A common scenario in anything from music to open source, libraries to large corporations, is trying to implement a new feature, tool or attitude, only to have it waste away in the face of a lack of interest or low usage. Sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be. Often it’s an issue of promotion.
Promotion can be a dirty subject. It brings to mind pop-up ads, newspaper pages full of ‘savings!’ or ‘limited time only!’. Marketing is a very polar industry – if you’re in it, you push for greater exposure, if you’re the target, you want less. But without it, a key part of success in any project is missing. In the age of a thousand possible directions for attention, ‘build it and they will come’ has never been less true.
Obscurity is enemy number 1. To big and small music artists alike,
Obscurity is a bigger fear than piracy
For open source software, obscurity can hit multiple times. If a user tries out an app, and finds that it’s not polished or up to scratch, they’re probably going to stop using it, and never look back. Even if that app later develops into an amazing piece of software.
Someone who tried your app three years ago and found it wanting may not realise that the version she can download today is far improved. Unless she goes out of her way to look, how likely is she to find out?
Even open source applications targeted to enterprise use may get caught out by obscurity:
[It is claimed that] most business-class open source apps have qualified consultants who can provide enterprise-level support. Cool. But how obvious will that be to the casual observer?
Obscurity is not always bad. In fact, an entire area runs on obscurity: security. Securing something is, at it’s core, making the method of getting access or likelihood of unauthorised access so low or obscure that it would take too much time and effort to carry out. Nothing is 100% secure.
So, when developing a cool new feature for a website, or pouring a whole lot of effort into social media, or adding or changing the services you provide, it is essential to know how the change or addition will be publicised. Even if it’s ‘only a trial’, it needs to have good uptake, or the results are worthless.
It is a challenge, and not all projects can easily promote themselves, but it is essential. After all, I could have the best application, restaurant or services in the world. If no one knows about it, then it’s not going anywhere.