Zero to 60,000 members in 12 weeks

Social networks are valuable two big reasons:

  1. They cheaply attract eyeballs to your pages
  2. They provide heaps of data about your audience

For reasons to be addressed in a later post (or in my recent FOWA presentation, if you were one of the five people in the audience), both of those benefits are best achieved via targeted, niche communities. That means YOUR community, not those big social networking warehouses. Until recently, setting up a scalable social network with plenty of rich media, Widgets, and whatever else was a big pain in the ass.

Then KickApps and a few other companies changed all of that. We’re seeing success across the board (despite what some people’s less-than-friendly blog posts would have you believe), but I was recently discussing Vibe Verses, a KickApps-powered community, and I raised some eyebrows with these numbers:

  1. The site took 3 weeks to build, once the graphic design/branding was settled
  2. When the first contest ended, about 12 weeks after it had begun, the community had 60,000 members

The site performed so well that it did something that every online marketer dreams of: the contest site became an ongoing community.

Here’s an even better use case: Hip Hop Music dot com dot com. It’s so Web 2.0 you have to write the “dot com” twice! This dude hooked up a free WordPress blog to a free KickApps community site, fueled it with his personal passion and blew up. Check out his page views on his most popular KickApps-powered media. No marketing budget, just love, and he’s getting well over a million page views a month.

If you’re paying a ton of cash, waiting months and months, and have a creeping fear that you’re reinventing that ole social networking wheel, check out the wide range of RYO social networking solutions that are currently out there. Start with KickApps of course – partly because I work there and partly because the platform is built to integrate cleanly into your existing website (moreso if you’re a Joomla lover).

This is mostly a bland tooting of my own horn post, but it’s also interesting because as we talk to more large companies I am repeatedly surprised to hear how difficult and expensive they expect this stuff to be. If you’re one of those people, hop on over to the KickApps site and check out our recent whitepaper that outlines 9 easy steps to create an online community, then quit waiting and go.


  1. 1. Did you build it yourself?

    2. Building small bits iteratively is definitely the way to do it. I built my brands one at a time from nothing.

    3. Using the iterative approach, people were stunned to note that my Google SERP went from 27 to 50,000+ in half a year.

    4. Since the networks of human society and web pages both follow the scale-free topology, I am not surprised that you are able to get from 0 to 60,000 in a short moment.

    5. Ultimately, if your product has commercial value and people find it useful, the audience would flock through.

    Great job.


  2. Go ahead and toot that horn … because you are sooo right. It’s stooopid cool that these tools are out there and if you have the passion, you can throw up something cool.

  3. Cam, you know it. Though it would be better if we had a sweet message board…

    1. Nope, it was a team effort. The underlying code is the KickApps platform, UI was designed by a pro.
    2. Definitely. Flexible RYO platforms make it even easier to iterate quickly these days.
    3. One day I will learn how you pulled that off!
    4. True, the challenge seems to be creating a system that can accommodate and encourage that growth.
    5. This gets more interesting in social networks where the audience is the product, to a large extent.

    Thanks for the comments!

  4. I recently suggested a social media strategy to a client who was concerned about creating “yet another walled garden”. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this. What do you say to people to have this concern?

  5. Hey Scott, it’s a valid question and it comes up quite often in my conversations as well. I have two responses, both of which warrant full posts.

    First, users may want some walls. MySpace is a mess, and savvy users would rather spend their time in communities with a better signal:noise ratio. Walls afford that.

    With walls, users have a nice, quiet space full of unfreaky like-minded people. The second answer, for people who want to spread the word a bit, is to create an “Open Portal” with easy-in/easy-out tools:

    • OpenID and good import tools get people in easily
    • Widgets/apps and content syndication allow users to carry content beyond the borders of the community

    You can read more about it on Eric’s blog, but it’s something I’d like to write about in greater detail. Open Portals are the next evolution of Widgets and OpenID, it’s just a matter of someone implementing them intelligently.

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