Telegram ban and how outside environment may affect your app rating

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Anatoly Sharifulin
Telegram ban and how outside environment may affect your app rating
TL;DR: At the end of April Russian Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications tried to ban Telegram service. It caused a lot of problems for other services, apps, and appstores. We gathered life-saving steps that will help you not to go down in such situation.

At the end of April Russians braced themselves for hard times, as Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications (know as RosKomNadzor) started blocking Telegram following a very ambiguous court decision but instead shut down different web-services across the country.

It began with Google servers blocking. Thus all images, fonts & other data were unavailable. As a result, lots of users couldn’t use AdMob, AdWords, analytics services & YouTube.

Later that week Google Play Store appeared to be blocked as well. Apps’ images, descriptions, and even fonts became unavailable (Google Fonts was blocked earlier). So users in Russia could see something like that instead of a usual picture:

You won’t use Telegram, ’cause you can’t download it. And other apps too.

Thus developers were losing their users & customers: they couldn’t find an app, couldn’t read about it or its’ reviews and, at last, couldn’t download the app.

Ban & Reviews

Despite all efforts, Telegram is still working. However, many other apps were accidentally blocked, so users couldn’t use them & started complaining. The whole situation caused a squall of negative feedback & low ratings. Viber was among the first affected — its users reacted at once.

Viber’s average rating fell from 4.5 to 1.5 within a week.

The number of negative reviews poped up & average daily rating fell from 4.5 to 1.5. Viber’s team was doing their best to recover the service performance, so the rating’s gradually start to grow. And yet, users still have problems with app’s performance. And the first thing they do — write negative reviews.

Negative reviews on Android.

Viber was then receiving up to 200 negative reviews per day, although usually this number wouldn’t go beyond 20–30. Similar problems had Slack, VSCO, Google Translate, Gett & others, including some mobile games (e.g. Guns of Boom & Guild Wars 2).

Google Translate appeared to have performance problems as well. Users remarked that in their comments & low ratings.


All campaigns against Telegram failed so far — the service is up & running. Moreover, the average rating of the messenger got even higher:

Since the ban campaign has started (April, 13), the number of rating & reviews in Russia increased by more than 10 times. The average rating is 4.5.

How did Telegram do that?

By keeping their users informed. Telegram does regular mailouts about their current progress & releases new versions with connection fixes. Telegram users are always informed, and many of them change their previous negative reviews to positive once.

Positive Telegram review.

How to work with sudden negative flow

Aviasales app for Android suffered from those restrictions as well: maps & authorization didn’t work because of Google services ban. Users began complaining, rating fell down, but the team reacted perfectly well. Here are their tips:

  1. Reply to every review whatever negative it is. To make it faster, integrate your Slack, Zendesk or Intercom with AppFollow — you’ll get all reviews right there in real time. Another thing to make your life easier: add templates to reply to reviews in two clicks;
  2. Notify users about problems before they start complaining. A push-notification, a message or a post in your social media will show that you care about your users. In the Telegram case, it helped a lot.
  3. Pause any advertising campaigns till you fix the issues and negative reviews flow stops (or, at least, declines). Users won’t install an app with low ratings and 1-star reviews.

Those simple actions helped Aviasales reduce the number of negative reviews. Rapid replies to the complaints even encouraged users to change their previous ratings.

A user changed a 1-star review to a 5-star after the fast reaction.

These simple steps will work even for critical bugs, that users found in your app after update. They will help you to save your users and reputation.

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