The first thing to realize is the importance of doing – as Paul Graham puts it – things that don’t scale, especially the early stages of your site.
What I mean by that is that the Facebook team obviously doesn’t invite every new user individually. But you might have to do just that to kickstart your community.
So don’t be shy about inviting people one by one, and even specifically asking them to leave a comment, post a link, or submit a question.
Start with your closest friends, and progressively work your way up to prominent figures in your field. Most people will be happy to oblige, especially if it’s to promote their own content.
Pieter Levels, #Nomads
An Invitation Blueprint
For example, you could:
- Ask Friend A to post a link to an article.
- Leave a comment on that article.
- Ask Friend B to leave a comment as well.
- Tell the article’s author about the discussion, and invite them to contribute.
Sure, it took three emails, but in return you just created three happy users:
- Friend A is happy that his submission generated a discussion.
- Friend B is happy because Author X replied to their comment.
- Author X is happy because people are sharing and commenting on their work.
And of course, you’re happy because your site is taking off!
Justin Kan, The Drop
This strategy extends to content, not just users.
Nobody wants to be the first to leave a party. But you know that as soon as one person makes a move for their coat, pretty soon the whole place will end up empty.
Similarly, users don’t like to be the first to submit a link, ask a question, or post a comment. This is why it’s very important that you seed your community with the type of content you’d like to see.
Ryan Gum, Closing Call
Want people to post links? Start by posting links yourself. Want people to ask questions? Ask some yourself. Want people to leave comments? You get the idea.
Of course, after a while people will realize that you’re posting every post, link, and comment yourself, and they’ll be happy to leave it all up to you since you seem to be doing such a good job.
Jean-Nicholas Hould, Bootstrappers.io
To combat this, remember to regularly ask your friends to participate, or even create a few extra accounts for yourself (as Reddit’s founders famously did ).
- Invite 10 friends and 10 “celebrities” in your field to your new community.