Sorry for the “snake oil” headline. At least I didn’t include any statement about growing one’s extremities in 24 hours. Anyway. A couple of days ago, there was a lot of back and forth in the comments on Pandoralive (yeah, as surprising as it seems, there are readers on this blog!) regarding my initial comment “developers should spend some time marketing their stuff if they spend so much time creating it initially.” While I will not delve here into WHY I think this way, I wanted to throw out in the wild a few suggestions on how to do a better job at promoting your programs when you release them… or even before releasing them.
This is not a set of rules, but what seems like common sense to me. Feel free to follow them if they make sense to you as well. By the way, this is valid for almost everything you do in life, not just promoting applications.
1. Build expectations.
Very simple thing, really, but if you are working on something, why don’t you say it? Write a quick post on the boards, throw in one screenshot, and explain the benefit of what you are building. This worked very well for the Tournament Hub, with Pmprog showing even videos of the prototype before it was released. Very good results.
2. Show that you care.
Chances are that, when you communicate about your product, people will react. They might comment or ask for new features. Who knows. Don’t stay silent. Jump in, say “thank you”, say what you can do and what you cannot. Being transparent is positive, since it creates a sphere of trust around you. You can see my own example around the PandoraClock thread. It’s a simple alarm clock program but it received many answers and comments, to which I tried to react and answer as much as possible.
3. Get things right when you release. Fun-da-men-tal.
I believe PtitSeb is a good example to follow, even though he could still do things better. When you release something in the repo, put info in there! A long description of what the program does (just get it from the website if it’s a port, or make your own if it’s your creation), put some screenshots (with snapsnaptimer it’s really easy, seriously), put additional information about the build (what you did between changes) and so on, and follow up with a release post on the boards, asking for feedback! But most importantly, do not make the documentation obscure. So many times I see stuff on the repo where you have to GUESS how to install the stuff to make it work. I mean, seriously? Why don’t you consider that the guy out there with his Pandora probably DOES NOT KNOW how it is supposed to work? Unless you want to punish him with several hours of googling or begging for instructions on the boards, please make it clear, and crystal-clear.
4. Use the press to your advantage!
Well there’s not much press around the Pandora apart from Pandoralive, but use it! Usually I am the one to reach porters or authors to ask them to talk about their creation, but it does not have to be only this way. You can also reach Pandoralive and tell us that you want to talk about your software and make a post about it. And you know what? We’ll probably say yes, if you have something interesting to say about it. And you probably do, right?
5. Test your stuff. Be professional.
It does not give a good impression when you download something and it does not work. You have probably experienced this before. You first reaction would be “what the CRAP is this?” and you would be right. It’s disappointing. Same for PNDs. Users download stuff… and if it does not work, you may get a single star in the repo, marking your application with a stain forever. Whereas it would be so easy to send your PND to a couple of people around on the Pandora boards (via PM) and ensure it works as intended. Or you could, again, reach us at Pandoralive, and we’ll give your closed beta release a go and give you feedback. As a counter example, I’d take The Tournament Hub here again. Many issues of the initial public release could have been avoided with a closed beta release to a few people.
In the end things went well and bugs were ironed out, but the issue with releasing something HIGHLY expected with not enough testing is a flood of comments/feedback that you may not be ready for. So if you release something that’s going to be high profile, test it in small committee before. You will save yourself a lot of pain and pressure.
6. Keep the interest up
For your application to be successful, keep working on it. Make new releases. Take in account the feedback you receive as much as possible. Even if you do not have much time, there are always small things you can do to improve progressively. Exophase does a pretty good job at that, on DraStic for example, where he used several recommendations from users and implemented them in subsequent versions. But it does not have to be all about updates and development work. If your application or port can do many things, show people HOW to use it. Make a post about one interesting usage, or give an example. Make a tutorial or something. Draw attention to it. Keep talking about it.
7. Share your knowledge. Set the example.
It’s not just about being successful at marketing a single application. In the end it’s about how you create your own image in the broader community sense. One way to do that is to help other people. There are many young porters on the Pandora who may find it hard at the beginning to create or port something. If you have been working on the Pandora for a while there’s a lot you probably know, as a developer, that can help newcomers. Don’t keep it for yourself. Spend some time on the IRC channel if you can.
Check the development boards and see if you can provide tips or solve issues. Many developers on the Pandora do that and without them I would never have been able to port or package a PND in the first place. Look everything I have achieved now, one year after joining the Pandora community? You never know how far giving a hand will go. If you help/coach a beginner, you will probably benefit from it in the end, too, once that person releases something. It goes both ways.
And don’t forget the saying “treat others like you’d like to be treated”. You want to have feedback on your app? Provide feedback on others’. You want to have ratings on the repo? Start by rating others’ programs too. You want people to test your stuff? Test what they do as well. Of course you cannot (and I certainly cannot) test everything that comes out. But spend a few minutes here and there when you have free time instead of wasting your brain watching TV or doing something useless with your day.
Ok, I’m done with preaching today. I hope this is useful, even if you only pick up one thing out of it.
Don’t hesitate to share your own stories and experiments in the comments, I am pretty sure there’s a lot to be said on the subject.