I'm developing a niche dating website that is in its pre-alpha stage.
As for the initial launch, I have a couple of theories and questions.
For the very first time, I thought it might be good to
get the projected N number of members, lets say 500 free, for a
x amount of time, lets say 6 months.
I personally think that, this x amount of time, 6 months, will add enough
(payed) members so that the system will have enough initial users
after the 6 months expire.
Please review this idea of mine, do you think this would be a good start?
Also I think that people who own those free memberships would make a good
word of mouth advertising.
The main point of my idea is to only let people join the website
who have a decent profile and obey the rules of the entire system, just like
in the StackExchange community. If you don't obey, you can't keep yourself here.
Please evaluate my idea and tell me the pro's and con's of this approach.
I am seeking as many answers as i can get, it would be cruel to just select an answer and close this topic so please, post as many as you can. I am grateful for that. Have a nice day!
As a person who owns and operates a dating website (trivlike.com), I can tell you that unless this niche site is confined to a certain locality, 500 users is not enough to sustain growth, or to charge access. I learned one valuable lesson the hard way about dating sites -- it takes users to attract users.
With that in mind, upon launching you should focus on an aggresive marketing strategy to drive growth, and not so much on monetizing users. As a matter of fact I'd look to advertising for revenue initially, then switch to a paid model once your site provides enough value (i.e. has lots of members to match) to incite users to pay for a membership.
Finally, to expect word of mouth buzz, there has to be something truly unique about your site. For example, when hotornot.com hit the scene it was unique enough and appealed to a person's vain side that it generated buzz.
first of all good luck for your startup.
I'm no expert in dating websites, however I cannot fail to notice that there's a lot of competition. Competition comes from both paid service (f.i. match.com) or free (plentyoffish.com). In other words, the real question is: how can you compete with them? Having a free service is clearly not enough. And I wouldn't rely to much on word of mouth, because that scales only when you have tens of thousands of users.
In your situation I'd try to offer a UVP (unique value proposition). Maybe that's what you mean when you say "niche". Let's say, a dating website for people in the 40s; or in the 60s... or for people who like dancing. Anyway, be different.
Once you have your UVP, you know which market you're targeting; and you need to understand how to reach your target customers. I wouldn't count too much on adsense or online advertising, because, again, there's a lot of competition. And the keywords are likely to be very expensive.
But again, if you are different, and have a specific focus, you can reach your target customers with different means. For example, the 'dating website for dancers' can be easily advertised with flyers in discos, pubs, ... or with advertisement in dancing magazines. Or in dancing school.
So, be different and reach customers directly and differently.
In my experience dating sites are the toughest type of sites to establish. You really need a niche, and a strong burst of marketing. Even more complicated is getting a merchant account, and dealing with the number of complaints (charge backs). You would be surprised how many people claim they never signed up for a dating site once it hits their statement or once their spouse or parent sees the statement.
My advise would be to run it for "free" for a long time, try to focus on cross selling or selling it to a different company that is capitalized once the site is established. You could make decent income based on advertising.
You could also do a Google style roll out of certain 'hidden' features.
Send a notification / email to users that says something like 'You have been chosen to use our new premium features. These features are free, but have only been offered to a select few. As part of this offer you can also invite one friend to enjoy the benefits of the site as well as the premium features.'
Roll this out gradually and have some visibility around what these extra features are so there is a clear division between who has them and who doesn't e.g. extra emoticons, colored titles or whatever. The idea is to get some people wanting more and those people who have the feature will feel superior and want to invite their friends.
Eventually send this notification to everyone so nobody feels left out.
I've been running a nice dating site for about 6 months now. Don't even think of charging now, you need serious mass before people will even think of paying for a dating service. Put up some ads and that should at least cover your hosting costs. If people like the service they will pay. Forget about money for now. Don't be greedy. Focus on delivering a service people actually want to use.
Here are some tips that should save you some time :
1 - Spam, fake and scam profiles are a fact. They will come at you form all directions. They will register 10, 20 times a day. You may have to block access to your site from nearly all of Africa and proxies.
2 - Do not depend on word of mouth, you are in a crowded market and people do not tell their friends they are on a dating site.
3 - Facebook is your friend. Make a page, advertise on there, put a 'like' and 'share' link on your site.
4 - Google Adwords is another friend. It will take you a month or two to find the sweet spot of targeting, keywords, ad text that delivers results for you.
5 - Log everything that your users do. Everything. Google analytics is good for overview but will not give you the detailed info that you need to see what your users are doing.
6 - You will have to send a TON of email. Learn how to send email that doesn't get you blacklisted. Learn Mailchimp. Keep your users interested with regular mailings. Honor their unsubscribe requests.
7 - If you are using one skadate, dolphin, osdate or any of these, stop wasting your time. They do not work.