Update: new statistics added below
So you spent a long time building something and you think its worthy. You feel strongly that you’ve built something everyone can benefit from. So how do you improve awareness, generate usage and build a community around your product?
Well I’m not going to lie to you. I didn’t have a plan, so [Peek] was ready 2 weeks beforehand but I didn’t want to release it unless I could do it right.
So I had to do some research to see how the pros did it. I had to make a plan and I had to learn how to edit a video!
I started with a list:
- Make the README more approachable for newcomers
- Write a blog post – not a copy of the README
- Make a product page – on my website
- Make a video – including various output resolutions
- Make a GIF – useful where embedding isn’t possible and also allows viewers to see a preview/clickbait
- Publish on my Blog, Twitter, Instagram, Dribbble, Vimeo, etc…
The video was kind of obvious, its a visual medium to help understanding, you can expose a lot more functionality with a series of pictures than you ever could with a single screenshot or a limited number of characters.
I decided I wanted something that looked like it was made by Apple. That was obviously a little out of reach 🤪 but that was the goal anyway. So I set out to learn Apple Motion and Final Cut Pro X to edit the video myself. I also purchased an awesome backing track that I felt best fit the design, story, etc…
Finally, I exported a short preview version of the video as an animated GIF since not all sites allow embedding and besides, I wanted viewers to see something that would hopefully entice them immediately.
Less obvious were the small changes I made, including the tweaks to the README. I carefully ordered the content of that page and also added the animated GIF version of the Video since GitHub doesn’t allow embedding. I also made sure this GIF went at the top, so that mobile clients would also see it immediately.
Previously I had the changelog at the top of the file, which is useful if you’re working on the project or actively monitoring it. In reality however this was a waste of time, so I moved it to the end of the file.
I needed to target newcomers. So I moved the GIF up top and added a new entry that went over the top features and how to get started. I don’t have metrics on this, but I’d be surprised if this hasn’t helped people better understand what Peek is and how easy it is to start benefitting from its use.
The product page
Luckily I use Square Space for my hosting, so making a quick and dirty promo page was quite trivial. The tricky part was deciding what image I wanted to fill the page with, and which screenshot to use as the video placeholder.
In my case, I made the video first, then looked for frames that made sense. However in the end I decided to make a dedicated high-resolution mockup of Peek running on a device.
Previously when I released my open sourced projects, I’d basically just take a copy of the README and post that on my blog as well. This may seem productive at the time, but I’ve actually found it can be quite detrimental.
The point of the blog post – as well as the dedicated product page – is to drive traffic back to your website. This is super important to build a reputation and awareness of you as a developer, producing quality Open Source Software.
More importantly it will help you build a community as well. Some will contribute back to your projects, others will simply be users.
So I finally had all my marketing material, the product page was ready, blog post written – all that was left was to publish everything online for people to see. Plus I had to publish to Cocoapods 😬
Thanks to Twitter’s new 280 character limit, I was able to include all the top features in my Tweet as well. Here’s a snapshot of that first tweet:
Anatomy of the Tweet
I just wanted to pay special attention to this tweet, as I’ve spent a lot of time finessing the structure of my product releases when it comes to Twitter to improve my initial exposure and chance of interaction.
- Add a title, nice and short
- Make sure to include a link – I found near the top works well
- Include a short feature list – or short paragraph if that fits better
- Add appropriate hashtags – remember your target audience isn’t always other developers
- Most importantly a screenshot or GIF – I can’t stress this one enough!
So everything was ready, how did I manage the release?
I started by uploading the video, this can take time to process and become available so its worth preparing first.
The blog post and product page were already up, just not public yet so I could switch them on at any time.
I also prepare my tweet, instagram post, etc… to keep things consistent but platform specific where appropriate.
Once all the content was prepared, I pushed to Cocoapods and it was released!
Its been 5 days since the release and I’m happy to report:
After 3 days
- #1 – Swift projects
- #4 – Overall
- #7 – My Profile
- Over 1700 stars
- 4 new PRs, 57 Forks
After 5 days
- #1 – Swift projects
- #4 – Overall
- #3 – My Profile
- Over 2000 stars
- 11 new PRs, 72 Forks
- Over 4000 unique visitors on day 1
- ~400 daily since
After 3 days
- Over 3000 views so far
After 5 days
- Over 4000 views so far
- Peek was also featured in iOSDevWeekly for the second time (plus a direct mention on the following Tuesday)
- Promoted across various other channels and newsletters/lists
- A few new followers on Twitter and GitHub
Overall I’d say it been a really exciting 5 days. I’m not one of the iOS Elite and I’m not speaking at any events (although I’m interested in doing so). All of that aside, I’ve been able to make a simple tool and get people to notice.
I hope this post gets you a little more excited about marketing your own apps and hopefully gives you some insights into how you can improve awareness of your own projects.
If you’d like to discuss more, ask questions or make suggestions for my next big release, please get in touch or comment below.