This article was originally posted on LondonLovesBusiness as a summary of my UKTI tech mission to Brazil, researching the market for 23snaps and a local launch in the country. There I shared some of the opportunities, challenges and conclusions I drew from the trip and what international startups can expect when trying to bring their business to Brazil.

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On the evening of 10 September, I found myself sitting with the founding members of 10 other UK tech start-ups at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 waiting for a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Our companies ranged from social networks to content delivery networks to ecommerce solutions – but all had one thing in common. They had committed their limited time and resources to travel halfway around the globe to explore growth opportunities in one of the world’s fastest-growing markets. I represented 23snaps, a private social network for families, and hoped to learn more about the consumer appetite for our product and to find launch partners that would help us grow in the Latin American market.

There were shared pre-flight drinks and banter but also a sense of apprehension. Brazil is a tempting market for many businesses, with a consumer market growing exponentially in size, but the challenges that small companies face trying to enter the country act as a strong deterrent.

The 10-day trade mission, dubbed The Great Tech Expedition, was UKTI’s attempt to help one group of British tech start-ups overcome those challenges. The programme was also supported by the Mayor of London as part of the 2012 legacy efforts, as many of the companies participating on the trip hoped to pick up lucrative contracts related to Rio’s Olympic infrastructure and planning. The launch event included a meet-and-greet with Mayor Boris Johnson. It was an ambitious effort on the part of UKTI, but I returned to London with ambivalent feelings towards opportunities in the South American nation.

The Opportunities

On the surface, the opportunities in Brazil are numerous. As the hosts of both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympic Games, the investment in infrastructure and need for goods and services can only increase.

Additionally, the Brazilian consumer market appears to be booming as well. Already the sixth largest economy in the world, over 75 million Brazilians are own smartphones. It’s ranked fifth in the world for number of internet users (over 90 million) and household spend has increased steadily over the last 10 years, including 2.5% growth from Q1 2013 to Q2 2013.

Brazilian companies can’t keep up with consumer demand, leaving room for international businesses to enter the market. Many of the participants on the UKTI trip were hoping to be first to market in their industry in this new, lucrative environment.

Meaghan Fitzgerald, head of marketing at photo app 23snaps

The Challenges

But for all of Brazil’s potential, there are significant challenges to foreign companies entering the market – as we discovered shortly after being ushered into the UK Consulate on our first morning in Sao Paulo. A series of seminars, organised by the UKTI and the Consulate’s Office, painted a more realistic picture that left some participants questioning the opportunity cost.

Brazil is still extremely protectionist of its own industry and companies.  This manifests itself in significant tariffs on international goods and services. A Brazilian company paying for a service from an international company might expect to pay 40% on top in taxes. International companies looking to move profits out of Brazil into their home country can expect a similar (40%) tax rate on taking funds out of the country. Businesses also must hire a certain number of Brazilian employees for every foreign one and cannot have business operations in Brazil without a full time managing director located there who assumes full, personal responsibility for the company – one example of a complicated business legal system.

This can all be challenging for small companies with limited resources particularly because English is not widely spoken, even in technology or professional industries; a point felt strongly by our Tech Expedition as we attempted to explain advanced digital services in broken Portuguese, sign language and Powerpoint slides to attendees at the Rio Info conference. The conference was the region’s largest technology event and ostensibly the focal point around which UKTI had organised the trip.

Another intriguing point for the tech companies was Brazil’s lack of data protection laws. While the UK companies would of course be bound by EU data protection laws, their Brazilian competitors faced no such restrictions. Personal, medical, educational and online data can be bought, sold, resold and used for marketing purposes without any penalties – and consumers are uneducated about this so are not asking for change.

Finally, infrastructure in Brazil is still extremely dated, particularly outside the state of Sao Paulo which occupies only 3% of the country’s land mass, despite driving 60% of its economy. Across the country poor roads, transport and civil services mean that it can be expensive and difficult to transport goods, services or personnel.

The Reality

As we learned about the tricky landscape we would need to navigate to begin business operations in Brazil, professional consultants’ cautions were balanced with the vibrant Brazilian world around us. In Sao Paulo, a never ending city of skyscrapers, even cabbies checked directions on their smartphones. In Rio, despite the sea of tents and corrugated metal boxes that made up the shanty town Favelas, the beaches and tourist attractions were packed with tens of thousands of local and international tourists, stimulating the economy.

The tech and start-up scene was booming, at least if the numerous government-backed start-up accelerators were to be believed. Cesar, a self-proclaimed “Brazilian IDEO” had supported 70 projects, funded nine business plans and helped three companies start generating revenue in the last year while Invest Sao Paulo had the backing of the local and federal governments to bring both Brazilian and international businesses into their accelerator program with up to $100,000 of investment – as long as they based themselves in Sao Paulo.

The Future

Brazil is a perfect market for 23snaps. It’s family-oriented, social, and there is a huge consumer appetite for new online services and networks. On top of that, there are almost 300 million people living in Brazil and consumer smart phone and internet access is exploding. But we can’t forget that Brazil is still a developing country and there are a couple of challenges we need to overcome, particularly related to financial operations, data protection and infrastructure in the country

Brazil was, for myself and many of The Great Tech Expedition participants, a conundrum – even more so for having visited. Local enthusiasm for the London companies, obvious consumer demands and a European-like attitude towards consumer products was, for many, enough to counter the numerous challenges and increasingly bleak outlook on Brazil from global economists. The final day in Rio, with the iconic Christ statue smiling benevolently down on the British entrepreneurs, was filled with optimistic discussion of a return trip, final signatures on contracts and the opportunities ahead. Yet by the time our plane landed, both the London drizzle and reality of operating in Brazil had cooled the group’s passions. Despite our, and UKTI’s best efforts and desires, there is still a long way to go before small British businesses are up and running effectively in the tempting, challenging and intriguing Brazilian market.

(This article was originally posted on LondonLovesBusiness on 09/10/13)


Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.

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One of the most important factors in ASO (App Store Optimization) is reviews. Get lots of great reviews, and there is evidence this helps you steal a march on your competitors and gain a boost in your rankings. Bad reviews, or no reviews at all, on the other hand, can be detrimental to your rankings.

So how can you ensure you’re getting positive reviews? One way is to prompt your users to add a review to the App Store, a topic I’ll cover in more detail in the future. But if your users aren’t already fans, how can you be sure their review will be positive? One of the best ways that we’ve found is by providing fantastic customer service.

Why Bother With Customer Service for an App

After the iOS 7 update, many applications experienced bugs or issues related to the new operating system. One such app was Zynga’s Chess with Friends – probably not one of their most popular apps, but still one with millions of users around the world. After iOS7, Chess with Friends was unusable, leaving many players frustrated as they received app notifications but couldn’t log in. The most persistent complaint on Zynga forums and in app reviews was Zynga’s lack of communication. “We just want to know if they are working on it!” typified user feedback. In the days following iOS 7’s release, Chess with Friend’s rating plummeted to below two stars.

Alternately, we have found that many of our top reviews reference great customer support – even if there was an problem or bug. Many of our five star reviews reference our great support services – we try to get back to all requests within one working day, but often times can respond within the hour.

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Real support services, operated by real people who can answer the wide range of questions users have, is not the norm when it comes to apps – especially free apps. But the goodwill generated by setting aside just a bit of time to make your users happy and comfortable using your app can generate more than warm fuzzies. Users who have had a positive experience with your support team are not only more likely to be positive about your app when leaving a review, we have seen that they are more likely to stay engaged with your app over a longer period of time.

Not only that, but user feedback can be invaluable when trying to decide on what aspects of your app to improve or how to prioritize your product roadmap and you can test out potential solutions but asking customers with real problems whether a proposed update would really solve their issues.

Add to that the fact that measuring the total number of support requests about specific issues and tracking customer concerns and volume of queries over time can give you insight into how well you app is solving user needs, the points in favor of setting up a support infrastructure are starting to really add up.

How to Set Up Your Support System

So how can you get started? In the beginning it’s easy – answer your emails from users.

But as 23snaps has grown to hundreds of thousands of users, we needed something a bit more robust to handle and track support requests. We started using Zendesk, a fantastic support request management platform, and it’s allowed us to scale our support along with our userbase. We haven’t needed to hire any full time staff to manage support and can tag and track requests from users, as well as set up macros to respond to the most common customer issues. As an added bonus, it acts as a content management system for your FAQs, making it easy to manage and add new web pages with guides, tips and troubleshooting for your app.

Zendesk is even cost effective for an independent developer – with a starter package of just $20 per year (although prices can go up pretty quickly for advanced features and large teams).

I believe that providing fantastic customer support for 23snaps users has been a major factor in our growth. There’s nothing worse for a user than feeling frustrated with a service and then not getting any response from the company. We’ve tried to prevent any of those feelings with a scalable support system that can address the needs of all of our users.

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Sign up for the free trial of Zendesk and use it to answer your support emails. See how your customers respond and what insight you can gain looking back over a week of support requests. You may just find it increases positive reviews, engagement and ideas for how to improve your product.


Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.

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This post expects knowledge of the Facebook Power Editor. If you haven’t used the Power Editor before, check out my post, Creating Your First Campaign with Facebook’s Power Editor.

Last week, I spoke on a panel at Social Media Week London about whether or not Facebook has cracked effective mobile advertising. You might have a guess at my answer given the last few weeks of Monday Mobile Marketing tips! I was speaking from the perspective of a smaller app developer, and tried to share some of the more interesting and actionable points from our experiences with Facebook ads.

One of those key lessons was that, when using the Power Editor to select specific interests to target, it can be incredibly effective to look beyond the obvious, basic interests that advertisers have been trained to select from other, more basic ad networks.

Because Facebook user “interests” can be much more broad than simple keywords, and include the names of Pages the user has like and groups they’re a member of, you might find that you can create some very large, yet targeted, groups with a few unusual, and unusually worded, interests.

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For example, when trying to find parents to target for 23snaps, I discovered that some strange combinations of terms actually had significant reach (an example being “I love being mother,” shown above). A couple of other strange ones include “Mommys money saving obsession” and “I am proud mommy.” Despite the questionable grammar of these interests, it goes to show that keywords beyond the obvious can help you access large portions of your exact audience.

Why do these keywords work so well? It appears that Facebook considers any Page, ad, and in some cases the posts, that users have liked on the platform when considering a user’s interests. Many of these strange interests correspond to popular Facebook Groups or Pages. Regardless of how they are generated – this level of focused targeting is much more effective than targeting an interest like, say, ‘Parenting’ which not only is more generic, but is not always an interest that every parent will specify.

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Explore some unusual interests you can try for your Facebook mobile ad targeting while using the Power Editor. Stuck for ideas? Try looking for the popular Facebook Pages or Groups in your app category for some inspiration.


Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.

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While this isn’t strictly a marketing tip, it provides some insight into your competitors, and helps you understand where you rank against other apps in your market.

There are plenty of tools that try and give insight into your competitors and their user numbers, including App Annie and Xyo.net (which has some of the best ballpark download numbers I’ve seen). But raw download numbers are becoming less and less relevant to an app’s success. How can you determine whether or not your competitors are retaining their users, and where you stack up?

The best place to do this is, in fact, Facebook. Every app that has installed the Facebook SKD and allows app users to login using Facebook inadvertently displays an estimate of their active users. You can find this stat either by browsing for the app in the Facebook App Center, or by typing the app name into the search bar.

However this isn’t simply an estimate of app downloads –it’s an estimate of how many people have used the app in the last 30 days, a much more accurate representation of app success.

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You do need to take these numbers with a grain of salt – and they can vary depending on the industry. Temple Run 2, one of the most popular games of all time in the App Store only displays 10,000+ active users on Facebook because the majority of players don’t login at all, let alone with their Facebook credentials. 23snaps is appealing to many families because it’s an alternative to Facebook, meaning that a smaller percentage of users connect with Facebook than they might for, say, Instagram. However for all of the inaccuracies, checking the active user numbers through Facebook is an fair estimate of how popular different apps are with users and in relation to one another.

Why is this useful? Well aside for satisfying a natural curiosity about how other apps are performing, you can also begin to build up an idea of average engagement rates for your industry. Between the estimates provided by xyo.net for total downloads and Facebook for monthly active users, you can calculate an estimated engagement rate for a number of different apps. Where do you fall?

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Check out a few of your competitors’ active user number of Facebook. Where do you stack up against them?


Every Monday, I write about something new you can try this week to drive more downloads for your mobile app and increase engagement with your existing app users, based on what has worked (and what hasn’t) for 23snaps.

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This post expects knowledge of the Facebook Power Editor. If you haven’t used the Power Editor before, check out my post, Creating Your First Campaign with Facebook’s Power Editor.

Facebook ads are great for acquiring new users, but if you’re using the Facebook Power Editor, there’s a clever way to use Facebook ads to reengage existing users as well through Custom Audiences.

Custom Audiences are created from contact or mailing lists you already have (opt-in!) access to, such as your user database or your newsletter mailing list. If you have the email addresses of your existing users in a CSV or text file, you can upload them into Facebook’s Power Editor through the following steps:

1)      Open the Facebook Power Editor

2)      Click on the ‘Audiences’ tab on the left hand side

3)      Click the ‘Create Audience’ button

4)      Upload your contact list

Facebook will then automatically match those email addresses with Facebook users in their system, and create a target group of your existing users who are on Facebook.

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There are tons of ways to use this audience but here are two examples from 23snaps:

Turn Users into Fans

Using a custom audience to drive Page Likes can be much more cost effective than using a wide audience because these users already know your brand. Once you’ve encouraged them to becomes fans of your page but running targeted adverts, you are able to communicate with them more cheaply than if you continued to target them with ads. Additionally it is an inexpensive way to give your Facebook page a boost. Make sure you’ve got great content on your Page.

Re-engage Users on Mobile

You can even use native mobile app adverts that target your custom audience. While this might seem counterintuitive – given these people have already registered for your app – this can not only encourage your users to open your app again even if they haven’t in a while, it can get your registered users who have deleted your app to download it again. We noticed a small portion of our custom audience in each campaign converted to app installs, suggesting we were re-engaging users at a fraction of the price of acquiring new ones.

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Upload your database to Facebook’s Power Editor to create a custom audience and use that audience to target some ads to re-engage or communicate with your existing users.