Acquisition & Engagement

Inbound App Marketing Series: Part 2

Becky Doles

This is the second part in a series we are posting to cover all the inbound app marketing basics. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, inbound app marketing is the process of marketing your app through organic channels that have little-to-no marginal cost. It includes things like having a website, gaining earned media, having an active social presence, active content marketing, increasing engagement, and optimizing your app for app store search. Follow along as we cover all these different tactics.

Earned Media: Your app’s spinach

Getting featured in media publications is a great way to add a short spike to your organic downloads. Unlike a website, media coverage does not provide a long-term, steady flow of downloads. However, that does not mean it can’t be very helpful. Media coverage is extremely useful in providing short, high velocity bursts of downloads, which helps your app by providing direct downloads and a higher rank in the app store.

Media coverage acts as a form of validation. Not only can it lead to a large bump in downloads, but it also can provide a spike in your Top Charts and keyword rankings.

One of the most influential factors determining your ranking for keywords and the Top Charts is download velocity (how many downloads your app receives in a short period of time – usually 48-72 hours). Earned media can provide the boost you need to rise in the app store rankings, which then can provide another source of increased organic downloads.

An example of how earned media can help improve your rankings and downloads is Snapchat. You might remember a few months ago, in November, when Snapchat turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook. This received a lot of press coverage, which, in turn, led to an increase in downloads.

You can see below how this influenced their ranking in the Top Charts for free iPhone apps. In the beginning of November they were ranked 13th. Just a few weeks later, after the story hit the press, they shot up over 10 spots to number 2. This is especially impressive because, as your ranking gets better, it becomes harder to keep rising in the charts.

What Will Get You Media Coverage?

Getting covered by a major publication is no easy feat, but there are a few topics related to apps that seem to get written about more than others. Rather than let them come to you, approach writers with information and ideas for stories they might be interested in.

The first topic commonly covered is raising money. The media loves to talk about apps (and companies in general) raising a new round of funding because it catches the eye and adds a level of validation to the app. At the time of writing this post, the front page of TechCrunch had six articles about companies raising money.

Another topic they love to cover is industry disruptors. Does your app turn a traditional industry on its head? Are you changing the status quo and altering the way people usually perform a traditional task? Companies like Uber, that revolutionized the taxi industry, are huge hits because, again, they grab the user’s attention and provide value through a new way of doing things.

Any insights you can provide on your users is also very valuable. No, I’m not talking about NSA style information. I mean providing insights into users’ behaviors and motivations. Your app provides a great opportunity to collect and analyze user data. What makes your users tick? What’s behind the popularity of your app?

You should be looking into this already to help improve your product, so don’t be shy, share it. It’s obviously important not to give away your secret formula, but at the same time, giving away bits and pieces can sometimes help more than it could potentially hurt.

The last major topic that gets covered frequently is novelty. Novelty doesn’t always have to come in the form of a completely new product. There might be something proprietary about the way you do something that you can try to publicize.

Although not an app, this article in Forbes about the new HBO show True Detective provides a great example. While a TV show is far from a novel product, the way the show was written and directed is. It gives the writer of the article a chance to provide a different take on something normal. Try and find an angle like this within your app and start approaching writers with the story.

Here’s a guide from Mashable on how to get your startup covered by top publications. Some of the important tips to note include: a concise pitch, not already being covered to death elsewhere, and attending events. Keep these in mind as you begin approaching different media sources.

Who Should You Target?

Don’t limit yourself when looking for people to cover your app. Of course, you should set a high bar and reach out to sources like Mashable, TechCrunch, Forbes, etc. (Scour your contacts to look for anyone who might be able to introduce you to someone there, which will increase your chances.)

Also, don’t shy away from smaller publications and bloggers. These can be just as valuable because you can really nail down a target audience. By finding blogs or publications focused on the general app ecosystem or on your specific vertical, you likely will have a higher conversion rate.

Remember, earned media is to your app what spinach is to Popeye. It can be extremely helpful and give you a quick boost, but it won’t make you strong forever. Continually think about different takes on your app and ways you can spin a story. Although you might view a change as a simple update to your app, there always are ways to spin it into something newsworthy.

Becky Doles

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.

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