Once you identify and fully understand the target audience you’re going after, it’s time to reach them. How do you do this? By going where they are. While paid advertising is undoubtedly an extremely important part of any app user acquisition strategy, you should start by tapping into organic channels.

Don’t expect one tactic to work. If you want your app to succeed, you need to have several forces working together for you at the same time, so that you put yourself in the best position to be discovered. The first place to start is by considering the organic channels and tactics that will reach the right users. In this section, we tackle five tactics all brands should be using.

1. A Soft Launch

If you haven’t launched your app yet, you should consider a soft launch. A soft launch or beta test, will grant you extremely valuable insights into initial app reception and performance without releasing it to the masses. That way, you have the ability to optimize accordingly to better prepare it for full release. A few soft-launch best practices to consider:

  • Ensure your target audience is largely represented

  • Have a place for ‘testers’ to congregate and discuss the app (this can be a physical meet-up or an online forum)

  • Consider running two types of beta testing: a technical one and a marketing one. A technical beta test is where users are distinctly looking for bugs and snags, whereas a marketing test is geared toward user experience.

SoftLaunch Tip: Some developers choose to soft-launch to a smaller (but still targeted) audience in a different country, such as a US-based app launching in Canada. This gives you the ability to gain legitimate feedback from a smaller population that is still similar to the app market in the US.

2. Social Media (Organic)

The beauty of knowing your target audience is the ability to play in their space. Make sure you have a presence on some of the main social channels your audience is on. Create handles for your app and begin following key publications and influencers within your respected industry. In addition, start having an active voice on social media and join the conversation to start organically acquiring followers and creating a buzz about your app. Be sure to keep in mind your brand’s voice and tone while doing so.

Social Media Tip: Personality pays off. Just because you’re a company doesn’t mean your social media presence has to lack personality. Keeping your target audience and brand guidelines in mind, develop a persona people will want to follow and actively engage with. Apps like Slack and Lyft are great examples of brands with a strong social voice:


3. Forums

Forums are another great place to join the conversation because your audience goes there to actively share knowledge. You can use different forums, like Reddit, Android Central, or Mac Rumors, to introduce your app and solicit honest feedback about it, and how you can improve. Forums are unique in that they allow you the rare opportunity to directly connect with your audience, and truly understand where you can fill in any gaps with your app.

Forums Hack: This will vary by industry, so do your research and identify a minimum of three popular and trusted forums where you can begin making your app known. Don’t forget about Subreddits which can get highly targeted based on location, industry, and other factors.

4. Local & National PR Campaigns

Complementary to the Inbound Marketing strategy, strong press coverage about your app can also do wonders for your App Store listing since part of your ranking has to do with the number of installs over the past few hours as well as the past few days. For example, when Boston MBTA tracker app ProximiT was first launching, owner Randy reached out to relevant local press who published articles about the app and drove a large influx of users to their App Store profile. As a result, ProximiT broke into the top 100 apps for the Navigation category, driving yet even more installs.

Key takeaway? Don’t overlook the importance of PR to your app’s success. Doing some local PR campaigns allows you to create much needed buzz around your app, and ensure the right people in your community know about it. Initiating various PR campaigns will allow you to tap into various local and national channels who have a wide and impactful reach in getting the news about your app out to your audience.

  1. Press Release: If your app was recently launched, draw up a press release with key information about it and blast it out to the local media. Remember that they get dozens of press releases daily, so ensure yours is attention grabbing and succinct. Tap into your network to see if you have any media connections to boost the chances of getting picked up.

  2. Bloggers: Don’t underestimate the power of blogs. Blogs can be a driving force in promoting new apps and acquiring new users. One of the most successful examples of app blog promotion was Uber and Barstool Sports back in 2013. Uber tapped into their core audience by having Barstool create native content on their extremely popular blog. As a result, Uber’s acquisition cost fell over 70% in just 5 weeks after the launch of the campaign. Reach out to several bloggers that your target audience follows and see about implementing a similar campaign for your app.

  3. Partnerships: Take the notion of teaming up one step further than bloggers by partnering with local businesses that complement your app. For example, if you have an app that is sports related, partner up with a minor league team or even a local sporting goods store for an event. Consider running several of these partnerships around your local community to boost brand recognition. Aligning yourself with trusted brands in your community will also boost your credibility.

PR Campaigns Growth Hack: You should have a targeted list of people to reach out to in the community based on their industry and core interests. For example, reaching out to the local tech community or key members of your respective industry is a smart way to not only boost your chances of getting featured, but to begin fostering relationships with important people within your local community.

Actionable Takeaway:

  1. Timing is important. Having a lot of buzz around your app all at once can do wonders to its App Store Ranking, so plan accordingly when implementing a PR strategy


5. App Store Optimization

Cue the ‘last but not least’ spiel. Because while the above tactics are important, app store optimization (ASO) is absolutely essential to your success and your only chance of getting discovered amidst an endless sea of apps in the store.

What is app store optimization? For the mobile newbies, app store optimization is the SEO of the app world. It’s all about boosting your visibility within the overly crowded app stores so that you can be discovered by your audience. Just how important is ASO to your app’s success these days? According to Apple, 65% of apps get discovered via the app store.

Want to know if your App Store listing is optimized for success? Check out our App Store Grader tool to get your free report.

Key Components of Solid ASO:  

1) App Name:
It’s fine to take some creative liberty with your app name, but try not to go too over the top. Your app’s name should be distinctive and easy to remember. Potential app users should be able to guess what your app’s about just from reading its name.

App Name Checklist:

  • Distinctive
  • Unique
  • Memorable
  • Correlates to app’s purpose
  • Within character limits (30 for App Store & 50 for Google Play)

App Name Pro Tips: Apple’s App Store gives you a 30 character limit to your app name. However, they do allow you to include a short subtitle for further description:


Google Play, on the other hand, doesn’t have specific character limits but warns about truncated text if you get too wordy. Subtitles only appear on older versions of Android:


2) Description: Include a clear and concise description about the functionality of your app and lead with your strongest points. Clearly define your functionality, any key features, and credibility you’ve received.  Users searching the store should quickly understand the value-add of your app.

App Description Checklist:

  • The first sentence is your lifeblood. Make sure it captures the attention of your audience and entices them to read on. Know the character limit (255 in the App Store and 80 in Google Play) before users need to click ‘more’
  • Highlight key features and functionality and any competitive advantages of your app
  • Use a bulleted list to call out defining features. Users are much more likely to read and digest features in this format
  • Tell people what makes your app different, and infuse your brand personality into your description
  • Take advantage of the fact that Google Play allows you to include relevant keywords for ASO

Spotify’s app description highlights the benefits of the streaming app and outlines why it’s a must for any music lovers.

  • App Icon: You app’s icon is your branding to the world so don’t overlook its importance.  Make sure that it’s unique, clean, and aesthetically pleasing. It should capture the essence of your app. Though seemingly small, icons are powerful engagement tools that can attract or detract users based on look and feel alone.

       App Icon Pro Tips:

  1. Use a unique symbol that will represent your brand as well as standout in the app store sea. You want your app icon to be as distinctly recognizable as possible, and to encompass not only the essence of your brand but it’s functionality as well. When someone sees your icon they should be able to understand what it does

  2. Simplicity is king. Your app icon should be sleek yet have a minimalist design approach so it doesn’t look too busy and appears clean and professional

  3. Using a single letter to represent your icon is more encouraged than using full words. Remember that this is an icon, not an ad

  4. Choosing the right color scheme can help your app stand out amongst the competition. Just ensure that the color scheme is aesthetically pleasing

  5. A/B test two icons via your ad campaigns to identify which is rendering higher engagement rates


3) Screenshots:
Screenshots have become increasingly more important to App Store/Google Play listings over the past two years. Oftentimes, users will skip right over your description and rely solely on the screenshots to learn about your app. Use your screenshots as a storyboard to show of your beautiful UI and workflow so users understand the benefits:

  • Design: Since app users expect a top-notch experience, use the app store’s design section to show off the user interface. Be sure to choose images that really showcase your app’s best features, but that also easily outline the workflow (i.e. how a user moves through your app). For instance, Under Armour’s new Record app does a great job at weaving feature sneak peeks and task call-outs together for a compelling app overview:

       App Store Screenshot Pro Tips:

  1. Include key feature screenshots with a brief description of the functionality so users clearly understand your app’s purpose and capabilities

  2. Keep it short and sweet - try to include no more than 4 screenshots and be sure your app’s story is easily depicted

  3. Many apps have starting using video in place of screenshots. Test out how this tactic performs for you.

4) App Store/Google Play Updates: Each time you update your app, you need to include release notes and a bulleted description of the update. This will not only refresh your app store activity, but will show app users that you are committed to continually optimizing your app.

For example, in the App Store there is a “What’s New” section which has become the standard for keeping users informed about important updates, fixes, and new features:


HSN does a great job at showcasing all the latest updates to promote new app downloads and entice churned users back


App Store Updates Pro Tip:

  1. Updating your app store profile with release notes whenever you make updates to your app not only boosts your SEO, but will show users that you are actively making improvements to your app based on their feedback

5) Ratings: Positive ratings are extremely important to boosting app-store placement. However, it can be difficult to get users to rate your app. That’s why it’s important to have an in-app strategy in place that focuses on getting your most loyal users to rate your app.

       App Ratings Pro Tips:

  1. The more people who rate your app positively, the more visible you will be in app stores

  2. Do not ask new users to rate your app

  3. Use behavioral data to target users who will most likely rate you well, taking a look at key conversion events they have taken within your app as well as the frequency of use

  4. Consider launching an in-app rater and only directing those users who would rate you positively to the app store

  5. Move beyond the standard iOS and Android rater requests and ensure your in-app rater message matches the look and feel of your app



6) Keywords

Just like with SEO, App Store and Google Play keywords are an essential driver of your app’s discoverability and many of the same rules apply. For example, keyword stuffing is heavily frowned upon. Each keyword you list should be highly relevant to your app. Below are some tips on how to think outside of the box to get some more traction when choosing keywords:

Keyword pro tips:

  • Localization: Apple’s App Store actually indexes localization (different languages) for each App Store market. Translation? You can use the keyword character space for every language offered in that particular App Store Marketing.
  • Targeting Competitor Keywords: Do some research around which keywords your competitors are ranking for and include some in your own keyword description
  • App Reviews: App reviews are indexed, so not only is this a source of ASO, but it’s also a great resource for mining potential keywords
  • Timing: Using time sensitive keywords around relevant events can temporarily boost your listing. For example a news app including keywords around the 2016 presidential elections


7) Inbound Marketing:  The more organic search you can drive to your app listing, the better. Consider creating a website for your app and creating relevant content. If done well, this should drive organic pageviews to your app’s listing and help boost your ranking (and app downloads!).


        Inbound App Marketing Pro Tips:

  1. Create a website for your app. Not only will this help with branding, as it did with community-based traffic app Waze above, but  can also help drive more downloads to your app through relevant searches and content

  2. Consider launching an app blog to highlight cool things about your app, user stories, and drive more traffic to your app site and app store page. Get inspiration from RunKeeper’s blog