Happy New Year

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Semisonic / Seneca the Younger

This new year brings a few more changes for me than in the past as today marks my last day as a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft and indeed my last day at Microsoft.

so long and thanks for all the fish

It’s hard to believe that nearly six years, thousands of miles, and gazillions of Meetups, BarCamps, and community events have passed since I joined the audience team of Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) organization. I was drawn to Microsoft by my love of application development, but it was the involvement with community and the hundreds of folks I’ve met and interacted with throughout the years from which I drew my energy, and I thank you all for that.

As I move to the next stage of my career, I’m excited that I’ll be working hands-on with the very same technologies I’ve been espousing, and am looking forward to being part of the community from “the other side.”

Getting Noticed: Crafting a Press Release

Continuing the theme of increasing your application’s user base, here’s another article from Sean Casto, the CEO of PreApps, a Microsoft App Builder partner and the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release.

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The Importance of a Powerful App Press Release By: Sean Casto

You’ve created a great app, and it’s ready for release. Now what? As most developers know, gaining users and promoting your app is just as important as the development process. One of the most highly-regarded tools employed by developers to announce the launch of their app is the press release. A press release has a longstanding history as being a powerful and effective way to gain the attention of everyone from news outlets to bloggers, and spread the word that a new app is being released into the competitive marketplace.

The Importance of a Powerful PR

Writing and distributing a press release isn’t a step in the process that should be skipped. You’ve likely been working to market your product from the start, but you need to let the influential people in your industry know that your product exists. With that being said, if you’re an app developer, you may feel you lack the necessary skills and expertise to make a great press release. It’s important to follow a particular formula, and stick to the information, because writers and reviewers are constantly bombarded with information. You need to create a press release that’s going to quickly and effectively capture their attention.

Top Tips for Successful PR Creation

1. Create a Timetable

Before you begin writing a press release, you should determine whether you’ll be releasing it prior to the launch of your app, or to coincide with your app’s launch. The timetable will determine the angle of your press release.

2. Include Your Icon

Include your app icon or your logo in the body of your press release. This is an important identifying feature, and it should be prominently displayed within the actual written work. If it’s simply included as a link, it’s likely that it won’t be seen by the reader.

3. Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Header

Take the time to craft a concise, yet attention-grabbing subject line. Many times, people hastily create a subject line, but in actuality, it’s one of the most important components of the press release. If you can get your reader to continue beyond the subject line, you’re doing well. If your reader glances at your subject line and isn’t compelled to continue reading, your press release hasn’t been successful. It needs to be brief, but interesting. A press release must be newsworthy, and the subject line is your opportunity to create that sense of newsworthiness. It can’t simply be an advertisement of your product, but rather needs to be something that’s time-sensitive, for example, “New app launches amidst much anticipation.”

4. Keep Your Reader Interested with the Summary

The next step, beyond the subject line, is to create a summary that will further compel the reader to keep going. Use the summary line as an opportunity to delve a little bit more into what your app offers, and what makes it unique, without providing too many details. Use your summary to make your reader want to know more.

5. Simplify it for Your Reader

Bloggers and journalists are programmed to quickly sift through press releases and find the ones that are the most relevant and interesting, so make reading your release easy for them. Put the most important information in the first paragraph. As the press release progresses, you can include more details, but make the first paragraph targeted to your reader. Imagine they’re only reading the first paragraph and include the information you’d most like them to know about your app.

6. Skip the Fluff—Get to the Point

Use the body of the press release to give a description of your app, including what it does and the important features. Skip the fluff—remember, this isn’t an advertisement. Stick to the facts, and keep the wording simple and concise. You need to be able to tell your reader why people should care about your app. It’s also a good idea to include a quote from a member of the development team. Your quote can be a bit more on the advertorial side, and you can really be creative in piquing the interest of readers.

7. Interest Your Reader in Your Company

Include a brief paragraph about your company at the end of your press release. Include any awards or previously released apps that have done well. If you have an interesting background, perhaps include one or two sentences about that, in order to drive interest in what you’re offering.

8. Give the Reader a Clear Point of Contact

Always include contact information, including your app or company’s website, screenshots, links to demo videos, and your personal information. If a blogger or journalist wants to follow-up with you about your app, you need to make it easy for them to contact you.

Gaining Maximum Exposure

The press release, if done correctly, can be an effective tool for developers. PreApps has designed options to take the guesswork out of the creation and distribution of press releases. In fact, they have a team of professional writers who craft custom press releases, utilizing the company’s press kit, and then distribute it to more than 250,000 news subscribers and more than 30,000 bloggers in order to generate the highest possible level of exposure. The company offers affordable pricing, simplifying the process of marketing an app in order to help the developer obtain worldwide attention.

About The Author:

Sean Casto, a Boston-based entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of PreApps.com, the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release. He has been a guest speaker at industry conventions for Microsoft and Samsung and lectured at Universities such as Northeastern and Harvard. He as also appeared on and been mentioned by The Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe, Boston News Network, and The Associated Press. Through his work and industry experience, Casto has acquired a deep understanding of the struggles developers face and a passion to serve the growing mobile app community. He is now the Chairman & Founder of App Demo & Drinks (a mobile non-profit) and holds an advisory position for numerous start-ups.

Getting Noticed: Creating an App Demo Video

Continuing on the theme of my last post, I’m pleased to be able to publish an article from Sean Casto, the CEO of PreApps, a Microsoft App Builder partner and the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release.

How To Create An Effective App Demo Video To Attract Users
By: Sean Casto

Most people rely heavily on visual elements during the decision-making process. For app developers who have undertaken a great marketing campaign and been able to successfully drive traffic to their app, the next step is to ensure users are actually downloading the app and the download is going to rely heavily on the demo video. A demo video is the first glimpse users will have of an app, and it isn’t something that should be created hastily; it goes beyond an app store description, and gives users a visual representation of what the app has to offer. An app demo video (such as the one from MANIC Apps below) gives users the opportunity to experience an app before they decide to buy it, and it’s a make-or-break component for successful apps.

 

Making the Most of a Demo Video: The Top Tips

There are a few ways developers can optimize their demo video, and make it a sure-fire success by generating not only interest, but also downloads.

1. Choose Your Tools Carefully

Use the right recording programs. For example, when creating a video for a Windows Phone app, consider options like Jing in conjunction with the Windows Phone Emulator. Great caliber recording programs improve the overall quality and delivery of a video.

2. Don’t Shy Away From Creativity

Using creativity to set an app apart means the demo video can’t be basic. Infuse a bit of personality into it, and make it unique from the other countless videos users will see. Whether it’s through music, or the development of a storyline, compelling users to download an app because it’s fresh and different will make an app memorable and noteworthy.

3. Harness the Power with a Strong Voice

Finding a voice is integral for an app. Even paying for a voiceover may be worth it to improve the overall quality of a demo. For simple apps, it isn’t entirely necessarily to include a voiceover; background music will suffice as long as it gives off the mood and feeling the app portrays.

4. Keep it To-the-Point

With only a short window to convince the user an app is worthwhile, focus on utilizing a small amount of time, rather than making a long video. Focus on grabbing the user’s attention in the first few seconds of the video, because that may be all the time a user will give before moving on.

5. Hook Your Viewers

A demo video doesn’t simply have to demonstrate functionality, it can also include a few benefits and features that will entice users. Include these as part of the voiceover, or added as captions during the editing process if only music is being used. A demo video is a unique selling tool, so take advantage of the opportunity.

A Professional and Polished Final Product

Creating an app demo video can be an overwhelming process for many developers, and creating a finished product that is polished and effective can present a challenge. To overcome this obstacle and create a dynamic and impactful demo, developers can use the services of PreApps to provide a complete, professional level demo video, at budget-friendly prices.

About The Author:

Sean Casto, a Boston-based entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of PreApps.com, the leading platform introducing new apps to users and the marketplace prior to release. He has been a guest speaker at industry conventions for Microsoft and Samsung and lectured at Universities such as Northeastern and Harvard. He as also appeared on and been mentioned by The Washington Post, USA Today, The Boston Globe, Boston News Network, and The Associated Press. Through his work and industry experience, Casto has acquired a deep understanding of the struggles developers face and a passion to serve the growing mobile app community. He is now the Chairman & Founder of App Demo & Drinks (a mobile non-profit) and holds an advisory position for numerous start-ups.

Getting Noticed

If you’ve recently published an app to the Windows 8 or Windows Phone stores, CONGRATULATIONS!

It’s a great accomplishment, but in a way, that was the easy part! Well, it was the part that you had the most control over, and now that your app is one of over at least 100,000 in the market, it’s time to make some noise, draw in users, and increase your downloads and visibility!

Get your Windows Developer Success Kit!

To help support you in that endeavor, we’re making available* the Windows Developer Success Kit – personalized for your application. The kit includes

  • 100 customized business cards with your app tile and download instructions
  • 100 customized stickers
  • promotion on MSDN East’s Facebook page
  • A $5 Starbucks card
  • 1600 Microsoft Points

To get your kit*, just send an e-mail to msdneast@microsoft.com providing your name, app name, application deep link, and your physical mailing address.

* THE FINE PRINT

Valid for Windows or Windows Phone apps published in the Store between July 1 and December 31, 2013 in these states only: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida. No purchase necessary. Limit 5 kits per Developer; one kit per published app. Please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery.

If you’re not eligible for the Windows Developer Success Kit, consider joining App Builder, and take advantage of its app promotions resources including a free e-book and  App Promotion Kit with business card, e-mail, and banner ad templates and more!

Who’s on 8: PixelRunner

This fall I conducted a short course on Windows 8 game programming (using Construct 2) at Concord-Carlisle Community Education. There were about 15 participants, a vast majority from the middle school in town, and I’m psyched to announce the first app published from that group – PixelRunner

PixelRunner on Windows 8The work of a 7th grader, PixelRunner is a temple runner platform game that supports both touch and keyboard input. It’s a great first app, and as I was helping him submit it to the Windows Store, I discovered he’s got three others underway!

Now go download the app and help encourage the next generation of application developers!

Nokia DVLUP Day – Nov. 16th

Nokia DVLUP Day: November 16 2013, Boston, MAJoin Nokia Developer Ambassadors Lance McCarthy and Nick Landry as well as your friendly local Technical Evangelists for Nokia DVLUP Day, November 16th from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. at the Microsoft Office, 1 Cambridge Center, Cambridge MA.

Whether you’re an experience developer or haven’t even touched a Windows Phone, you’ll come away from this event with the knowledge and confidence to build and publish an application to the Windows Phone Store! The event will feature multiple tracks as well as all-hands sessions to cater to the variety and skill sets of the attendees:

8 a.m. – come by if you need some help setting up on a Mac (or PC)

9 a.m. – registration begins

10 a.m. – sessions begin

Track 1: Native development with C# and XAML

Track 2: App Studio

Track 3: Game Development

12 noon – lunch

12:30 p.m. – continuation of session tracks

2:15 p.m. – all-hands session with demos and code

5:00 p.m. – dinner and start of mini-hackathon

8:30 p.m. – awards and final remarks

In addition to the fantastic content, each attendee will receive

  • A Nokia Lumia 620 Windows Phone 8 upon updating or publishing an app within 2 weeks of the event.
  • A heavy-duty swag backpack chock full of goodies; the backpack itself is worth $89 (it’s a Wenger, Swiss Gear, TSA friendly laptop bag).
  • A Nokia Developer Offers Token including the following:
  • 20,000 ad impressions from AdDuplex. In addition, when your app is published you will be entered for
    • 1st place- 1,000,000 ad impressions
    • 2nd place- 500,000 ad impressions
    • 3rd place- 250,000 ad impressions
  • PreApps.com app placement credit. Every attendee receives credit towards app placement on the PreApps website!

.NET Rocks Roadshow – Nov 14th

Carl and Richard are hitting the road again for a tour of 19 cities across the US, and they are kicking it off in Boston, home of the World Champion Red Sox!

Richard Campbell & Carl Franklin

Get ready to be immersed in the power of Visual Studio 2013, Xamarin and Windows Azure. We are going to show you all the cool new tools, how to build cross-platform mobile apps and leverage the power of the cloud to scale your next hit application. The .NET Rocks! Team of Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell are on the road bringing  you presentations focused on building modern applications.

At each stop, they will record a live .NET Rocks! show with a guest star that will be flown in for the occasion.

  • Learn about Visual Studio 2013
  • See cross-platform mobile development
  • Get GEEKY with Richard & Carl

The Boston stop is on Thursday, November 14th at the Hynes Convention Center and registration is now open.

For other locations through the end of January, check the MSDN Events site.

Build-A-Game Workshops, Oct. 26th

Both Josh and I are hosting hands-on Windows 8 workshops this weekend – he in Farmington and I in Cambridge; each runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Microsoft offices at those locations. We’ll both be covering Scirra Construct 2, a fantastic tool to build HTML5 games that you can deploy to Windows 8 (and Windows Phone) whether you’ve been a developer for years or are just getting started.

Build a Game with Construct 2

To make the most of the workshop, be sure to have your laptop set up before hand (see below), and if you need some help doing so, note that there are Studio Time opportunities in both Farmington and Cambridge before Saturday’s events.

  1. Mac users only: Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, VirtualBox or VMWare Fusion
  2. Windows 8 (a 90-day evaluation version available here)
  3. Visual Studio 2012 Professional (free for DreamSpark or MSDN subscribers) or Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows 8 (free for anyone)
  4. Scirra Construct 2 (free version)

Make $75 on Your App Makeover

This past spring, my colleagues and I spent a lot of time on college campuses introducing students to the Windows 8 platform and teaching them how to build casual games with Construct 2 as well as apps with both C#/XAML and HTML5/JavaScript. If you’re a student who published an app between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, now’s your chance to create a new, updated app based on your existing one – and perhaps get an extra $75 (or more) for your efforts.

Windows 8 App Makeover Challenge

The Windows 8 App Makeover Challenge runs through January 1, 2014, and the rules are straightforward:

  1. Be a US resident (at least 18 years old) and a student in an accredited US educational institution,
  2. Have published a Windows 8 application between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013,
  3. Update your application per the criteria in the Terms and Conditions of the challenge,
  4. Submit your modified app as a NEW application to the Windows Store,
  5. Once your “make-over” app has been approved, visit http://aka.ms/AppMakeoverSubmission and submit the online entry form.

There’s no limit to the number of applications you can make over, but only the first 1500 apps that meet the criteria will be eligible for the $75 Amazon Gift Cards.

Who’s on 8: Jack-O-Lantern

Found this one while sitting with my youngest checking out some of the more seasonal apps currently in the Window Phone Store.  Jack-O-Lantern is the creation of Eric Harty of Ebscer, and is a simple and free way to create funny (and weird) jack-o-lantern faces on your phone.

Just swipe the various features to create new expressions and tap to change the background color – incredibly simple, but rather addictive for my youngest (and ok, me as well).

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Check the Jack-O-Lantern app out – free – on the Windows Phone Store, and get in the holiday spirit!