User Development on a Shoestring

In order to build a powerful brand on platform like Meetup, you must be unique and indispensable in what you do for your community. Learn to differentiate yourself. Second, you must constantly give away value to keep growing your community. That means no BS talk. Everything you do must generate direct or indirect value to your users. Many community organizers fail because they put their personal agenda ahead of everything else. Says Andrew Wong (@andyrwong), the founder of NYEBN, the most vibrant and one of the largest start-up communities in New York.

I was looking forward to do this Q&A with Andrew, and it’s finally here. I am one of the many fortunate entrepreneurs Andrew has mentored and helped over the years. I have tons of respect for his work in growing the start-up scene in NY.

nyebn team

Andrew is a tech entrepreneur living in New York City. He is the founder of NY Entrepreneurs Business Network (NYEBN), which connects entrepreneurs and startups and runs one of the largest entrepreneur Meetup groups. He enjoys meeting with entrepreneurs and talking about their “world-changing” startup ideas.

Andrew blogs about his entrepreneurial lessons on his personal blog (andrewwong.me). One my favorite reads on his blog is this list of 10 books every entrepreneur should read.

In the Q&A with SearchDecoder Andrew shares the ‘under-the-hood’ tips, tools, and lessons of start-up marketing and user development he learned growing the NYEBN list to 30K users on a shoestring.

How to develop users and grow a platform on a shoestring

shoestring

Credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=22756&picture=the-old-shoe

What are the 5 lessons of building a large user platform

Be prepared that building the first 500 or 1,000 users is likely to take some time. So it won’t be a business from the get-go. You must have other businesses to supplement your income somehow during that initial period of time.

Keep in mind that community organizers live in public. So think twice before you take action. Once you are committed, you will be responsible and held accountable for your future actions.

Enable your users to interact with each other. The network effort matters a lot! For example, NYEBN’s Facebook page engages users with stories they like. NYEBN’s Meetup message board lets users post news items and have discussions about them. The same goes with NYEBN’s LinkedIn discussion forum.

Define your value preposition. You must constantly give away value to keep growing your community. That means no BS talk. Everything you do must generate direct or indirect value to your users. Many community organizers fail because they put their personal agenda ahead of everything else.

Be consistent with your brand. I like to treat NYEBN as a brand, instead of a platform. Because NYEBN deploys many platforms to build its user base.

What social tools do you use to scale user growth?

Generally, you don’t want to ignore major social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Meetup, Eventbrite. If you are a good storyteller you can push your content via publishing platforms such as WordPress, SquareSpace, Tumblr, or publish a weekly/monthly newsletter using software such as Mailchimp.

But don’t spread yourself too thin. Only deploy tools that you think you can handle.

SearchDecoder: For optimization and analytics user development tools check out our SEO Toolbox.

scale

Credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=25607&picture=morning-at-the-bakery

What are the best user development strategies on Meetup?

In event industry, the majority of the organizers are essentially doing the same thing day in and day out. In order to build a powerful brand on Meetup, you must be unique and indispensable in what you do for your community. In other words, learn to differentiate yourself.

You might be running a social Meetup or culture Meetup. NYEBN, for example, runs a Meetup group that focuses on education, entrepreneurship, and startups. At our events, our #1 goal is delivering value to event attendees. The “value” can come in many forms and shapes. For example, our Demo Night Series helps entrepreneurs connect with investors. And each Roundtable Series introduces entrepreneurs to a particular concept such as crowdfunding, Bitcoin, patent protection, etc.

Partnership is also a big piece at NYEBN. In 2014, NYEBN has partnered with household brands such as Advertising Age, Fast Company, GigaOm to bring more targeted events and conferences to the startup and small business communities.

What are your lessons running a crowdfunding campaign?

I shared some tips regarding crowdfunding in on of the posts on my blog you find here.

Here are some misconceptions about crowdfunding:

    • Once I put my project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, money will start rolling in
    • Crowdfunding platforms are free to use. I have to give it a try because I’ve got nothing to lose
    • I believe in my startup idea so much that my backers will feel equally passionate about my project once it’s launched

andrew wong nyebn

What are the do’s and dont’s of running event marketing campaigns?

DO leverage all the existing community and channels. This is your network and your list – the most powerful promotion vehicle because of the existing relationship between you and your subscribers.

DO supplement your main promotion channels with subsidiary channels. For example, our main channels at NYEBN are the Meetup group and our own mailing list. The subsidiary channels include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and our partner networks.

DO organize kick-ass events so your attendees have something to talk about. Keep in mind that the best form of promotion is word-of-mouth marketing.

DON’T spam your users, including repeat email blasts, over-sharing on social media, etc

DON’T buy leads. In this day and age, people are overwhelmed with cold emails and unsolicited messages. Purchased lists won’t work because you have NOT established relationships with those leads, and they do NOT know you

DON’T spend too much on paid advertising, such as AdWords, Twitter ads or Facebook ads. There are enough free channels out there. The last thing you want to do is to lose money on an event that may take you months to prepare.

What do you like about entrepreneurship?

      • Never-ending learning experience
      • Freedom to do what i’m passionate about whenever and wherever I want
      • Meeting other cool entrepreneurs, investors and creative professionals

Andrew recently guest lectured my NYU class, and he delivered a bunch of great tips for beginner entrepreneurs. Check out the deck he presented below to learn more.

About Matthew Capala

Matthew Capala (@SearchDecoder) is a growth-focused Internet marketer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of SearchDecoder, a place for bootstrap marketing ideas for entrepreneurs, Adj. Professor at NYU, Author of "SEO Like I'm 5" and dynamic speaker.

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5 Responses to User Development on a Shoestring

  1. Ryan Biddulph May 7, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    I love the insight Matt. Keep consistent with your branding. Send out the same, clear message across all of your social platforms. Be known for doing 1 thing and you can develop your campaign on a shoestring. Invest time and energy over money, then as you spread your presence and see more financial success you can invest money into your user development strategy too.

    Keep consistent, and yep, allow users to interact with one another. Here grows your community.

    As for raising capital you need to hit the pavement. Work your network and meet new people along the way too, as you brand out and expand your presence. A daring new entrepreneur from my home state just hit me up on twitter a few hours ago. He asked me to spread the word. I tweeted, and obliged on another level by writing a blog post about his initiative ;) Paying it forward, and I linked to that post, here.

    Thanks Matt, fab interview with Andrew!

  2. Matthew Capala May 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    Thanks Ryan, appreciate a note from a fellow bootstrapper. I will check out your post – that’s great what you did for your friend. Good karma = Internet traffic.

  3. Paige May 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm #

    Great article Matthew, Andrew is such an amazing resource for entrepreneurs in NYC.

  4. Arun Kallarackal May 9, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    Hi Matthew,

    That sure was a good read. It was good to know more about NYEBN and how it prepares one to enter the world of entrepreneurship.

    You have explained some useful facts in the article. Like- telling how the initial days are going to be difficult in case of new businesses. It will take some other source of revenue to pay bills! :)

    Also, you mentioned the awesome power of social sites too. Yes, they for sure will come handy in such endeavors.

    I found the link to this article on Kingged.

    Arun

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