Let’s say you’ve got an iPhone app — an app you’re sure will disrupt its industry and become essential to some (miraculously) previously ignored aspect of daily life. How do you let the wider world know that they’re missing out on your life-changing bit of tech?
An app is a product like any other — intangible though it may be — and you need to market it. It could be tempting to think that your app will get recognition just by virtue of its great and innovative functionality. A listing in the App Store is just the beginning: for a free app to rank in the top twenty-five, the developer’s grail, it needs to be downloaded about 38,400 times daily.
To find the users who need and want your app, you need to rely on the same curious hybrid of traditional marketing practices and disruptive digital techniques that all brand-awareness strategy should use.
If you’re a mobile app development company with a relatively small budget, you’re likely not looking to launch an expansive, expensive ad campaign. It’s lucky, then, that the platforms with the highest degree of consumer engagement are those that offer promotional solutions for brands with any budget — even none at all.
It’s important to begin marketing your app before it launches, so that by launch day, you’ll have a cohesive brand and an audience anticipating your product. If you’ve built a genuine conversation about your app before it launches, it will be far easier to find beta testers, bloggers to write testimonials, and users eager to download it the day it’s available.
But please, don’t use the word viral.
As we said, you don’t need to have an especially large budget to successfully market your app. You don’t even need to design and develop a website to support it. What you do need is an attractive, functional splash page that will let users know what your app does, when it’s launching, and how they can find more information.
A good splash page will display branding — logo, background image, and so forth — that’s consistent with your app’s eventual brand and color scheme, so users will recognize it upon launch.
We like LaunchRock for just this reason: you can create a free “launching soon” page, no programming required, that lets you brand your product and connect with a new audience. You can include an email signup feature, promote your launch through LaunchRock’s Announcement Bar, and get metrics on signups, demographics, and traffic to your splash page.
The next step is integrating your splash page with Facebook and building a Facebook presence for your app. We’re sure we don’t need to tell you why having a Facebook brand page is a necessity: with 900 million monthly active users, it’s almost certain that your target audience is on the site. It’s a powerful tool that lets brands and users communicate on a level playing field — just like most social-media networks, except for the fact that literally everyone is crammed onto that field.
Use Facebook’s timeline format to tell users a bit more about your app before it launches. You can add milestones to your timeline (as long as they’re in the past): note when your company was founded, share posts and events relating to your upcoming launch, seek beta testers and reviewers, and post relevant photos and multimedia. When launch date arrives, be sure to note it on your timeline — you can use a double-wide photo to promote this as well.
Facebook’s cover photo allows you to present a visual-heavy, aesthetically appealing introduction to your app, from the moment a visitor lands on your page. Use this space to add visual content that’s consistent with your app’s branding strategy, and consider trying out a creative juxtaposition with your profile photo.
Facebook has long offered advertising services along the lines of Google’s Display Network. Unfortunately, while Google offers excellent targeting and (integrated) analytics reporting, Facebook’s display ads offered little targeting, limited formats, and a far lower click-through rate (check out this infographic for more comparisons).
Perhaps due to its recent IPO, though, Facebook has been devising new ways to make itself attractive to brands and advertisers. These new ad strategies are more creative, more engaging, and more likely to reach the people who want to see them.
For example, Facebook now lets brands promote individual updates on their timelines — which you can do this as you post, or you can go back and promote an earlier update.
Facebook’s Reach Generator is another way to make sure that your relevant updates reach the most users: your fans will see updates as a sponsored story on their homepages, increasing your impressions and your outreach. This is a great tool to leverage as your app’s launch approaches.
Twitter is another powerful and easy-to-use tool for brands, allowing you to connect with a large audience and find new users who would be interested in your app’s functionality. You can create a Twitter account for your app that’s linked with your splash page, incorporates your branding and logo, and reaches relevant and influential users who can help you spread the message about your app.
Using Twitter’s search function and researching popular hashtags related to your app is a useful way to find out how best to promote it. If you’re keeping an eye on blogs and bloggers who write about tech news or about your app’s particular industry, you can reach out directly by tweeting at them with new content or updates about your app’s launch to increase coverage upon the event.
As you gain followers, be sure to keep them engaged: again, search for beta testers if you’d like to get early feedback, and ask followers what functions they’d like to see, or what works and doesn’t work in your app. Keep followers updated on events and milestones, and cross-promote certain posts between Facebook and Twitter to increase your audience across both platforms. Be sure to frequently check your mentions and retweets, and thank users who engage with your Twitter account.
Twitter also offers a paid advertising service for brands that can accommodate a variety of budgets — though it’s often most useful for those brands that are already established and are running a specific campaign. You can place bids to promote either your Twitter account, specific tweets, or a trending topic (this one’s for the big hitters; it’s great for kicking off an event, but there’s a fixed price of $120-thousand for a twenty-four-hour period.)
Promoted accounts will be targeted by interest using Twitter’s algorithm, though you can target by location and keyword as well. You can promote individual tweets either in search — for a given keyword — or in users’ timelines, where they’ll be presented as integrated with tweets of users they follow, though marked as “promoted.”
Promoting tweets could be a useful way to let more interested users know about your app’s launch; you can learn more about Twitter advertising for brands here.
There are, of course, many more ways to use SMM to build buzz around your soon-to-launch app, many of which will depend on the type of app you’ve built — think Pinterest for retail- or photo-based apps, or LinkedIn for hiring or B2B apps. In the future, we’ll explore some of the other platforms and techniques that you can use to successfully promote and market your app.
What social-media platforms have you used to build interest around your app?