How I Got 100+ App Testers For Free With 10 Minutes Effort
The results were better than my wildest expectations. 😮
Martin here. Welcome to another edition of Founders’ Hustle!
I produce content about the “hustle” of entrepreneurship and building startups.
Today I’m sharing how I recently attracted 100+ app testers for free by investing only 10 minutes of time.
I didn’t need a big social media account, connections, or luck. 🍀
I kept them engaged for 3 months despite delays and a ridiculously buggy app. 🐛
One of them turned out to be a Test Engineer and was a superstar! 🤩
Testing new products is one of my favorite things. ❤️
You formulate a hypothesis, build an experience to test it, and then put it out there for folks to try out!
Except, that last part can be kind of tricky. 😬
I recently found myself in a position where my team had built a B2C iOS app and wanted to try it out with a small group of testers.
The app is a game called Spin Trivia.
A multiplayer fusion of slots and trivia. 🎰 +💡
Our testing initiative was mainly for quality assurance and qualitative feedback purposes.
Nothing big. Small and cosy so we could have an intimate dialogue with testers and surface major issues.
It was not a beta per se, more like alpha testing.
There are services out there you can use to get very early feedback from paid testers, but they obviously come at a cost and the communication medium isn’t quite what I was looking for.
I wanted to “own” the relationship and engage testers on my own terms. Plus, if I could onboard them for free even better! That ruled out paid advertising.
Next, I thought about recruiting my friends or friends-of-friends to test the game.
Sadly, none of them fit the demographic we needed. Plus, I’ve tried this before and found it difficult to neutralize “friend bias”.
I then considered utilizing organic social channels. But, quickly concluded the investment in terms of hours would be too much versus the results we were looking to achieve.
Basically, I’d need to build a network or follower base of our target demographic from scratch.
Then, I remembered a tweet I saw regarding job ads. 💡
So, I headed over to Indeed and put up a free listing requesting testers for our app.
The ‘pitch’ lends itself well to games, but with small modifications, it can be applied to most types of apps.
Here’s what it looked like 👇
As you can see, I conveyed what type of experience folks should expect and was upfront about it being unpaid participation.
I figured an unpaid listing wouldn’t be a problem since there are tons of zero pay internship-type posts on Indeed.
As it turns out, Indeed did not agree! 😅
They suspended my account after a few days citing breach of T&Cs.
It was one of those “ask for forgiveness not permission” type situations.
I didn’t matter, my inbox was already flooded with applications.
Over 100 people wanted to be testers! 🎮
I didn’t bother seriously appealing Indeed’s decision since 100+ was way more than our target and it was a better use of my time to engage the sign-ups we had rather than onboard more.
But, the free testers isn’t actually the cool part I want to share with you.
What happened next was way more interesting. 🧐
My goal was to get our testers psychologically invested ASAP. 🧠
Why? There were some significant friction points:
🚀 Launch was one month away.
✈️ Running beta via TestFlight (awkward install).
🐛 Super buggy app that crashed a lot.
🎲 Unconventional game experience.
Basically, I didn't want everyone to "bounce" quickly or never download the game because they loss interest, became frustrated or confused. It just wouldn’t deliver the results we were looking for.
That was easily possible without a supporting narrative.
So, the testers needed to be psychologically invested in order to have the motivation to push through these friction points.
I needed to calibrate their minds to be patient and accepting with the many imperfections of the experience.
How did I achieve that? Emails! 💌
I sent out email updates every 2 days or so.
Inside each email, I hyped the game and pushed:
🔎 Game teasers
🛠️ Development updates
Here’s a preview:
Engagement with these emails was strong.
In particular, competitions were a key lever to establishing a two-way dialogue.
One of them was a multiple-choice trivia game—I’d ask a question and folks would reply with their answer.
To do that, I took a screenshot from the game and pasted it in the email. This way testers could ‘kind of’ play the game before we released it.
Here’s how that looked:
Doing this kept a core group of 30ish sign-ups keenly engaged until the app was ready to download.
On release day, I stepped up email frequency to daily. 📈
Why? It was super important to push folks to download the game and remind them to return afterwards so they’d start to build a habit.
Our goal was to keep a core group of testers playing for 2-3 weeks or so. This would be enough to achieve our quality assurance and qualitative feedback objectives.
Throughout the entire process, email continued as the primary communication medium to centralize dialogue with players.
What changed was the content. Post-release it changed to:
🗞️ News (keep testers updated)
🚧 Feedback zone (share bug reports, suggestions)
🏆 Contests (make testing fun)
I used email to experiment inexpensively with features, instead of building the functionality directly into the app. For example tournaments, challenges, and objectives.
This saved a ton of resources and gave strong indications of what worked and what didn’t from a behavioural perspective.
Also, bug finding was ‘gamified’. 🕹️
Reporting bugs gave testers a boost in a cash-prize contest we ran.
This helped surface a ton of issues. 🔎
One tester emailed me a list of bugs pretty much daily, for nearly two months!
She reported every possible major or minor issue you can think of. And, communicated extremely well with timings of issues and steps to reproduce bugs.
This person turned out to be a Test Engineer professionally and was participating in our beta for the fun of it. 😍
Here’s a sample bug report email:
As the first few days turned into a week, I expected testers to rapidly disappear.
Why? Our app was insanely buggy. It crashed constantly. Plus, it was light on content depth since it was just a prototype.
But, that's not what happened. 🙃
A core group of players kept coming back.
And, they were setting new playing time records.
One hour per day, three hours per day, four hours per day, six hours per day.
It just kept going up 4-8 weeks post-release. 📈
This got me very curious.
So, I jumped on the phone with our top testers by engagement time. They were pretty much all happy and excited to talk to me.
It’s clear the email campaign, and, specifically, the contests promoted within, had a profound impact on their motivation to keep playing.
Particularly, a tournament we ran for the duration of the beta period. 🏆
Testers accrued a score for performing certain actions (playing the game, reporting bugs, etc). We offered a prize for 1st place—$250.
Whoever finished first by the end of the beta period won the prize. Each week I sent out a Top 10 leaderboard, so testers could track their position.
This made testing fun and competitive.
The leaderboard was pretty simple (knocked up in Google Sheets) but highly effective.
Here’s what it looked like:
As the weeks went on top players spent more and more time using the app—motivated by finishing first.
Our best tester spent nearly 6 whole days playing the game! And, won. 🥇
The net result of this is we unlocked a huge amount of value in the form of behavioural insights and bugs over the course of 2 months.
Without the constant email dialogue the exercise would have yielded significantly inferior results.
The combination of all the friction points would have deterred practically everyone from engaging to the level they did.
Seriously, it was pretty embarrassing how buggy the app was.
Turning bugs into a reporting contest flipped the experience on its his head and almost made it desirable to encounter them.
This can be tweaked to work across many B2C app genres. It doesn’t have to be a game. You can gamify anything.
Until next time!
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