Your friend Dereck is really into baseball stats. A few months ago he started a web site where baseball fans who loved stats as much as him could discuss new ways to analyze them. He timed the launch of the site for baseball’s opening day and the site got picked up by a few media outlets. In just under a week 250 users had signed up for the site. He was off to a good start.
It turns out that some of the new statistical categories on his site are really popular with the fantasy baseball crowd and now, almost two months into the baseball season he has over 1000 users signed up. Things are going really well for Dereck, he couldn’t be happier.
Dereck was getting a few emails a week from users wishing to have their accounts deleted but he’s noticed an uptick in deletion requests in the past two weeks. Google Analytics is also reporting slightly lower visits over the past two weeks compared to a month ago. Yesterday his unique visits were off 200%. Until now Dereck had been thrilled with the reacion his site was getting. Now it seems like it’s growth could be at risk. What’s going on?
Have a plan
Reaching 1000 users is a great milestone. Most web sites will never reach that level of membership. So once your site hits that mark celebrate, then get back to work. You need to have a plan in place for how you’re going to keep those users happy and engaged. Dereck quickly realizes that he needs a plan. Here are some points Dereck should consider when writing his plan.
It’s only natural for a user to try a site out for a few weeks and then lose interest. People have daily routines and habits. Your site may be a regular visit for them this week and by next Friday they can’t remember the name of it. You need to build in ways to continue to engage those users so you don’t lose them overtime. A monthly newsletter can accomplish this. So can having email notifications when someone else leaves them a comment. This is why the like button can be so effective on a site. It requires minimal effort from a user to like something but the imporant part is that it sends an email to the user who posted that content, drawing them back onto the site.
Build around users’ passions
This is especially important in Dereck’s case since he is trying to build a community. Repeat, loyal users are users who buy into your site. Your site’s brand, message, and value all contribute to this emotional bond. Focus on a passion that other users share. Not only will everyone have something in common but your users will be more likely to build that emotional bond with your site.
Give users a sense of ownership
Make sure that users feel they have enough control over their experience. At Talentopoly users can see the roadmap of features and vote on which features they want implemented next. Have an open dialog with users through the blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc. Always respond to suggestions and advice thankfully and with an open mind. Start thinking about the site as being as much theirs as it is yours.
Keep the site fresh
It’s easy to sit back and rest some once you hit 1000 users. Don’t. This is an easy mistake to make since you may be feeling burnt out or think you could screw something up by making changes. The site got to where it is on the back of your hard work and energy. It will continue to require that to sustain the current success. You need to keep improving the site even if it’s just tweaks. You should keep looking at the site with a fresh eye and questioning how you can make it better. Keep the content fresh on the blog and on the site. Don’t stop tweeting. Now is the time to put into place good practices that you can sustain for months and even years to come.
Always prioritize quality over quantity
As your site grows the amount of content on it is most likely growing as an exponential function. It’s more important now than ever to continue to guide the site, to enforce a standard of quality. If you operate a deals site you should focus your energy and attention on continuing to get deep discounts for your users rather than adding more discounts to the site. This is when the site can become a victim of its own success, especially if you allow user submitted content on your site. You won your current users over in part due to the quality of the content on your site. Make sure the site doesn’t drive them away by lowering those standards.
You should be reaching out to your users often. Let them know there is a real person working behind the scenes. Give them an idea of what you’re spending your time on, what excites you about the site, and where you’d like to see it go. A great example of this is Google and their blogs. Google is constantly messaging to interested users every day what they’re working on and excited about. Often times it’s in the form of a short post on a product blog that details a new feature or partnership. Other sites will use channels like Twitter to highlight some of the great content on their site. Whatever it is your site does it can benefit from frequent, meaningful communication with potential and existing users. Talking about your site is the best way to get new users.
Applying it all to Talentopoly
These are some of the things I’ve learned while working on Talentopoly. It’s a labor of love for me but one that requires a lot of time and energy. I hope to keep growing the site using the principles detailed above.