Kevin Rose Presents at the FOWA London 2009 Event - Taking Your Site from One to One Million Users

This presentation by Kevin Rose of Digg.com provides us with fantastic and timely information for how to grow a site and cultivate the community of followers you gain. I have outlined the highlights of his presentation here for easy reference. For further discussion, visit the Tech Cast Talk Discussion Forum Post for this topic.

Taking your Site from One to One Million Users by Kevin Rose from Carsonified on Vimeo.

Kevin covers the following main points in his presentation:

  • Ego
  • Simplicity is the Key
  • Build and Release
  • Hack the Press
  • Connect With Your Community
  • Advisors
  • Leverage Your Userbase to Spread the Word
  • Does Your Product Provide Value for Third Party Sites?
  • Analyze Your Traffic
  • The Entire Picture...Circle of Life
  • Q & A

{openx:3} Ego Kevin reminds us to ask ourselves, Does this feature increase the users self-worth or stroke the ego? If your user is contributing to your system, what emotional rewards do they walk away with? What visible rewards will they receive? Are they gaining reputation? Are you giving them badges? Kevin provides some examples to illustrate what he means by "Ego". Twitter uses a followers model. Twitter provides a largely one way communication platform with zero expectations that is approachable for any user. As a user gains followers, even when they are spam followers, this gives the user the impression that he or she has an audience and thus strokes the ego of the user. Kevin also mentioned the Digg Leaderboard which shows the top "Diggers" and changes that were made to the Digg Stories display to show a larger user icon/avatar and a "friend me" link to provide better exposure for the user submitting to Digg.

Simplicity is the Key Kevin warns us to stop overbuilding features and resist feature creep. Pick the 2-3 things to focus on and do them extremely well. Kevin tells us to ask ourselves, is there anything we can take out of this feature? The goal should be to make it more simple.

Build and Release Kevin cautions us to stop thinking we understand our users. Users will only use 20-30% of what you put on your site. Learn from what they're actually doing on your site, not what you think they'll do or what you think they should do. Next, Kevin encourages us to decide on what we're going to build and then build it. Avoid analysis paralysis. The larger you get the more you are in danger of analyzing a course of action instead of taking that course. Your cycle should be build, release, iterate, and repeat.

Hack the Press Kevin speaks of a strategy that is occurring more and more frequently with new product launches. Launches such as Google Voice and Google Wave are examples of an "Invitation Only" launch strategy. Kevin reports that he used this strategy initially for Pownce and Digg v3. Make an invitation hard to get. Look at what Google Wave is doing right now to generate a perception of "must have" among prospective users. Kevin also offers the advice to talk to the junior bloggers. It is easier to get their ear. Also attend parties for events you can't afford. Network with influencers and bring a demo. Go to after parties and have your 30 second elevator pitch ready.

Connect With Your Community Kevin suggests you start a podcast and assures you that it is okay of not everyone listens. He did this with Diggnation. Kevin suggests you throw a launch party and then yearly/quarterly events. Invite the press and influencers personally. Don't tell the bar you're throwing a party. Just show up. Engage with the community and be an active participant in your own ecosystem.

Advisors Kevin cautions us to ask ourselves what technical problems we are going to have and then find people to solve them. Advisors can be helpful in a whole slew of areas, not just technical. Marketing, hiring, business development are all areas where an advisor can help you. Offer advisers stock compensation, and typically not a board seat. Solid advisors will help you during fund raising.

Leverage Your Userbase to Spread the Word Kevin provides some real-world examples to illustrate his point here. Facebook launched Farmville which has more active daily users that World of Warcraft. Kevin launched wefollow.com and when users signed up, they were given a completion status bar that showed a workflow urging users to "tweet to complete".

Does Your Product Provide Value for Third Party Sites? Kevin provides the example of the "Share This" bar seen on other sites. Asking a user to share a Wall Street Journal link with Facebook, Twitter or Digg provides no cost advertising for your site if it is useful to such third parties.

Analyze Your Traffic Kevin reminds us to install Google Analytics and check entrance sources, paths through our site and our top exit pages.

The Entire Picture...Circle of Life Kevin shows a circle...Users -> Quality Content -> Traffic -> Buttons -> Users to illustrate how a site grows from one user to one million users.

Question and Answer Kevin takes some questions from the audience.

  • Someone asks Kevin to comment on a Twitter promotion scheme by Moon Fruit asking users to twitter to win a mac book

Twitter shut them down.

  • How do you deal with users who try to game the site?

Kevin cautions us not to punish users publicly. Some users may actually believe gaming the system is the point of the site. It is important sometimes to handhold the user through 3-5 important tasks on your site like the workflow system mentioned earlier which provides feedback to the user that they have completed 1 of 5 tasks on the site.

  • How do you feel about purchasing traffic/keywords?

Digg did not purchase traffic keywords

Kevin ends the presentation by telling us that Digg's demographics are about 65% male and that Digg is working on promoting deeper, long-tail content.