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There have been several proposals that I think would be attractive to people in my social network and I'd like to promote them.

I'm confident if they got a chance to use some of the sites that are still in the proposal phase they would become regular visitors. However, most of them have no experience with the Stack Exchange platform or understand the value it adds over any given message forum site. I just don't see them registering and following a proposal on Area51. Their interest is in the proposed topic, not the whole meta-Stack Exchange community.

Perhaps it would be beneficial to lower the bar for a site making it to the beta phase in terms of commitments? Even if it means that sites are more likely to emerge and die, what's the real harm? Essentially, it would be much easier to draw traffic to these sites if people could actually see them and the value of the platform than simply vote on a proposal.

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    I agree: I was trying to set up a site for a very specific group of highly skilled practitioners. While I believe the site could become a popular "go-to" for people in the field, it first has to get off the ground. Because these people are not yet involved in StackExchange, it's very hard to get things started. If we could have a way for nonmembers to vote, or a more interesting pre-Beta site, we have a better chance of attracting more members. – LN6595 Feb 15 '15 at 23:07
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While I absolutely agree with what Robert said in his answer, I'd like to give some attention to the title question: "How can we attract [people not already part of Stack Exchange] to follow site proposals?"

This is something we've dealt with on both Parenting and Writers, which aren't as tech-oriented as other Stack sites. I'll try to write a more complete guide when time permits, but some basic strategies are:

Create a page, blog post, etc. somewhere that you can link people to with a long-form explanation of what you want the community to be -- merge the stack philosophy (answers, not discussion, building a lasting reference, etc.) with your site's specific philosophy (helping parents earn from the experience of others, or whatever you proposal is about) so that newbies don't have to understand stack exchange to understand your proposal, and end with action items -- specifically tell visitors what it means to follow, vote questions, commit, and participate in beta, and what they should be doing now to support the site.

Since people who aren't already part of stack probably won't be checking back regularly, create an easy way to keep them up to date -- a mailing list they can sign up for to get occasional (lower volume is better) email updates, create a topic for it (if allowed) in a related venue where you are promoting the site, or put an RSS feed on your blog that's a little more straightforward than what area51 currently has.

Be easy to reach when people have questions.

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The bar to get a site created is already low enough to create sites that occasionally fail, so there's no need to lower it further. The real harm of creating sites that are more likely to fail is the damage it does to the confidence people have in creating FUTURE sites.

There are very real people putting their time and hard-earned knowledge into these sites. If we continually throw away their work when a site does not work out, they will have little incentive to take the chance on building sites that come thereafter. Without those early adopters, we have no site: The "Empty Restaurant" Syndrome.

All we ask is that a site have sufficient support from a group of dedicated users before we create it. The days of "Let's create a bunch of sites to see what works" with a 99.6% failure rate are long gone.

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