Recently, after passing over 1500 iPhone apps across over 1000 publishers, we decided to investigate what strategies successful developers were employing in order to get their apps noticed. What we discovered was that, although only a handful of apps were achieving critical success, many of their publishers (Storm8, Trippert Labs, Digital Chocolate, I-play, Webworks, etc.) were the same guys releasing success after success, and these publishers weren’t all large brands with huge marketing budgets.
So we dived into our ad data and determined that it was actually possible to simply “purchase” enough ad units to brute force an app into the top 100. The cost? Unfortunately, around $1875 a day in ad campaigns.
With some app development experience ourselves, we set about looking at the alternative ways to promote applications. Our favorite platforms were those that grew the userbase organically and virally simply by using the app (gaming platforms Open Feint and ngmoco Plus+), but developers were still in a rut if they wanted to promote an app that they had just released. Certainly it made sense to utilize channels such as YouTube and review sites TouchArcade, AppVee, IGN, and PocketGamer, among others, but we knew we could achieve better results if we could specifically target the precise audience for our apps.
To us, this seemed like a chicken-and-egg problem: how could we advertise to an audience that we didn’t already have, unless we were outright buying the ads? At the same time, we realized it didn’t take THAT many downloads to break the top 100 in a popular category (only about 2500 daily), so there should be a relatively low-barrier way to amass these users. We encourage developers to be more and more creative about these problems, but for us, the solution was simply to release a few free apps, which quickly gain many “throwaway” users and offer an effective channel to advertise the apps that were important to us. As 95% of downloads come from free apps, even as they only comprise up 25% of the apps in the App Store, it’s not terribly difficult to gather several thousand users through a network of applications.
Read our report for the rest of our findings.
Finally, we’re excited to announce that we’ll soon be opening up the opportunity on our platform for developers to connect to one another and help each other cross-promote apps to the top 100 lists. We’ve been supported by a great developer community and we want to make sure that our open platform really leverages the advantages of all our users, and you’ll see more of these changes moving forward!