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Monday, August 1, 2011 - 15:39 - James Peter @zemaj

Building traffic at scale: using niche apps to grow userbase

As a startup, one of the main problems we face is bringing in new users to our products cheaply. Arguably it’s our only problem - once we’ve got the execution down and found a successful product that people will pay money for, all we need is more, more and more users to make our product successful. Easy, right?

The View

Unfortunately when you run a Freemium model design to convert a tiny percentage of users, the cost of user acquisition can be too high through traditional channels. Sure we could put up some adwords, but at 50c per user, we’d have to pay $500 per day to bring in 1000 new users daily. For us this cost is too high - our conversion rates on ManageFlitter are designed to be low in order to maintain a large number of free users on the site to drive our viral loop. This existing viral loop already consistently drives a LOT of new users to our site every day for free! This is nice, but we would like to grow a little faster. In order to see a noticeable bump in new users we need to take an alternative approach.

We recently had some success in this area when we published our Google+ to Twitter app. We created a custom landing page at to reach out to a new set of users. The page is clean and has no marketing material other than information about this niche app. The idea was that we would take advantage of Google+’s recent popularity and build an application to draw a little attention. While we know that this application won’t last forever, it gives us a temporary influx of users and creates it’s own viral loop - once people sign up for the service we gently offer for them to tweet that they’re now sharing posts between G+ and Twitter using ManageFlitter. This, along with being picked up by some tech news sites has given us a considerable traffic spike for a few days - doubling new users counts.

Even some of our own users get the bigger picture!

Wow, @manageflitter using 1-off niche apps to suck in new users. They got me, and I liked it. G+->T: via @onethingwellless than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

The only potential problem with this approach is that the new users you bring in aren't guaranteed to use the rest of your product. It's still a little to early to give any numbers, but it definitely looks like our traffic spike has translated to sustained uptick in all our performance metrics. For some investment in development resources, it's by far the cheapest and largest traffic improvement we've seen since launch (other than random press events).

Best of all, by attempting this app, we've developed a unique insight into Google+ and has given us new ideas about how to evolve the rest of our existing product.

Have you created any successful niche apps? Let us know in the comments.

James Peter
89n Co-Founder