How did sites like Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn get their initial users and get to a point of critical mass?
I understand how Facebook started with one college and then spread from there, but how about some of the other big social media sites? I am trying to think through the best ways to get initial traction as an online startup.
Before being able to answer appropriately, I need to know what type of a startup you have.
The reason for me to know this is because gaining traction and the method of gaining traction depends on the kind of business you have. Each of those mentioned companies has had a unique way of getting traction as you referred to the method of Facebook.
However, there is a way I follow which helped various startups in gaining initial traction. But, the effectiveness of this approach depends on the several factors such as demographics, geographics, time, and customer behaviours.
First of all, you should know that the timeframe of reaching a certain level of the desired traction should be considered as long term. The reason to think the goal as a long term goal instead of short term goal is that many startups fail due to their rush in their implementations. In my opinion, it should be a slow process within your early stages of business. This approach enables you to learn continuously from customers and regularly change your products or services based on your client experiences.
Secondly, when you initiate your journey to reach your long term goal you should start promoting your products/services within your local area and then slowly expand your geographical target. This Local focus is an important element to consider. By converting people to your startup locally, you can gain allot of popularity in your local area which can lead to free and indirect promotion by the users to a wider geographical area. This is how Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and other Social Media platforms have gained their traction. If your initial users are convinced of the value of your platform and it realistically adds also value to their personal of business life, then they will promote the platform within their network themselves. This will provide your platform with a free and fast growing traction of new users.
Finally, it is important to know that local launches can give feedback of the value you provide with your startup. This feedback you can use to improve your products and services. The improvement will enable you to find out what part of your products and services users value the most. In this way, your value will be most appropriately aligned with the demand of your users.
Many startups and another type of businesses have started with a particular value which over the course of time shifted to an entirely different value. An example is Samsung, they initially started with selling noodles, and they are now the leading smartphone provider. Also, if you look to Uber, they started initially as an exclusive transportation company, and now they are the biggest taxi company in the world accessible to anyone. Being open to change is important. This will allow you to find the real value of your startup, which can potentially make you successful.
I hope my answer to your question is suitable and has some value.
Good points here.
1. Introduce to influencers and encourage them to share with their networks
2. Provide something new that fills a need in the market. People like it, than they will provide WOM.
3. Like LinkedIn, the auto share component that links to your website directly can increase odds that people will "check you out".
4. General press- once you generate some with influencers, other media may follow, and you have credibility for a major media push.
5. WOM, WOM, WOM.
6. Keep people talking - have a plan for next generations, additions and utilize your key network of influencers to share with an exclusive. As you grow hotter, media will follow other media, and individuals will chat over the water cooler.
Hope this is helpful!
I remember when I was first invited to LInkedIn way back when (I think 2004 though not sure), I was invited from someone that I barely knew. This person explained the value of LinkedIn, so I began in earnest to invite my connections. I think critical mass happened rather slowly at first, but by 2007-08 it was running at full speed.
I think if you have a large contact list, and ask those to ask others, over time it could happen IF there is value in the deal.
Great question but am sure you'd agree if it was that simple, everyone would be doing it - though I doubt one strategy fits all.
In my humble opinion, I would look at it from a different perspective.
Almost all of the social media unicorns you mentioned have a number of things in common - the use of technology and "cause"marketing strategies which are heavily dependent on delivering real time experiences through curation - and that's just for user experience.
The other side of the business - gaining traction and leveraging user contributed data to develop and create a better experience is the reiteration of the problem solving element.
In all cases, it's important to understand the real value behind your business and in my opinion - BUILDING TRUST.
1. What problem are you trying to solve or perhaps your business is offering a product/service that is innovative (doing something differently, better and simpler)
2. How are those problems currently being solved and are you able to enhance the user experience?
3 Who would use it - users, target market (customer personas) and how they would evolve?
4. How many users do you anticipate would use it and how would the value be measured by the user - perhaps changing experiences that can be shared?
5. How would you measure the user experience and how quickly can you respond to the changing needs of your target market?
6. Why should they trust you - leave their current solutions behind and use yours?
ENGAGEMENT, TRUST, CONSISTENCY and EXPERIENCE.
A clear example is Snapchat vrs Instagram.
While Instagram relies on user recommendations for building traction through iteration and validation, Snapchat offers an experince that is not metered by user recommendation - but offers a certain level of user exclusivity in additiin to creating new experiences.
I hope this helps and feel free to connect if I can be of further help.
Best as always...