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Getting people to join a new network

I wonder if anyone here has come up with an effective way to get people to join a completely new network. Nobody wants to join a network that has only a handful of members - but every network has to have 5 members before it can have 500 or 5,000. I have found getting the first hundred or so members to be very difficult. Is there any quick way to populate a new network?Also, can anyone suggest any strategies to get members to interact with each other, especially on a new network which still only has a couple of hundred members?Cheers.

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  • I have had success having over 100 members join the first day, by using twitter alone. I locked the network gave to a couple of people to test and get some feedback, and once I released they helped promote since they were a part of the whole creation process.

    Also I have had success by turning a blog into a network. I hid the members widget, photos, videos, forums, and just left the blog posts, and as people commented they would need to create an account. When I got some good members and so on, I started unlocking some of the features so the members would start using it.
    • You know, the blog to network idea is complete genius. I've have never thought of it, but I like it-- a lot!
      • +1
  • From another post I made: I initially added 12 people who had each pledged to spend at least an hour a day for a week adding content and who were also celebs in their field.

    After the first week, those 12 then were allowed to invite their friends and then they all spent another two weeks adding content and talking among themselves. During this entire process, the site was private and invite only. After these three weeks of content building from the initial two waves, I made the site public with the front page open and let them begin adding people as they wanted.

    After another month I did my first advertising push with an email blast and four months of full page ads in an associated magazine. By that point we'd already passed the 1,000 member mark and things were in full swing when the first "outsiders" started arriving.
  • Hi Kate,

    We started this network with a core group as well, who helped by adding initial discussions and blog posts. We then invited a small group, and after a week or so, opened it up to the public.
    We spent a few weeks gathering the lists of people to invite to the network, and while we have a built in platform to get some of these, we also used word of mouth, specifically asking individuals for Network Creators to recommend. I'd assume spending some time just gathering members to invite that relate to your topic would also pay off.

    The combination of inviting the core groups, tweeting about it and blogging at the Ning Blog achieved an initial quality membership (including everyone here so far), that should help lead to the quantity membership in the future.

    Thanks,
    Laura
    • Kate, you guys did a great job jumpstarting the network here, and not to minimize your hardship, BUT

      if you start with a huge previous network on the same topic that most of the members didn't want to see closed...

      And a 100,000+ mailing list of people who use your product...

      An active blog, twitter etc...

      And another Ning network with 25,000 members (developer.ning.com)...

      ...it's not going to be that hard.

      ;)

      Starting from REAL scratch is hard. What everyone has said about getting a core group and focusing on building content is exactly right. People have to have a reason to join. I would go so far as to say that if someone doesn't have a prior platform and a way to get those first 100 users pretty much mapped out, you might want to reconsider making a network on Ning.

      You need content people are passionate about, a niche waiting to be filled... otherwise, why join your network instead of facebook? One of my sites started as basically a video library. I put up 100's of music videos of a specific genre, and an index. I didn't really emphasize the "social network" aspect at first, just people needed to log in to comment. i had maybe 2 dozen crossover members i begged off my other network, contacted active youtube uploaders in my genre, and then started running google ads. I had a clear call to action to join on the front page to reduce the signup friction. That network has over 1600 members now.

      its hard hard work. probably no way around it unless you are 50cent or some other media property that is just going to pull in lots of members without really trying.
      • Hi j,

        Agreed, except we didn't mail 100,000 people. :) And the combination of our twitter account and blog hit a few thousand people a day at best (with a lot of overlap I'd assume).

        We started with about 12 people, then invited two groups of about 250 each. This resulted in a couple hundred members initially.

        Regardless, I think it makes sense to get a committed core membership, to whom the network is providing some value. Plan on having a calendar of content to add, to ensure there is something new at least every day for regular visitors.

        Thanks!
        Laura
        • Well, its impressive to see you did it with one hand tied behind your back then.

          The calendar idea is a great suggestion. I sort of came to that conclusion over time without really thinking about it... Don't add everything all at once, find a rhythm. THis goes for content, and as GTN Tim has noted elsewhere, for features as well.
          • LOL
  • Kate, your second paragraph, Interaction, is an even harder issue. My first big site was centered around a pre-existing chat room, so that wasn't an obstacle for us. The members were already dying for a media-rich environment to express themselves in. The second big site still doesn't have the kind of interaction I'd like. It's mostly uploads, lonely comments and people talking to me.

    Chat is great for interaction, but you have to have a lot of people logged in at once and prominent placement to sustain it.

    Maybe a clear call to action on the front page or in your newsletter (or with the share feature) highlighting a specific forum post.
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