Should you use your fans as testers?

Since I joined Beta Family I’ve discovered a tool called Mention, which lets users monitor certain phrases that are important to them. For example, I’m always on the lookout for app development companies that need beta testers and with Mention I get an overview of all social media channels and forums where companies are searching for them. It’s great!

Using Mention I noticed it’s common for fans of games and other applications to contact companies directly and offer to be beta testers. This is quite interesting and I reckon worth chatting about, because there are some aspects to consider when using fans as testers.

In a previous blog post I discussed the idea of using your testers as marketeers. However, when talking about fans and their ability to test new apps we’ve reached a dilemma, because I believe they’re not the best beta testers.

Why you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

When you’re dealing with fans you have to realize they have high expectations and a preset idea, sometimes unrealistic, of how the app should be. If the app doesn’t deliver on those expectations the feedback might be overly harsh. It can also lead to the beta testing fans bad mouthing the app on social media and forums where other fans are. If fans are used in the testing it’s important you clearly communicated your vision and what you want the app to achieve to avoid this situation. At the same time, this sometimes harsh feedback can be very useful and help you make improvements in upcoming updates.

Testers that don’t know about you don’t have this problem. They’re beginners with completely fresh eyes and will give you unbiased constructive feedback. Often the goal with an app is to get as many people as possible to use it, right? Well, since your fans are already familiar with your products, things that are easy to them might be complicated to beginners. Therefore, using feedback from fans you might accidentally make the app too difficult and block off potential new users. And let’s be honest, we don’t wanna miss out on new customers.

But aren’t there positive aspects as well? Of course there are!

There are a lot of great reasons to let fans do the testing. They’re devoted to your products and are often happy to do the testing for free. They truly want you to make better apps and succeed. You don’t have to spend time and money finding beta testers as they’re right there and willing to work, often contacting you asking to be testers. And you can be sure your fans will do their best to help you!

We talked earlier about the pitfall of not meeting high expectations. Obviously the opposite can apply. If you smash it out of the park and get fans excited they will tell their friends and other people about their experience, creating word of mouth and free advertising.

Also, you can learn a lot about beta testing fans if you ask the right questions. When you know a lot about your users you can find their “twins” on social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, because those sites know so much about their users. I don’t mean actual twins of course, but rather people with the same interests etc. In other words, potential new customers.

So who is the optimal tester then?

There is no universal answer to this question as there are so many different reasons for testing products and services, however there are some characteristics to keep an eye out for.

Since the tests can be quite difficult it’s always helpful if the testers have a technical background, or at least an interest in learning the technical side of things. It’s also good if they have an interest in testing the app’s limits to find errors and don’t just do it to be among first trying it. They should have good communication skills too, both verbal and written, as they’ll have to explain their findings.

Great testers practice to improve these skills so you should look for testers with a lot of experience. Unfortunately it can sometimes be hard to find all these characteristics in a tester and perhaps even more so in a fan without testing experience.

So to conclude, I believe your products and services will be better off if you use experienced unbiased beta testers and clearly communicate your expectations to them. Having said that, it’s also valuable to invite dedicated fans to join the testing once in a while, just make sure you don’t solely rely on them. Also, a really cool thing about involving fans is that they tend to get real happy when they’re involved!