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So you’ve followed your dreams and developed the app or website of a lifetime. The question now is, how do you make the platform grow? As users become pickier deciding which platforms they incorporate every day, it is an increasing competition to attract users, and more importantly to make them repeat users. As it goes, there are strategies platform owners can use in order to make users come back, and the words that matter more often not are: size matters.

How do you attract the first user?

Once you’ve developed your platform, the most difficult thing that you will do is to attract those very first users. In fact, the theory argues that the initial phases of a platform’s life may look something as follows: (1) attract users, (2) attract complementaries, and (3) leave competing platforms behind. This first point is, however, the most crucial one, as the very first user on the platform will spur network effects (Katz and Shapiro, 1994) which will make it more interesting for the next user to join. Consider a platform like Facebook; in the early days, when there were still few users, the platform was not interesting for the majority of the population. However, as the user base grew, it became increasingly attractive to the rest of the population.

Complementaries – what are they, and how do they benefit the platform?

The platform you have developed will have its own unique functions and properties, but it is important to remember that users often want and require added functionalities – these can be harvested through complementaries. Complementaries can also be called apps, and usually become a part of the platform once it starts to grow. More importantly, carefully choosing the right complementary partners to your partners often spur growth, as it can make more users aware of your platform, and make it attractive to people who have not consider to use it previously. One example is cross log-ins, such as the ability to log in with usernames and password the user already has from other platforms.

Leaving the competition behind

Attracting the first users may be the most difficult part of starting your platform, but once this is accomplished, theory assures that users will naturally be attracted by those who are already using your platform and that at some point, the stream of both new and repeated users will flow naturally. Reaching this point, your platform is ensured success.

However, tread lightly! More important than anything else dealing with platforms is nourishing an innovative ecosystem – so remember to stay updated, listen to what the users want, and be open for change.