Glad to see another guy who likes Minecraft (and running a server) as much as me. The hardest part about having a server, you probably know by now, is getting it to grow.
The way I got a huge fanbase for mine was pretty devious lol. I found a new server ranking websites and added my server first, and mine got thousands of users as their ranking sites grew.
Basically goes like this:
Find a brand new server ranking website, something like this one: http://www.best-minecraft-servers.com/ (or another new one with similar features) would work nicely. The idea is to find new minecraft server ranking websites and list your server on those. The idea is that as their site grows, your server will be ranked at the top (since it's was added so early) and get thousands of users to signup with your server without having to pay a cent to advertise it.
The reason you submit on new server ranking websites instead of huge ones is simply the fact that you want yours to be added early (for the ranking bonus) and the fact that there's not much compeitition when the ranking site is new. With some luck you'll have a huge userbase within a few weeks.
Good luck hope it helps you! :)
I would highly recommend a more comprehensive package than just spamming your minecraft server IP everywhere. The service I use is on http://minebrowse.com/ in the "Get Sponsored" section, that uses email, social media advertising, and a general minecraft server audit. I have gotten quite a boost, attaining about ~50 players during peak hours.
I recommend big top lists for Minecraft servers like:
TopG Minecraft Servers
For start you could update your server frequently to keep it fresh in list, registration is free.
You can advertise your Minecraft Server for free.
There are many minecraft server lists but the following are some of my personal suggestions:
You'll want to get your players to vote on server lists because the higher you rank, the higher chance you have of getting more users. Enable votifier to reward your players for each vote.
Usually people advertise their Minecraft server on server lists for free such as those mentioned before:
TopG Minecraft Servers
But I found it valuable to go to newer free voting sites with much less competition, since it can be difficult to compete with all the big servers out there already. And plus, it will be easier for you to gain an early advantage on others when/if their site somehow blows up.
Here are some of the personal ones I use (with votifier enabled):
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