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The biggest struggle for new sites is growing and maintaining a consistent and supportive user base. As many new sites are springing up on the internet, how can we encourage people to come to our site?

Any suggestions on how we grow and/or evangelise our site?

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    I think that attracting and identifying evangelists is going to be key here, since pets is such a heavily saturated topic on The Internet. It's good to start talking about this now. – Tim Post Oct 9 '13 at 11:11
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Track Questions on Social Media

Members of Pets.SE should sign up for pet-related groups on social media (Twitter, Facebook, G+, Reddit) and wait for questions to be asked. When a question is asked, replicate it as soon as possible and as accurately as possible here on pets.SE, then mention that you've asked the question on pet.SE (with a link back to the question) on the appropriate social media thread. This would create a valid question, drive views (and potential new users) to the question (and site), and shouldn't be considered spamming since you're basically giving the asked question more exposure.

When replicating the question, be sure to leave out anything that would place the original question asker in a negative position, or if it is necessary to include, don't link back to the original source.

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    I've found a few appropriate groups on Facebook and some questions that I think would work well here. But I'm not sure how to ask them. I feel I should explain I'm not the original question asker in case the question asker creates an account and wants to comment for clarification. But I don't want to clutter the post too much. How should I phrase this? – starsplusplus Feb 5 '14 at 13:32
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Ask really popular questions. When a question grabs peoples attention, it shows up on the "Hot Questions" board. In my experience questions that grab peoples attention bring people to the site. Really good answers keep them coming back.

Currently we have not had any questions get the Popular Question badge.

There is no magic formula for writing, popular questions. But when you do it gets picked up by other sites and repeated, do a Google search for 'Can I borrow a lunar rover?' and you will see the impact that can occur.

  • 4 popular questions in the last month - we must be doing something right :) – starsplusplus Feb 7 '14 at 9:34
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There are huge dedicated dog training communities that have a high rate of vets and generally technical people. Some of these are: dog agility, herding, fly-ball, obedience, tracking, etc. If we ask some in general hot/current topic here and get a couple interesting answers then these folks will find and support the site. There are several of these groups on Facebook but that interface doesn't work well for spread to general population or longevity of the information. Links to groups that might be of interest (please don't spam these groups):

  • Could you like to these groups here ? – Cedric H. Mar 10 '14 at 11:40
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Many pet shops and the like have a community bulletin board where people can post various pet-related things (dog walking services, rescues, people who are selling their pets, etc), and we might consider putting up some sort of poster or something to get a bit of attention.

This gets a little tricky around use of SE media (logos, etc), but I suspect it could be accomplished with relative ease if we found someone in our community with the skills to create an eye-catching and engaging poster.

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    Here's an example of the flyers we've previously done. Many are just the Stack Exchange logo blended into something that represents the site. Unfortunately, Jin is pretty backed up for the next month or two, but there's an example of what someone with some images and photoshop skills might be able to do. – Tim Post Nov 10 '13 at 13:15
  • Kennels and Doggie Day Care facilities too. – JoshDM Nov 18 '13 at 2:30
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Focus on the niche markets and/or the niche questions. From the Area51 FAQ:

  • Ask real, expert questions
    We want you to capture the moment that plumbers feel when they look at Plumber Overflow and say, "Whoa! That's my kinda site!" On a site about plumbing, there are 200 easy plumbing questions, and they've all been asked 100 times on other sites. Don't suggest questions like "How do I unclog a drain?" Instead ask, "If you run 2.5 GPM through 50 feet of 1/2" galv pipe, how many psi will be lost to friction loss?" Remember, pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!

There are millions of cat/dog forums and Q&A sites out there. We need to distinguish ourselves from them if we want to attract new users from search. We should try to increase the specific or specialist questions for those popular pets and try to increase questions about the more specialist pets: arachnids, amphibians and reptiles for example. There will be less questions out there for them so good answers will show up higher on search results.

JoshDM's suggestion of finding places where people are already asking questions is a great idea. I would expand this to cover any place where people might be asking questions: not just social networks, but forums and so on as well. Even better if the question has not been getting much interest on the place where they posted it, but someone has already asked the question on pets.se and received good answers. Then they immediately have a huge positive comparison between this new medium and the medium they were previously using.

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At the earliest stages, word of mouth is our best bet, IMO.

So who do we focus on telling about the site?

Veterinarians are an obvious target, but it can sometimes be hard to convince professionals to put time and effort into providing expert help for free, especially when it doesn't parlay into an increase in business for them. Only a specific subset of veterinarians will be likely to participate (those who enjoy such online communities, and for whom the inherent gamification of the SE platform holds appeal).

However, there are other audiences we can reach out to.

In particular, I know of one audience that is extremely dedicated, generally savvy with regards to using the Internet as a communications medium, and excellent at network building.

There are lots of people who use social media as a means of facilitating pet rescues. These people volunteer their time to work with local shelters, post rescue, foster, and adoption notices, and communicate with others doing the same to expand their geographic coverage.

I think our site may very well be of interest to them, as most seem to also be devoted pet owners. If we can engage them, and get them interested in the site, they may start sharing us as a resource across their already extensive networks. I know a couple that I will be contacting once this comes out of private beta.

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List of Potentially Interested Parties

This answer is simply a list of parties who would qualify as those who might be interested.

  • volunteer organizations
    • pet rescue orgs.
    • local animal shelters
  • veterinarians and animal hospitals
    • this includes individual vets and larger corporate vets (eg: VCA)
  • corporations / companies which have to do with pets
    • food manufacturers (pedigree, science diet, etc.)
    • pet supply stores (Pet Supermarket, PetSmart, etc.)
    • pet insurance companies (VPI, etc.)
    • pet toy / supply manufacturers (Thundershirt, Kong, etc.)
    • pet shops
    • pet cemeteries
    • kennels / day care facilities

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