How to attract users to your startup

The most frequent question I hear from young entrepreneurs – “As I’ve got users?”

And that’s how I do it.

About Me

(Feel a strange sense of describing myself, but if you’re reading this and wondering who is this guy … I’m actually just trying to help).

I made a blog with 5 million readers, an advertising exchange which covers more people than Facebook, wrote a book which was 12th on Amazon and took another whole slew of different strange things that are popular and bring in money. I created a new company growing social shopping. I’m an angel investor and advisor to a dozen different companies and one university. I attend several magazine covers and here (check out the views and comments of people who would be willing to have their “Daddy was just as cool” as I am).

The best sites seem magically fly by themselves. The truth is that every site needs some kick to get the first 10-100 thousand users. Consider this list of kick-accelerator for your business. But remember that “nothing kills a bad product faster than good marketing.” Now you are warned.

How to attract users to your startup

How to attract users to your startup

Start the discussion

In April of 2000 I started – a blog that described the collapse of the dot-com bust. The blog was 5 million readers a month, a decent income, and eventually I sold it.

Blog marketing began when I joined a large online community of web developers. “Hey look at that ass what a freak”, I wrote with a link to your website. This was the beginning of hot debate on my blog. Attended by hundreds – mostly with gratitude, some with hatred. I gracefully out of the debate and just watched as 24.000 new users signed up in the blog this week. There is a line between spam and useful contribution – I think I could resist the transition features.

With, we have also chosen a controversial path. Instead of telling people “this is a good site to tell your friends to what restaurants you go” (that Blippy do), we made a more ambiguous message on “show all records of your credit card. This led to a lot of attention and PR (more about that below in the section “Press”).

Remember that your product is not required to be inherently ambiguous, to create controversy around it. If you compose electronic music lovers hang out in the community of Country. They will hate you, and it was good. If it can bring at least one new user a dozen haters, I’ll do it.

Almost all can lead to disputes and polemics. If there is nothing controversial about your product – it’s boring.

Viral pieces

Importing address books, avtotvity, “it went to 5 friends and get special access”, etc. I’ve never been a fan of such things, but they are popular.

One of my sites, Fast140 send tweets when you first use it (indicating that he will do so). My other site imported address book and allows you to invite all who you know. Importing address books ceased to be effective sometime in 2007, and I need to have to remove it.

If you are creating applications for Facebook or something ispolzueschee Facebook Connect or Twitter, these things can be still effective, although the window of opportunity for them already closed.

Affiliate program

Pay people to drive for other users. It works naturally in the cases, if you keep a website with online access.

One of my sites, has affiliate program. It works perfectly. Support for a successful affiliate program – it’s more work than it seems. You can not simply post a link for affiliates and wait. Instead, you need to look for affiliates, to teach them, hold rallies and encourage them. The best way to get an idea of ​​how a good affiliate program to join this or that.

It is even possible to find a manager affiliate program, which will only work for a percentage.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What’s good with search engines that you do not need to do anything – if you have a good service or good content Google will take care that the people have found it.

Seoshnye tweaks can help boost their numbers. But in the early start-up, waste time on SEO seems empty. Growth is unlikely to be significant.

My service is free mailing TinyLetter located on the preview page of Google for free mailing list (note that I did?). All I had to do was to give the site a good tag, and Google did the rest.


Press – a great way to get new users. The easiest way to be mentioned in the article – told reporters a good story about your idea. Do not write a press release. Do not hire a PR firm.

Instead, think about the story that you yourself would like to read. Select popular with you journalists, who could potentially want to write it. Tell him the idea in 2-3 sentences. Contact him via e-mail. If you do not know his address – try to guess it. Ping it in Twitter and Facebook.

If the author does not – try another. But only one at a time, they do not like when one and the same story is given to their competitors.
Else – not just tell a story about your company, have won the trust of the journalist unselfishly giving it finds and ideas for articles not related to you. Karma!

Bad idea of ​​the article: “I ran the thing and you should write about it.”

  • Good idea of ​​the article: «Facebook is something broke. And by the way it has to do with my shnyaga. “
  • Good idea of ​​the article: “I just got 20 million to run my stuff.”
  • Good idea of ​​the article: “My competitor has received 20 million, but my stuff is better.”
  • Good idea of ​​the article: “shnyaga my competitor is unreliable and can kill you.”
  • Good idea of ​​the article: “I’m not sure that my shnyaga legitimate.”

Support celebrities

Ask someone famous (really famous, or at least on the Internet) popolzovavshis your site. Let him write a tweet about it, or make videos on Youtube.

Contact him through his manager, PR firm, a lawyer (do not interfere with a little Googling), Facebook, Twitter, a page on MySpace (still effective), the information in the Whois, etc.

Offer him a combination of personal, money and / or cry to his objectivity.

«Biz Dev»

Suppose a big company promotes you. In Blippy we have made to us Sephora advertised for free on his Facebook page with a million fans, just because we have their support on his website.

BillShrink has made to T-Mobile said, “if you do not believe that we are the cheapest, go check on, an independent service.”
Think about something cool that you can do with a big company, and contact with their colleagues in LinkedIn, Facebook through BranchOut, which is free and is better for this task. (Clarification: I am an investor BranchOut).

Off-line events

Conferences can be tedious, but helped successfully launch a number of companies.

Off-line events work best when your product is tied to the real world. Evite began with a conference in the country, with usloviyaem that you must sign up for using Evite. Yelp, too, did something similar.

Most of the launch party (and conference SXSW) quite effective for new users.

Be creative

Read about the famous screen Twitter at the conference SXSW.

I know a company that promoted the game, called «Shrooms» distributing packets of (harmless) mushrooms at the gaming conference, nearly bringing the case to arresta.

Richard Branson drove a tank through Times Square before a huge Coke billboards to advertise Virgin Cola (not sure if it really worked). Hugh Hefner bought a mansion in Los Angeles and invited celebrities hang out there with naked people.

Groupon moving online advertising with a positive ROI (yes not creative, but it works). YouTube allows you to place semi-legal content on the pages of MySpace. Facebook and Digg make widgets, and now thousands of web sites use them with a link to them.


I hope you enjoyed learning these ways to promote your site. Final advice: As entrepreneurs, we are immersed in our products. Try to forget for a week or more about the product and instead immerse yourself in good thoughts about his progress.