Are you building a community, blog, or software as a service that requires a high volume of users in order to make it effective? Helen Li is the founder of Tinihost.com and approached YFE with the following question when it comes to growing your user base. Read on to get the answer from Stacey Ferreira, a young female entrepreneur who has “been there, done that.”
I’m building a web service ( www.tinihost.com) for travelers to connect to locals for a more authentic travel experience. The crux of this service is building a large enough user base and review repository for the site to be trustworthy and useful. However, this seems like a chicken and egg problem at the start when you don’t have the user base to drive new signups but require new signups to build the user base.
Growing a user base and engagement for a new product is no easy task, especially when people are constantly inundated with new products/services to use online. So how do you break through the noise and make your brand stand out and valuable to a particular market? Here are six basic steps you can use to begin growing your user base and seeing increased engagement.
1. Know where your audience is online & spend your efforts there. As simple as it may sound, know what your audience resonates with and where they’re spending their time. If your audience is stay-at-home mothers who just had their first child, know where they are online (probably Parenting.com, Pinterest, Etsy, etc.) and target these places for ads, promotions and partnerships. Don’t waste your precious time and money on other platforms.
2. Visual, Visual, Visual. Most people like to see what they’re getting before they buy a service or product. So whether you’re posting on social media or sending off your press kit, make sure you have a visual that is understandable and clearly articulates exactly what a customer will get out of your product and what to expect. Make sure it’s relatable too (ie. if your target audience is mothers with a new child, post a picture to facebook of a mother cradling her new child with your product in hand, etc.).
3. Consistency is key. Getting a solid stream of users to any new service is extremely tough, but its even harder if there is no consistency in your offerings, branding and social media strategies. Even if you are a startup, make sure the services or products you offer are not changing rapidly (or if they are, don’t speak publicly about it until you’ve solidified a product or offering so as not to confuse people). Also, make sure your branding is sysinct. If your company is easily identifiable with a logo, put that logo everywhere – don’t try to change it up in your early days. Be consistent with social media. Use it often, remind customers you’re there and create a voice that people enjoy interacting with on a daily basis. And lastly, stay in the front of your customers minds. Find a good emailing schedule (daily, weekly, monthly) that encourages them to try out your product again or ask for feedback or experiences about the product via social media. Keep engaging with your customers and they’ll keep engaging with your platform.
4. Use Social Triggers. For now, making things “social” is all the hype – so take advantage of it while you can. If you’re building a website that can integrate social triggers (such as “in order to get this awesome feature on your site, you must connect your facebook”), build these into your platform. Pinterest and Instagram both grew largely because of these social triggers that created posts on people’s Facebook walls of what people were taking pictures of and pinning.
5. The Cold Call - Cold call and cold email publications who might write about your business or partner with your business. At the end of the day, publications need things to write about and businesses are always looking to improve their bottom line so look at these cold-calls as mutually beneficial to both parties rather than you begging for a minute of their time. Be sincere and persistent and, eventually, you’ll get a great response.
6. Stand out with Customer Care. People say it all the time, but not a lot of people doing it. Having great customer service is one of the absolute best things you can do for your brand. Even if its as simple as responding to emails, tweets or facebook posts right away – keeping the lines of communication open with your customers is key to creating trust and loyalty for your brand.
About the Expert:
Stacey Ferreira is the co-founder of MySocialCloud.com, a technology startup that allows people to store their usernames and passwords for all their online websites for auto-login and share websites with friends easily. During her senior year of high school at Xavier College Preparatory in Scottsdale, Arizona and at just 18 years old, she started the company with her brother, Scott. They have recently raised a seed round of funding of just under $1 million from Sir Richard Branson (the Virgin Group), Jerry Murdock (Insight Venture Partners) and Alex Welch (CEO & Founder of Photobucket) to build out their product and release it to the public.
Stacey has also sat on the board of a non-profit, Open Table, which aims to help the homeless achieve self-sustainability, worked at an educational TV channel and followed her passion for music that allowed her to become involved with The GRAMMY Foundation and in particular, GRAMMY Camp.