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How to market an indie app

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

What tips do you have for indie developers who haven't got the big budgets but got to reach out and find sales, users and an audience starting from zero?

Kaya Thomas: My number one tip is Twitter. Honestly, what I did when I launched We Read Too is, my main audience, right? For We Read too at the time when I was thinking, I was like, “Okay, my main audience is parents, librarians, teachers.” And so I looked at what the conversations were on Twitter and the different hashtags around education, around diversity and literature. I kind of made lists, like private list of all the kind of different accounts and things that I saw that were having these type of conversations. And I realized that the librarian community was really large on Twitter and they would have really robust conversations. So when We Read Too came out, I tweeted them, “hey, there's a new app that you might be interested in. That came out, that I've developed around diversity of literature, check it out.”

“Think about your audience for your app and thinking about kind of what conversations may be happening online about the problem that you're trying to solve with your app and how can you reach those conversations, be a part of those conversations and reach those people who are, who could potentially be interested in using your app.”

And the library community really helped me get it out there and market it. And then after that I definitely was luckily enough to have some press. Some people caught on that We Read Too was released and I got some articles in the press, which really helped. But even if you don't have articles in the press, I think what I mentioned here is, what is your audience for your app? Right?

Think about your audience for your app and thinking about kind of what conversations may be happening online about the problem that you're trying to solve with your app and how can you reach those conversations, be a part of those conversations and reach those people who are, who could potentially be interested in using your app. And I think reaching out to those people could go a long way because word of mouth surprisingly can go a long way when it comes to marketing, especially with indie apps.

Paul Hudson: Right, and actually the app has received a lot of recognition, hasn't it? It's done very, very well for itself.

“In 2018 I was featured in the App Store for the first time. And that was an incredible dream come true, as iOS developer, a really, really great experience.”

Kaya Thomas: I mean, I could not have imagined where We Read Too has gone, but in 2018 I was featured in the App Store for the first time. And that was an incredible dream come true, as iOS developer, a really, really great experience and that future definitely bumped it up a lot. And other features that I had on different kind of publication sites as well. And I really am appreciative and grateful for all of the press and highlights that We Read Too has gotten. And it's a free resource, right? And it will always be a free resource. So I'm hoping it can reach as many people as possible so that folks can find these type of books and expose young people to these type of books – that's really the point of the app.

“And so making sure you're talking to your audience to see what they really need from you and from the app, versus just making those assumptions, and talking to them and actually taking their feedback into account can go a long way and really help your app expand even more.”

I think it's a bit different if you're an indie developer and you're making your living off of your apps and your side projects, right? It's definitely going to be a bit different, how you approach marketing, you may want to invest more in ads and things like that because you're making a living off of this. It's a bit different for We Read Too, but I think it can go a long way if you actually reach out to your audience one-on-one and talk to people. I think that's one thing that's really important for us as developers as to do, is talk to the people who are using our app. I think we could be easy to make assumptions about what your audience wants or what they need. When I first released We Read Too, right? I had said that there was only two categories, children and young adult, because that's kind of how my mind perceived those categories.

And then after talking to librarians and teachers and parents, they were like, “actually, no, this is too broad. I actually need you to split out children, I need to know what are the picture books? What are the chapter books? What are the middle grade books, right? For the kids of the different ages.” But I didn't think of that, and I wouldn't have known that unless I actually talked to the people who are using the app. And so making sure you're talking to your audience to see what they really need from you and from the app, versus just making those assumptions, and talking to them and actually taking their feedback into account can go a long way and really help your app expand even more.

“I think I would love for iOS developers to get out there and lots of different people in their city besides just developers, because you never know how like simple app that may take you a week or two to make could really help someone or help a person in the day, especially if you're a more advanced developer.”

Paul Hudson: Certainly I found that teachers have their remarkable ear to the ground, and they're doing this thing every day with kids year in, year out, often a range of year groups and ages. They are the absolute subject matter experts for so many educational apps. And they're also super keen to support somebody else, to help out and provide feedback and provide the ideas and provide testing and more.

I've had some wonderful feedback teachers say, “hey, have you considered this or, or this, or try this, or here's some stuff, please use it.” Because they are already obviously working very, very hard just teaching, just trying to keep their actual job going and educating these children to the best of us they can, then go and say, they also make an iPad app or an iOS app is challenging.

For folks like you, who can say, “I’m going to make you all those things, you need all those books you wanted. I can put them in this free app, everyone benefits. I get nothing from it. It's all pro bono.” And it's a big win for the whole community.

Kaya Thomas: Honestly, I think I would love for iOS developers to get out there and lots of different people in their city besides just developers, because you never know how like simple app that may take you a week or two to make could really help someone or help a person in the day, especially if you're a more advanced developer.

If you're a beginner developer out in your community and talking to teachers or librarian or owners or, those folks may need the technology. And obviously like we've talked about, they might have the capacity to build up themselves. And so you, as a developer, you may want to help someone out in your community or help a group of people out in your community who could use a resource, a technology resource. And especially as a beginner, it might be able to give you that idea to launch your first app.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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