Are you a blogger? On Twitter a lot? Have a Klout score above 50? If you answered yes to any of these questions then chances are you’ve had the opportunity to be a beta-tester recently. I certainly have. In fact, I’ve taken part in beta (or even alpha!) testing quite a few times recently. Too many times to tell you the truth. The whole process has been co-opted by the gamification craze. Now, getting to be a beta-tester is just a scam to build buzz for some new platform of dubious value.
To be sure, some of the platforms are good: Google+, Spotify, Percolate and Voyurl all are unique offerings that have real value. But for every one of those, I’ve also been a ‘lucky early adopter’ for things like Scoville, Glitch and Star.me. But the value of these sites really isn’t the issue, it’s the practice of offering people “exclusive access” to the sites by asking people to be beta-testers. Like badges, beta-testing is game theory being wielded by people who don’t have the experience or skill set to use it properly.
Too often I find myself forgetting what I signed up for, or why I signed up for it. What’s missing from many of these operations is the social part of social media. Yes, I’ll receive the occasional email, reminding me to check out the site, or to post or publish something. But what’s missing is the “why.” What’s the purpose for this? Who’s behind this project and why should I be supporting it, and them. What do they really know about me? Have they made any effort to discover what makes me tick? Have they tried to connect me with other beta-testers?
So, moving forward, here are five suggestions I have before you invite me to be a beta-tester:
1. Send me an easy to search, easy to read, guide book. Too many times I’m confused by how or why I should do something. You’ve been living with this thing for God knows how long, so it all makes sense to you. But it doesn’t to us. Help us out.
2. Make feedback easy. As I play around inevitably some things won’t work, or I won’t understand them. Let me tell you about them easily. Google+ did that extremely well.
3. Respond quickly, with a real human. If I’m struggling, reach out to help me. Not with a automated response, but with a real person I can engage with.
4. Set up another place, off-site where I can engage with other beta-testers. Some people will “get it” immediately and they can be of tremendous service to others in need of help. Let us chat, gripe and exult about your creation. This would be a great resource for you.
5. Make sure you explain very clearly why this idea deserves my time.The guys behind Voyurl felt there needed to be more data transparency and they state that clearly right up front. Ok, I get that, and want to support something like that.