Vinnie lived in San Francisco, CA and co-founded Lefora Forum Hosting.
He also started the 6,500+ member Silicon Valley NewTech Meetup.
That was a while ago, stay up to date on About.me.

10 ways to get your first 1,000 users

Posted: March 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

A friend, Paul Singh, is working on a new site, www.philtro.com, and i’ve been trying to share any knowledge I can to help.  Philtro lets you rate articles and tweets so you can find the most interesting, relevant posts first and filter out the rest – a great idea in this firehouse of a superhighway.

The other week he asked:
“I want to get more users on the system, what tips would you give me to help build some buzz around the product?”

Here’s a cleaned up version of my emailed response:

  1. Read – Check out this post that I wrote on a friend’s blog - Startup Tips – Getting to that first 10,000.  There’s a book that every web entrepreneur should read, Paul Bragiel passed it on to me - Steve Blank’s “The Four Steps to the Epiphany “ – it’s a real gem.
  2. Twitter – If your service offers values to tweeters (which philtro.com does in boatloads), twitter is an easy wave to ride.  I think if you get a twitter theme going and market it solely as a twitter add-on service, there’s real potential for it to spread by tweets
  3. Ads – It can’t hurt to budget $60 @ $5/day to do some google adwords.  To target the right audience, only buy ads on google search result pages (not ‘placement targeting’ ads that show on other websites).  For Philtro, I suggested to buy keywords like ‘rss readers’, ‘rss filtering’, ‘feed filters’, etc.  You will definitely get traffic to your site and you can work on converting this traffic.  It’s not unrealistic that this would send hundreds of people to your site over 2 weeks, maybe only a handful will sign up, but it will let you know what people are looking for and want.
  4. Audience – Make sure the initial group you invite (friends, etc.) are people that the service is solving a problem for.  Figure out who this is solving a real problem for on your list and send them a personal email addressing two things:
    1. Let them know you really value their feedback and need them to send you their thoughts (positive and negative)
    2. Ask them if they know 3 friends who would use this and could they make an intro between you and them.
  5. Blog – 1 of 2 thoughts here.  Either create a company blog and blog daily on it – tips, developments, feedback, new features, etc.  Or, use your own personal blog for the next month with 30% about the new site and 70% everything else.
  6. Bloggers – Search google blogs/technorati for any bloggers talking about this problem, and leave an insightful comment and link back to your blog (or site).  If the blogger is big time, or it’s a major publication, send them a follow-up personal email and ask them if they could review your site and send you criticisms over email because you want your service to be the best – they just may end up writing a blog post about you.
  7. No private beta (this is a matter of personal opinion) – With such a small pool of users initially, you want no barrier to entry.  After you get a few hundred, then you can put the barrier up.
  8. Seed ‘buzz’ – Is there a promotion you can create?  Maybe by creating a badge that people put on their blog, you can trade links from your homepage, like a scrolling featured blogger list.  Big blogs won’t need this, but you may stumble across a lot of little bloggers who would love this attention.
  9. Be a whore – mention the site everywhere you can, your blog, facebook, your flickr profile, vimeo, ….  anywhere you have a web presence.
  10. Feedback – When your service is small, it’s valuable to have a closed loop with people giving you feedback (it can’t be one way).  As your product will certainly take a few directions in the first few months – talking to people to hear what they want or need on the service is vital.  One method, is to add a chat widget (like AIM’s or meebo’s ) to your service so that anybody using the site can talk directly to you in real time (you can spare 5min here and there throughout the day.  And by the time it ends up sucking an hour out of your day, you’ve probably passed 1,000 users and can take it off :P  In addition to a chat widget, it’s always good to start a support forum on lefora.com (plug) or a feedback tool like uservoice.com.
While getting your first 1,000 users, you’re user base will most likely go through these stages:
* Stage 1 – your friends
* Stage 2 – bleeding edge early adopters who just like to play with stuff (removing private beta will allow these people access – however they find you)
* Stage 3 – early adopters
* Stage 4 – random users
* Stage 5 – real users
* Stage 6 – ???
* and hopefully at some point, Stage 7 – profit :)
There’s definitely a curve of how helpful ‘feedback’ is between stage 1 & 5, but I’ll leave that to another post.
Thoughts, other tips, and criticisms, I’d like to hear from you.

2 Comments on “10 ways to get your first 1,000 users”

  1. 1 Greg said at 12:13 pm on March 11th, 2009:

    I’ve been trying to get my site (above) to reach 1000 users or so for a while.  Any ideas how I might use Twitter?  Or identify interested bloggers?

  2. 2 bonnie said at 12:07 am on March 12th, 2009:

    very helpful tips, thanks vinnie! 


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