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App promotion 101: Proven ways to promote your mobile app

By Einav Mor-Samuels
App promotion - featured

How many mobile apps do you use regularly? Five? 15? 

Turns out that an average user uses about nine apps daily. Can you imagine how hard it is to create an app that becomes one of those nine? It seems almost impossible. 

At the same time, there are more ways to promote your app than ever before, with new online communities and social media channels popping up every month. This guide explains app promotion and shows you 11 creative ways to market your app better. We’ve got examples from some of today’s coolest apps to get your creative juices flowing. 

Let’s dive in.

What is app promotion?

App promotion (also known as mobile marketing) refers to the process of promoting or advertising your app. There are lots of ways to do this, including through your website, social media platforms, search ads, app store optimization (ASO), influencers, PR, and traditional word-of-mouth. 

App promotion has three main stages: 

  • The awareness or pre-launch stage: Here’s where you conduct market and competitor research, create your user personas, design your site and landing page, and finalize your content and social media marketing strategy, showing people why they need your app and how to get it.
  • The acquisition stage: This is where you actually acquire users. You do this through app store optimization (ASO), plus various paid and advertising strategies.
  • The retention stage: The last (but very important) step involves retaining your users through push notifications, frequent communication, surveys, loyalty programs, and in-app messages.

To build your user base, you’ll most likely want to market your app to both iOS and Android users. Before you start, you need to be aware of some differences between these groups. iOS users tend to be more affluent and loyal to their devices, boasting a higher satisfaction from the overall experience. On the other hand, Android users are less loyal to specific apps. But they don’t have to opt in to push notifications (they receive them by default), so it’s a little easier to communicate with them and keep your app top of mind.

App promotion is absolutely vital to ensure you’re onboarding new users, getting more sales, and increasing your market share. If you don’t promote your app, chances are it will perish with the rest of the 99.5% of apps that fail.

11 ways to promote your app

Here are some of the best marketing tactics you should try to promote your app. 

1. Create a demo video

The first thing a user sees when they open your app page is your demo video. In fact, almost 80% of consumers download a mobile app after watching a video that clearly shows how it works. And 73% of consumers said that video is their preferred tool for learning about a product or service. 

In other words, video is the perfect avenue to increase app downloads and retention. Your video needs to engage the user and show how your app works. It should also highlight some of the benefits of using your app. 

2. Take winning screenshots

App promotion - screenshots

What’s the second thing people look at after the video? The screenshots — especially when the internet is bad and the video doesn’t load.

Good visuals are critical here.

Make sure your app store screenshots highlight the main benefits and features of the app. Also, add captions and more visual elements (like emojis). 

You get bonus points if visual elements on one image continue on the next, like a cut-out Instagram post.

3. Apply for awards

Another super visible element on your app store page is awards.

All the top apps can boast award wins, and they don’t just do it for the glory: these external accolades also provide a ton of press, exposure, reviews, and downloads. 

Here are some of the top app awards sites you should check out: 

4. Ask your users for reviews

App promotion - ask for reviews

You need more product reviews but don’t want to spam your users, so what do you do?

Just reach out to your customers and see how they’re doing. You can ask for in-app feedback manually or through a quick automated survey. 

Once you’ve identified your happiest users, you can follow up with a review request, or better yet, ask how you can improve the experience for them even more. Also, don’t forget to reply to all the negative responses and see if you can solve those issues for customers. 

Remember, happy customers are more likely to share your app with their family and friends. So you want to get those reviews, plus some referrals. 

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5. Launch a referral or loyalty program

Speaking of referrals, word of mouth is your most powerful channel. Keeping your users happy and creating an exceptional user experience is just part of the battle. You should make referrals a part of the user journey by launching a referral or a loyalty program. 

Referral marketing is one of those channels that are recession-proof. Start by evaluating your personas and finding out what they really care about. Then, offer rewards they would find meaningful and prompt them to refer their friends at strategic touch points throughout the customer journey. 

For example, food delivery app Doordash offers a very successful referral program to customers, restaurants, and “dashers” (the people delivering the food). 

6. Use influencers

App promotion - influencers

As well as recommendations from friends, users also value influencer reviews.

This form of social proof worked wonders for fashion app Screenshop. When it launched in 2017, the app partnered up with Kim Kardashian, who acted as an adviser and owned a part of the business. As you can imagine, Kim posted about the brand regularly, and it went viral. Screenshop has gone on to partner with over 450 retailers and brands and, four years later, was acquired by Snapchat.

Ways to help influencers promote your app include: 

  • Giving influencers an exclusive preview of your app or a new feature before it comes out
  • Offering influencers rewards or commission
  • Making a video showing the influencers using your app and promoting it across their social channels

7. Sponsor newsletters

Branded newsletters are an incredible treasure trove because they provide unprecedented access to engaged audiences. According to Brian Dean, CEO of SEO tool Exploding Topics, they’re the #1 marketing strategy to use right now

So, what exactly is a branded newsletter?

One thing’s for sure, it’s not just another boring newsletter from a company or marketing guru. Branded newsletters go out on the same day and time each week, have the same format in each issue, and have a unique brand associated with them. They’re more popular in the marketing niche (good examples are the Morning Brew and MarketerHire’s Raisin Bread), but you can still find really good ones in other niches.

8. Experiment with podcast ads

App promotion - podcasts ads

Podcast ads are another great opportunity to promote your mobile app. They’re very inexpensive compared to most other forms of advertising, and they’re gaining significant traction.

The podcasting industry experienced a 19% increase in advertising revenue in 2020 and is projected to hit $2 billion in 2023. 

The advantage of advertising on a podcast is that you can make your ad much more personal and relevant to specific audiences based on their interests. You can also get interviewed by podcasters, which is free and can get you even more promotion and brand awareness.

9. Invest in content marketing

One of the most powerful ways to gain users long-term is through content marketing.

You can use it as part of your SEO strategy to growth traffic and then migrate users from your mobile site to your app. You can also create content for social media and then drive users to your app using deep links.

Produce diverse value-driven content, such as long-form blog posts, shopping guides, ebooks, white papers, and infographics, and the rest will follow.

Sounds like a lot of work? Well it doesn’t have to be. Don’t forget about repurposing – any piece of content can be reshaped as: 

  • A Twitter thread 
  • An Instagram post
  • An Instagram story
  • A Pinterest pin 
  • An infographic
  • A LinkedIn post
  • A YouTube video (if you’ve got the video chops)

That’s seven new pieces of content. If you stay consistent, you can significantly boost your impressions and generate a steady stream of top-of-the-funnel traffic that you can then take down the funnel and into your app.

10. Build your own community

The holy grail of digital marketing is creating an engaged community of users and app ambassadors.

Yes, it should be a natural result of all your marketing efforts, but you should invest in building one early on in the game. 

Use platforms like Slack and Discord to bring people together and experiment with live and virtual events. You can interview industry experts, feature influencers, reward users, or just share your content on these channels. 

11. Launch giveaways and contests

A great way to generate buzz around your app is to run giveaways and contests. You can post them on social media channels and offer cool prizes. You can even partner with other non-competing apps or businesses to increase engagement.

Use a tool like Gleam to create contest pages and automate the entire process. 

Key takeaways

If you don’t want your app to go extinct, you need to actively promote it with various strategies.

These might include: 

  • Optimize your app store page with an engaging video, clear screenshots, and a detailed app description.
  • Apply for awards to increase your chances of going viral (those badges do help).
  • Work with influencers to create videos and images about your app.
  • Sponsor newsletters to get access to hyper-engaged audiences.
  • Test podcast ads and get interviewed by podcasters for even greater distribution.
  • Invest in content marketing of all types.
  • Build your own online community, and keep them engaged via giveaways and contests.

Not all of these promotional ideas will help move the needle forward.

However, you should at least test some of them out and continue to optimize and A/B test until you find the ones that work for you.

Einav Mor-Samuels

With extensive experience in digital marketing, Einav is a Content Writer at AppsFlyer. Over the course of the past 15 years, she has gained ample experience in the mobile marketing landscape, researching market trends, and offering tailored solutions to customers' digital problems. Einav fuels her content with data-driven insights, making even the most complex of topics accessible and clear.

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