OK, there was a little hyperbole in the title. Still, I’d like to think I can speak with some authority on the topic: the Tip’d community has grown to over 3,000 members in less than three months (and remember, we’re bootstrapped–no huge PR budget like all the VC-backed social news sites).
So here, in no particular order, are my favorite tips for getting a ton of members to your new social media site:
- Refine your register and submission processes: These two pages are the funnel through which everything happens; if they’re not extremely easy and painless, kiss half your potential users goodbye.
- Look alive: There should be new stories–on upcoming, and on the homepage–every single day. For the first few months, that’s going to be you and 3 of your friends (or perhaps you and 3 paid members/submitters). It’s the old chicken and the egg problem: You need to have an active community, from day one!
- Use other social platforms: You can get more members from Twitter, Friendfeed, and Facebook. Make sure to set up profiles (and USE them)!
- Love bloggers: In the first month (or three) of your existence, the majority of people submitting stories will be bloggers submitting their own stories. I prefer to encourage, rather than discourage, people from submitting their own content–synergy happens when interests align! (You get submissions, they get traffic.)
- Don’t forget retention: Keeping current users involved can do much more to grow a social news site than adding new users will. Engage and respect your current users, and don’t forget to directly communicate with them! Blogs, RSS, Twitter and e-mail are all great channels through which you can communicate with your existing users.
- Advertise (but be frugal & track results): At Tip’d, I can tell you that most of our (already small) advertising budget for the launch was a complete waste. What wasn’t a waste: Google CPC ads & direct ads on smaller blogs (the latter can get a relationship going, if nothing else).
- Get integrated: You’ll have to show some traffic and membership first, but once you do, try to get included to the various “Add to” plugins and scripts; this will, if nothing else, ingrain your site’s favicon into readers’ memories.
- Bells and whistles: Yes, you need an easy submission bookmarklet. Along with about 25 other “must-have” features. No, you don’t need to have “every” feature (or even “most” features)–but anything that encourages people to join, comment, or submit is a no-brainer–unless you’re sick of getting new members and activity!
- Get Muhammad Saleem and Tamar Weinberg on your team: Just kidding, they work at Tip’d and we’re not sharing! But seriously, it will help a lot if you can get some social media vets on board. They can make sure you don’t make any huge mistakes, and they can get you connected to the right people.
- Have a niche and make your site worth visiting!: OK this is obvious but I have to say, 99% of the niche social news sites out there aren’t worth participating in. You need good design, good content, and a real community (or else why wouldn’t users just go to Mixx instead?) Further, I would suggest picking a relatively un-touched niche. I think the Web has tech news covered already, but look what Health Ranker was able to do by picking a vertical.
- Bonus tip: Enjoy working 80 hours a week and not making a profit for the first year!
As challenging as it’s been, I’ve enjoyed every minute of the last four months, and I’m extremely happy that we have so many people who’ve joined and contributed to Tip’d. If you’re struggling to get a social media site off the ground, please leave me a comment–I’ll check it out & register, that’s at least one more member!
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