How to get 20k users with a $0 marketing budget? - part 1 Case study on Circle Lab

How to get 20k users with a $0 marketing budget? - part 1 Case study on Circle Lab

How not to grow your Discord when you are funded – part 2 of Circle labs case study

TL;DR: This blog explores Circle Lab's unique growth strategies in building their AI community. Key tactics include creating engaging bots, hosting early events, making direct team announcements, adapting UI, mobilizing users for growth, and leveraging user-generated content, especially on TikTok. These approaches highlight the importance of community engagement and organic growth in today's digital landscape. Stay tuned for part two, where we'll uncover more strategies for building a successful online community.

Circle Lab, also known as Shape Lab, is an innovative AI company that specializes in allowing users to create and interact with custom characters, similar to a Dungeon Master in role-playing games. They launched early last year and have quickly gained a significant following, with over 60,000 members joining their Discord community. This platform provides a space for enthusiasts and creators to engage, share, and develop their AI-driven characters. The rapid growth of their community highlights the rising interest in AI and interactive gaming experiences. Circle Lab's success demonstrates the potential of AI in enhancing online interaction and gaming.

What really sets Circle Lab apart is their unique growth strategy, relying entirely on their Discord community without any external marketing efforts like Twitter, YouTube, or Reddit. Remarkably, they achieved this impressive growth with what seems to be a zero-dollar marketing budget during their first year, attracting up to 20,000 users. This approach highlights the power of community-driven growth and the effectiveness of focusing on a single platform. Circle Lab's success story is a testament to the potential of organic growth and community engagement in the digital age, proving that a strong product and dedicated user base can drive significant growth without traditional advertising.

Building in public has been a key factor in Circle Lab's success, and in our next two-part series, we will be exploring the top 10 strategies they used. This insightful series aims to not only showcase their innovative approach but also to inspire other communities. We'll dive into the tactics and decisions that helped them grow organically, highlighting how transparency and community engagement can lead to remarkable achievements. 

Strategy 1: make a really cool bot

Creating an engaging bot and making it public for other communities to use is a powerful strategy for growth, as we discussed in our series on Mudae. For AI companies like Circle Lab, this means designing a simpler version of their product and releasing it into the wilds of Discord. By doing so, they can showcase their capabilities and attract attention in an environment where potential users are already engaged. This approach not only demonstrates the value of their product in a practical, fun way but also helps to create a buzz around their brand in the Discord community.

In the realm of web3 communities, the most successful ones can follow a similar path. They've developed custom bots that incorporate unique games and features, adding value to their communities. These bots not only engage existing members but also attract new ones, intrigued by the distinctive and interactive experiences they offer. This strategy of blending utility with entertainment is a key factor in their success, proving that a well-crafted bot can be a cornerstone of community growth and engagement.

Strategy 2: Host events early on

Hosting events early is crucial in building a thriving community. As soon as you notice more than 30 people joining daily, it's time to start organizing events. These events should cater to the interests of your audience, as we've outlined in our blog. For communities predominantly comprising teens and Gen-Z, Discord-native games like Gartic, Guess the Number, Truth or Dare, and Battle Royale are huge hits. These interactive and fun games are not just entertaining but also help in fostering a sense of community and engagement among the members.

If your community is theme-driven, authenticity in your events is key. For instance, communities focused on art or storytelling can benefit from events that resonate with their themes, like inviting artists or storytellers to share their creative processes. These events offer a behind-the-scenes look at art creation, providing value and deepening the connection with your audience. Such authentic and theme-aligned events not only attract more members but also help in retaining them by consistently offering content that aligns with their interests and passions.

Strategy 3: Make a lot of announcement

Making frequent and transparent announcements from the core team is a vital strategy, especially during the early stages of community building. It's important that these updates come directly from the founders or key team members, not just moderators or hired help. Announcements should cover a wide range of topics including progress updates, future plans, challenges faced, and achievements. Circle Lab exemplifies this approach by sending an average of one message per day, keeping their community informed about everything from bug updates to regular progress. This level of communication not only keeps the community engaged but also builds trust and a sense of involvement in the company's journey.

Strategy 4: Keep optimizing on UI

User Interface (UI) in Discord servers is an evolving process, crucial for both user engagement and retention. For those starting out, setting up a simple server is key. It's important to be flexible, adding or removing channels as needed based on the events and activities you host. While early adopters might navigate a complex server structure, new users can easily feel overwhelmed. Utilizing analytics to monitor the onboarding experience and message traffic per channel is essential. This data helps in making informed adjustments to the server layout, ensuring it remains user-friendly and conducive to community growth and engagement.

Strategy 5: Mobilize your members to grow

Mobilizing your users to aid in growth is a powerful strategy, as demonstrated by Circle Lab. They encourage their members to install their bots in various other Discord servers, effectively turning their users into ambassadors for their brand. By doing this, they leverage the enthusiasm and network of their community to reach new audiences. Offering incentives, such as Discord Nitro, can significantly boost this effort. These rewards motivate users to participate actively in the expansion process, creating a win-win situation for both the company and its community members.

Organizing competitions with clear timelines and objectives is an effective way to engage users in these growth efforts. By setting specific goals and offering attractive prizes like Nitro, you not only encourage participation but also create a sense of excitement and challenge within the community. These contests can spark a healthy competitive spirit, further driving user involvement. It's a strategy that not only helps in spreading the word about your product or service but also strengthens the community bond, making members feel like they are a crucial part of the company's growth journey.

Leveraging User-Generated Content (UGC) for social media, especially on platforms like TikTok, is another effective growth strategy. The nature of TikTok, where quantity often trumps quality, makes it an ideal platform for showcasing a wide range of content from users. Encouraging your community members to create and share their own content related to your product or service can lead to unexpected viral hits, as predicting what resonates on TikTok can be challenging. Each piece of UGC not only provides potential for that 'two seconds of fame' but also serves as a powerful tool for organic marketing. This approach helps in expanding reach and engagement, as users feel more connected and integral to the brand's online presence.

In conclusion, the first part of our series has highlighted several key strategies that have contributed to the success of companies like Circle Lab. From creating engaging bots and hosting early events to making frequent announcements and simplifying UI, each tactic plays a crucial role in building a vibrant community. Moreover, mobilizing users for growth and leveraging user-generated content, particularly on platforms like TikTok, are innovative ways to expand reach and engagement. These strategies demonstrate the power of community-driven growth and the impact of creative, user-focused approaches in the digital space. Stay tuned for part two of our series, where we will delve into more insights and strategies to help other communities replicate this success.