Marketing Apps : Social Media and Advertising Networks

You saw a gap in a process, interaction, transaction or whatever catches your fancy and then decided that the best way to fill it is to create a smartphone app. You’ve poured through designs, thought about ‘optimal user interactions’, dealt with your coding team and relentlessly tested it on every device size conceivable.

But what now?
How are you going to tell people that you have this amazing app?
Or to put it another way, as of October 2013 the Apple App Store already had a million apps, that’s 1,000,000 apps. By May 2014, the Google App Store had 1,206,758 apps (this number looks so precise that I’m skeptical of it, just because, I suppose). With so many apps out there, how are people going to find your app? And if you’re planning to sell this app, how are you going to get them to come the apps stores?

Show me the numbers: What VCs Want.
There is another angle, one that we’ve seen play again and again. You often have an app idea and a team of coders (if you’re lucky) but not the resources to create it on your own. You struggle and find a backer (a Venture Capitalist, an Angel or just your app’s sugar daddy). He/she agrees to pay for your app, but wants to see numbers asap. For the backer, this is a proof of concept to see if their investment (your idea) is actually going to give them any returns. The pressure then turns to downloads. As a digital agency, it becomes our task to find the best way to drive downloads to that app.

The numbers matter: App Installs Vs Active User Base.
This is quite straight forward: get enough downloads and traction from it, and you have a successful app. If you’re smart, you’ll collect information from users on how they use the app, what they like about it and what they don’t, and use that to improve the app over it’s lifetime. But downloads themselves aren’t enough data. You need to know your ‘active user-base’, the number of people using your app each day/week/month. In my opinion, that’s a better metric on how popular your app really is.  In any case, downloads are a good way to start.

Live Case: The App that we marketed.
We recently ran a three month campaign for a venture capital funded app called ‘Book Keeper‘ (we worked on this project with Anglian Management Group). As its name suggests, Book Keeper, is an inventory, invoicing and basic accounting app that can help micro, small and medium enterprises keep an eye on how much they’ve spent this month, what’s sold, what’s left and what someone owes them.  The emphasis was on marketing the app and getting people to download it.

Finding your audience: networks, demographics and advertisements.
There are several ways to do this: Google Adwords and Ad Choices (broad but interactive), LinkedIn adverts (expensive but targeted) and finally advert networks that display ads on other apps (like AdMob and InMobi). It’s not just the networks, it’s also who you target with these apps. Book Keeper wanted to start by focussing on India, and since it is an accounting app, we started by targeting people who work with finance and cash: Accountants, entrepreneurs, traders, transportation, construction, consultants and so forth. We also wanted to increase reach by looking at (don’t kill me for saying this) Tier II and Tier III cities like Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Guwahati, Bhopal and Indore to name a few.  And then we started experimenting with different networks.

Facebook works: Using App-Install adverts.
Ultimately, we focussed on two networks: Facebook and InMobi. Facebook showed the fastest results with its geographic plus activity targeting and click-to-install adverts on iOS and Android. With a few tweaks and little monitoring, on budget of just Rs 2,400 (roughly $40) we were able to get 200+ downloads in two days. This worked at an average cost of just over Rs 10 ($0.18) an install. We also tried this on lower budgets, where we set a daily limit of Rs 100/day ($1.76), and easily got over 20 app installs a day. Over a period of 2-3 month, average cost still stayed at about Rs10/install. By increasing the budgets, we were able to get larger and larger install numbers while the per install cost hovered about the Rs 10 mark. Since the app is priced at Rs 628 per quarter (thats $10.50/quarter) , the per install cost of Rs 10 (or $0.18) is quiet low. Thus the cost of marketing also gets justified. For installs, thats a very low and measurable cost of getting people to see and actually install you app. It also becomes a credible number when you’re going to charge you customers each quarter.

With inMobi (and AdMob) things were not as great. For starters, both the networks don’t give you as many Indian cities or activities to target as Facebook does. Plus, they have a mandatory $10/day expense. They do let you set a cost per instal, but it seems to give results only at the higher end of the $10 scale. For me, these networks are useful when you have a larger budget or when your app is so visually appealing that a small banner advert in a third party app will catch the users’ attention.

Now you know: Experiment your way to app installs.
On the whole, app marketing is here to stay and the best way to figure out what networks and budgets work for you, is to experiment with a number of networks, demographics and budgets. With a little tinkering and a whole lot of analytics you can find your audience and get them to see the supercool solution to the problem you solved. I hope this helped you in that a little!

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