably exploit traffic trickle, move upwards.
Note that entire portfolio of content gets better over time if you do it right. (Superlinear returns on linear cost.)
Chicken and egg suggestions:
- Do all you can to make your site not appear a ghost town. Create content yourself, and hide pages that don't function without enough content until there is enough content.
- Feature the best and most relevant content early on. This rewards your users, and gives visitors something to look at (while enticing them to join).
- Kiss your early adopter's asses; make it easy for them to give feedback and more receive personalized responses.
- Make it as easy as possible to join. This is by far the largest barrier to entry. If you can get users invested in joining before they join, that's great. For example, allow them to submit a comment, then say "this comment will be submitted when you sign up". Cheeky, but effective.
- IMO, don't show "streams" of stuff unless that stuff is really awesome. If I see a stream of stuff and it looks lame, I won't be impressed that it occurred 3 seconds ago.
- Make it look like a lot is going on. "A lot" can mean only a handful of things, which could all be made yourself.
The KSplice guys have been doing it, and doing it well.
Eg. their traceroute tutorial. It has little to do with their product, but it does well to drives traffic to their site, and raise product awareness. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1557877
(See also: Joel Spolsky)
After that fan the flames like mad to stop the fire from going out.
I guess it would help that when someone signs up, they don't need to come back for people to send them messages. So maybe you don't need a community like reddit did, just users. But I don't know.
Does anyone know how sites like OKCupid solved this?
My question is - is this legal? The data(profile) is publicly accessible and belongs to the person(technically I understand that the site owns it). However if it's out in the open, what are the terms for this?
Many sites ban scraping and will only allow you to use the API. Even using the API they may only allow you to hold on to the data for a limited amount of time.
This technique was highly successful during the original Gmail Beta launch :)
2. Create it yourself using multiple accounts.
3. Have a following like the StackOverflow guy did.
I've had success with growing it one user at a time, starting with yourself, friends and family. If your startup provides something of value, it will grow.
If it's not growing at all, even a couple users a day, then that hints towards a problem with your product/service/site and you need to get some feedback from your users. Some of your assumptions when creating/designing your site may be off.
2. Run ads saying "[YOUR COMPETITION] sucks"
3. Long tail SEO
4. Turk it
5. Build a blog (super powerful but takes a long time to build up this asset)