So you’ve made an amazing app, but nobody is installing it from the app store. You’re not alone. Most apps don’t advertise themselves.

Even if your killer app solves a common problem, you still need to do some marketing to make people aware of it.

Social media is a great vehicle for helping mobile apps get discovered for several reasons. First, most people use social media on their phones, so your potential users are already just a few taps away from where they can download and try your app. Second, social media connects people from many different time zones, spaces, languages, and interest groups, unlike most traditional advertising methods which can be pretty narrow. With social media, people can immediately share information about your app with a broad range of friends and family all around the world with a single Facebook post. Third, social media is relatively cheap compared to most advertising, and much of it is even free. Unlike an old-school ad in a magazine or on TV, or more recently, the dreaded banner ad, a Facebook post or a Tweet costs nothing (unless you want to do paid campaign, which is a good idea for some apps — especially games).

The Basics

Maybe you are at the stage where you still know most of the people who have downloaded your app (your close friends and co-workers), or maybe you have already built up a small base of loyal users and you’re trying to grow. Either way, you can start a social media marketing campaign in just a few steps:

  1. Pick your platforms. Decide what networks you are going to use. Facebook and Twitter are the largest, but depending on your target user base, you might want to try a different platform. If your app is aimed at people who cook delicious meals at home, Pinterest might be a good approach because many of its users constantly share recipes. If your app is geared toward fellow developers, you might want to try joining and sharing in niche “public” Slack groups where a variety of tech types get together to talk and work on projects. User research is a great way to figure out which platforms to use to find your target user.
  2. Develop a voice. After you’ve picked your platforms, you need to find a voice for your app messaging. Is your messaging going to be thoughtful, witty, snarky, or something else? Find a voice that is memorable, but also complements the brand you are shooting for. (Jerks can be memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.)
  3. Make a plan. Your social media presence should be reliable and consistent, just like the performance of your app. If you want to post something clever every day, then keep at it. If you intend to quickly respond to your users, then stay on top of that. There are lots of tools (e.g. Buffer, HootSuite, Social Mention) that can help you schedule and monitor your social media to ensure that you stay on track and never miss user feedback.
  4. Create a social media presence. Once you finish your preparations, you’re ready to launch your social media presence on the platforms you chose using the voice you developed and the plan you created. Make it easy on your users to share their experiences by integrating your app with social media. If someone wants to write a Facebook post about your app, then simplify that process for them — you can even provide pre-written posts they can choose to share. Make use of available APIs to easily and efficiently gather feedback from your users that can then be shared with other potential users. Be sure to stay consistent about posting regularly. Here is a nifty infographic to help you figure out a good balance for when/where/how much to post.
  5. Offer incentives for sharers. People respond to promotions and bonuses. You can help move the conversation along by throwing in a free product or service for people who share content about your app or refer others to it. However, before offering any promotions, be sure that you can deliver on them. Everyone loves a good deal, but false promises can destroy that goodwill in a split second.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to getting the word out about your app.

In addition to the basics, here are two advanced strategies to help you get your marketing to the next level through social media:

Pro Tip #1

Not All Users Are Created Equal

Sometimes a more focused approach can aid in getting your app noticed; try developing a plan to go after influencers and thought leaders. Think about a group of people that you belong to: your extended family, your alumni network, developers in your city. Not everyone in that group has the same level of influence on the others. Some people’s suggestions get more attention than those of others. A recommendation for your app from a well-respected, successful software guru will carry more weight than a mention from your Cousin Vinny.

Sometimes breaking into a certain market is a matter of convincing just a few key people to get on board with you, and everyone else will follow. If you are a part of your app’s target market group, then you probably already know who the influencers are. If you are an outsider, you might need to do some research to identify these people. After you have identified who these influencers are, find creative ways to reach out to them. Politely ask them to try out your app and give you feedback. Offer them some incentive to do so if at all possible, make it worth their while. If you can win these people over to your side, then they might do quite a bit of your marketing for you by sharing the app with those in their sphere of influence. An endorsement from an influencer will get you far.

Pro Tip #2

Partner with Aspiring Content Creators for a Boost

Think of a commercial you love. When you saw it for the first time, did you know what it was advertising right away? Many of the most memorable ads trick you into forgetting that you’re even watching an ad. They share a story, a joke, or an idea, and then tie it back to the need or desire for the product or service being advertised. Apps can be advertised the same way. There are so many amazing content creators putting out videos, Vines, Pins, and Instagram campaigns — what if you could leverage their content creation skills to promote your app? Think of clever ways to partner with fun or new-but-promising content creators, and you might just find a way to sneak your app into one of their next projects. Make it easy (i.e., one click) for people to get from the ad to your app. Make it just as easy for people to share the ad with others on the platforms you selected.

Listen To Your Users

In addition to being inexpensive and direct to consumers, one of the biggest benefits of social media marketing is its ability to make it easy for you to collect meaningful feedback. Throughout your whole campaign, watch for both positive and negative responses. It’s great when people like your product, but sometimes the people who turn it down can offer more valuable insights than those who are already hooked. Why people dislike your product is just as important as why people like it. As people share stories about your app — the good and the bad — you can learn a lot about what users think in order to tweak your app in new directions.

Now go get social and grow your user base!