One question I always ask people who are starting up a new (online) community is how to get to their first 1000 members. Since I believe if you can get 1000 members then you will be able to build a successful community. Kevin Kelly wrote the great article a while ago with the title 1,000 true fans. In this article he describes the following:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author – in other words, anyone producing works of art – needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
What I believe is that if you are able to attract 1,000 fans you will be able to build a viable community. The hardest thing you have to do at the start of a community is to get those first few people joining your community. Because nobody (or very little people) have joined your community in the first few days, it is an empty restaurant: people don’t know if it is worth their time.
The first 1,000 fans is real hard work. Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield, founders of Flickr, used to welcome every new member on Flickr personally. This is a tedious job and consumes a lot of time. However each interaction with your first users is well spend. It is an investment you’ll have to make to make sure that your community will be viable. It is an investment in creating your first few community evangelists who will promote your community for your. And it is an opportunity to get instant feedback from those who are willing to join your community in this early phase.
Think of it when starting a new community what your way of working will be to attract (and keep) your first 1,000 fans. If you are not able to come up with a solution for this you will fail. Unless you accept luck as the critical success factor for your community.