Interesting article from Harvard Business Publishing about what they call "the Botox effect". It's something I think we're all familiar with - creating compelling content for the web and hearing crickets. It's similar to the problem a radio host has - he is all alone, in a room, speaking into a machine. He has to remain engaging, sound impassioned, and fill very particular time slots with almost no immediate feedback about how he is performing (see this wonderful article by David Foster Wallace for more on the duties of a radio host).
I often have the same feeling, not just as a content creator, but as a software developer at a large company. After pouring weeks of effort and care (love?) into a feature, it can seem to land with a nearly inaudible *thud*. The time between completing a feature and clients using it can be 3-6 months, and upwards of a year to really discover the impact it's had.
I'm very needy regarding feedback, so this lag doesn't always sit well with me. If you're the same way, don't fret - with a little creativity and effort you can find plenty of other ways to engage your "audience".
The HBP article offered five ways to combat silence from your readers. As a parallel, here are five ways I've combated the silence that so often greets a new feature.
1. Writing articles. Documenting and creating buzz around upcoming features is a great way to ensure they're adopted and your users hit the ground running. I try to give as much context as I can to why the feature was developed the way it was so users can quickly figure out ways to make use of it that I never anticipated.
2. User groups & forums. Staying active with your users by providing support is extremely rewarding and will get you thinking about the types of problems users encounter so you can preempt them during the next development cycle.
3. Usage reporting. If you work on a hosted or SaaS product, write reports to gauge the usage of features. I promise you'll be surprised - remember that just because you haven't heard much from your users about a feature doesn't mean it's not being used. The silence may just mean it's working so well that there aren't many complaints.
4. Talk to sales & support. These fine folks are on the front lines daily and will have a much better bead on how the market is reacting to your new release than you could ever get from rumor and hearsay.
5. Get your name out there! Make yourself available as a subject matter expert for the features you've built. Then when compliments, complaints, or questions do arise you'll be one of the first people to know. The sales reps, support analysts, and consultants will seek you out for answers and you'll receive feedback in the process.