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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. This week features a guest post from mobile marketing expert George Osborn from MagicSolver.


Adverts: we know that they help cover the costs of our favourite “free” services but that doesn’t mean we necessarily get along with them. Whether you turn on AdBlock, make a cup of tea when Downton Abbey goes into a five minute break or sneak into a film as late as humanly possible, for some people no effort is too extreme to avoid advertising.

On mobile, things are no different: consumers don’t like adverts. Ok, so a recent blog from Flurry posits that the rise of freemium shows that users are willing to put up with them. But tolerance is a long way off from acceptance, let alone enjoyment and when it comes to ads.  Users will close them before they load, ditch apps that have too many or even pay to turn them off (especially if you keep putting them in REALLY annoying places).

So it’s no wonder that click through rates on advertising banners, to put it bluntly, suck. A June 2012 report from MoPub into the effectiveness of banner ads versus interstitials proved just how sucky they were.

Traditional style banners ported from desktop to mobile bombed with a CTR of 0.1-0.76% while the supposed saviour of the format, 320X480 interstitials, only tempted 2-6% of users to interact with what was on show. When taken with a 1.11% CTR for in stream video ads, it seems clear that if you’re going to get people paying attention to your app with ads it is going to take a lot of virtual footfall to make your way onto a decent number of devices.

So you must be wondering: is there a better way to get people’s attention? Well, in my book at least, there’s a fairly simple way to get over those CTR woes. Ditch the advertising train and climb aboard the trusted recommendations train.

Why should you do that? Because consumers are more likely to engage with something they. Think about it in terms of films. You might see the trailer for a film on TV, Youtube or at the cinema and it’ll pique your interest. But hearing your mates rave about it on Facebook, seeing strings of 5 star reviews from the critics or reading an endorsement from one of your favourite writers is much more likely to seal the deal than an advert alone.

It’s something that’s definitely worked for us at MagicSolver. By having a rigid set of content guidelines ensuring that all three of the apps we feature in Free App Magic are high quality and appeal to our audience, we build trust with our audience that we’ll only ever share the best apps.

The result for us is a pretty impressive conversion rate for apps that feature with us. We see, on average, between 14-18% of our users click through to the App Store after checking out our recommendations.  By shunning the advert approach for curated apps and editorial, we’ve found that we’re able to bridge audience mistrust of businesses pitching aggressively to them by keeping to our promise of only recommending quality. Not bad really.

So what lessons can you take and apply to your marketing efforts? My main advice is to harness the power of recommendation in your creative to make your advertising more accommodating. Things like great comments on social media, excellent review scores and press quotes have been used effectively by brands in other media to turn the advert into a more neutral recommendation and all our evidence suggests it works just as well in mobile.

So make sure you use the power of recommendations to transform “turn me off” adverts into eye catching copy. While no one really likes being sold to, everyone loves a positive recommendation to help them to make an informed and sensible decision.

George Osborn is Head of Editorial Content at MagicSolver.com. You can contact him via george@magicsolver.com or catch him on Twitter @GeorgeOsborn

The other day, a conversation in the office about how to generate more press coverage for our startup led to some questions – what do the major tech blogs consider newsworthy? What do they usually write about? Are there any publications that provide more coverage for startups, or article topics that drive more of the news?

A quick glance turned into a longer look, and the result was some analysis on a full week’s worth of content (between 1 and 7 August, 2013) on five major tech blogs – TechCrunch, The Next Web, WIRED news, TIME’s Techland, and CNN.com’s tech news section. There were over 540 articles to analyse and the results were fascinating (and I wonder if the publications themselves look at the breakdown of their content in this way).

To summarize the information gathered, I’ve created this handy infographic:


Here are a couple of interesting takeaways:

– Only 11% of a week’s worth of tech press was about startups launching. [Tweet this stat]
If you want to get coverage for a new venture, you’d better have a good hook because this type of story clearly doesn’t get as much coverage as, say, new feature releases from Google or a news from Apple. Startups in general drove about 25% of the press for the week analyzed.

– TechCrunch devotes about 43% of its coverage to startups; TIME Techland only 8%. [Tweet this stat]
It’s not surprising to see a large percentage of TechCrunch’s coverage is about startups, but it is interesting that other top tech blogs spend so few words on the space. WIRED was barely any better at 9% and The Next Web and CNN had slightly fewer than 1 on 4 articles about startups.

– Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google account for 20% of the coverage across major tech blogs. [Tweet this stat]
The four companies alone were the subject of 1 in every 5 articles posted by the five sources.

– 50% of the new ventures covered by WIRED’s tech news blog were launched from a university research center. [Tweet this stat]
Want coverage on WIRED? Better team up with an established university. Or go space. WIRED loves a good astronomical discovery.

While 40% of startup coverage was about company launches, new features and fundraising also made the news. [Tweet this stat]
If you’re past launch but still considered a start up, don’t write off tech press. 6 in 10 of the articles about startups across all five tech blogs were about something other than the company launch. Primarily this was related to startups launching new features (25% of startup coverage) and fundraising (11% of startup coverage), there were stories about acquisitions, hiring and general business news (such as trend pieces and small companies responding to business and political news like the NSA leak).

Of course this is a limited data set, and I’d love to do the same analysis for a larger sample of articles and more sources. That said, I believe this to be a good snapshot of tech press and how it relates to startups.

Got any thoughts on these data? Does this seem to match with your experience and knowledge of the tech press? Let me know in the comments below.

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.


In marketing, it’s always worthwhile knowing what your competitors are up to. Their messaging and ads may inspire, or provide fodder, for yours. Their new channels may prove or disprove an audience. Of course you don’t want to be playing catch up or entering the market late but it’s unlikely you’ll always make the same choices as your competition when it comes to marketing and knowing what they’re up to can be powerful.

You might think that studying the competitor’s app is a job for the product, rather than the marketing team. For the same reasons it’s important to pay attention to your competitor’s marketing strategy, their product strategy can influence and caution yours as well. But there are a number of important reasons why marketers should be fully aware of competitor’s apps, and use them regularly. Here are my three top reasons for downloading and using my competition’s apps:

1. In-app user acquisition

Word of mouth is one of the most important drivers of app downloads. If you think the marketing stops when someone starts using the app, you’re wrong. Inside the application are often clever tricks, features and text to drive the user to invite their friends and share the app or its content with others. Monitoring your competitors, and how they encourage viral sharing of their app, can give you ideas or, in some cases, show you what you really shouldn’t be doing (*cough*Path*cough*).

2. Onboarding / Sign up copy

Just like marketing isn’t finished when a customer starts using the app, as there are plenty of opportunities to turn that user into many; marketing isn’t finished when someone downloads the app. If you require a registration, or if someone never plays your game, it’s as if they never existed in your userbase. How do your competitors convince downloaders to become engaged users? While you never want to directly take their copy, understanding what language they use, where copy is placed and the imagery included can give you some ideas for your own app.

3. What’s New Messages

One the most underrated places to communicate with customers is through the What’s New messages in both the App Store and the Play Store. More and more apps are getting quite creative with their What’s New text – including little asides to their loyal users as well as simple feature updates. If you’re not making full use of this space and your competitors are, you’re missing a trick. Do you competitors do a good job of encouraging their loyal users to upgrade the app? Does their What’s New text work harder than a simple feature list? If not, is this a place where you could overtake them?


My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Download your competitor’s apps. Yes, all of them. Even if you don’t use them all, you’ll get to see their ‘What’s New’ text. Now use them. Maybe not all of them – but at least those of your main competition. Look in particular at the messaging that takes a new download to a registered/engaged user, and the messaging that helps users share the app or app content.

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 for me (and what hasn’t).


Arguably one of the most important elements of your entire app is the icon. You may have a brilliant application, but if no one bothers downloading it because the icon is unattractive or misleading, it doesn’t matter. On the flip side, a brilliant icon can make the difference between an app that gets passed over in the App Store or one that gets downloaded purely because it looks interesting.

Creating a great icon isn’t easy, but even when you have a number of designs on the table, it’s hard to tell which one will be the best for your audience. And with the App Store approval process taking seven days or more, it’s hard to quickly test different variations (or change your icon if you think things aren’t going well). You also don’t want to change your app icon too often if you can help it as it’s the primary branding material that customers use to recognize your app.

However there is a way to test a variety of icons without actually uploading them to the App Store, and that is to run a small ad campaign where all of your creative elements are identical except for the icon. For a small cost, this will allow you to quickly determine which version generates the most clicks (and therefore is likely to perform best in the App Store).

You can run these ads through AdWords, Facebook, or another platform of your choosing but with a small budget and in a short amount of time, you have a much better idea of which icon will work for your app and audience.

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: Create an ad campaign on Facebook or Google AdWords to test different variations of your app icon. Is your current icon performing as well as other variations? Use this campaign to decide on the most effective icon before releasing it into the App Store.

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 for me (and what hasn’t). This one actually applies to any number of small businesses but is based on a lesson learned for marketing our app.

Image 2013-07-13 at 6.40.12 PM

Not all of our our marketing and app promotion efforts have been successful (by a long shot!) and one of the channels that didn’t work out, for a slightly unusual reason, was Twitter ads.

Twitter was a very attractive channel in my opinion. It offered a huge amount of targeting; Twitter has their own subcategories that include interests that range from home education to men’s accessories to comedy films, and you can select Twitter users in order to target users who are followers, or similar to followers, of that particular account. Additionally, I had seen a number of apps advertising on the platform. Most active was YPlan, an app that helped users discover great events going on that day but Twitter’s advertising team had provided a case study suggesting Hailo, the taxi hailing app, had achieved great success advertising on the platform as well.

There’s a significant barrier to entry for many small companies before even considering the pros and cons of the platform itself – and that’s the required advertising spend commitment. This makes sense from Twitter’s point of view – Twitter’s ad platform is very new. They want advertisers who are committed to buying large volumes of ads and spending a great deal of time learning and using the ad platform as Twitter learns from those early advertisers. Unfortunately, this also prevents smaller companies from getting started (the initial spend commitment in the UK is in the tens of thousands of pounds although this can change very quickly as Twitter opens the platform to more advertisers).

But, the amount of money is less relevant than the success of the platform in driving downloads so we decided to give it a try. Initially I was incredibly impressed by the targeting options (as expected) and the response rate. Twitter measures ad success on what they call engagement rate. Successful engagement can include a retweet, a click or a follow and most advertisers can expect anywhere between a 1-3% engagement rate while some advertisers can see up to 20+%. Of course we were also tracking app downloads that resulted from a click but the click to download rate was close to 10%, a pretty strong metric comparable to Facebook. Costwise, CPA was slightly higher than other channels but there was a lot of room for optimization. The volumes of downloads we were driving were quite small but overall it looked promising.

However there was a problem that ultimately made Twitter a channel we had to write off, and it’s probably not what you’d expect.

It was way. Too. Slow.

Scheduling a week’s worth of ads could easily take half a day or more. Each campaign change took 10-30+ seconds to load. This may not sound like a lot but imagine trying to target 100 Twitter users’ followers and this kind of delay after entering each user name. Additionally, because there was no way (when we started) to choose which hours you wanted to run your ads within a long running campaign, I needed to create an individual campaign that started at 5pm and ended at 11pm for every day of the week, in order to reach users while they were at home on their wifi and more likely to download an app that they saw advertised.

A small startup has limited staff resources and numerous demands on its staff’s time. I put a great deal of effort into learning about and building campaigns on the Twitter platform and was not unhappy with the performance. But for the number of downloads I was generating through the platform compared to the time it was taking to create the campaigns, it made no sense to renew the purchase order and continue using the platform. It was even more frustrating to spend 80% of my day waiting for a page to reload while trying to get our campaigns set up, when I knew how many other critical projects I wasn’t working on. This might have been a justifiable use of time had Twitter been driving large volumes of leads and signups but for all this effort, we were only able to see a boost of a few hundred sign ups per week.


For larger companies that have lots of resource to dedicate to running Twitter ads, it’s not a bad platform. But for a mobile startup with a small team, until Twitter makes some major updates to their ad platform, it is a time sink that might pay off from a money perspective, but not from a time one.

My Monday Mobile Marketing Tip for this week: worried about whether or not you should be using Twitter ads? Don’t stress. You can use it when you’re bigger or if you want to hire someone to manage them pretty much full time.

Have a different opinion about Twitter ads? Let me know in the comments!