Indie App PR: Keeping Control of Your Tone
May 30, 2013 01:22

I've been updating my blog and discovered this in the drafts folder. It's part 3 of a series I did a few years ago about "Indie App PR", based on what I learned in promoting and supporting Remembary: The Connected Diary. Here's Part 1, How to Handle an App Disaster and Part 2, Keeping On Top of User Feedback.

It's natural to have a bad reaction to negative comments or criticism, especially in a crisis situation where you're already feeling stressed and defensive. It's almost always a bad idea to shoot knee-jerk bile back at people - no matter how much they may deserve it. If they have valid complaints, then they'll be upset by your comments; if they're trolls, then harsh feedback will only encourage them. No matter who they are, remember that they can write anything they want in their reviews on your App Store page. They also likely have Twitter accounts and networks of friends.

Writing on-message, well toned responses to colourful criticism is some of the most difficult writing I've done. Here are some pointers:

  • Assume they have real concerns. Look at things from their point of view, and try to see where they're coming from. Most people aren't just mean for no reason - especially not to honest small-time iPad apps from independent developers.
  • Keep on the positive. Pick out the feedback that you think is actually useful and concentrate on that.
  • Don't be afraid to admit a mistake or shortcoming. Admitting a mistake is a good way of disarming trolls, who are mostly just looking for a fight.
  • Promise to improve. People usually understand that you only have limited resources and that good software is constantly improving. Look at how limited the original iPhone was when it first came out: no custom apps, really slow cellular network, limited functionality - and compare that to what it's like now. This of course only works if you are working on improvements.
  • Ignore the really bad stuff. If a piece of feedback is just a hateful rant with nothing good in it, just ignore it and move on. If the feedback is a mix of useful and nasty, pretend the nasty parts weren't there, and engage with the useful stuff.
  • If you just must respond to nasty criticism, do so with patience and/or humour. Congratulate particularly colourful or witty turns of phrase. A friend of mine often cools down overheated online language with "Do you need a hug?"

It's amazing how much a positive response can completely change the tone of a commenter or critic. Look at this set of comments and replies to the AppAdvice article to see how I managed to turn things around (with only a bit of snark). The initial post from "Brett" is mostly harsh criticism, but by the third reply he has admitted that he has ditched MaxJournal for Remembary.

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