I think this is valid to put here, although I'm going to retag this to discussion. (Turns out, discussion is okay on meta, as far as I understand it anyway.)
Yes, there's a tl;dr at the bottom in case you've already read your novel for book club this month.
I'm not much of an advertising-oriented guy. I just don't think like one. I'm a computer science guy, and when we computer nerds go into business, we hire marketing people to handle that kind of thing for us. But I do know some of the basics, and one of the fundamental aspects of any kind of marketing campaign is timing. An uncontrolled example of this is the Slashdot effect: your content gets popular and brings your server crawling on its knees. Someone clicks your link (effectively, an advertisement for your site, even if it wasn't paid for) and what do they get? A 404. Now, they think "pff, okay move on to the next site."
So how does this relate here? No, I don't think the stack exchange network is going to get Slashdotted. But I do have to ask myself "Is the timing right to really advertise?" We do not yet even have 100 questions in the bank. If we are going to bring people to the site, we're saying "This is a place where you can get expert opinion on your difficult work problems." It takes them time to write up a good post. Are they going to take their time on a site that hasn't really proven itself?
It's the same concept behind the public versus private beta. We got the ball rolling on some questions. Personally, I plan to start linking stuff in about a week or so. By then I estimate (call me out on it, if you want) around 200 questions. I suspect a number of them will have a variety of answers from different people (I want to give non-private beta users a chance to get some answers in there) and some questions that will really stand out.
We have 21 avid (200+, by A51's definition) users, which makes for 3 per day during the beta. I suspect this will continue to grow, although it will likely decelerate. We currently have the highest avid user per day of any of the betas, although I suspect this is a direct result of our young age as a site. But of the 27 of them, only 9 have gained an avid user per day on average. I think that puts us in a good position to "go down from."
In terms of questions per day, only 8 sites have a higher qpd than we do. Unlike avid users per day, this is not something that necessarily tapers off (unless there's a problem.) Typically this is something that at least stays the same, and usually grows.
Once we start to get indexed by search engines, we will in even better shape. The guideline is that "eventually 90% of the traffic will come from search engines." It's pretty safe to assume that, being only 12 hours in public beta, we're pretty much unknown to search engines. But even with that, we're at 203 visits per day. If 90% of traffic comes from engines, then it means that 203 represents 10% of expected visits, meaning when we're indexed, we're looking at over 2000 visits per day. That's well over their goal of 1500. It would also put us in 2nd for beta sites. Only 7 even have over 1000 visits per day.
So statistically, I think we're doing pretty good. I would like to see it grow; I love to help people and as I work (very hard against the grain) to get better QA principles at my firm like I've had at other firms, I hope to draw upon the community's knowledge and expertise, and share what I can. But if I'm going to draw out to people that trust my judgement, I want to make sure what I link to them is something that really makes them go "Damn, I wish this site was here when I was making
$(insert difficult QA/testing decision here)!"
On my Facebook (where I would probably share anything) I'm known for having few posts on my wall: quality over quantity. If it's not very funny, or very interesting, or very insightful, or just generally a high return on investment for the time it takes to look at it (which is even more so when I'm saying "Come join this community, take time out of your day on a regular basis to come here!") then I simply won't post it. Right now, the only thing that I really see worth linking on my wall is The Alan Test and that's already a week old on this site, meaning whoever clicks on it is unlikely to get engaged from the link I post (even if it is a good read for them and worth the time it takes them.) I'd really like the first few things at least that I put out there to be something my friends can start to give their experience and expertise on. Getting people engaged once is the easiest way to make them become part of the community.
The stack exchange advertising network often posts ads from the beta and released sites instead of real advertisements. Now, one could argue that's just because there's more users than there are advertisers, I wouldn't have a rebuttal because I just don't have the numbers. But what I do know is that as a direct result of those questions-as-advertisements, I've gotten partially involved in the Parenting, Math, Gaming, and Game-Dev sites.
We'll also get natural advertisement from moderators from other sites moving posts here as they pertain directly to the site. That will boost our incoming users a lot, plus the ones that do come in we already know are users of the stack exchange system, so there's a low barrier to entry, and they are at least open to the idea of long term discussion (so they'll stick around.)
Yes we need to advertise, but we have to make sure that what they get when they click here is what we want to show them. They won't listen to the advertisement twice. And the statistics we have are heavily in our favor already. It won't hurt to grow them, but it's already looking good.
Let's make sure the advertising we do is as effective as we can make it.