My Year of "Hits" Part 1: Remembary Rises (and Stumbles)
Feb 04, 2014 01:25

Andrew Burke presenting 'My Year of Hits' at PodCampHalifax 2012

This is a transcript and slides of my PodCamp Halifax 2012 presentation. 2011 was a pretty eventful year for me, and this talk covered some of the lessons I learned. Even if they’re long overdue, I think the stories are still worth telling. I didn’t have presenter notes - I just talked off of the slides - so I’ve had to remember or at least reconstruct what I said. If anybody was there and remembers things differently, please let me know!


2011 was a big year for me. I had created my first real “product”, an iOS diary app called "Remembary", in late 2010, and through an unlikely series of events it finally got some traction in early 2011. Also, halfway through the year I started a site called "starshipsstarthere.ca" which managed to go viral later in the year. In both of these cases I learned a lot about products, promotion, and how the internet works.

So for this talk, I’ll (1) tell some hopefully fun stories, (2) show some real-world numbers for moderate success in the App Store, and (3) share some random tips and advice from my experiences.

Remembary

Almost exactly a year ago, I gave a talk at PodCamp 2011 about the things I had learned in building and promoting my iOS app Remembary. While I enjoyed talking about my experiences, the talk couldn’t help but be a little bit sad. Remembary hadn’t seen a lot of sales, and hadn’t received much attention.

At the end of December 2010, I had made a big push in Google AdWords and Facebook Ads, in the end spending several thousand dollars on them. The peak of this spending was in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, since I figured a lot of people would be getting iPads under the tree, and many people start writing diaries in the New Year. The peak of my spending, several hundred dollars a day for several days, was right around New Year’s. Here you can see the results:

Remembary's sales over Holiday Season 2010-2011

As you can see, in my highest period of spending, I sold nothing at all.

This set the somewhat sad background mood for my talk and some related blog posts.

But I still found the app itself useful, and I managed to end the talk ended in an upbeat note. I stopped doing AdWords, but didn't stop thinking about the app and figuring out how to promote it.

Remembary Rises

Then something funny happened. Through some Google searching, I discovered an article in the top app review site AppAdvice: "Amazing iPad Journal Apps".

AppAdvice Diaries Overview

This article had come out before Remembary, but the author complained about a number of things that these diaries were missing but that Remembary actually had. So I decided to add a comment at the bottom, talking about Remembary.

My comment at AppAdvice

Later that day I got an email from the author of the article asking for a promo code. So I sent him one and then went back to work on a client project. I went for some after-work drinks and didn't check my email for several hours. When I did finally check on my phone, I discovered a surprising number of emails arriving about Remembary.

I rushed home to figure out why the sudden interest, and discovered this:

Great review for Remembary in AppAdvice

AppAdvice is one of the most influential app review sites out there, and Remembary had just scored a rave review. App Store sales figures only come out once a day, so I had a sleepless night waiting for the numbers to arrive. I had no idea what to expect. Would I wake up a rich man? Well, not exactly, but it was certainly an improvement:

Sales spike for Remembary

In fact Remembary made more money in the two days after that article was posted than in its entire previous lifetime.

So, there were two big lessons I learned from this experience:

Lesson: A Good Review In AppAdvice Can Really Help

The app had received small notices in less significant sites, and I had done a lot of my own social media promotion, and of course spent a lot of money on AdWords, but one strong review changed the entire fortunes of the app.

Lesson: Comments Are Content Too

But that review wouldn't have happened if I hadn't added that comment to the article. I'm a big believer in "don't read the comments" but clearly they can have an impact if targeted properly. I continued to get traffic to the remembary.com website from that comment for months and months after I posted it. It's right underneath the main content of the article, which makes it practically a continuation of it.

But a few days later, I learned another lesson - a really important lesson that I've seen repeated over and over again.

If you look at the sales results I posted above, you can see the days before the article I sold 2 copies, then 1 copy, then 2 again. The review triggered a big spike with about 120 sales a day for two days.

But then the sales went right back down to the single digits.

Lesson: Fame is Fleeting, Especially on the Internet

The internet is famous for the speed of its "virality", spreading fame (and traffic and sales) almost instantly. The flip side of this is that all of this attention goes away almost as quickly. If you're doing things online, you should be aware of this. This effect is of course true in the "real world" as well, but it's somewhat slower.

One other thing to keep in mind, though: even if a fame spike only lasts a day or two, usually the new baseline of attention is a bit higher than it was before. You'll notice in the table above that while the sales went back down, they were well above the 0 to 1 a day from before.

Remembary Stumbles

I had been clued in to the rave review by the large number of support emails that were filling my inbox. It turns out that this is because the suddenly larger user base had discovered a bug in the app. It was the worst kind of bug for a diary app, one that deleted people's diary entries. But it wasn't a bug that I could reproduce. It was a nightmare!

I've already written a lot about this situation, so instead of repeating it all here, I'll just include a link to the blog post that covers everything.

Indie App Crisis PR

In the previous months, I had learned a lot about building and promoting an app - and now I had a crash course in Crisis PR. One of my earliest clients back when I started tech consulting had been a Crisis PR consultancy, and I tried to remember as much as possible from the various Word docs and PowerPoint presentations I had done for them.

I wrote several blog posts about this too, but the main theme is that while your instinct may be to deny things and run away, it's best to face problems head-on and admit them up front. People are used to complaining to aggressively faceless corporations, and often warm up once they realize they're actually dealing with a human being - especially one who responds quickly and honestly.

Lesson: Don't run from blame. Face up to problems, apologize, and work to be better.

Lesson: Replying honestly to people who complain to you can turn them into strong supporters.

My biggest problem, though, was complaints on the App Store. App Store reviews have a big impact on sales and whether Apple will consider your app to be featured, but they're also a favourite place for people to complain about your app. Unfortunately, there's no way to respond to people on the app store, and no other way to contact them. One trick I did figure out, though: many people will use the same nickname in multiple places, so it's worth checking for their App Store name in Twitter, or even doing a Google search for it. It's surprising how many people can be found that way - although it's a good idea to be very careful in your wording when contacting them so they don't freak out.

Lesson: App Store reviewers often have the same name on Twitter

Continue to Part 2 to see what happened after Remembary got back on its feet, and what it's like to be a big deal in Malta.

Other Blog Posts
The Diary Diaries: Fixing Remembary's Facebook Connection Special Leap Day Edition of "Some Weird Things About Time" What's Up With Remembary Can't get pg_dump To Work Now That Heroku Has Upgraded Postgresql to 9.4? The Best Thing I Ever Did To Promote My App If You Build It, They WON'T Come #deployaday, My Big Hairy Plan for 2015 Extracting Plain Text from an NSAttributedString My Year of "Hits" Part 2: Remembary Rolling My Year of "Hits" Part 1: Remembary Rises (and Stumbles) Handy Little Test Method to Check for Translations in Rails Apps My Suddenly Slow-Waking MacBook Air Indie App PR: Keeping Control of Your Tone A Quick Note on 'clone' in Rails 3.2 My eBook Apps 2: iOS, JavaScript, and Ruby My eBook Apps 1: Introduction Quick Tip: No Sound on Mountain Lion My Upcoming Talk at PodcampHFX 2012: My Year of "Hits" starshipsstarthere.ca: Building at the Speed of Funny Screencast Tips Remembary's Cool New Picture Support Indie App PR 2: Keeping On Top Of User Feedback Indie App PR 1: How to Handle an App Disaster Giles Bowkett Diary Project 2 Remembary Video Congratulations! Welcome to Your Nightmare! How My iPad App Remembary Took Off Why You Should Have an App in the App Store (Even If You Probably Won't Make Any Money) PodCampHFX Remembary Presentation - Part 3 How I Used MailChimp Autoresponders to Promote Remembary PodCampHFX Remembary Presentation Part 2 PodCampHFX Remembary Presentation Part 1 Why AdWords Ads Don't Work for iPad Apps Remembary is Sponsoring PodcampHFX Why Can't I Resize my Views in Interface Builder? Momento and Remembary Concerning Remembary iPad-Friendly eBooks of Gracian's Art of Worldly Wisdom Project Report: PTOS2 A Quick Note on Encryption We're all LUsers Thoughts on HAML Friday Afternoon Hack - Getting Beyond the Basics Halifax Friday Hack and Back to Basics Quote from Wil Shipley FutureRuby Make Web Not War Busy Week I: Toronto Ruby Job Fair Employment.nil - the Toronto Ruby Job Fair Code Count: Ruby on Rails vs. C#/ASP.NET A Brief Note on Twitter The Hub Halifax and Mobile Tech for Social Change Deep Thoughts on Microsoft From The Accordion Guy The Two Kinds of Defensive Programming Presentation - Fixing Careerious: From C#/.NET to Ruby on Rails Enterprise! Presenting at Ruby on Rails Project Night - May 7th New Name and New Look for Careerious/Clearfit FutureRuby and More From Unspace Health Tips for Programmers This tables meme won't die Careerious - Ruby and Rails vs. C#/.NET Yeah I Use Tables For Layout, So Sue Me The Different Kinds of Done Giles Bowkett's RubyFringe presentation OfficeTime: Great Time-Tracking App for OS X Back With A New Look Non-DRY Feed torontorb Keeping Your Sanity With The Command Design Pattern shindigital Is All Grown Up! (according to the spambots) Startup Stars? I'm so bored! The Magic Words for RMagick Jennifer from Operations You see? Naming is HARD Business Software as Process Documentation Deployment note: 'execve failed' Steve Jobs on Market Research Why Canada Is Better for Entrepreneurs "Program first and blog second" Toronto Tech Collage The MacBook Air Is A Roadster RubyFringe! Quote of the Week: Steve Yegge Starting Up: Cards Great design tool: browsershots.org Starting Up: The Logo Quotes Of The Day: Hedge Fund Interview TSOT Ruby / Rails Presentation Night - Part 1 Moneyworks: Accounting Software for Canadians on OS X Starting Up: The Name Nice logo, but why is your site so bland? Welcome to shindigital.com