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This question is related to Bob's idea to offer free tools in some kind of contest in order to help spread word of the site and gain more followers.

I originally suggested talking to the SE team about running a Google Adwords campaign. However, such a plan must be supplemented with something a bit more organic.

The other idea is to start a blog, which unlike Adwords, is fairly low cost. StackExchange uses Wordpress to host these, and they're fairly easy to setup. The challenge is making sure there is enough authorship on the blog to keep it up to date, as a blog with no activity provides no benefit to the site.

A blog would be the perfect place to announce contests and run occasional Adwords ads targeting certain keywords, but for sustained growth, new content must be added to the blog to attract and keep readers coming back.

So, here are my questions:

  • What are some good "free tools"? Ideally, they shouldn't be expensive, and ideally, they should be something that every mechanic can use.

  • Would "free tools" attract professionals or just enthusiasts? If it's just enthusiasts, are we okay with that?

  • What are some good Google Adwords keywords to target? Should this be a question we answer later?

  • Who would be interested in posting a blog article once per week/month, etc? Is this a good platform for publicly announcing a contest (or some other relevant information) about free tools. How many volunteers would be enough to consider this sustainable?

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What are some good "free tools"? Ideally, they shouldn't be expensive, and ideally, they should be something that every mechanic can use.

I nominate this question as a reasonable source for ideas:

Car enthusiast beginner tool kit

Some of those tools are super cheap, some are more expensive. All of them are relevant.

Would "free tools" attract professionals or just enthusiasts? If it's just enthusiasts, are we okay with that?

I am firmly of the belief that this is our target demographic: Grassroots Motorsports

The reality is the a professional mechanic already working in an equipped shop isn't going to be drawn in by this sort of offer. However, there are zillions of people all across the world who are making do with what they can afford. Their needs could range anywhere to a fresh box of gloves (I'm personally almost out) to a lightweight jack that they can throw in the back of the car with the autocross tires.

Honestly: is there any one of us who already has too many socket sets? How about ratchet wrenches? Ramps? I know that my needs / desires far exceed my available garage space.

What are some good Google Adwords keywords to target? Should this be a question we answer later?

I think we need to think about our goals and our limits first. That will help to design our approach.

Who would be interested in posting a blog article once per week/month, etc? Is this a good platform for publicly announcing a contest (or some other relevant information) about free tools. How many volunteers would be enough to consider this sustainable?

Well, considering the blog was my idea, I have to commit to doing at least some work there.

However, the best path I've seen is the meta site: e.g., Gaming Meta. Admittedly, there's a lot of chatter on there but the key points do appear in the community bulletin box on the right of Gaming.

In terms of actual honey to attract the bees, check out the requirements for this free game give-away that they held:

Users with at least 500 reputation are eligible to apply. Fill out a form specifying one game of your choice of new or upcoming games for the current big platforms. Up to 20 users will be selected from this pool randomly...

500 is a pretty significant number but it's not unreasonable (in a later contest, it was only 300). You'd have to participate in the site in a pretty significant fashion before you'd make the minimal qualifications.

Now, this contest was much more aggressive with bigger prizes and a more open budget. I don't think we'd go there any time in the near future.

Full disclosure: I'm pressing pretty hard for this idea because I am personally interested in free tools. I think I'm squarely in the prosumer demographic that we want to pursue. I know that there are external channels where I could promote this sort of thing. I've had good luck with pushing concepts with the side-story of "This could be great for you but, if you're not interested, that's fine. I'll take all the free tools for myself...." ;-)

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    Hi Bob, the demographic sounds great to me. It consists of people who most likely know what they're doing, but don't do this sort of thing for a living. +1 on that. As for the rep requirement, I was thinking maybe it should be based on rep earned per month/quarter/period. Take me for instance, I have 900+ rep but I don't think I've done much here in awhile in terms of Q&A, so would it be fair for me to enter? Although I hate to take myself out of the running, that might be something to consider ;) – jmort253 Jun 4 '12 at 22:25
  • @jmort253, if you're trying to add new people, you make it an entry criteria. Once you're over the line, you're eligible for all similar contests. The Diablo 3 Acts contest was a different one: do X and qualify for Y. If you want Z, you need to do quite a lot more. – Bob Cross Jun 5 '12 at 3:15
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    Fair enough, I just thought I had to play devils advocate as we could end up only awarding prizes to people who are already here ;) While that's not necessarily a bad thing, I thought it would be worth bringing up. – jmort253 Jun 5 '12 at 3:17

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