How To Build A Successful Marketing Stack In The New App Economy

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There are many ways to drive users consistently to your app while delivering exactly what they want in the form of an entertaining and – if you’re lucky – addictive in-app experience. Based on your initial target market along with what you learn about your users, all it takes is a series of steps that are tactical, measurable, and scalable in methodology.

While your business needs must always be tied directly to your implementation plan, there are many things you can do to interact directly with your core user base while simultaneously reaching target market groups.

Here are 5 key steps to get there:

1. Know and Serve Your Audience

Beyond Google Analytics and platform-specific marketing tools, tap into the social media earpiece to speak with and listen to your core user base.

Outside of basic affinity metrics, what are their interests? What do they want, and most importantly what do they care about? Do you attract design nerds, community lovers, foodies, music fans – perhaps a combination of several of these groups?

What daily problems do they face, and how can you help solve them through technology? By learning about your audience, you’ll best be able to draw conclusions about what type of content to create and experiences to deliver and thereby stay one step ahead of the game.

Target markets are the measurable, critical component that ultimately drive app growth. The key is to hook these users early by delivering exactly what they want (or something close to it) while consistently keeping yourself in their digital spheres by leveraging the channels where they hang out the most.

After that, the real fun begins – this is where you can work on bringing the somewhat-to-average app user to ultimate fan status.

2. Deliver, Deliver, Deliver

Related to #1, you should provide users with exactly what they want. Deliver items tied to their interests, and you will open the door to increased usage, upsells, and app growth.

Don’t forget that your #1 marketing channel is word of mouth. This directly contributes to the velocity of the number of downloads acquired and is also a key metric for visibility in the iTunes app store in terms of store ranking and feature placement.

Seed content by hiring top-tier and relevant storytellers to expand your reach on blogs and social media. Create engaging content – and don’t worry about the rules. Create Instagram content just as cool as your friends would create. Reach out to influencers through various platforms (again, where they hang out), and you’ll wind up with a channel that can create significant impact.

3. Embrace the Funnel

Tap into how people are using your app. User behavior is telling, from the newbie to the frequent user. Examine where they drop off and investigate why it happens. If your on-boarding screen is collecting the correct information, you already have basic contact info available. This creating an easy entry point to remarket by offering incentives to return for more, which leads to the following…

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot

Stay true to your product roadmap, but always be available and willing to ask questions. If something isn’t working and you receive the same feedback time and time again, the suggestion may be worth acting upon.

If a feature recommendation comes to the table that actually makes sense, that’s a terrific thing. And it’s free feedback! Let that feedback gently inform your product roadmap, and keep iterating on the product with this information in mind.

5. Utilize Tools with Built-in Engagement Mechanisms

Facebook bought Parse for a reason – they are now directly tied to developers and thus can make the development process of integrating with Facebook simple. Twitter and Google are also in the game of making significant investments in tools that provide easy access to app analytics, built-in promotional tools, and other strategies that provide natural stepping stones into proprietary advertising platforms that drive app downloads, which in turn drives revenue (Facebook earned $1.95 billion in Q3 2014 on mobile ads alone).

While it’s been proven that buying ads on Facebook works well, further evidence shows that content-driven engagement will always be of interest. Combined with the above tactics – examining user behavior, knowing and serving your audience, creating original content, and not being afraid to pivot – you can leverage many tools that lead to the promotion and distribution of a highly successful app.

I Won’t Wear Android…Yet

Samsung Smartwatch

I don’t want a computer on my wrist. Or anywhere on my body, really. Having an iPhone tracking every movement from my handbag is alarming enough.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a flip phone? Sure, there wouldn’t be any fancy games, or maps, or cleverly branded apps for taking selfies. Sure, I could turn off “Location Services” and refrain from checking-in. But what’s the fun of that?

Maybe I’d enjoy life a little more.  Maybe I’d experience some…freedom.

Google wants it all. The contents of my e-mail, exact location, browser visit, search, preferences, along with anything else they can reach.

And, similar to Facebook, it’s my fault for willingly giving it to them in exchange for free services and the convenience of a single log-in.

But are these services free? These days privacy is seemingly more valuable than an SSN. Why would I give up privacy so voluntarily?

Then again, who cares? It’s not like I’m a criminal unintentionally leaving digital breadcrumbs of evidence strewn across the internet.

But, back to the Watch.

The only functional solve I see to the Android Watch outside of what the iPhone already provides is pure physical convenience. You don’t have to continually pull your phone from your pocket to read a text or answer a call.

For now, I’m unwilling to have a computer strapped to my body for the sake of convenience. A line has to be drawn. Until the phone offers drastically new features, and until I’m in control of the information I choose to disclose (likely, never), I’ll default to my trusty analog watch.

A watch is the kind of device that does one thing and does it well. It retains a timeless style that requires actual physical tending. Conversely, it does not tend to my physical being by recording every output.

Also, it doesn’t die every 4 years.

Perhaps I’ll be seduced by the sleek design and inevitable heart-tugging campaign surrounding the launch of the Apple iWatch. Until then, I’ll cling to the throwback of form and function as my daily business continues to tick on.

The Nominal Network: When Things Go Asocial

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Location-based social networks like Connect and Highlight alert you to people who happen to be near your current location. By “people,” we essentially mean friends or those with similar interests (friends of friends). For a fee, SocialRadar even allows you to hook in LinkedIn contacts for quick access to someone’s  professional details (or – eek! their connections!) on the go.

And then there’s Cloak, the polar opposite – a reverse model because you’d actually prefer to avoid bumping into said people on the street. It works the same way as the others, but Cloak has a very different user interface to differentiate its purpose – dark and mysterious, with a setting that makes the phone vibrate anytime someone is within a distance of your choosing.

Cloak is social rehab – for those who want to avoid an ex, a client, a mutual social malcontent. Connections remain where we can browse them, at a safe distance and at our convenience in the two dimensional space of digital terroir.

In a similar vein, Breather advertises “Peace and quiet, on demand.” It’s essentially a room-rental service where users can find and rent rooms by the hour – ideally to take a nap, meet with clients, work, or to meditate.

Are we around each other so much that we’re actually fighting for the opportunity to be left alone?

Historically, digital tools were developed for connecting us to one another in order to share and spread information. With the overwhelming amount of ways to do that, it’s only natural that we start craving some distance, allowing ourselves to disconnect for actual Headspace (ironically there’s an app for that, too).

Come to think of it, we’re awfully hard on ourselves and these tools are strong evidence of that. I’d like to see an app that encourages me to be lazy on the weekends. Or better yet, the reverse of a to-do list – a blank screen allowing me to willing enter what I  did that day without the hassle of a pseudo digital nanny.

Today, I:

Ate a salad for lunch. Did 30 minutes of cardio. Thought happy thoughts. Didn’t run into anyone too horrible. And, actually remembered – without any alerts – to pick up rice milk on the way home!

 Yay for me!  Little Things!

At the end of the day perhaps I’m not going to avoid anybody or anything, except maybe trust the real world a little more, take a deep breath, and avoid anything beeping or blinking coming from my phone.

Secrets And Whispers: The Social Limits Of An Anonymous Internet

Secret - Speak Freely

“If you could kill someone once a year and get away with it, would you?”

This was an anonymous message posted to the app Secret and according to its algorithm, was written by someone I know.

Users were outraged and dismayed at the words, quickly posting comments like  “get help” and “what’s wrong with you?!”

I was somewhat reassured by the decibel level, readjusting my social antennae slightly towards some semblance of moral compass. The reactions served as a reminder that oftentimes in social media, communities tend to police themselves.

It got me thinking. Was the writer serious – or was he or she merely taking advantage of the medium to be controversial?

Will we ever really know what kind of friends we have? And what does that say about us? (Am I that messed up too?!)

Secret and Whisper are mobile apps that allow users to anonymously post thoughts generally 1-sentence in length. The unmoderated submissions  range from from fluffy to business-ish  (e.g. Silicon Valley rants and rumours) to the profound. The delight lies in where these topics intersect –  a technological venn diagram distributing random missives to the masses.

Twenty years ago at the dawn of the popular internet, anonymity was de rigeur. Digital omnivores created arbitrary handles and sent requests for information only when we could confirm, to the best of our naive ability, that the information sent was heavily encrypted on the receiving side.

With each considering keystroke of our credit card we added a fake layer of security, a counteragent framed of deliberation and trust.

Tap, tap. Tap, tap. I. Am. Trusting. This.

In chatrooms and private messages we reduced our identity to the most basic credentials.

30/f. New York City.

We placed a premium on self-disclosure.

In recent years, these allowances turned a significant corner. Not only did we become eager to share our personal information but we did so in a way to showcase our best possible self. This showmanship comes at a price –  there’s no ability to retreat from the real world through anonymous browsing or mutual confession.

Disappearing messages are also of trend.  In this model, content disappears after a preselected duration of seconds. Most evidenced is the wild success of SnapChat, who turned down a $3B (yes, billion) offer from Facebook, deciding instead to retain ownership and go forth on their own.

The messaging service was rendered primarily for serving the needs of a typical lowest common denominator, in this case sexting. While the postings aren’t anonymous, their temporal nature provides a semblance of safety since in theory, the content will no longer exist thirty seconds from now.

Online privacy has always been a hotbed issue, and anonymity with some added ephemerality appear to be good partners  for communicating in today’s closely monitored world.

Perhaps these expedients serve instead as counteragents;  a fallback solution until we discover the real technological lifecycle here.Even if messages allegedly  “disappear” or post without provenance, there’s a precedent-setting case waiting to happen if these postings can in fact be tracked. If a threatening message is shared, will the government intervene? Should they?

Given the level of trust in digital security today, it would be little surprise if these messages were not traceable.

After all, when the message is sent, after the tiny bit of information is posted to a server somewhere, ownership is transferred from the creator to the owner along with social currency of unfair supposition. Context is lost and the message becomes subject to whomever has the largest fists and holds its grip the tightest.

Ultimately, who holds the strings?

Let’s again go back twenty years. Let’s say I took a photo (let’s say, just for fun with one of those sassy disposable cameras). I had it developed at the local drugstore and kept  the album at home. Would the government have the right to search my house?  Would they have the right to search the records from the drugstore without probable cause? And who defines probable cause, if, like my friend who posted on Secret, we’re clearly all a bit nuts?

If secure, tools like Snapchat and Secret enable us to exercise our first amendment rights. We can speak, question, and share freely without running the risk of being held to either substance or context. This goes back to the beginning of the popular internet when it was less about oversharing and more about simply…connecting.

However, this right should be exercised with caution. If  you don’t have anything nice to say…it probably shouldn’t be posted at all.

App Review: Beats Music

Beats Music

Beats Music focuses squarely on playlists, employing a sharp user interface and restricted color scheme that allows a vast amount of content to shine through.

Both brand and interface rely heavily on iOS7 aesthetic  – flat design, subtle navigation cues and circular icon sets, disregarding the skeuomorphic approach we’ve come to know and understand through erstwhile brushed chrome and faux veneers à la Apple’s Newsstand.

Both the web and mobile experiences are vibrant, mostly due to the sheer amount of content the product has to offer. A grid-based layout contains large type in very small amounts, making it easy to scroll through an abundance of featured or suggested content. And there’s lots.

There are suggested playlists based around genre and/or decade (“Indie Music from 1993”.) There are novelty playlists based around band or topic (“Songs about Sex by Pulp”, “Cool Jazz for Studying”.) There are so-called rarities added in for good measure (“Radiohead B-sides”.)  And then, there are tappable full-length albums interspersed throughout.

Impressively, the app’s feature set doesn’t rely on an activity feed or filter set. There’s so much curated content custom-tailored to the user’s preferences that the social aspect, or even a searchable one, is rendered moot.

Curiously, the commodification of actual full-length records is almost cleverly masked within the music sequencing landscape. Songs are presented within a diversified yet continuous audio experience ripe with discovery and reconnoitre.

That’s not to say that the idea of an album is lost altogether. Browsing Beats Music is not unlike exploring a record store, vibrant and full of data points. There are sections organized by genre, varying formats with subsequent cover sizes (vinyl, CD, cassette, box), staff picks to read, end caps for checking out new releases, and featured albums.

If browsing playlists isn’t your thing, you can cut to the chase by filling out a mad-libs type sentence that generates a playlist based on how you feel at that particular moment.

In the same spirit, the last screen delivers playlists exactly two taps away from getting what you want, without even being sure what it is you want in the first place. The user can choose from a list of activities – “sleep,” “wake up,” “ work out,”  “study” – with a second tap that takes you to a list of playlists for selecting the mood that suits you best.

Content wise, the playlists themselves are good. They contain predictable picks and fun surprises, throwbacks and other well curated material, encouraging the user to trust the DJ and literally forgive any passable songs along the way. These are playlists for people who know what they want…but not really.

Unlike Spotify, Rdio, and its competitors, Beats Music does away with recommending albums or providing “charts” upon launch of the application. As well, it performs well without everyone in your circle shouting at you with their suggestions or listening history from the sidelines.

The major differences in Beats compared to a Spotify or Rdio is plentiful. First, Beats is less of a straight-up jukebox. A user can create playlists but they’re hidden in the background. The emphasis lies less in crafting playlists and more on hearing what you’re in the mood to listen to – without having to do any of the work involved.

The player itself is also subtle, sitting on the bottom of the screen. There is no big play button or call to action.  It’s 2013 and apps have been around for 7 years now – we know what to do.

As your average skeptic in both the music and technology mindset, I do have a few concerns.

The first is that the library itself doesn’t dig deep enough. The inclusion of new bands may be due partly to pending licensing deals, if any, that are too fresh to go through the programming process.

What about exclusives, covers, remixes, and other goodies typically buried somewhere in a dark corner of the internet?

Conversely, it is a safe presumption to make that Beats will eventually feature advance record releases – historically, a natural way for driving users to online streaming music service providers.

Lastly, how often will content be refreshed? Will I need to scrap my preferences and start over to get more?

Only time will tell as this sharp, resonant product continues to evolve.