Five ways to up your app user-acquisition game

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New app? A Twitter exec offers a handful of useful guidelines to help you build a bigger and better user base

By 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion, according to Gartner. While this demonstrates an enormous opportunity for mobile app marketers to drive app installs, more and more apps are being created every day across multiple platforms.

This is further illustrated by Millennial Media’s State of the Apps  2015 Industry Snapshot, which says that the developers and publishers surveyed expect to grow the number of apps they have in 2015. Currently, 39% of developers have five or more apps, and this is expected to grow to 56% in 2015. Overall, 91% expect to have two or more apps in an app store next year.

In the midst of all these apps, just how can your app or service stand out from the crowd? How can a marketer be really sure that their app is at the top-of-mind? Here are five things to keep in mind when you’re looking to attract your next 1,000, 5,000 or even 10,000 users.

1. Connect with your existing users and customers to build referrals. Whether developer or marketer, the easiest and quickest way to get a headstart on attracting app installs and users to your new app/service is via your current customer base. Existing users will already be familiar with your brand and offerings, and as such will be more likely to download and use your new app, as well as spread the word on updates as well as any new service additions. Don’t forget to leverage existing communications channels such as mailing lists and followers on your social media channels; this can help bring in referrals from existing users and customers.

2. Make use of customer insights to optimize targeting. You should be supplementing your user acquisition efforts by leveraging customer insights: demographic and psychographic targeting, for example. Understanding current user habits and usage patterns can help greatly in optimizing your marketing campaigns to maximise effectiveness. Which countries should you launch your app in first? Will you go for a global launch, or regional? Or will you instead go country by country in order of importance?

You can use public platforms to run social listening programs, and tap on the advanced targeting capabilities of modern platforms to gather customer insights that can help sharpen your targeting strategies. A recent campaign by Spotify utilised keyword, mobile platform and geo-targeting to identify Lafawnda fans in the UK who are using iPhones. Using a combination of a Promoted Tweet and Twitter’s App Card, Spotify promoted an exclusive #Lafawnda album, made available when a user installed the Spotify app.

3. Test, test and test again (or not). Throwing things against the wall and hoping that something sticks isn’t a very good use of limited resources. Methodologies such as A/B testing can help you figure out which elements in your campaign get you the best results, and then focus additional resources on the campaigns that appear to work better.

This could be as simple as using different combinations of images and text, or tweaking targeting parameters according to user handle likes, interests, followers, specific keywords or timing the bulk of your marketing activities at specific times of the day. For example, according to a Citrix Mobile Analytics report from earlier this year, mobile engagement periods increases gradually through the day, from an average low of 2.7 minutes at 4 a.m. to an average high of 6.7 minutes at 9 p.m.

4. Get creative. The number of worldwide mobile app downloads are expected to reach 268.69 billion in 2017 (Source: Statista). In a day and age where the real-time nature of social media means that timeliness and context are even more crucial when competing for limited user attention, your app needs to be creative to stand out. Whether regularly refreshing your content, or using creative artwork in place of in-app screenshots, sometimes changing things up can make all the difference in keeping user interest high. For example, using video clips to showcase in-game highlights to your gaming app will likely attract more potential users.

5. Look beyond optimizing just for the app install. The data you can gather after a user installs your new app can be a treasure trove of user behavior data, whether it reveals how long the user uses the app, the times of a day that the app sees the most action, or on which mobile networks the bulk of your users tend to congregate.

According to research from Nielsen, the monthly time spent per person on apps in the US has increased from 23 hours and two minutes in fourth-quarter 2012 to 37 hours and 28 minutes in fourth-quarter 2014  —  a 63% rise in two years! Entertainment apps, which include gaming and sports, are becoming more popular and contributing to this growth.

This kind of data can also come in handy for apps designed with in-app purchases, as it enables developers to optimize future updates to maximise user-spend over the lifetime of the app, as well as for maximising engagement over the long term.

SensorTower found that Sunday was the best day in general to get your users to buy stuff within the app. For specific verticals, productivity apps did equally well in terms of downloads and revenue any day of the week, while business apps saw upward momentum towards the middle of the week. In comparison, fitness and health-based apps did the worst on Fridays, which makes a lot of sense because, well, it’s the weekend.

Bottom line, as your potential audience is distributed across multiple channels, platforms, networks and devices, so should your strategies to build momentum and growth be equally diversified.

Aliza Knox is vice president of online sales for Asia Pacific, the Americas and emerging markets at Twitter.

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