Is Paid User Acquisition a Good Choice? No It’s a Great Choice

You are an app publisher and now that you have your seed money or most recent round of funding where are going to spend this newly gained pot of gold in the most efficient manner possible? Will it be to continuing to build out your team of developers? Will it be on adding more members to your marketing team? Will you be investing in buying that unnecessary $6000 price tagged espresso machine for your personal office? While all of these seem likely uses for the round of investment, well minus the $6000 espresso machine, there is one other wise choice to consider: paid user acquisition.

As an app publisher, your success or demise is determined very quickly on how fast you acquire users in iTunes and Google Play. It is a standard practice of both of these digital marketplaces to feature new apps to give them a chance to test how well users respond to your work. There are over a million apps between iTunes and Google Play’s product offerings. It’s really easy to get lost in that vast sea of apps and your app’s success depends on many things including reviews, user experience, engagement and the quality of the data you collect from your users. While you can sit there and wait for users to just casually download and install your masterpiece, this decision to rely on organic downloads will definitely take you down the path of demise, which is unless you are the needle in the haystack like Snapchat.

An aggressive approach to user acquisition is what should be part of your blueprint to driving user acquisition using paid methods. There are many options to turn to for finding your users, though in this buffet of choices not all of them are the best fit. Some of the most popular recently have been Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Snapchat and Pinterest. These channels all present unique opportunities to target new users and drive a mass of installs, which aligns with various stages in your apps’ lifecycle. There is a definite need to drive installs out of the gate with or without being featured in the app stores. If you do get the “golden ticket” and are featured bask in the spotlight, but not for too long as being featured long term is only based on how well you drive installs and monetize the app. Your strategy is to focus on driving installs as if you were never going to be featured. While your PR team can do a nice job promoting this and getting some press for this, it will fizzle and trail off quickly.

Many users tend to base their decision on the number of installs and how many reviews an app has.   Normally the threshold also to remain high in the ranks is to push past 100k downloads in a very short period of time. While there is no exact clarity on this time period, the quicker you can do this from the time you launch the app the better. By implementing a paid user acquisition campaign using influencers to drive awareness of your app, it will be considered an external event which helps to push your numbers higher and naturally users will begin to add reviews to your app that will further propel user’s confidence that your app is worthy of space on their phone. The benefit is that you can acquire a large number of installs over a very quick period of time that will keep you high up in the app store rankings to solve the mystery of driving organic downloads.

So then you ask: “What am I supposed to do to drive user acquisition?” One of the strategies more app developers are using is targeting users inside of other popular apps. By driving awareness to millions of potential users inside these apps you can help drive them into the funnel.   Each social media platform appeals to different demographics and are native to different types of media (e.g. short form video vs. images). Below are some important highlights to know about the five largest social media platforms for your influencer marketing campaigns, aside from Facebook.

marketing on facebook

Figure 1.1

–       YouTube: Best for developing a brand story and product reviews over a longer video format.  Great and engaging videos will range from 1-10 minutes and typically most influencers will talk about one or more products.  This channel has proven very useful for new product launches and unboxing for fashion, beauty, electronic, fitness, and home goods.  The audience range on YouTube is wide ranging from 10-65+ year olds with 1 billion plus users. YouTube attracts more users ages 18-34 than any other cable network to consume video content including ESPN, Hulu, Facebook and Comedy Central YouTube and skews young with a majority of its users being teens and 20-somethings. The network now has more reach than any single cable TV network. Attribution is based on coupon codes and/or unique links placed in the video’s description.

–     Pinterest: This channel has become the benchmark channel for fashion and apparel brands.  It is also predominantly female users that consume the content on the channel, over 70% female although more males as of recent are joining an aggressive pace.  Typical user demographics are females age 18-29 and the consumers with the highest levels of wealth. Typical attribution is possible via direct links in the pin description and calls to action on the images and recent updates include the ability to drive app installs while never leaving the app.

marketing to millennials

Figure 2.1

–     Instagram:  Primarily a photo driven platform, though with the addition of video publishing more recently, it is turning into a very good channel to see both types of mediums.  As of December 2014, it surpassed Twitter with over 300 million users.  Roughly half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29  (53%) use Instagram, which is now has a slightly larger male user base. According to a spring 2014 Piper Jaffray survey “Instagram is the new “”most important” social network among teens. (1) And half of all Instagram users (49%) use the site daily. This channel has proven successful for fitness, fashion, automotive and app publishers. Typical attribution is from a hashtag campaign, as no link attribution is possible.

–     Vine: Short, snackable 6-second video segments that are typically known for their use of humor, artistic and creativity ability.  Users typically are in the 13-25 year old range with approx. 50 million+ users. Vine skews female with 57% females and 43% males. Typical attribution is from a hashtag campaign, as no link attribution is possible.

–     SnapChat: A live video platform that can be distributed to followers where the videos are erased after views for one to one distribution, or exist for a short period of time for re-views when broadcasted using the “Story” method.  Users on this channel skew younger, and are in line with Vine from 13-35 years old and have a strong user base among late teen and college students. According to a survey from Edison Research nearly 46% of 12-24 yr olds have used Snapchat, making it a great platform to target for youth based brands.  As of December 2014 Snapchat has over 100 million monthly active users. This platform is performing well for movie studios, casual dining brands, sporting teams and live music events. Typical attribution is from a hashtag campaign, as no link attribution is possible.

social media for millennials

Figure 3.

Now that you are armed with this data, which channels do you feel are a best fit for your brand and driving brand awareness to audiences that match your demographics? There are many things that will keep you up at night for which user acquisition strategy is right for your app, but if you set your aim on the best targets you can rest a bit easier knowing your venture capital is being used in the best manner possible. Feel free to comment below with any wins or challenges you have faced on these channels.

Follow me on twitter: @robilas


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