Let’s face it, marketplaces are hard. Really, really hard. You have to get the word out to both “buyers” and “sellers”. No sellers, and the buyers have nothing to buy. No buyers, and sellers have no incentive to join. It’s the classic chicken and egg problem. Not only that, but once a marketplace establishes itself, buyers and sellers have no real reason to switch to another platform unless the reasons are compelling. But fear not, all is not lost. Making your marketplace easy to use for your users and making it easy to share with their social networks can go a long way in ensuring your marketplace gains the attention it deserves. Here are 5 tips along those lines.
1. Make it easy to share
First, the obvious one. If you’ve been on the internet at all, and I’m assuming most of you have, then you’ve probably seen tons and tons of share buttons plastered all over the place. The reason? They probably work. So if you have a page, put some share buttons on the page so users can simply click and off it goes to their respective social network(s). On Rentything, our share buttons are in the footer (to share the site itself) and on offer pages (to share individual offers). Share buttons should be easy to see and should not be buried deep within the page, but shouldn’t dominate the page either. It is probably worth testing social button placement, and even if social buttons are useful at all.
Other areas worth considering putting a social button on include any time a user creates content on the site. On Rentything, any time a user creates an offer they are prompted with the ability to share their new posting to their friends.
2. Make some widgets
Widgets on blogging platforms such as Wordpress are very popular. This is also a great place for users to show off their stuff, such as their Twitter feed, Etsy store, Amazon Wishlist, and so on. Thus, if you have a service in which users create content, it makes sense to create a widget so that users can show it off on their blog. Widgets are easy to make and easy for users to install, so they are worth your time to help spread the word on your platform. Remember, a user who shares their content on your platform is simultaneously helping to promote your platform. Check out the Rentything widget.
3. Make it easy to give feedback and get support
Don’t be afraid to roll your own either, at Rentything we have a simple vote up or vote down for feedback similar to what you would see on sites like Reddit. Whatever the user votes, a small input box appears to allow users to further expand and comment on their vote should they choose to.
If users have questions and need help, how do they get in touch with you? A help section or FAQ would be helpful, and Uservoice and GetSatisfaction both have the ability to log support tickets. It might be useful to have a phone number on the page so customers have somebody to call, as well as an online chat box to provide live help for users who may need it.
Services such as Olark make this easy to integrate so that you can focus on your core business.
4. Gamify Stuff
Dropbox and LinkedIn both do this very well. Gamify is a silly word, all it means is to use game-like elements to encourage users to take certain actions. LinkedIn does this by showing you progress on how much your profile is filled. The progress helps users know how much they’ve completed and how much is left. A completed profile not only helps the user show off their work experience, but also helps LinkedIn by providing complete information to other users, potential recruiters, and anyone who may be looking at the profile.
Dropbox does this to help spread the word on their product. They reward users by giving them additional storage space.
Remember not to gamify for the sake of it. Leaderboards, for example, may have negative consequences if it incentivizes unwanted behaviours, or if it makes it so difficult to take the top spot or progress up the ladder that users disengage from your service altogether. You definitely don’t want that. DuoLingo has a leaderboard, but does it encourage users in spot 5 or below to actually keep using the product? Perhaps not if they are way behind on points.
5. Make it easy to invite friends
Quora does this very well. Rather than have users scroll through their address book to find people to invite to their service, they have a very convenient invitation box right on the main pages of their site that requires minimal effort on the user’s part to invite. One click and the invitation is sent.
If you are looking to make it easy for your users to send out invitations to their friends, then this is a great way to do it.
So there you have it. These tips are not a prerequisite for success, nor are they are a guarantee for success. They are simply some options to add to your toolbox to help your marketplace succeed (and ideas that we here at Rentything are trying to utilize). Remember, marketplaces are hard to build, but don’t hesitate to build it anyway if you’re bringing value to the table. And use these tips to keep users coming back, staying engaged, and spreading the word.