Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Online Community Building: WordPress Matt Mullenweg On How To Dramatically Increase Your Number Of Users

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How do you increase dramatically the number of users in your community? Building an online community is not as easy as it seems, but Matt Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress, has some specific advice on how to effectively start-up your online community.

Photo credit: IreneK

People love to be part of something. That's why your users, and the ability to have a relationship with them beyond the numbers in the traffic stats, mean a lot more than any new content or feature you release. Having a passionate online community behind your content or products is strategically vital.

Think of it: Not only your users can suggest improvements to your products, or help your business grow. They can also be your best marketing agents once you enable them to be so.

In this guideline, excerpted from a 2006 event, Wordpress Matt Mullenweg distills his best advice on how to grow your community and how to make people love your stuff. Be passionate, listen, pay attention to details, focus on your user's need, are just some of the critical actions and attitudes Matt suggests if you really serious about your rapidly growing your online community.


The First 100k Users Are Always the Hardest

by Matt Mullenweg

1. Be Your Most Passionate User


If you can't spend hours a day using your product, you can't expect anyone to. You really have to think about and interact with what you're doing everyday, if you are going to any perspective for moving you forward.

Also, this is very important from a business point of view, because if you're the first employer, the first volunteer, if you're personally leading the project, you have to be the most passionate person, because anyone you hire, anyone that comes on is going to be less passionate than you.

You have to set the shining example.

If it is not something you can get really passionate about, maybe it's not the best thing to devote your life to, or devote a significant portion of your time.


2. Pay Attention to Details


As you move on, as you're using your product for hours a day, you have to pay attention to every single little detail. Typography, punctuation, emails, favicons on your web site, bookmarks.

The things that are really obvious to new users, stop being obvious to you. Be a new user everyday.


3. Get Off the Computer


What I found, is that anything I do on the computer is a barrier. There's something between me and the ideas I'm trying to get the flow out.

You got to find pencil and paper, be offline, find some place away from your daily distractions. It's really the best place.

If you're designing a web site sketch out what the web site is going to look like.

Forcing yourself to slow down I found is very valuable.


4. Do Your Own Support


In the beginning strategies of launching something new. Your best feedback is going to come from those 100k users.

Too often than not, people launch things, put them out there, and they don't interact with the followers, with people having problems.

Another advantage of doing your own support is you intensively feel the pain of anything your users are feeling.

This kind of feedback is so valuable. The more things are between you and your users, the worse the products are going to be. Try to eliminate those barriers at every step.

There will be a moment if you're successful, that you won't be able to do the support anymore. And as soon as you see yourself starting to get too behind, as soon as you're not providing the best possible, most personal experience for each person contacting you, seek help immediately.

You get to find someone who's really passionate and has a lot of patience for that sort of thing.


5. Have a Tagline


You should be able to distill whatever you're doing, whatever your vision is in less than 5 words.

If you can't maybe it's time to simplify what you're doing. Scale it back a little.

It's also good to have different taglines for the different folks that you talk to. If you're talking to a librarian, political active people, or normal users. You have to use different keywords that resonate with different folks at different times.


6. "You" Not "Me"


Every corporate site in the world has these about pages with "me, me, me", "we're so great, we do this, we do that..." That's bad business.

You should relate to the person you're talking to. Tell what are you going to do for them. Frame it in terms of what they care about.

The truth is: no-one except for you cares about you. People care about themselves and what they're doing. That's the way the world works.


7. Get Out of 1.0


Nothing beats real users using your product. You would never imagine the things that they would think of and feedback they would have, and the places they will take you.

Most people make their successes on something different from where they started. So it's very important to get out of version 1.0 of your product as soon as possible, even if it sucks.

Don't let yourself be too led by your first users. Listen to the silent majority. Keep the majority in mind.


8. Have Metrics


Have metrics for everything you do.

If you're not measuring the things that your users are doing, and the metrics of your success, you're never going to know when you get there.

Whatever your product is, decide what is that people want more or less of.


9. Listen But Don't Follow


Listen to what people want, but don't follow them too closely.

Understand the need of your users could be tricky. Oftentimes people speak inside their frame of reference, so they be might asking for something when they want someone else.

Try to get what people really want from your product.


10. Simplify the Access


People don't come to your homepage anymore. People come to the pages of your site that have the keywords they are looking for.

Maybe your page is not as attractive and informative as your homepage. You have to stay strong with every single person which is newly experiencing whatever you have to offer.


11. Be a Painkiller, Not a Vitamin


If you're thinking to create something new, if you want people to spend time with it, you have to keep in mind that everyone has a life. Your website is probably the last thing on their mind.

They just want to do things, connect with their friends, spend less time in front of a computer everyday.

Again, think about the people who are visiting your site. You have to think: "How am I making them happy?"

Originally recorded by Matt Mullenweg for BayCHI and first broadcasted on August 8, 2006 as "The first 100k users are always the hardest".

About the author


Matt Mullenweg is an entrepreneur and founding developer of the open-source blogging software WordPress. He also writes for his own blog After quitting his job at CNET, he has developed a number of open source projects and is a frequent speaker at conferences. In late 2005, he founded Automattic, the business behind and Akismet. Mullenweg attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts where he studied jazz saxophone.

Photo credits:
Be Your Most Passionate User - Pavel Losevsky
Pay Attention to Details - Irina Tischenko
Get Off the Computer - tupikov
Do Your Own Support - Thomas Mounsey
Have a Tagline - Gunnar Pippel
"You" Not "Me" - Nikolay Okhitin
Get Out of 1.0 - madmaxer
Have Metrics - PaulPaladi
Listen But Don't Follow - Igor Dutina
Simplify the Access - Mikhail Tolstoy
Be a Painkiller, Not a Vitamin - vacuum3d

Matt Mullenweg -
Reference: BayCHI [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Wednesday, March 11 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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