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I would like to create a local dating community.

Problem: I have just a few users and I want to avoid the situation that new users just go away after seeing "nothing is up here"...

So is the only way to do this in creating a few fake accounts?

11

Don't go the fake account route.

When, and it will be when, the real users of your system find out they'll be upset and angry and more likely to quit your site than they would if they thought that there weren't enough users.

The answer is that you are going to have to publicise the site and encourage people to sign up knowing that they are early adopters. Find other sites that target the same community and advertise. Check the rules of the site to make sure you don't fall foul of any rules though - you don't want to get banned for spamming!

You could think about offering other features such as local news and jobs - you should be able to find feeds for this information - which will give users another reason to use the app/site.

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    Good advice, that first sentence, despite the fact that established sites do advertise and operate with fake profiles. You could make that a distinguishing characteristic for your site: You won't find fake profiles here. – user732 May 27 '16 at 18:56
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You can do fake profiles, but be very clear that they are examples and rank them lowest.

When the first new users join the site, congratulate them for being "Founding Members" and give them a badge on their profile. This helps set their expectations that the site will get better.

Use your Founding Members to help recruit their friends. Give them credit for successful referrals. Give their referral the same credit so your Founding Members feel like they are giving their friends a favor.

Another trick is to build buzz around the site in advance of launching. Ask newbies to enter just enough information to make a basic profile, but don't show anything else. Give them 10 or 20 limited invites to their friends to do the same. This is how GMail first launched. After your launch have members enhance their profiles.

You mentioned your service is "local". Are there other services you can provide to your local community that would work with your dating service? Ex: restaurant reservations or activity group recruiting. You could use such a service to 1) recruit initial members in advance of the launch and 2) continue providing services to them after they "graduate" by finding a relationship.

Consider segmenting your market more. This might suggest some compatible organizations to market to without having to worry about violating other dating sites terms of usage. Examples of such organizations in my area are "Parents without Partners" and "Widows and Widowers".

Finally, if you have even a small marketing budget, use Google Adwords. These can be finely targeted even to location. Remember to treat these initial new people as Founding Members.

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    The suggestion to also include other local services like activity groups is excellent; it gives users another reason to stick around, at a time when the site is still small and needs people to do that. – Monica Cellio May 29 '16 at 19:31
  • @MonicaCellio I was just thinking what does the site do after these people find their match? One is paying all this money and trouble to acquire the customer only to lose them. Also how does one differentiate from a big site like Match.com? The answer is his focus on local. – Greg Chase May 29 '16 at 20:52
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If you really want to pursue the idea of getting more users before you launch, I suggest going through your other networks and convincing every friend, family member, former colleague,... to sign up. I'm sure you know hundreds of people (according to this study published on nytimes.com it might be as many as 600 if you are American and even if we take "Dunbar's number" of 150, that's still a nice start for your community).

You don't even have to only focus on your local friends. Those first members are only there to get you started. After the launch the number will grow organically, so it doesn't matter if some of the early members drop out.

One of the easiest things to do is sharing a post about it with your Facebook friends. You might even want to consider spending a bit of money to boost your post. What works a lot better though, is adressing the people directly, so they have no way of ignoring your request. Pitch your community to everyone you meet and tell them to sign up via a mobile devices right in front of your eyes.

Different people in your network will have different motivations. Try to anticipate them.

  • Some might just do it to do you a favour
  • others might expect a similar favour in return someday
  • you can offer them some community perks (see founding members idea by Greg Chase)
  • if you invite them for a round of drinks, few people will decline to sign up on your platform
  • make sure to tell everyone how much fun this can be. Even if you are not looking for a date, it's fun to meet new people.
  • ...
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  • Networking among the people you know is a good start, but you probably don't want to collect a lot of "yeah ok I'll sign up even though I'm not looking to date" signups. That doesn't help activity on your site. – Monica Cellio Jul 7 '16 at 15:43
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This is a tough situation. If users don't join, the app becomes useless. and if you create fake accounts, the users will get disappointed of not finding anyone and give up soon.

So, keep other common secondary features like games, news, funny pics etc. Keep them busy. Don't keep annoying things like ads, video ads or "buy premium membership" without building a huge community (that will scare them off). Remember, a successful business is build on Trust.

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In most communities users are only interested in a small subset of users (Ex. having the right age and location). If you have a nucleus of 20 MATCHING users (age, location) you can successfully start.

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