It’s very difficult to stand out of the crowd when you create a new app or game. By the end of 2014 there were around 1.4 million different apps in Google’s Play Store, 1.2 million in Apple’s App Store, and almost 300,000 in Amazon’s Appstore. The charts are dominated by a relatively small group of publishers and developers with big marketing budgets and brand recognition.
For smaller players looking to break through, viral word-of-mouth can spell success. Engaging your users to spread the word via social networking is effectively free advertising, but capturing the attention of new users requires a careful strategy or you risk alienating existing fans.
App reviews are vital
One of the first things that people look at when considering downloading an app is the review ratings. If an initial glance piques their interest, and there are no low scores to put them off, then they might delve into the reviews and see what other people think. You need to get users to review your app, but you have to be careful about how you ask. It’s best to allow the user some time before you ask for a review to make sure that they’ve gotten to grips with it and seen everything you have to offer.
Pop-up prompts to ask for reviews are very common, just make sure that you set a low frequency to avoid irritating people and don’t ask immediately after installation. It would be smart to trigger the pop-up when they’ve just completed a level or hit a specific amount of time using the app. That way there’s a better chance of getting a favorable review.
Integrate with social networks
Plenty of developers have lofty expectations that they’ll foster all sorts of social activity on their apps, but unless you’re specifically making a social networking app it’s better to integrate with popular networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You shouldn’t force people to sign in or post on networks, but you can make it easy for them. Research which networks suit your target demographics best and focus on them, you can’t cover everything and you shouldn’t try.
You can create a viral loop by, for example, allowing users to post a high score or a creation related to your app or game. You should provide them with a pre-written post or tweet, so they simply have to tap post, but always give them the option to skip. The message should come with a challenge to others to try and do better and a link to the app to draw in new users. An element of competition always encourages people to ask their friends and family to download an app.
Try to foster teamwork or sharing
If you include the option for users to share resources or work together to achieve a goal, then it will be easier for them to get new users on board and they’ll be more likely to try. Handle this carefully because, just like an invite system, it can degenerate into spam and end up annoying people. Games like FarmVille took this to the extreme on Facebook and it became a running joke.
You can obviously encourage people to advertise by giving them direct rewards, but it’s another practice that requires caution. A lot of apps offer rewards for reviews and this is not advisable. You may break the guidelines and be penalized for trying to manipulate rankings. A better approach is to offer a small in-game or in-app reward in return for a tweet or Facebook post. It may even take the form of an achievement in the game, or be something on the lower tier of your in-app purchases.
Whatever approach you employ make sure that you measure its effectiveness and listen to user feedback. It may take a while to settle on the right strategy for your particular app.