Don’t start big, go as micro as you can get and build from there.
Forget the big splash. Don’t promise huge publicity. In July, Cuil made headlines in every tech media. It couldn’t convert those clicks into a loyal community. Now it’s a dying dodo.
Aim for steady growth from a loyal membership base. You want 10 members this week, 100 this month and 1000 three months from now. Keep your costs low, be patient…this takes time.
Invite 10 people to test your product and help run your community. They get free accounts for life. They can each invite 1 friend to have a free account for life. That’s twenty members. Introduce these members to each other. Launch debates and challenges for members to get involved. Every member has to know the others (and like your product!) before you progress.
Now headhunt people to join your community. These ideas might speed things up. Ask members who else will love the service. Give your old-timers unlimited invites as a loyalty reward. Give 20 points for whoever recruits the most members. The winner wins member of the month, and a worthwhile prize (not cash).
Once you get to 100, try to delegate the work you’re doing (recruiting individually, content, member of the month, events/activities) to your top community members. Coach them to do the job better.
Work on reaching 1000. Invite top bloggers and those with big social networks to give feedback on your product. Begin a dialogue with them. Create bespoke accounts/pages for their members. Talk about relevant groups in community debates. Make a linked list of people you feel would most benefit from using your service, then ask members to tell them about the list. Give members customised badges/logos they can display on Facebook/blogs etc.
That might get you started.
Remember, you don’t want users of your service, you want members of your service. You only want people who have links to other people that use your product. Using the product is merely a boundary people have to cross to join your vibrant community.