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You’ve read everyone else’s top-ranked guide on how to promote your app and heard all of the usual suspects: Use social media, run paid ads, tell your friends, find influencers — blah blah blah.

That’s great, but you’re new to marketing apps, so chances are your social media posts are getting 1 like and 0 comments, your paid ads are costing an arm and a leg without any downloads, and it won’t be long before you’ve pulled every last hair out of your head.

Thankfully, we’ve written what seems to be the Internet’s first ever real, actionable guide on promoting your app. We’ll assume you’ll bring no marketing knowledge, no technical knowledge, and no $200,000 advertising budget.

In this article, we’ll provide strategies and tactics that actually work in 2024, aren’t saturated by everyone else's efforts, and don’t require prior marketing experience. We’ll work on the assumption that you have 0 users so far and give you strategies you can use to build your app’s audience from the ground up.

And if you haven’t got an app yet, that’s okay, too try building one with our no-code app builder, then use our strategies below to turn it into a thriving business!

1. Optimize Your App Store Presence

First, start with the easiest, low-hanging fruit — app stores. Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store aren’t going to give you 10,000 users overnight, but they’re teaming with would-be app downloaders, making them a relatively low-effort, high-return place to spend your time.

There are two main ways that someone can find your app in a store. 

  1. If someone searches for a term related to your app, your app will appear in the search results
  2. If your app is selected by the app store’s team to be featured on the homepage or in a special category. This is very tough to achieve, especially if you’ve just published your app to the app store. 

Let’s focus on optimizing your app so it appears at the top of search results — I’m talking about App Store Optimization (ASO). 

ASO is the app store’s version of SEO: You’ll configure how your title, app description, screenshots, and other content appear to users. The main goal of ASO is to match your app’s listing in the app store to the kind of app users want to download. 

In other words, your app’s listing info needs to check all the boxes of an app that users intend to download. Ensuring your app’s listing info meets user intent can be done by following these steps:  

A) Brainstorm Keywords 

Let’s say you’re releasing a wine app. It goes without saying, but “wine” and “wine app” are the two main keywords you’ll want to use. Think of other keywords related to your app, and jot them down. 

The goal is to create a long list of keywords that describe your app’s key functionalities and the essence of the app itself. Back to our wine app example — if you plan to feature a social media and community messaging function, note keywords like “wine community,” “wine sharing,” and anything else that comes to mind.    

B) Research Your Competitors 

Open your Google Play Store and Apple App Store apps and enter the keywords you wrote down in the search bar. Select the top 3 or 4 apps and read through the descriptions, writing down their keywords and how they describe the app. 

The apps that rank toward the top tend to describe their key features and functionalities clearly and succinctly. You’ll want to do the same — snap screenshots of your competition’s best descriptions, which you’ll refer to in Step #6. 

C) Get a Keyword Research Tool 

Keyword research tools provide precious info about popular search terms and trends. You’ll learn which keywords are super competitive and, therefore, hard to rank for, and you’ll also get a good idea of alternative, highly-searched-for (or high-volume) keywords that aren’t so competitive. 

Several ASO keyword research tools are out there. Some, like Keyapp, provide free services that illustrate how competitive specific keywords are to rank for (also called keyword difficulty), while other tools, like Apptweak, will cost $99/month (billed monthly).

Pro tip: It might be worth investing a few hundred dollars into an ASO tool to get your app off the ground and ranking in the search results. 

D) Use Stellar Screenshots and Informative Videos

Your images should showcase your app in the best possible light. The best screenshots include the app’s branding in the background and use text in the image to point out the features and use cases shown.

If your app has a unique feature, like a swipe screen for rating wine, use a short video clip to show its functionality. This will give folks a clear idea of how your app works and its ease of use. 

E) Create an Eye-Catching Icon

It might seem like an afterthought, but creating a fantastic, memorable, and on-brand icon is essential for catching searchers’ eyes on the app store. Your app’s icon will appear to the left of your app title in the search results folks will see it immediately. 

People will associate your app with its icon. So, it’s essential to think of your icon as your app’s logo: You’ll need to ensure it stands out aesthetically. 

Are you afraid to design your app icon because your creative skills are still at the preschool level? Don’t worry. Several icon-design tools are out there. We recommend Looka because it’s simple and leverages AI tech. 

F) Copywrite Your Description, Title, and Other Metadata

With all your keywords and research, it’s time to get down to business and write your description info. But before writing, get up to speed with the wisdom of David Ogilvy, the father of modern copywriting. 

His main points are especially true when writing an app description: Don’t treat your app’s short description field as a throwaway task. Invest the time describing your app and how it solves a user’s problem. Iterate on this over time to hook your potential users in.

Infuse your description and title with your keywords while shamelessly copying those of your competitors. While both app stores give you 4,000 characters of space for the description, it is advisable to use fewer characters: Nobody wants to waste time trying to decipher an app description that reads like a Faulkner novel. 

G) Localize Your Metadata

You can change your title, description, and other metadata to better suit other countries and languages where your app might be relevant. Do a little research here. If your competitors are doing direct translations, they may be missing an opportunity to use a phrase or wording that is more relevant in a different language.

H) Leverage Paid Ads

Want to skip straight to the top of the search results? Consider running App Store Ads. You can specify which types of users and queries you want to share your app with through Apple's Search Ads or Google's Mobile Campaigns

Paid ads can be a risky place to start, but App Store Ads stand out not just because they’re cheaper and a little easier than Facebook and Google Ads. App Store Ads are a great choice because your potential customers are already on the App Store with a mindset to download an app and are looking for a solution now.

Allocating some daily budget to capture potential users right as they need your app can be a lucrative way to drive traction.

I) Prompt for Reviews

One of the most powerful actions you can take is to encourage your users to leave reviews on the app store. 

Doing so makes your app look more trustworthy and appealing to people looking at it on the app store. It also makes it much more likely that Apple/Google will rank it higher among searchers and feature it on their Today or Home pages.

The trick is to choose your timing well. For example, Uber requests users leave a review during one of their first 10 rides. You’re bored in the back of the car, so you’ve got time to leave a review. You’re currently getting value, so you’re in the mindset to write a positive review.

Think about where your app's key “aha!” moment is, where a user will be maximally excited, happy, or satisfied while using it. 

This is the ideal time to prompt them for a review. Don’t be afraid to use a space in your app to mention your background story and show that you’re independent and not a giant, blood-sucking megacorporation (unless you are, in which case…no hard feelings?).

2. Use Launch Sites and Directories

Because you’re just starting, you’ll be glad to hear there are more than a few “daily launch” websites that list new apps, websites, and software. Connecting with one of these sites and getting them to feature your app could pay enormous dividends. 

A) Connect with Product Hunt

One popular launch site is Product Hunt. You list your product on the site, schedule the day you’d like it to be “launched,” and then sit back and watch the downloads flow in.

Well, hopefully. At the very least, you’ll likely get some eyeballs on your app with a basic launch. Still, if you’re serious about getting “upvotes” (people recommending your product) and appearing at the top of the list of daily products, you’ll want to put in a little effort.

Products that reach the top of Product Hunt regularly see thousands of visits in one day, leading to app downloads and often paying customers. Here’s how to increase your chances of getting upvotes:

  • Ask your friends to support your launch day with comments and reviews.
  • Leave positive comments about the products that launch alongside yours, and encourage them to comment about your app.  
  • Create a countdown campaign on your social media a few days before the launch so everyone in your network is informed about it. 
  • If you feature in-app purchases, offer limited-time incentives for leaving a positive review.

B) Product Hunt Alternatives

While Product Hunt may help popularize your app quickly, an app maker can only launch an app once every 6 months. And there’s no guarantee that Product Hunt’s audience will be a fit for your app. Thankfully, there are quite a few sites like these:

  • BetaList: A tech-focused website that showcases apps looking for testers and early users.
  • AppsThunder: A website that reviews newly launched apps of all shapes and sizes.
  • StarterStory: This website is a little different. It wants to interview you about how you built and grew your app business. It's a unique and fun way to get noticed!

C) Hire a Freelancer

If you can’t be bothered to list your product on all launch sites (we don’t blame you!), consider a service like SubmitJuice or a freelancing site like Upwork to outsource the job to someone else.

You can narrow your choice down to someone experienced with app promotion. While choosing a freelancer can cost several hundred dollars, they can help your app gain some serious marketing traction, resulting in more downloads. 

3. Embark On Some Community Marketing

If you wouldn’t call yourself a “marketer,” trying marketing activities can feel very uncomfortable. Community marketing is a little more fun than other ideas on this list.

A) Nail Your Niche

Community marketing involves going out to small online communities focused on a relevant niche to your app. Harkening back to our wine app example, “wine of all kinds” is your niche. You’ll want to find an online community of wine lovers and enthusiasts.

Here are some of the places you can look for communities to participate in:

  • Facebook Groups: Facebook Groups exist for almost every niche, hobby, or interest you can imagine — even for professional or business niches. Find them by searching the Facebook directory.

    Don’t just join every group you see — try and discover which groups are the most active. Start by commenting on posts and contributing to the conversation. 

    Pro tip: Create a separate Facebook account in the name of your app to appear professional. This can give you brand authority while sparking curiosity in your app.  

  • Niche Forums: Like Facebook Groups on steroids, forums exist for everything from car enthusiasts, parents of newborns, and even dedicated sweater knitters. Search terms like “car forum” or “Toyota fan forum” on Google.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a social network focusing on all things professional–marketing a brand, sharing industry news, or connecting with other professionals. The platform hosts countless groups, so chances are some of them will match your niche.

  • Reddit: Reddit has a large audience that is organized into dedicated subreddits covering a wide range of niches. Search a topic followed by “Reddit” on Google to surface these communities, e.g., “candle making Reddit.”

You can use an audience research platform called SparkToro to learn more about these communities.

B) How to Contribute to Online Communities Genuinely 

Once you’ve found your people, don’t just go in all-guns-blazing! Doing this might make you appear like a gross snake oil salesman — so it’s much better to play the long game. 

If you’ve built an app that serves a niche, chances are you have interesting and valuable knowledge and experience to share with that community. Follow these 3 rules of thumb to position your app in each community: 

  1. Post interesting information (that has nothing to do with your app), reply to others frequently, and build up your community. 
  1. Add friends or connections on Facebook and LinkedIn. But before you do so, always send a short note with each friend or connection request. This note should highlight your commonalities and your desire to grow your network. 

    Always personalize your connection requests by including a “Hello (name of potential connection)” as an introductory salutation!
  1. Keep your marketing subtle when you start. Become known as “that helpful person who also has the cool app” and not “that person who spams their app all over the place.”

It’s a subtle balance, but focus on creating mini relationships, and then natural promotion opportunities will appear.

There are compounding returns if you play the long game, so we recommend making this part of your daily working routine. Wake up, grab a coffee, and post 5-10 comments daily.

Pro tip: Your community might want to hear the “behind-the-scenes” story of your journey to create and promote an app for their hobby or niche. 

Share your journey openly, take on suggestions and feedback, and be candid with the community about the good, the bad, and the ugly details of growing an app from scratch.

4. Advertise in New Media

Pay-per-click ads aren’t the only way to pay your way to your audience. Did you know you can find cheap advertising slots on newsletters, podcasts, and niche websites?

Instead of directly engaging niche communities from the ground up, you’ll often be able to find forms of independent media that have a strong relationship with their audience and frequently recommend products. These are a little like influencers but more niche and are usually more of a brand than a person.

Here’s the best bit — it’s (generally) much cheaper to advertise with these companies than to run paid ads on Google/Facebook or work with influencers.

For example, paying only a couple hundred dollars to advertise to 10,000+ newsletter recipients is not uncommon. If that newsletter has a high (10%+) CTR, or “click-through rate,” then the audience will likely click on ads in the newsletter. 

Here’s where you can find newsletters, podcasts, and niche sites to advertise in:

  • Newsletters: Use sites like Paved, SponsorGap, and SponsorLeads to find newsletters seeking “sponsorship” (a euphemism for advertising!).

  • Podcasts: Search for podcasts on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. Try queries like “wine podcast,” “construction podcast,” or “knitting podcast.” Once you find the podcast, look for a website or contact details where you can get in touch for ad pricing.

  • Niche Sites: These sites can be blogs or directories that cover a particular topic or niche. They can be a little trickier to find, but thankfully, pulled together a list of over 50 of them! You can also find more by googling questions related to your topic and looking for independent sites that come up time and time again with an answer.

If you have a particularly interesting story, you may also be able to find relevant blogs and industry sites willing to interview you. This is especially true if your app is in a sector behind the technology adoption curve and isn’t used to seeing apps built to solve its problems. 

Pro tip: Instead of just winging your own “ad copy” (i.e., what your ad says), ask the media brand to write this for you or give you some insights into their audience and what’s performed well in the past.

5. Promote Your App on Social Media

Now, let’s talk about social media. No, we’re not just talking about posting on every social media platform — we’re talking about how to do it right.

The problem with social media is that everyone is doing it now, unlike 10 years ago. That means tactics that worked even just one year ago are already overused and boring your audience to sleep. Instead, here are three social media tactics you should prioritize:

A) Build in Public 

Over the last few years, app and tech business creators have started to “build in public.” In other words, they’re on social media (particularly Twitter, now known as X”) sharing candid, intimate details about their business — even down to the revenue and profit numbers they’re generating.

You can easily create useful content by sharing progress on what you’re building and “thinking out loud” about the problems you’re encountering and the solutions you’re employing in return.

What’s most useful about Build in Public is that it takes little effort to create content — just start posting about what you’re doing. It might seem trivial, but others enjoy hearing every last detail of what you’re working on!

B) Collaborate with Micro-influencers

Everyone wants Taylor Swift to smile next to their product, but one underappreciated idea is to work with micro-influencers instead. Think of people with just a few thousand followers more than you or perhaps someone well-respected within a tiny niche or sub-niche relevant to your app.

Not only can you find and engage with their following directly (see community marketing above), but you can also close easy partnerships (paid or otherwise) with these folks to get them talking about your app to their audience.

But here’s a better idea — why not ask them to create content with you? For example, you could record a podcast, film a video, or create an interview-style article with a micro-influencer, allowing them to share their knowledge with enthusiasts you know.

The trick here is that they’re small enough to be open to doing this kind of thing (and as your app gets bigger, your choice of influencers does, too) but also big enough that showing the content to their audience can boost your social profiles and drive promotion of your app.

C) Hold Regular Giveaways

Does your app have a paid version that people might like for free? Consider running a semi-frequent giveaway of your product. This is a cheap and quick way to garner some interest on social media, especially if you combine it with other tactics.

For visibility, the giveaway should require entrants to repost/share and even comment on the post before their entry counts. This is the key to the method — it gives you a list of people interested in downloading and paying anyway, exposes you to entrants’ followings, and shows the algorithm that your content gets engagement. 

Be careful not to overdo this, though. Everything you do on social media should add value to users. 

Like with community marketing, you should focus on building relationships, adding value to your audience with your unique insights, and otherwise engaging with the social media community before you. 

5. Implement In-App Growth Strategies

You want to add a couple of key functions within your app to help spread the word. Fortunately, most app-building platforms offer these options.  

A) Set up a Referral Program

One of the famous referral tactics came from Uber, which gave $10 in credit to every person who successfully referred a friend. Most importantly, the friend also got a $10 credit. 

This was useful because it removed any excuse for the friend (aka new user) not to take an Uber and experience the “magic” of the app.

Your referral bonus should help a user understand the core “value” of your app. In other words, give the referred user something that helps them see the benefit of your app rather than just downloading it and never signing up.

If you deliver food, offer a free delivery. If you’re a social media app, boost their weekly engagement. If you’re a fitness app, offer a free default workout plan.

The most successful apps of all time create a growth loop in which one user signing up gives you a chance to invite some of their friends to your app. This type of growth is hard to achieve but can take an app from a tiny user base to a thriving juggernaut in weeks.

B) Use Push Notifications

Push Notifications allow you to send written, branded messages directly to your users’ phones whenever you like. You’ll need their permission to do this, but a good time to ask is after they’ve gotten value from your app, just like with reviews. 

While not a direct way to promote your app, push notifications are ideal for nudging users to do something at a particular time and reinforcing what your app can do. 

If you want to grow via word of mouth or ensure that your users are squeezing every ounce of value out of your app, push notifications are the way to do it. Your app should be programmed to note which users haven’t used key features and nudge them to do so at appropriate times.

You can also use push notifications to remind users of your referral bonuses. People are more likely to be with friends at 9 p.m. on a Friday than at 8 a.m. on a Monday. 

Alternatively, if you have a fitness app, you might want to time your push notifications to go out when users are using your app to log their workout (getting the value). Chances are they’re already in the gym with their workout-app-loving buddies!

6. Build Strategic Partnerships

Both app stores are home to millions of apps. While some of them compete with you, others complement yours. These apps would work great in tandem with yours. 

For instance, food and cheese apps would really complement our wine app example. First, identify a few target apps and try them out. Then, reach out to the owners of the ones you like the most, tell them their app works well with yours, and invite them to try it. 

Aim to work out an agreement where you get their users to download your app and vice versa. You can mention each other’s apps in your app descriptions, web pages, and social media.   

This strategy can pay enormous dividends in the form of new downloads. 

7. Embrace All Angles of Content Marketing 

As you update your app and watch your download count grow, you’ll learn lessons, acquire skills, build relationships, and more. Why not share these and publish them?  

Creating content will provide another marketing conduit to propel your app further, and sharing what you’ve learned will add some authority to your voice.  

Here are some content ideas: 

  • Publishing a once-a-week article on your website, spotlighting why you added certain features to your app, and more. 
  • Creating video content on YouTube can make a more personal connection with your audience. For instance, you can review a couple of popular wines that have made a splash on your wine app. 
  • Write guest posts on other websites that share your niche. This can expose your app to a whole new audience.  
  • Write case studies about individuals or businesses that use your app and how it has improved their operations or bottom line. 

9. Utilize Email Marketing

Don’t forget one of the original digital marketing strategies: Email marketing. No, we’re not telling you to spam-bomb all your app users. With a well-planned email campaign, you can provide your users with value-rich information and attract a few new ones.  

Here are the right ways to implement email marketing:

  • Build an (ethical) email list: Only send emails to people who have already downloaded your app or filled out a form to give you their email addresses voluntarily. 
  • Communicate updates: Because you care about your app, you constantly work to provide the most optimal user experience — in other words, you consistently update your app to ensure it’s humming. 

    Always inform your app users once you’ve applied a new update and explain to them, in clear English, the task the update executes and how it affects user experience. 
  • A monthly newsletter: A monthly newsletter will allow you to remind users of updates, provide links to blogs and other video content, and promote the apps that complement yours. 

Ultimately, email marketing is more about building brand loyalty than getting new downloads. By following these strategies, your users will be more likely to view you in a professional light, bolstering your reputation and contributing to higher star ratings and shining reviews.  

Build Your Next App with Adalo

Are you working with a development agency, or don’t you know how to implement some of the features above, like push notifications and referral bonuses? 

Adalo is a no-code mobile app builder that allows you to build native mobile and web apps without any coding knowledge. Features like push notifications and geolocation come straight out of the box, while more custom options like referrals can be easily dragged and dropped together.

If you’re serious about growing your app, you need to respond to users’ changing needs fast and implement the features they want — before they leave for your competitors. Adalo’s straightforward approach lets you create new features and changes in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.

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