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Image copyright The Verizon Foundation - Basking Ridge, NJ

Image copyright The Verizon Foundation – Basking Ridge, NJ

I love my job and working with technology companies and later today, I get the chance to share that experience with a group of Girl Guides (that’s Girl Scouts for the Americans).

Mobile apps and careers related to mobile are becoming increasingly important, relevant and lucrative as the industry grows. The mobile apps are expected to generate $25 billion in sales this year alone (Wall Street Journal, March 2013).

However, with more than a billion apps available for download for smartphones, companies need people who can help them stand out in a crowded market. They need people who understand where to target advertising, how to attract downloads and how to acquire users that stick around (and ideally pay money).

In addition to explaining what I do, I’ve also been asked to put together an activity that helps the girls understand how my job works. I thought the activity I prepared might be useful for other groups that want to introduce girls, teens, students or young people in general to the ideas behind how mobile apps get promoted and make money. This activity is aimed at getting teens to think about where they might place adverts for different mobile apps, in order to encourage the most relevant people to download their app – at the best price.

Want to use this activity for your group? Download the activity sheets here:

Mobile Marketing Exercise (UK Version) / Mobile Marketing Exercise (US Version)

If you do have a chance to use them, please leave a comment below and let me know how it goes!


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.


Google AdWords is, you may be surprised to hear, the world’s biggest mobile ad network; far surpassing Apple’s own iAd and any of the dedicated mobile ad networks.  This is mostly because many of Google’s ads run on mobile devices and desktop devices automatically but hundreds of thousands of apps have actually enabled in-app advertising using Google’s AdSense code. This means that not only can you advertise in search results and normal web pages to mobile users, you can actually display ads insides other applications using the Google platform.

I’ve found this a really effective way to reach targeted users and because Google Adwords offers flexible cost-per-click bidding with no minimum spend (unlike other mobile ad networks which might charge upwards of $15,000 to run a campaign) it’s incredibly cost efficient to test.

Here is how to set up a Google Adwords campaign to run in other Apps.

  1. Create a Google AdWords account if you don’t have one already.
  2. Create a new campaign and choose the option “Display Network Only”. This means that your ads will not show in Google search results, just on third party sites that have enabled Google ads to display in their site or app.
  3. Set your campaign settings. You will have a number of criteria unique to your app, like location, language, device type which are easy enough to set but the most important piece is to select the option Mobile Apps next to Display Targeting, ensuring your ads appear in applications, not on other webpages.create-new-campaign
  4. Choose where to display your ad. There are three ways to place your ad in apps.First, and least targeted, is to chose an app category (like Games, Lifestyle, Photography) and let Google do all the hard work. Any app that is eligible to show Google Ads and is in that category might display your ad (depending on your bids).

    Second, you can search for specific apps by keyword (see the image below). This search functionality is limited and I’ve found I get the same results again and again however this does allow you more targeting than the broad category match and ensure you are advertising in apps that are actually going to show your ad.


    The final way is to manually enter in the IDs of apps you want to advertise in. You can find the app ID in the URL of their App Store listing. This is by far the best way to target the most relevant advertising locations but the problem with this method is that you may try to target an app that doesn’t support Google Ads (in fact, 9 times out of 10 this will be the case). That said, I still prefer to have the ability to choose exactly which apps my ad displays in so I will use this method, and delete the apps from my targeting if they don’t track any ad impressions at the end of the week and add in new targeting options instead.


  5. Add your ad creative and turn on your ad. Be sure you’re not linking the ad to your website but instead directly to the app store. Remember you are targeting app users on their phones from inside another app. If you direct them to the App Store, they can download your app immediately from their phone.

That’s it! You have created an AdWords campaign that shows an ad for your app inside other applications and you only pay if someone clicks your ad. You can even install the Google SDK that will allow you to track conversions to downloads within the AdWords dashboard.

I hope to write more about advanced ways to use AdWords to do effective mobile marketing, but for now;

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: create a Google Adwords campaign with a small budget to test advertising your application inside other apps. The more targeted your advertising, and relevant and appealing your ad, the more successful you will be.


When I first started working at 23snaps, I was a bit apprehensive about the shift from web marketing to mobile marketing. I had much less experience in acquiring mobile app users, and it seemed like a daunting task.

Online, there are literally billions of channels through which to acquire new users – as every other page on the web is a potential direct marketing channel to send people to your site. Mobile, however, has relatively few direct paths to get the app to a user’s phone. In nearly all cases, users need to go through one of the top app stores – either Apple or Google. Sure, you can drive them to the app page in either store, but it seemed to me when I started at 23snaps that was a much less effective way to gain new users.

So, as I tend to do when faced with a new challenge, I turned to the internet, blogs and books. Someone, I figured, must be writing clear, simple and actionable guidelines for mobile marketers to help them acquire new users cost effectively and keep them around. After all, there were nearly 1 billion apps in the App Store – that’s a lot of companies, developers and mobile marketers who have had plenty of time to figure out mobile user acquisition.

But the resources available were meager and vague – or expensive and vague. Mobile marketing, it seemed, was not a particularly well documented area. Whether it was because those who were successful didn’t want to give away the trade secrets, or there was a perception that acquiring mobile users required a huge budget or simply there wasn’t enough collective knowledge yet, even in this fast-growing industry, it seemed I was pretty much on my own.

For nearly a year now, I have been working at 23snaps and experimenting with a huge range of the obvious, and less obvious mobile app marketing channels and I think I’m starting to get some ideas about what’s working and what’s not. Most tellingly, since I started, 23snaps has steadily grown in user numbers, used and loved by hundreds of thousands of parents and their families. But in that last year, I haven’t really noticed any significant developments in the quality of online resources for mobile marketers.

So from Monday, I’m going to be starting a new series of posts called Monday Mobile Marketing Tips. I’ll describe one thing that worked particularly well (or didn’t) in helping 23snaps grow so significantly. The idea is that someone could try to incorporate these marketing tips quickly, easily and cheaply each week, as part of their ongoing business activities, to see if it works for their app.

I’m really excited to start, as this will also be a record of some of the things I’ve tried at 23snaps. I’m also looking forward to feedback from other mobile app developers and marketers to  find out what works for them – and hopefully build a more useful and actionable guide to launching and marketing a mobile app for others going forward.

In October, 2012, I joined the team at 23snaps, a mobile app developer with a product that allows parents to save photos and videos of their children to a beautiful digital journal, and share those photos privately with family and close friends.

As head of marketing, one of my primary objectives was to acquire new users. I quickly discovered that the tools and networks for advertising mobile applications were very much in their infancy – so much so that the general feeling among mobile marketers was that there is no truly effective place for mobile ad spend, particular if you’re not promoting a mobile game*.

Any spend put towards generic mobile ad networks, which offer little or no targeting, is more likely to be written off as a failed experiment than to generate new engaged users, and targeted networks that allow demographic- or interest-based targeting are prohibitively expensive for early-stage developers, with ad agencies often requiring a minimum spend of $10,000 for a trial campaign.

Two early tests we ran at 23snaps on two different ad networks, one general and one more targeted, showed such poor results that we cancelled the campaigns early. Worryingly, with both campaigns, we saw generally high click rates, depleting our budget, but no new registrations. Whether this was due to the network incentivizing clicks from an irrelevant audience or fat fingers on a small screen, the end result was money out and no new users in.

At about the same time, Facebook, whose ad network has previously been criticized for being ineffective and a waste of money, announced a new advertising format. Facebook would allow mobile app developers to buy advertising space within the Facebook mobile application; with custom ads that delivered users directly into the Apple App Store or Google Play Store page for the advertiser’s app.

These ads would appear in a reader’s news feed, could be targeted using all of the interest, demographic and location-based targeting Facebook provides for any other ad format (including targeting ads based on pages and products a user has ‘Liked’ on Facebook already), and would be formatted to include an “Install now” button, information about how many of the reader’s friends user the app and a star rating. Despite our less than stellar results from other ad networks, we were intrigued, primarily because of the opportunity to deliver highly targeted ads to a relevant audience of our potential users.

We transferred a portion of our Facebook advertising budget to test this new format… and were absolutely astounded by the results. Not only were we seeing the number of app downloads jump significantly, the ads delivered the highest click through rate of any Facebook ad campaign we’d ever run, with conversion rates from click to download rivaling those of even our own website. For both Apple and Android devices, the Facebook ads were performing so much better than any third party advertising channel we had previously tested, or even heard of, that we increased the spend and haven’t looked back.

But Facebook isn’t the only social network that is working magic for mobile advertisers. YPlan, a London-based mobile app that allows Londoners to discover great events going on nearby, spent most of December running promoted Tweets on Twitter – that is paying Twitter to feature their message in the feed of relevant users, targeted based on location, topics of interest, who they follow and demographics. The result? YPlan popped up in the top 10 of all Lifestyle apps in the UK app store, a feat that usually requires anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 downloads per day. When the Twitter ads stopped? YPlan dropped out of the top 100 Lifestyle apps.

Encouraged by the clear superiority of social networks in effectively delivering mobile ads to a relevant audience at a lower cost, I looked into one more company that, while not purely a social network, has intimate access to user’s social graphs and interests: Google. Like Facebook, Google’s AdWords advertising network has made some changes to offer better options for mobile advertisers. Not only can advertisers target ads based on app interest category (such as lifestyle, business, games or education), in Google’s case, advertisers can select individual applications (either competitors or apps that have overlapping user groups) in which to promote their own app.

While not all developers allow Google to serve ads in their applications, I was surprised by the high number that did; and discovered that for every ten or so applications I wanted to target, at least one would allow me to show my ads. Given there are millions of apps on the market, this still offers a pretty large range of advertising real estate.

Like Facebook, this highly targeted channel resulted in exceptionally cost-effective advertising. More importantly, Google (and Facebook) provided transparency into which ads were working, the cost per download associated with each of my campaigns and gave me the flexibility to change, or stop, my campaign at any time if it wasn’t meeting my cost per download targets.

This has all led me to believe social media networks (and companies that have access to the social graph online) are going to replace mobile ad networks as the most effective way to promote mobile applications. Social networks have access to incredibly detailed information about their users’ interests, demographics and background, allowing them to give advertisers much more effective targeting tools. Many users access these social network on their phones, allowing the networks to deliver ads where users can immediately download advertiser’s applications. They also have a readymade audience that outnumbers even the largest advertising network, which relies on finding publishers (i.e. other mobile developers) to offer sell ad inventory. Finally many of these social networks already have built in advertising platforms, making it cost-effective for them to allow smaller advertisers to create small, self-managed campaigns, as opposed to many ad agencies and large advertising networks that do not have the technology to allow advertisers to manage their own campaigns so much charge a premium to ensure they cover costs.

I’ll be incredibly interested to see how social networks continue to develop their mobile advertising offerings, and whether they continue to outperform ad networks as the industry grows something that my experience so far has indicated is exceptionally likely.

*I single out mobile games as there are some networks that claim to offer highly cost-effective advertising campaigns for mobile gaming apps. These ad networks work by allowing one game manufacturer to earn money by offering incentives in the form of in-game rewards to users who download other advertisers’ games. Not working with a game app myself, I can’t speak to this model or the actual cost of the service.

Mobile Monday London

Last night I had the chance to attend Mobile Monday London and wrote a review, Opinion: Mobile Monday London Showcases Mobile Industry Challenges –

It’s a typically rainy London summer evening and ten stories above ground, in a conference room overlooking the Thames, Tate Modern, St. Pauls and the London financial district, a mobile developer is having technology troubles.

He shouldn’t feel badly, it’s been a fairly rough night for some of the presenters at Mobile Monday London, or MoMoLo if you’re someone who likes to throw the world dongle around in casual conversation….

Read on