Burst campaigns. Over the years that term has started to have a stigma associated with it. There have been numerous articles written about burst campaigns; and most of them talk about burst campaigns the same way a disapproving father might talk about his daughter’s new boyfriend.
But are they really that bad? Although no one’s app marketing strategy should revolve sole around burst campaigns, they can be extremely powerful. In this post, we’ll debunk some of the common myths surrounding burst campaigns.
Burst Campaigns? Que es?
Simply put: A burst campaign is when someone spends a lot of money for installs over a short period of time. The main goal of a burst campaign is to get your app to rise in the Top Charts and search rankings. Often times they are criticized because many burst campaigns utilize incentivized downloads. This means users often receive some sort of digital or monetary compensation for downloading the app. It’s also been perceived as a way for app marketers to ‘cheat’ the app store.
One of the reasons burst campaigns are seen as cheating the app store is because there are a few common myths associated with them. It’s important to note that in some cases, they can be used to cheat the app store, and we definitely don’t advocate for that. But if used correctly, they can also be a valuable app marketing strategy. Below are the top four myths we’ve identified, and some explanations as to why they aren’t true.
Myth 1: Burst Campaigns Lead to Low Quality Users
Well, to be fair, this myth is half true. As I mentioned, because downloads acquired through burst campaigns are often incentivized, the direct downloads you receive from these campaigns are, for the most part, low quality.
However, if you take into account the increase in organic downloads an app receives from the ranking boost derived from burst campaigns, the overall quality of user is actually quite good. In an article on ClickZ, the creator of Dolphin Play states that he ran three burst campaigns in the first 90 days of his app’s launch, and received a 175% increase of organic installs over paid installs. This is because the increase in paid downloads also lead to an increase in the app’s Top Charts and search rankings, which then increased their organic downloads.
Myth Busted: As you can see, for every user they paid for, the Dolphin Play app received almost two new organic users. The low quality user myth can be boiled down to this: Yes, burst campaigns for the most part directly lead to low-quality users, but as shown through Dolphin Play, you can actually receive a net increase in quality, organic users.
Myth 2: Burst Campaigns Help Low Quality Apps Thrive
This is another myth often associated with burst campaigns. To me, this seems more like a complaint than a myth. If you look through the Top Charts, every once and a while you’ll see terrible app rising the ranks. The app store is extremely competitive, so when developers of a high quality app who can’t break into the top 100 see this, it seems unfair to them.
I have a one word response to this: patience. If the app really is a bad app, and you check back in the next few days, it’s very unlikely that it will still be there. Look at this Top Chart for an app I recently spotted in the Games category (and I would not classify as a top 50 app).
You can see that in the middle of June they had a huge spike. Between the 19th and the 21st, they rose 21 spots. That’s a huge jump! Although we can’t say for sure, the most probable reason for a jump like this is a burst campaign. In the following few days, you can see they had a less drastic rise, peaking at the 28th spot. This slow increase was likely due to the organic installs they received from improved search and Top Charts rankings.
However, you might also notice that their fall was just as quick, and more dramatic, than their rise. Following their peak, they dropped 44 spots in less than a week. The likely cause: A shoddy app.
Myth Busted: Yes, poorly made apps that utilize burst campaigns can rise quickly in the Top Charts. But, the app store has a way of leveling out. Burst campaigns are expensive and unsustainable. Even if a bad app does rise the ranks, eventually users will realize it’s low quality, they will start reviewing it poorly, give it bad ratings, and eventually it will fall back down where it belongs. And it won’t take long for this to happen. If anything, burst campaigns speed up the process of getting rid of bad apps because they utilize their whole budget on burst campaigns.
Myth 3: Good Marketers Don’t Use Burst Campaigns
Again, this myth is derived from the negative stigma associated with burst campaigns. Because they can sometimes be seen as ‘cheating the app store,’ I often hear people say that good marketers shouldn’t use them.
Myth Busted: Wrong again. In fact, it takes a very good and savvy marketer to properly use burst campaigns. If used correctly, they can be a very powerful part of an app marketer’s arsenal. A smart marketer will use burst campaigns in a number of cases. These include, but are not limited to: a newly released app, a lull in downloads, or after an important app update. However, when marketers start utilizing burst campaigns, they make sure to have their ducks in a row. This primarily means that all their organic optimization measures are in place: they’ve picked the best keywords, optimized their title, improved their screenshots, and added a great description. That way they know they will take full advantage of their ranking boost, and maximize their ROI.
Myth 4: Burst Campaigns Are The Easy Way Out
Yikes. If only it were that simple. It sure would be nice if you could just throw some dollars at your app marketing and automatically have it be a success. Although this might seem to be what marketers are doing when they implement a burst campaign, in reality that’s far from the case. In the first myth, we showed that getting a significant Top Charts boost doesn’t mean your app will stay highly ranked and succeed, so there must be more to it.
Myth Busted: If you’ve ever gone through with a successful burst campaign, you know that it is far from the ‘easy way out.’ It takes much more than a simple ranking boost to make an app successful. First and foremost, you need to have a great product. Even if you increase in rankings and start getting more organic downloads, if your product stinks, your app will fail. Second, you need to acquire good users. This means finding the right people who will actually utilize and appreciate your product. A big part of this is targeting the right search terms and taking advantage of the search ranking boost. Search leads to intent-driven, quality users. You want the users who will rate your app, write good reviews, and refer it to friends. Third, eventually you need to monetize. If you’re in the app business, and it’s more than just a hobby, you need to bring in the money. This means finding the right way to monetize your app, whether that means making it paid, adding in-app ads, or creating a freemium model.
These are just three pieces of the puzzle. A burst campaign can definitely help your app, but it takes much more than a large marketing budget to create a successful app. Hopefully this has helped clear the air around burst campaigns. But I hope it has also helped you realize that app marketing is a complex and complicated process. Burst campaigns are just one part of it, and if used correctly, they can be hugely effective.
However, it takes a fully thought out marketing strategy to create a successful app. If you’ve had any positive or negative experiences with burst campaigns, definitely let us know! We’d love to hear them!
Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.