If you’ve got a mobile app you’re trying to promote, you already know it’s a tough world out there. Every day, it seems, you’ve got new competitors out there – just a few if you’re lucky, dozens or more if you’re not – trying to eat up your market share and steal away your audience.
Even though more people now have access to smartphones than to clean water worldwide, both Google and Apple have more than one million apps each in their app stores, which account for more than 100 billion mobile app downloads since their inception. Back in 2014, the Application Developers Alliance reported:
“Today, there are 2.9 million mobile developers in the world, building, publishing and maintaining more than 2 million apps. Their app store revenue forecasts, as reported by statistica.com project, predicts nearly $35 billion this year alone. The market is thriving and shows no signs of slowing down.”
You can bet things haven’t gotten any easier since then.
So what’s an app developer or promoter to do? Apart from the need to create an app with a clear, compelling unique selling proposition (USP), mobile app marketers may want to take a page from the playbook of other digital marketers by investing in content marketing.
Why Content Marketing?
Although content marketing hasn’t been as widely adopted by the world of mobile apps as it has in other digital spheres, there’s no arguing with the strategy’s effectiveness.
- Aberdeen reports that “Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8x higher for content marketing leaders as compared to followers (19.7% vs 2.5%).
- DemandMetric shares that “Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing & generates 3x as many leads.”
- 89% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers are using content marketing, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 Benchmarks, Budget and Trends reports.
When you take these statistics together with the fact that nearly 70 million U.S. internet users now use ad blockers to limit the impact of traditional advertising, it’s clear that content marketing holds strong potential for mobile app marketers to stand out, build brand awareness, drive loyalty and increase installs.
But before you jump into this new promotional methodology, it’s important to understand what content marketing is and how it’s used in the context of mobile apps.
Types of Content Used in Mobile App Marketing
“Content,” as a term, is vague. Is “content” blog posts? Seventy-five percent of B2C marketers use blog creation as a content marketing tactic (second only to social media’s 85% adoption), but “content” goes far beyond these articles alone.
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s data, the average B2C marketer creates seven different types of content:
In addition to the tactics shown above, survey respondents also identified the following content types as part of their marketing mix:
- Ebooks/white papers (35%)
- Interactive tools (31%)
- Online presentations (31%)
- Webinars/webcasts (31%)
- Print magazines (22%)
- Mobile apps (21%)
- Video/live-streaming media (16%)
- Books (16%)
- Digital magazines (15%)
- Print newsletters (14%)
- Research reports (14%)
- Podcasts (10%)
- Separate content hubs (10%)
- Virtual conferences (6%)
Certainly, these aren’t all applicable to mobile app creators (heck, some of these marketers consider mobile apps to be promotional techniques in and off themselves).
To define content marketing as it explicitly relates to mobile app marketing, I’d suggest that there are five types of content app promoters need to be aware of.
1. App Store Listing Content
App store listing content includes your app description, app image(s) and your app video (if used). There’s a whole field dedicated to optimizing these fields called “app store optimization” (ASO), but I see them as more than just fields to be manipulated for better app store rankings.
Think of it this way…
By the time someone stumbles onto your app store listing, they’re aware they have a need. Maybe they saw your ad while using another mobile app and decided that yours was worth investigating. Or maybe they’re simply surfing the app store. Clicking on your listing is a clear indication that they’re interested enough in what you’re offering to learn more.
Now, knowing that visitors are already engaged, which of the following two options do you think will appeal to them more?
I’m not going to hammer home why Option B is more enticing than Option A (the proof of authority and compelling copy should give it away). Instead, I want you to understand that the content here matters; that your use of effective content within your app store listings can lead to more installs and higher reviews.
2. Pre-Launch Content
Here’s a scary statistic for you: “Only 40% of mobile users search for apps in app stores.”
What that means, in practice, is that you have to go where your users are – and you have to meet them there with effective content. Consider the following as you build a content marketing strategy for an app you haven’t launched yet:
- Your landing page copy
- “Teaser” content
- Sneak peek articles or videos
- Press releases
- Email nurturing sequences designed to keep pre-launch subscribers updated
Image Source: ThemeForest
3. In-App Content
Content doesn’t just exist outside of your app; it should be built in as well to increase your odds of user success.
Imagine that you have a business app that helps users take notes on-the-go. In this example, you might offer a few different note-taking methods (voice recording versus stylus or text input), as well as several opportunities for annotating notes you’ve already stored.
Letting new users loose to figure out your app on their own may result in confusion. Content in the form of onboarding tutorials or in-app messaging, on the other hand, can help new users feel successful fast enough that your program quickly becomes part of their routine.
Check out the following resources for creating in-app content:
The content you create to use tools and services like these should absolutely fall under the umbrella of your marketing team. Successful customers are happy customers – and happy customers are more likely to recommend your app to others and leave positive reviews on your app store listings.
4. Broad Authority-Building Content
Broad, authority-building content is likely the content type you’re most familiar with, and it’s the one that gets the most attention in nearly all content campaigns (mobile app specific or otherwise).
Authority-building content encompasses everything from blogs to guest posts to social media updates, from white papers to case studies and more. Simply put, this is the kind of content that forms relationships with your users and gets them to trust you.
I’m not going to hammer this one home too much here, as nearly all the examples I’ll show you below feature authority-building content as a key driver of marketing success. For now, know this: “82% of customers feel more positive about a company after reading their custom content.” That kind of positive brand sentiment is necessary for mobile app producers to stand out in the crowded mobile environment I described earlier.
5. Engagement Content
Finally, there’s engagement content – as in, content designed to deepen the relationship you’ve established with app users through the kinds of content described above. Silicon Valley investor Andrew Chen shares that:
“[T]he average app loses 77% of its [daily active users] within the first 3 days after the install. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. Within 90 days, it’s over 95%. Stunning. The other way to say this is that the average app mostly loses its entire userbase within a few months, which is why of the >1.5 million apps in the Google Play store, only a few thousand sustain meaningful traffic.”
Chen and collaborator Ankit Jain chalk this up to users testing out multiple apps before deciding on the one they’ll continue using. Investing in content that promotes user app engagement – for example, building email nurturing series or creating an expansive knowledge base – may increase your app’s chances of being the “chosen one.”
That’s a lot to take in, but you don’t have to put all these content types into practice at once. Buildfire offers a great framework for thinking about content marketing for mobile apps:
“Mobile-first content strategy refers to planning, development, and management of content so that it can influence consumers’ buying decisions as they consume the content on mobile devices, and bring complete satisfaction that helps you (the content creator) meet your organizational goals.”
The process of influencing consumers’ buying and engagement decisions will vary by company; consequently, different companies will require different types of content deployed at different intervals.
To help inspire you to put a content marketing strategy into action for your mobile app, check out the five great examples below, as well as the key takeaways from each that could help inform your own strategy:
1. Bejeweled’s #shinyplace Campaign
Whether you’ve played Bejeweled yourself or simply received requests for assistance from Facebook friends trying to reach new levels, chances are you’re familiar with this popular iOS game.
Back in May 2016, Bejeweled introduced an Instagram mobile marketing campaign that made use of branded YouTube video to encourage players to find their “#shinyplace.” The company did several things right with this campaign:
- First, it leveraged Instagram, knowing that the majority of the platform’s users access the site from their smartphones. This made suggesting app installs even easier, since users wouldn’t have to remember to look into the game the next time they were on their phones.
- The company worked with high-reach Instagrammers to create “user-generated content” based around the campaign’s hashtag. As the campaign grew, Bejeweled users around the service created their own content, enabling its reach to grow virally without significant further investment on the part of Bejeweled.
- The company made use of branded video – widely considered one of the most effective types of content marketing – that engaged users and promoted user-to-user sharing. The video below, featuring the popular JiffPom (who has 2.5 million Instagram followers), received 1.5 million views during the campaign.
By the end of the campaign, Bejeweled had moved from the 454th place to the 135th on the U.S. Apple iPhone games chart, in addition to jumping from being the 702nd to the 182nd top-grossing app in the U.S. Apple App Store.
- Advertising on Instagram meant hitting users who were already actively using mobile devices. If you’re running a content marketing campaign that’s specifically intended to drive app installs (rather than, say, generate broad brand awareness), targeting users who are likely to be on their mobile devices can reduce spend and result in higher engagement rates. Setting PPC advertisements to deploy on mobile devices only (through AdWords, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, or any other platform) can help.
- Partnering with high-reach influencers provides social proof and expanded reach. We’re all influenced by social proof. In fact, a BrightLocal survey suggests that 88% of respondents trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Getting high-reach influencers on board, either in an unofficial and uncompensated capacity or as paid brand advocates, can be a great way to get your message in front of audiences that are historically sensitive to or resistant to traditional ads.
2. App Annie’s Data-Driven Content
When Kate Donahue, App Annie’s Senior Manager of Content Marketing, joined the company in 2015, she encountered siloed departments implementing content marketing on an ad hoc basis – no small undertaking, considering that the mobile app lifecycle provider produces content in seven languages using teams across three continents.
Donahue’s first moves were to eliminate App Annie’s siloed content processes and create a comprehensive strategy that leveraged the wealth of existing data the company had. Using their three years of existing research, App Annie’s teams were able to create content that expanded on and visually represented “new and emerging regions, vertical highlights and new product innovations.” Doing so drove top-of-funnel awareness, as well as generated demand from those who were already invested in the mobile app space.
In addition, Donahue invested in the creation of solution-focused content – the kind of content described above to help users navigate App Annie’s resources and remain engaged as customers. In Donahue’s opinion, doing so “gives the content a longer lifecycle than data-driven content alone.” As a result, this type of content plays an important role in driving conversions and retention.
- Work with the data you already have to establish yourself as a thought leader. No matter what field you’re in or what your mobile app does, you have data at your disposal. Use this primary information to create content that will differentiate your app from competitors and drive positive brand sentiment. If you don’t have a strong analytics program in place, get one – not just to increase your app’s effectiveness, but to gather this content-generating data.
- Get all team members on board. Siloed efforts are less likely to be effective. Today’s marketing campaigns are too interdisciplinary to be siloed. You need R&D reporting developments to marketers, who have direct access to creative resources and customer service data to be able to create content that really moves the needle. Bring key stakeholders together and decide on a comprehensive marketing strategy that takes the strengths of each formerly-siloed department into account.
3. Evernote’s Survey-Focused Strategy
Many mobile apps target young users; those who are likely to toss cash at in-app purchases to get the best gear and the most fashionable accessories. Evernote’s target audience skews much older, comprised primarily of white-collar workers in their 30s and 40s who use the app to organize their lives.
As a result, the same content strategies that attract a younger audience – as in the case of Bejeweled’s #shinyplace campaign, featured above – simply won’t get the same traction with Evernote’s core followers. To reach them, one of Evernote’s most effective strategies has been polling its audience with social media surveys to understand more about the kind of content they want to consume.
The result of these surveys is that Evernote’s content campaigns revolve around text articles and videos, covering topics such as goal setting, life hacks, paperless life, case studies and interviews with high-profile users. Its content pieces are informative, yet engaging, and they’re tailor-made to both current Evernote users and those thinking of installing the app (often targeted by Evernote’s brand-advocacy Ambassadors program).
Content on Evernote’s blog and social media channels might not seem as if it would lead immediately to more mobile app installs, but remember the statistic I cited earlier about the fact that 60% of consumers find their next app outside of the app stores. By creating a wealth of knowledge tailored specifically to the interests of its target audience, Evernote is able to reach likely mobile app users as they’re searching for information – not apps – and convince them to stick around.
- Know your audience. Don’t know who’s using your app? Poll them, and get as much data as you can about who they are. Understanding both their demographics (who they are) and their psychographics (what they think) are vital when it comes to creating content they’ll care about.
- Give them the kind of content they want. Once you know who you’re speaking to, you can make starting assumptions on what type of content they want most. You can even poll them directly – as Evernote does – so that you’re developing and delivering the exact content they’re looking for. Test your assumptions by measuring the impact of different content pieces, and validate your approach using engagement data to move forward.
- Treat mobile app marketing as one part of a larger marketing conversation. Evernote isn’t just a mobile app; the program offers both desktop and web apps as well. If you’re in a similar situation, don’t look at creating individual, standalone campaigns for each. Work on engaging your core audience by creating content on the topics that matter most to them, then work on broadening their use of your service across multiple devices.
4. Fitbit’s PR Grab
Like Evernote, Fitbit has invested in a robust content marketing campaign intended to attract new mobile app users, as well as engage those who have already installed it with the tools and information they need to be successful.
What makes Fitbit such an interesting case study, however, is the audience it attempts to reach. Evernote, for example, is highly-targeted in its content efforts. Fitbit, on the other hand, has found success by going broad.
According to an analysis conducted by Alexa:
“Of the top 30 sites that link to the company, more than a third are articles from health blogs and a quarter are from tech gadget blogs. The company’s strategy shows that generating buzz among industry blogs can help drive traffic immensely.”
That’s fascinating, and it shows the impact investing in content creation can have. Fitbit recognizes that its story isn’t just a health-conscious one – it’s a tech lifestyle topic as well. To accommodate both audiences, Fitbit publishes frequent blogs (roughly every other day; 660 words each on average), typically in written format (only 4% of their content is video). Within these blog posts, Fitbit covers everything from recipes to fitness advice to tech trends and more, enabling it to reach the broadest possible audience for its wearable devices.
- Go broad. Having multiple “stories” (tech and fitness, in Fitbit’s case) lets you connect with more potential users, who may embrace your content for different reasons. Consider your current marketing campaigns carefully. Are you too focused on reaching one particular buyer persona? If so, it may be time to expand your efforts and connect with other potential users your messaging may not be reaching.
5. Uber’s Hyper-Targeted Content
It shouldn’t be surprising to see Uber on this list – the company has grown wildly over the past few years due to its savvy approach to digital and referral marketing. In fact, thanks to previous content campaigns (#uberKITTENS and #uberPUPPIES, among others), the company currently is valued at over $62 billion.
One of the transit giant’s recent campaigns, however, deserves particular attention to forward-thinking mobile app marketers. The campaign, conducted with Yext, involves deploying hyper-targeted content marketing campaigns based on local information to passengers en route to specific destinations.
Taking Uber to your local Guitar Center? Through the app’s integration, you’d be able to pull up the available inventory at the store and scroll through product reviews. By the time you’ve arrived, you’ll be educated and ready to make a purchase.
Currently, the integration only works when physical business locations add “Catch a Ride with Uber” buttons to mobile sites and when riders hail an Uber from the site itself. It’s also too soon to measure the success of the campaign – it’s the mindset behind it that’s most valuable to mobile app marketers. If Uber is investing in hyper-targeted content marketing, there’s a good chance you should be thinking about it, too.
- Don’t be afraid to try new technology if you think it’ll deliver greater value to your users. You may not have Uber’s resources, but whenever possible, leverage new technology that helps you get helpful content into the hands of your users. You don’t need to be a leader on Uber’s scale, but going a step beyond what your competitors are offering can mean a serious bump in installs and a major decline in churn.
- Get as specific as you can with the content you serve up to your users. Personalization is in. IBM’s 2015 Digital Experience Survey found that 56% of marketers polled believe that personalized content promotes higher engagement rates. Maybe you can’t go as hyper-specific as Uber, but there are almost certainly steps you can take to ensure the content you’re delivering to your users is as targeted to their wants and needs as possible.
Web marketers have long seen the potential for engaging consumers with content, but many mobile app marketers are behind when it comes to the power of content marketing. This creates a tremendous opportunity for motivated mobile app developers and promoters – but it’s one that won’t last long. Don’t miss the window and fall behind. Give content marketing for your mobile app a try today.
Are you using content marketing for your mobile app? If so, share any other great examples you’ve seen – or any tips and tricks you’ve picked up – by leaving me a note below: