When the development of your mobile app is finally completed, it’s time to celebrate… for about five seconds! You still have a lot of work to do to make sure your app becomes a known commodity within the mobile marketplace. After all, even the best app in the world won’t do its publisher any good if no one knows about it.
That’s why the promotion of your app is as vital to its success as its development. A sound, targeted strategy can get your project noticed by not only consumers, but also tech industry insiders whose influence can help you reach a larger number of potential users.
Unfortunately, most app store entries generate little interest, and fail to result in significant revenue for their creators. That reality can be a little discouraging for some, but successful entrepreneurs embrace the opportunities the mobile marketplace provides, and take advantage of promotional mechanisms, both free and paid, to climb to the head of the pack.
Let’s examine some of the most effective ways to spread the word about your app.
App Store: Claim a Good Spot on the Virtual Shelf
Whether you’re posting your project to Apple’s App Store or Google Play — or both, of course — your submission details can set you on a course for success, or doom you to failure from the start.
The easiest way to grab consumers’ attention is to come up with a great name for your app — one that’s fun and easy to remember while also providing a glimpse of the program’s function.
Take a look at some recent popular apps: Angry Birds, Urbanspoon, Temple Run, SnapChat. Each has a short name — Lauren Sutton from CatchWord recommends that names of apps be kept to 11 characters or less — and gives you at least some idea of what awaits their users after they download the programs.
Your app’s name should also be pronounceable, and should be unique from those of your competitors (you can add a suffix, like “app”, if necessary). It’s also a good idea to include a keyword in the name for search purposes, although this can result in a longer title.
Aside from the name, your description is the most important text you’ll include in your App Store submission. A good description will paint a mental picture of your app to potential users, while also trumpeting any awards, ratings, or reviews you want to share with consumers. It’s important to take the time and care necessary to give the description a professional feel, while making sure it caters to your target market.
When writing your description, you should be very detailed, while also embracing brevity. In other words, you’ll want to include any info that will be beneficial to potential users, while cutting out anything that won’t help them decide whether to download the app. Among those details, be sure to include eye-catching adjectives (e.g., popular, top-selling, revolutionary) that will make your description pop.
Keep in mind that only a portion of the description will be initially visible on either app store, so it’s a good idea to make sure your most important content displays ‘above the fold’. You can preview your description in either app store to make sure your most relevant info can be seen quickly by all who check out your entry (Apple developers can use this free tool from Bjango to preview their descriptions outside of iTunes).
Along with the paragraph portion of the description, you can include bullet points that emphasize certain key functionality components, as well as awards or ratings your app has received.
As is the case with websites, you’ll want to make sure your app can be found during consumer searches. Much like search engine optimization (SEO), keywords are an important part of a successful app store optimization (ASO) strategy. The right keywords in the right places can boost your downloads in both iTunes and Google Play, though each store differs in the ways those keywords are utilized.
If you’re submitting your project to the Apple App Store, you’ll have the opportunity to add 100 characters worth of keywords in iTunes Connect. Google Play doesn’t offer this feature, but keywords found in the description will benefit your search results. Keywords included in your app’s name, however, can help you in both app stores. You can find the right keywords for your app with programs like this tool from AppTweak.
Along with the name, your icon is the element consumers will most connect with your app, and one of the first they’ll see. You’re not working with a lot of space, so you should try to keep things simple. Concentrate on the overall theme you’re trying to get across with your image, and don’t worry about being too detailed. Remember, though, simple doesn’t mean low-quality — make sure your icon looks great!
Unless you’re dealing with an already-established brand with a well-known logo, you should strongly consider an image that gives users an idea of the app’s content. Facebook’s “f” icon doesn’t really say much about the network’s offerings, but millions of people were already familiar with the platform before the app was launched. Instead, look to apps like Fruit Ninja or Instagram for inspiration. Fruit Ninja’s icon shows users exactly what they’ll be doing inside the app — slicing fruit — while Instagram’s logo makes it clear that the program involves photography.
Some app makers choose to include text on their icons, but with such a limited amount of space, that might not be a great idea. After all, the name of the app will display directly above or below the icon, so there’s really no need to add it to the image.
You should also be aware that the corners of icons are automatically rounded in the iTunes App Store, so keep that in mind when you design your image. If you want to perfect the look of your icon before you post it to an app store, try a template tool like App Icon Template, which allows you to create images in the App Store, Google Play, and OS X desktop formats.
If a consumer hasn’t decided to download your app by the time he or she has seen your icon and description, your screenshots may be your last chance to reel them in. You can post five screenshots to iTunes, including a preview video, while Google Play allows up to eight screenshots for each supported device, as well as a YouTube video.
Make sure to post your best, hi-res screenshot in the first available slot, since that image will show up in keyword searches. Creators of some apps, like Flipboard and Candy Crush Saga, include text on their screenshots to highlight features, or just to add some flattering copy.
Also, it’s a good idea to use all available spaces, while making sure that each screenshot highlights a different feature.
No matter where you put your promotional resources, ratings can make or break your app store efforts. A high rating can go a long way toward getting you featured in an app store — the best way to boost your download numbers. If your rating is high, add it to your description to emphasize the quality of your app. If your rating is low, find out why, and address the problem ASAP! If you don’t, you may find that all your other promotional efforts have been in vain.
Create a Website Before Your App is Ready for Launch
Before you’re done building your app, you can generate buzz by creating a website to share news about its development. When done right, a companion site allows you to spark interest in your app via frequent updates and invitations, while also providing the opportunity to implement SEO practices that can increase the number of the page’s visitors.
Your pre-launch landing page is a great tool to secure potential users well before your app is ready to go. You can solicit visitors’ email addresses while promising to send them updates on the app’s development, along with invites to download the program when the project is completed, or to participate in beta testing. You can also receive valuable feedback by describing the app’s features, and asking for thoughts from the site’s visitors.
Your landing page doesn’t have to be sophisticated, but you should include a blog in order to take advantage of SEO opportunities through the use of keywords. The makers of to-do app Taasky went with a very simple design for their website, but included a link to their press kit, which featured images (including icons and screenshots), press releases, and other details about the progress of the app’s development.
When you’re ready to launch your app, it’s also time to redesign your landing page to reflect the software’s availability. The most important and obvious addition you should make are buttons that allow consumers to download your program from all the app stores on which it’s available.
Now that your app is a finished product, you can add more images and info that explain its features, and include any positive reviews its received.
Remember to always update the site with the latest info and images, and link to it on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, so you can continue to draw new users long after your app’s release.
Get Your App Reviewed, Get More Downloads
Even if you’re still working to get all your app store bases covered, it’s not too early to share your project with industry influencers who can (hopefully) give your program their seals of approval, increasing awareness in the process.
Reviewers aren’t going to come find you, so you’ll have to reach out to them if you want them to take a look at your app. The best way to do so is to send them an email with a link to a useable version of your app, along with descriptive info about the program. Apple provides it’s developers with 100 promo codes that can be used to access each app for free, even before it’s launched; you’ll want to make sure you earmark some of those for reviewers. It’s important to note that people accessing your app via promo codes won’t be able to rate the program in the App Store. Also, although they’ll be able to download the software for free, they’ll have to pay for any in-app purchases. If you’re submitting an app to the Google Play Store, you can share the project with reviewers (or anyone else) by sending it as an Android Application Package file (APK).
Along with access to the app, reviewer Erica Sadun suggests that your email include a paragraph-long description, a link to your app’s landing page and its app store product page, a short video of the app in action (no longer than a minute), your screenshots, and your contact info, including social accounts. Sadun recommends that you include the project’s name and a very short (80 characters or less) summary in the email’s subject line, while the paragraph-long description should identify your target audience and something about the app that makes it “pop.”
There are several sites that will review your app if they find it intriguing, so you’ll have to check them out to determine which ones are best for you. Getting a good idea of a review site’s typical visitors can help you make sure you’re concentrating on those that match up well with your target audience. For instance, if you’re releasing an app only for the Android platform, there’s no reason for you to ask Macworld for a review, while a positive write-up on that site can certainly be a boon to an Apple developer. Similarly, an app aimed at organizing family finances will likely generate little interest among writers at AppSpy, who concentrate on reviews of games.
Of course, it doesn’t do any good to submit your app for review if the software isn’t very good. Make sure you’ve tested the program thoroughly before sending it to review sites, in order to ensure that you’ve done everything you can to get a good response. A positive analysis from a popular site will not only improve your app’s reputation, but will introduce it to all those who read or watch the review.
There are sites that will charge you to write a review of your app (usually a positive one, because that’s what you’re paying for). While it’s nice to have a glowing review of your program in hand, savvy consumers and industry insiders will likely be aware that the analysis was purchased, so be weary of these sites if you want to make the best use of your promotional budget.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr are made for sharing, so their value to app promoters might seem evident. But to jump into social sharing without doing some research will likely result in a lot of missed opportunities to build and improve your install numbers. There are numerous social networking sites that can be used to promote your app, but here, we’ll concentrate on two: Facebook and Twitter.
First, let’s concentrate on the free promotional opportunities you can take advantage of on the social king. Your initial step will be to create a Facebook page for your app, which in its earliest stages, should include updates about development, and a link to a website with some more info. You can also use the page to get input from consumers ahead of the app’s launch, while expanding your pool of potential users.
Once you’ve released your app, Facebook provides a great way to maintain or increase awareness through frequent postings, while soliciting feedback from users, and responding to issues. You can also take advantage of your personal network of Facebook friends by sharing updates on your profile.
If you operate a company that’s released multiple apps, don’t forget to start a Facebook page for the organization on which you can create tabs for each of your programs, along with links to their pages.
For those willing to part with some cash, Facebook offers a variety of paid advertising opportunities that can let you take advantage of its vast user base. Here’s a quick rundown:
Mobile App Installs Ads: A basic ad that appears in users’ news feeds and includes an install button.
Mobile App Engagement Ads: These ads take users to a specific part of your app. For example, in a retail app, the ad could give users the opportunity to buy a specific item.
Desktop App Ads: Allows you to advertise on Facebook’s desktop version in two ways: in news feeds, and in the right-hand column. This is a great way to promote your app, but remember, users won’t be able install directly to a mobile device via these ads, though they can download the program and sync to their phone or tablet.
Custom Audiences for Mobile Apps: Allows you to customize your ads’ audience to hit your target market.
Measurement for Mobile App Ads: Provides analytics about your ads, letting you know what works, and what doesn’t.
App Events for iOS/Android: Using iOS or Android SDKs, this feature sends ‘event’ announcements from the Facebook accounts of your users. These events include game achievements and invitations, retail app purchases, and other announcements spread the word about your app while encouraging continued engagement among your current users. The makers of Candy Crush Saga used this method to great effect by letting users ask for extra game lives from their friends via Facebook.
You can also create a version of your app that can be used on Facebook, giving desktop users a chance to get in on the fun, while also encouraging those who enjoy the program to download it to their mobile devices as well.
With its ease of use and large user base (more than 270 million each month in 2014), you should make sure to incorporate Twitter into your promotional strategy. As with Facebook, you should start by creating an account, from which you can tweet about the impending release of your app (with links to your website). After launch, continue to tweet frequently, and retweet those updates from your personal account.
When tweeting, be sure to include a hashtag you created specifically for the app, as well as any related hashtags that might help you expand your reach. Also, you can mention influential bloggers and reviewers to increase the chances they’ll check out your program.
Also like Facebook, Twitter offers you the chance to buy a variety of ads that expand the reach of your promotional efforts on the platform. Here are some of your options:
Promoted Tweets: Ordinary tweets that can be seen by people not currently following you. Can be retweeted, replied to, and favorited.
Promoted Accounts: Suggests following your account via tweets sent to people who might be interested in your app.
Promoted Trends: Appear at the top of the Trending Topic list, and are viewable by all Twitter users. You’d better have deep pockets if you want to use these, though, with the cost reaching $200,000 in the U.S.
Mobile App Promotion Cards: These tweets include text, an image, and an install button that allows users to download your app. When the install is completed on a user’s phone, he or she will receive a notification prompting them to open the program. This service also offers you the chance to target the ads using demographic info.
These are just a few of the promotional opportunities available via social media sites. Do some research to find out which ones will work best for you.
Best of the Rest
We’ve gone through some of the best ways to spread the word about your app, but there are many other avenues available to anyone willing to put in the work necessary to launch a successful promotion plan.
Write a professional press release that includes screenshots, a link to your YouTube video, and lots of details about the launching of your app, as well as some info about your company. You should send the release to bloggers and industry influencers, as well as local media outlets. Make sure to state your interest in talking about your project on TV and radio, and over the Internet.
Banners are traditional ads that appear on websites (desktop and mobile) and also in apps. The ads clearly stand apart from the page’s content, and should link back to your website.
Native ads (some of which we’ve mentioned in the social media section) are tailored to specific audiences and appear among content on websites or social media feeds. Unlike traditional banner ads, native ads are designed to fit in with the content of the site on which they’re appearing, often only distinguishable by the addition of text reading, “sponsored” or “promoted.”
App Promotion Agencies/Third Party Tracking
If you don’t have the time or inclination to take on the task of promotion by yourself, you can always hire an agency to help you out, or do it for you. There are several agencies staffed with experts who can plan and implement a promotion strategy, provided you’re willing/able to pay for their services.
If you don’t mind doing most of the promotional work, but want some help measuring the success of those efforts, you might want to check out some third party tracking agencies or software. With a tracking service, you can stay up-to-date on your return-on-investment to ensure that you’re not throwing time and money away on promotion elements that aren’t working.
By the time your app is ready to launch, you’ll have spent a significant amount of time and money on its development. If you want those sacrifices to pay off, it’s vital that you work just as hard on the promotion of the project as you did on its creation.
A great promotion strategy made up of some of the methods we’ve mentioned here won’t guarantee your app’s success, but failing to do so might guarantee its failure.
Wanna chime in with some thoughts on app promotion? Just head down to the comments section!