Is creating multiple accounts and creating content on a user-generated content site a common solution to the classic "initial community" problem? It seems like a viable solution and certainly cheaper than advertising to attain your initial user-base.
Aside from the time required to generate the fake content, are there any downsides to this method? Would you recommend it over the traditional advertising or spam your friends and family methods?
By the way, my website can be used by just about anyone, so it's not like I'd have to target my advertising towards 29-year-old Nigerian fishers.
I think the phrase "fake content" pretty well sums it up.
Fake users are not community users - and real users will resent / bail / never sign up again if they smell anything that resembles chicanery. Can't blame them - who wants their name and reputation to be associated with a lie?
If your offerings value proposition cannot be demonstrated without fake data, then you have a core problem that you need to address. Either get "real content" or redesign to address a smaller community at first.
EDIT: Since there are references to reddit - here is an interesting venturebeat article and hackernews thread on the topic. There is a fine line between "fake" & "curated" communities. Terms like "priming" are used, but one wonders if stackoverflow needed to be seeded with bogus accounts / questions just to prove its usefulness. I think not - and that is the difference between a offering that immediately proves its value and one that requires fake accounts to show value. Both approaches have their risks - and successes. Choose wisely.
To answer the question is it a common solution, I have no doubt many sites and services do do this. Indeed their are a raft of companies that actually offer setting up fake or puppet accounts on your behalf.
Should you do this, that's a different question you have 3 distrinct areas to think about; Legal, moral, return
Put another way fake profiles are a cheap trick that won't help build a community, their use would be strictly limited and to do them in such a way as to not be obviously fake requires significant investment in time that could be spent actually building a community with real people.
I think a fake user base can speed up growth tremendously. I think in a lot of cases it becomes almost essential to kickstart the community.
The problem is you will be getting tired of creating these fake posts/people and you will get sloppy. If you can keep the information relevant and real then it will work.
That is how Reddit started out, with a lot of fake people and fake posts.
Yes i also agree that, fake users will not at all connect with the communities if they will know that the account is fake, even we also do the same, it is a trick for marketing as i think what's your thinking...