The Art of Promoting Your App on the Web: How Blogs Work
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Thinking about marketing your product? Prepare for a whirlwind. You’re about to enter an ADHD world that’s limited on attention span and desperate for new and exciting hotness. You’ve got to be sharp, focused, and exactly on point, because your opportunity to present yourself is even more fleeting than you might imagine.
Each and every blogger alive is tragically short on time. Bloggers always have too much mail to get through and too little time to give each product the attention it deserves. This is the core truth about our work lives. You’ll need to catch a blogger’s interest in just a few seconds.
That tiny interval of time when you pass across that blogger’s radar is critical. It’s the one chance you have to make that first impression and sell yourself and your product. Are you ready for that moment? For that second?
We bloggers are dying to find the product that we’re going to absolutely love. A blogger’s golden chalice is represented, for example, by an app that stays on our phone and is used constantly, or by the must-have accessory that makes our lives easier and more fun. It’s the t-shirt that everyone wants to buy or the Etsy item that redefines a whole market space.
Bloggers love to discover and then gush about that discovery. That passion is what blogging is all about.
A Typical Day at a Major Blog
We work at a major tech blog, part of AOL’s network. Every month, we deal with millions of readers, with all the joys and headaches that involves. Being a blogger is an amazing experience. It allows you to network with all kinds of readers on a scale that personal blogging can’t. We connect, we analyze, we offer opinions, we create reviews. It’s a privilege for all of us and an unparalleled opportunity, but it’s one that demands a lot from the blogger. Blogging is not a low-stress occupation.
Our typical day at The Unofficial Apple Weblog (http://www.tuaw.com/tag/tuawtvlive) (see Figure 1-1) begins like this. We grab breakfast, arm ourselves with steaming hot cups of coffee or cans of Mountain Dew, and sit down to sort through the press releases that arrived during the night. That sounds like a pretty easy way to start the day, right?
Figure 1-1 Steve and Erica blog at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, www.tuaw.com.
Wrong. At TUAW and most of the other large tech blogs, we’re inundated every day of the week with a flood of press releases. It’s not just a dozen or so; in a typical weekday, we look at well over a hundred PR blasts, all of which are trying to get us excited about a specific app or accessory. But, that’s just the start.
Press releases arrive from a variety of sources, including individual companies and distribution services, like PRMac (http://prmac.com/) and PRWeb (http://www.prweb.com/). Many developers work on a shoestring. They don’t have the money to spend on these press release services, which distribute to hundreds of news outlets.
Instead, most Apple developers pick a target group of blogs (usually those like TUAW with a huge readership) and email them a direct pitch. Besides TUAW, popular Apple review sites include macworld.com, macrumors.com, arstechnica.com, 9to5mac.com, engadget.com, theverge.com, imore.com, mactech.com, macobserver.com, ilounge.com, macstories.com, appleinsider.com, and cultofmac.com, among many others.
But, pitching isn’t limited to just our world. Product developers should build their own roster of interest-related blogs. For example, many Etsy sellers and deviantArt artists work with sites like io9.com, neatorama.com, themarysue.com, blastr.com, geeksofdoom.com, and laughingsquid.com. Political writers might focus on getting their books mentioned on salon.com, dailykos.com, instapundit.com, and so forth.
Email pitches transform our morning flood into a roaring torrent of breathless descriptions of new, unique, and absolutely amazing apps and accessories. This raging stream continues throughout the workday.
Sadly, most products aren’t new or unique. Press releases are often poorly written. They flicker in front of our glazed eyes for only a moment before we click the button that sends the message to trash. Add in the notices from some developers who find it necessary to send out full press releases for every miniscule version update to their apps, and it’s easy to see why we’re overwhelmed.
Our goal is not to depress you, but the honest truth is that out of every hundred PR blasts we see, at most, one or two products get reviewed. Most press releases get a look over and then move straight into trash. A very low percentage of these requests continue on to posts on our site.
For developers, exposure on major websites provides an essential component of business success, even if it’s not the complete answer to that success. Even a glowing review on TUAW or another major website cannot guarantee your app a spot in the New & Noteworthy category on the top of the iTunes App Store or create a bestseller on Amazon.
Regardless, it always helps developers to place their product in front of a large audience. We often hear from developers who say that they received a huge bounce in sales from a single post on TUAW. We call it the TUAWlanche effect, and we’re delighted when products we’ve championed find their audience and achieve success.
How do you find minor blogs as well as the big name ones? Consider hopping into iTunes or Amazon, surveying competing products, and discovering where their pull quotes from good reviews originated.
At the same time, weigh the time and effort against returns. TUAW blogger Kelly Guimont points out, getting the word out to every small blog possible might take more time than you anticipate and, in the end, you “find out that both their readers already bought your product. You could have spent that time crafting a glorious pitch for Engadget instead.”