Mobile app playbook: app marketing for developers

By Bear Douglas
Thursday, 11 February 2016

“If you build it, they will come” may have been true for Ray Kinsella and his baseball field, but it’s not quite true in the world of apps anymore. Every app has to spend time and money seeking out new users, no matter the size of the business. There’s no one magic bullet for increasing growth, but there are a lot of small steps that can add up to growth.

Part seven: app marketing for developers

Marketing your app is incredibly important. You can work hard to build the best one possible, but if no one knows about it, can it really be the best? Marketing encompasses several pieces: overall product marketing, researching your customers’ needs, branding and positioning, creating a communication strategy, and much more. All of these steps are critical to your app’s success. When you can, hire someone, or a team of someones, to work on these tasks full time.

Assuming you haven’t had any such help yet, here are some top marketing hacks you can pull off on your own when launching your app:

Double down on social integration

When people share content from your app on social sites, they become your advocates both for the app and for your brand. Social sharing is free, and can be highly effective. In a survey from ConversionXL, 82% of users said they’d consider trying a new product if someone they knew recommended it. The Share Sheet on iOS or a Share Intent on Android are so simple to implement that you really can’t lose.

The secret sauce for creating a great sharing experience is to think about what you’d like to see in a social feed

Which content in your app would you yourself click on, reply to, or reshare? Maybe a screenshot featuring your game’s incredible graphics, or maybe a surprising headline from a news story. People share to social networks in the hope that their friends will like, comment, and interact. Design your sharing experience to encourage that interaction.

Use Twitter Cards and Open Graph to make your content shine

Posts with photos and links with extra details get more real estate in a feed, and are more eye- catching than a plain-text share. When you include extra information about what people are sharing from your app, you ensure that it looks its best inside social feeds.

Mobile app playbook: app marketing for developers

Card markup makes the Tweet more visually interesting
and adds a Download button for your app

Make sure you have deep linking setup

Once people begin posting content from your app to other sites, you need a way to capture traffic back to your app from those shares. A basic deep link setup could be as simple as adding markup to a Twitter Card to making sure clicks and taps from Twitter lead people to the store or open up your app; check out the instructions for iOS and Android. An even better deep link scheme will use specific tags for content from your app. It’s not a great experience if I click on a clip from an interview I want to listen to, but when I open your app, I am only sent to a main page. Take the time to make the clickthrough experience great.

Create some web presence, even if just a landing page or social account

You want your app to be as discoverable as possible. Since search engines can’t easily index content tucked away inside a native app, create a place on the web where people can find you. When someone searches for your app, you want the top result to be something you wrote and created so that you have first-line control over messaging and perception of your offering.

At some point, you will need to buy ads

Unpaid sharing, word of mouth, and media mentions can take you pretty far when it comes to growing your app’s audience — but there will come a time when buying ads will become a key part of your strategy to continue growing. Ads can serve a lot of purposes: drive people to download your app, remind people to keep using your app (re-engagement ads), and prompt people to do other things that will keep them interacting with you, like driving follows to your social accounts. Make sure your ad copy has a clear call to action, and that you are matching the right ads and right goals with different audiences.

Make re-engagement ads a part of your strategy

It bears repeating that ads can serve a lot of purposes. Downloads aren’t the be-all and end-all of building a successful app. To sustain growth, you need people to keep using it. Show ads to people who are already using your app to remind them of the value they got from it originally, and to encourage them to come back.

Experiment with your creative

After a lengthy brainstorm session, you may feel like you have the best possible copy, imagery, and call to action to get people to try out your app. But your creative is not a set-and-forget process. It’s important to A/B test your copy and creative. The results may surprise you. For example, app install ads often perform better when the ad image has real people and a mobile device in it. Even if you’ve got an ad that is doing really well and sending a lot of traffic your way, it’s important to refresh your creative and messaging so that it remains fresh and compelling.

What are the tips that helped you get traction when you first released your app? Let us know with a Tweet using #MobileAppPlaybook.

Don’t forget to check out the earlier posts in our #MobileAppPlaybook series, and this new interview with the PM for Digits, Chris Oryschak.