How the AR app I made in my bedroom went viral worldwide
I released the world first AR Client for Twitter called TweetReality and it got 150+ news articles in 20+ countries. It was viral in India, China, USA, Russia, Japan and Iran. It was also featured 5 times on TV in the USA, Thailand and Argentina including FoxNews. It also got 20,000+ downloads in the first week and 600+ upvotes on ProductHunt. Everything started in my bedroom and I am going to tell you all my secrets.
Firstly, I am a senior student in Computer Science and Mathematics, also self-taught iOS developer for 3 years and this is my 6th app on the AppStore.
I worked previously as an intern this summer at Nokia Health in Paris.
🔑 Making something futuristic that no one ever made.
I was in Shanghai early September to see my friends and get inspirations from all the innovations going on in China. Apple’s Augmented Reality technology was unveiled this summer so that was a starting point to get in a new field but I was not finding any interesting idea.
What changed my mind was when a friend of mine told me to get into AI right now if I wanted to, because it’s a brand new field and there are very few competitors. I ended up not getting into AI but as AR is growing too, I decided to go into this other direction. While I was there, I started reading about all the possibilities with Apple’s ARKit and learnt everything I could about it. Then I succeeded to think outside the box.
🔑 Why does Apple do AR? Finding the why.
The answer is glasses. Even if the technology is only compatible with iPhone and iPad at the moment, it’s just a 3D world with a camera inside, this technology is ready for the upcoming AR Glasses. Then I inspired myself from movies where we see holographic screens like in Avatar or Minority Report. As I also love Twitter, I thought this was a great information based format to interact with informations, that’s how it all started.
🔑 Be the first or be the best.
I checked everywhere, no one did this before, I had only my computer, an idea and no competitor. I had to get back to university a week later, had to learn AR and put this out to the world as soon as possible.My advantage was that no one ever made an AR Twitter Client and my worst nightmare was that someone does the same or better.
🔑 Making it happen asap.
Then for the past 3 months, I spent about 300 hours working very hard all the time I could, the evening, the weekend, I had to hurry. So timing was definitely a key and I was the only one on board.
About AR, the most important value is UX. Far from anything else, making something that is made to be natural, human based and just simple is so important. Even if it is very long to build an AR app, it is as important to polish every aspect of the user experience, like the animations and step-by-step tutorials. I spent a lot of time working on these, let some friends try it and see if they understood well. Having techy and non-techy people feedbacks is precious (thank you grandma!). Overall, UX is important because people have very little attention nowadays, so the app requires to be quick, easy to use and beautiful.
Release & Marketing
I would say that 90% of the success of your release is due to the quality of your product, 8% the marketing of it, 2% luck.
If you’re doing AR, a quick video advertising your product is very important. AR is very visual so it can really gives a great idea of it. Try to find the best outdoor environment, great friends to model or help you shoot the video and do it a day with a good weather! Also make it short, about 30s, it is a sneak peek not a full demo video. You need to have the wow effect in less than 10 seconds.
If you’re curious, you can watch the video here => https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eUai9bed5Y
A lot of people were surprised that my app is free, let me tell you why. If you do AR, as of today, there is no glasses. If your app is futuristic and a proof of concept for what’s going to come, it must be free, you can not make people pay for something they will try several times. That’s also why my app went viral, people wanted to try it fast, experience it. But you can think about other pricing plans on the long term, so think long term not only short term. If your app is useful on a daily basis, you can make it paid.
🔑 Time Zones
Like any product, if you’re targeting a global audience, always think about the different time zones and reach out to people in the middle of their day, not in the middle of their sleep.
🔑 The Day
I released it on Wednesday and it was a great day, why? Because at the beginning of the week people are on the rush and the weekend journalists are resting too! Releasing in the middle of the week, when nothing too important is happening, is very important to attract the attention of as many people and journalists as possible.
I reached out to a lot of journalists but they don’t reply, they receive too many emails, instead they just go to ProductHunt. That’s how an editor at TheVerge found out about my app. BUT reaching out to journalists works with smaller news websites.
ProductHunt is no magic, really, it’s just quality based. You should first focus on your product, if it’s good, ProductHunt will reward you. I posted it there and it was “featured in 11 hours” in a few minutes, but how? Thanks to Twitter.
It’s very important to tweet your release, the right way and to the right people. Let me explain.
A fews weeks ago, Moritz Kobrna released https://blackfridaypixel.sale/ and the way he did it was very interesting:
Emojis are important because they catch the attention and tagging the right people is very powerful if your post is quick to read and straightforward. That’s what I did:
🔑 Communication — Reply to everyone on every platform
To build engagement and keep the momentum, I thought I was going to spend a day reaching out to journalists and sharing it, but it ended up being a full week job, side of uni, it was very intense.
Replying to everyone is very, very important, thanking everyone for trying the app and taking the time to share about it must be done. Why? Because it’s a great opportunity for you to get great feedbacks, build a community, make very interesting connections and simply make friends with people inspired or sharing the same view about the future.
I spent a week replying to every single message as soon as I could. That’s how I got 6 interviews including one for the huge Indian media Aajtak and got an interview on the amazing podcast HackToStart. That’s how opportunities happen, be very active and reactive, not passive.
I hope this shared experience can help you or anyone who is interested in AR. Feel free to comment what you think or send me an email via my website oscarfalmer.com or on Twitter at @oscarfalmer .
If you want to try TweetReality: AppStore Link
Good luck for your AR app!
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For the latest Apple AR News, you can follow me at @oscarfalmer .
In January 2018, I gave a lightning talk about ARKit at the DotSwift Conference that you can watch here - “How to make a successful ARKit app”
In September 2018, I gave a talk about ARKit at SwiftConf, “How to ARKit 2.0” — https://youtu.be/Y5Ki-MKVP_0?t=2m30s