I have written a lot of code. I have worked for several companies and written loads of code for them, but most times I am not even permitted to disclose what I was working on. I have a few projects that has seen some few interests, in sourceforge and on github, personal open source projects, but not at a scale I would really call successful.
I have also written a few web apps (faffies.com, unotifier.com, statusforsale, gridtext, jaara, webatter). Of all these I still support only the first two, the remaining I have either discontinued or have not put any work into them for over a year.
I have also written a few mobile apps, blackberry and j2me (expensetracker, faffies, king solomon’s mines, RimSMS etc). None of those ever see light of day, in terms of downloads. The only one I still support is expensetracker and I have not added any new feature in over a year.
For android, I have written a few also (ICE, JungleEscape, ChatRevolver). I never get to finish JungleEscape. But both ICE and ChatRevolver are still kind of active. Even at that, both combined did not even crossed the 100 downloads mark.
But my luck is about to turn. I have an app that has 35, 000 downloads in 4 months. Yes you read that right. And unlike faffies and the others, I have not paid a dime in advertisement!! How I did it??
First, my experience has shown me that Nigeria has a very high Blackberry user base, so I should put more effort in making the blackberry app if I am going to sell in the Nigerian market. So I made an app with local contents and put it on the blackberry app store. The first few weeks was boring, trickle of downloads per day, even zero on some days.
Next, I created a twitter account for the app. So that I can tweet @ the people I post their contents and hopefully I will get a retweet. Some of them have hundreds of thousands of followers.
Getting contents is hard, so I have foot soldiers. I pay them a token to help get the contents. At first I have 4 of them, but as we have loads and loads of contents, I let three of them go and I have only 1 for now.
Next I tried to forge a partnership with some of the content owners. So that they can retweet me and instead of me getting the contents myself, they can give me the contents themselves, before it gets to the public.
Next, I started attending events where I know my content providers will also be. It afford me time to meet so many of them and show them my app. I know it is something that has not been done before and immediately I show some of them, they were endeared to it.
By this time, we are 1 month since release and I have about 1K downloads already, that number is huge for me, and I celebrated it big. I even rewarded some of the people that downloaded with free airtime (I get some airtime for free every month in my workplace).
One day, I stumbled upon two facebook groups where people share their blackberry pins. I decided to get a new blackberry for the app, and use it to invite the people on that group and chat with them one on one, telling them about the app. I also send broadcasts once in a while. This is where things began to get interesting.
At first I sit by my computer and invite the people from that group one after the other. it was slow work and painful as hell. There’s no way to bulk invite people to your blackberry messenger. The only alternative is write a code that can do it. In under an hour, I wrote another BB app, I call it Invitator. It’s simple, give it a comma separated list of bb pins and it will send them an invite using your bb pin.
The next job is sit down and harvest the pins. It was easier than I thought and after a few days I have harvested over 1K pins. I chat with each and every one that accept the invite. It was a painstakingly boring job for a programmer. But I did it anyway. Within a month after I started this exercise, we had another 5K downloads.
All these while, I have not advertised on facebook or yahoo or google like I would have normally done. A lot of people even advised I do it, but I was head strong. I wanted to see what I can do without adverts. Because of the increase in downloads, reviews and comments and RFEs starting pouring in. I tried my best to implement some of the features people are requesting and downloads are soaring. I couldn’t do much because I have a day job and only have the nights and weekends to work on the app. People starting telling their friends about the new cool app.
And here we are, four months down the line, I have 35K downloads, and for the first time, I feel what having a successful app is like. It’s a feeling of joy, that people find pleasure in your work, and actually use it. On a daily basis now, we have over 5K calls to the server from within the app and about 500 downloads per day on a bad day.
I know you have been dying to know what the app is all about. It is called NaijaLyricsWiki. It is an app that provides a wiki like functionality for lyrics of Nigerian songs. You can also download the song you are viewing the lyrics, you can share lyrics on facebook or send to a friend. And finally you can get latest entertainment news and gists from the app. If you have a blackberry, you can download from the app store. If you use an android device, you can download from getjar.com. Either blackberry or Android, you can download directly from http://bit.ly/nlwmobile. The website is http://naijalyricswiki.org