5 Ways to Get App Users Cheaply



There are over 1.5 million iOS apps in the Apple App Store, and around the same number in the Google Play store – each with over 75 billion app downloads.  That’s an average of 53 thousand downloads per app.  Good, right?

Well, not quite – Facebook alone has a couple of billion downloads (more than 1.4 billion on the App Store alone) – and the stores are heavily skewed to a small number of apps.

Want to join that club?  Or at least get closer to the coveted top spots?  Here are 5 timely tips to get those fingers clicking on your app.

  1. Prelaunch – Tell the World Now

If you haven’t launched yet – unless your idea is easily replicated, or you just like living under a rock – you should start generating demand before you launch.

So, make a great teaser site, with a short description of what you do –Meerkat’s just says ‘Tweet Live Video.’ That’s it. Next, drive signups from all the usual sources – friends, family, social media contacts.  Now’s not the time to be shy!  Sign up for launch services, like Beta List and LaunchingNext, but don’t feel that you need to succumb to paying for these. You can pretty much get 90% of the value for free.

Next comes the hard slog of telling the world through social media about your Next Big Thing.No social network is too small for this, but don’t simply blast out the app name.  Build a story around why it solves a problem for your consumers, and they’ll listen and follow you.

  1. Get Reviewed

Okay, now that you’ve launched your genius ‘Cats Playing Golf’ app, where do you find people who want to talk about it?

Everywhere. Cat sites, golf sites, blogs of all kind. You know what those hard-working writers and editors want? Good content!  So provide it to them, and again, avoid being salesy.  Be open and talk about how the app makes people’s lives better. Everyone wins.

Also, remember to look farther afield. Engadget might not cover you, but look into second tier sites. For instance, for Android apps, try Android Central, Android Police and Pocket Now.  They have (surprisingly large) loyal, early adopter audiences. Use services like Buzzsumo to look for sites and influencers you wouldn’t have normally thought of.

  1. Make a Share-worthy Landing Page

We all want to be part of a small, special group that gets early access to your app, and we then want to tell our friends that we spotted you first. It makes us feel good! Use that insight in the sign-up process, and give further incentives for sharing.  And make it easy – big buttons rule, and green buttons have higher click through rates (it’s no coincidence Download.com uses big green ‘download’ buttons!)

  1. Outsource for (Next to) Nothing

How valuable is your time?  Have you ever calculated what you think you’re worth per hour?   Now make a list of the things you did for your startup in the last week. Were some of them boring and time consuming?  Most of those things you could have done for a tenth of the value of your time. Some examples:

– Crowdsource your logo design for as little as $49 and get hundreds of potential designs back

– Fix your site issues or add functionality using a freelance service like Odesk or Elance – you’ll get an amazing amount done for less than $50

– Use a service like Fiverr to put that launch video together.  Yes, for a fiver.

  1. Advertising: Rinse, Repeat

Test, test, test.  For $150 and a few hours work (mostly on images – outsource if you can’t or don’t have time) you can run 4-6 variations of your ad on Facebook and end up with some great answers to: What message works best?  What’s my average clickthrough rate?  What’s the cost of getting a visitor to my launch site or app?

Buying ‘remnant’ inventory of display ads remains a great opportunity through places like Google’s Adwords (don’t get bogged down by terminology if you’re not in the industry – essentially this means accessing lots of cheap, if sometimes less effective, advertising space).  For as low as a $1 for a thousand ad displays, you can get a lot of people at least seeing your brand, and remembering your name when they next go to the Play Store or the App Store.

Bonus tips that didn’t make it into the top 5:

– Make it Free:  As a rule, free apps make more money.  Of course, that’s free to install, and most then make money out of ads within the app (hard going) or in-app purchases.  Clash of Clans makes $170k per day…

– Make it Searchable; Google is now deep-linking into apps for search results and their Siri-like helper Google Now – so make sure your app is built to accept these

– Be Your Brand: Respond to every review and rating on the app stores.  Not only does this give users who are on the fence a good warm feeling about the app and the developer; it will also buy you customers for life – as you have personally interacted with them.  People like people!


Image credit: CC by Cristiano Betta

About the author: Alex Kelleher

Alex Kelleher is currently running a pre-launch mobile shopping app company, Get (www.get.gt).  Prior to that he founded and sold companies including Cognitive Match (display advertising), Touch Clarity (optimization and analytics) and Vivid Edge (web design).

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