Step 1 - Alpha Testers
It's very hard to get people to use an app that doesn't do anything.
This is a very obvious statement that is surprisingly difficult to understand when applied to reality. Let me back up a bit.
In my spare time I've been developing an app and I have a handful of close friends and family who have agreed to be my alpha testers.
Overall, the experiment has been a good thing because it has changed the roadmap and made priorities more clear. I have been able to watch usage and see which things would more quickly get users more engaged. The first testers have been CRITICAL to guiding development.
Getting back to the opening statement, I thought the version I first released was enough to begin getting useful feedback. That ended up being true for a reason I didn't expect: The app didn't do enough, so people weren't using it. Ultimately, this is a good thing. I have fast tracked a couple features my testers have identified as critical, and my next release should get more traction.
Working in a vacuum is bad. Early testing has allowed me to quickly identify the features most important to my users and have focused my development. Next, I will release again and adjust again.
One other thing had come out of it that is very useful: My testers can see the potential, and have been very encouraging. There's definitely something to this idea, and that's probably the most valuable take away of all.