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May 18, 2022
Omid Ghiam
Sales

10 strategies for marketing an app for free in 2022

You just launched your app. It’s in a popular app store, you’ve told your friends and family about it, you’ve posted it on social media, and yet you only have a few app downloads.

You just launched your app. It’s in a popular app store, you’ve told your friends and family about it, you’ve posted it on social media, and yet you only have a few app downloads.

Now you’re asking yourself, “how can I get more users?

Contrary to startup belief, just because you built something great doesn’t mean people will start running to you ready to download your app.

Sure, building a great app is important. But it’s only the first fundamental step. You need to understand the wants and desires a potential user has and give them a reason why your app is what they’re looking for.

There are over 3.4 million apps in the Google Play Store for Android, and 2.2 million apps in Apple’s App Store for iOS. That’s a lot of apps competing for attention. If you don’t know how to find attention and turn that attention into a download, it’s going to be an uphill battle that can often leave you feeling burned out and doubtful.

Luckily, many great apps have found ways to market themselves and get in front of the right users at the right time. In this article, we are going to go over 10 ways to get attention to your app on a budget, without needing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on Facebook or Google ads.

marketing an app
There are more ways than ever to get your app noticed in 2022

How much does marketing an app cost?

Marketing an app can either cost you next to nothing, or the sky’s the limit to the amount of money you can spend. If you have a large budget, you can leverage ad networks like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Reddit, and niche websites.

However, we know not everyone is ready to spend thousands of dollars to push their app in front of new users.

In fact, you probably shouldn’t spend money on ads when you’re first launching your app. You need to make sure your brand messaging resonates and gets people excited about what you have to offer.

Finding free ways to market your app should be the first thing you try to nail down. Free ways to market an app will help you go from 0 to 1. While, something like paid ads can help you scale from 1 to 100.

This article will help you go from 0 to 1. We’ll look at how businesses today go about marketing an app, and how you can get your first hundred, or even thousand, active users.

How to do marketing for an app?

Marketing an app is about knowing where your potential customers are and making sure you gain their attention, while also creating a desire for them to use your app.

Of course, the first step is to make sure your app is in a popular app store where people can download it.

From there, you need to put together a launch plan that will allow you to funnel potential users to an app store to download your app.

If you’re not an app store optimization wizard, chances are you’ll want to set up a landing page where people can learn more about your app before they download it. From there, you can promote your landing page using some of the strategies we are about to go over.

Here’s a general process on how you should go about marketing an app:

  1. Publish it to the iOS App Store and/or Google Play Store
  2. Create a landing page that sells your app with a call to action to download it
  3. Create an app marketing campaign for your app launch that sends potential users to your landing page
  4. Find places where you can promote your landing page
  5. Focus on app store optimization so more people can organically find your app in app stores
  6. Create referral loops within your app that encourage users to invite their friends to use your app

That’s it. It’s pretty simple. But of course, simple doesn’t always mean easy.

Most apps just do step 1, and hope for the best. But you’re not like most apps. You want to stand out from the crowd and get people excited for what you have to offer.

This is why an app landing page is important. A landing page is your opportunity to grab peoples’ attention and give them information on what your app has to offer. There are plenty of free landing page builders on the web that allow you to quickly create a beautiful landing page.

Once your app is in an app store, and your landing page is ready to go, it’s time to start promoting. In the rest of this article, we are going to look at 10 ways you can go about marketing an app for free.

10 ways to market an app for free

Here are 10 strategies for marketing an app in 2022:

  1. Launch on Product Hunt
  2. Post on communities
  3. SEO (Search engine optimization)
  4. Guest blogging
  5. Social media marketing
  6. ASO (app store optimization)
  7. Giveaways
  8. QR codes
  9. Leverage in-app referrals
  10. Partner with other apps

Okay, let’s dive a bit deeper into each one.

1. Launch on Product Hunt

Product Hunt is a website where business owners, startup founders, and marketers go to launch their products to a tech-savvy audience. It’s often the first place people go to do an official launch of their app or website.

Every day, people post their projects to Product Hunt, and users of the website can upvote and comment on them. It’s like a social media platform for cool products around the web.

Many apps and websites have found their first thousand users simply by posting on the site. However, you want to be strategic about how you launch on Product Hunt. Things like timing, social signals, and branding matter.

Demand Curve has a great playbook on how to launch successfully on Product Hunt. It’s one I highly recommend checking out if you’re interested in doing a launch on this platform.

If Product Hunt seems like too much work to start, you can also promote using some of the other strategies on this list. All of the other nine strategies we are going to go over can be used as standalone or in combination. You can start by promoting in easier ways like posting to communities. Once you get a feel for other promotion strategies, you can post on Product Hunt.

2. Post on online communities

Posting on online communities is an easy way to get your app landing page in front of people. There are plenty of niche websites and forums out there that let users post useful information.

The key word here is “useful.”

You don’t want to spam online communities. Depending on the platform, you’ll want to look for communities in which you believe your target users are hanging out on. From there, you’ll want to interact with these people and find opportunities to plug your app where it makes sense.

For example, if you have a fitness tracking app, you can go to Reddit and find a subreddit about health and wellness. If you see someone asking a question about how to track calories, you can reply to the thread and give genuine tips.

Don’t actually tell users to download your app right away. Rather, give them tips on how to track calories and, at the end, give them an option to download your app if they’re looking for more.

There are many great online communities you can leverage to interact with your target users. Here are a few:

These are just a few of many.

You can find more communities by simply doing a Google search for something like “online communities for X.” Make sure to read the terms and conditions of each community you decide to engage with. Some platforms don’t like promotional material, while others are okay with it.

3. SEO (search engine optimization)

SEO, or search engine optimization, is how websites show up organically in search engines. To market your app through SEO, you’re going to need a website. This is why having a landing page with good conversion rates should be an important part of your app marketing strategy — it will give you another avenue for people to discover your app online.

SEO can feel daunting for those who may not know how to do it. There’s tons of information and resources out there that can easily overwhelm you.

However, it’s not as complicated as some marketers make it out to be. To make SEO work, what you really need to focus on is creating helpful content.

In the theme of our fitness app example, this could mean having a blog on your website that discusses topics around health and wellness. You can use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs, or Google Trends, to discover topics people are searching for online.

From there, you can write articles, similar to this one, that address the topics people are searching for. It’s demand and supply.

If you’re a fitness app, you can write articles like “How to count your calories easily,” or “How to create a diet plan that works for you.” You’ll want to write a combination of articles that address the solutions your app provides, while also addressing solutions to general problems people have in your niche.

The goal with SEO is to attract your target audience to your website. It may be that someone lands on a blog post you wrote and later discovers that you have an app that can help them. From there, they may go to your landing page, or homepage, and discover a download link that sends them to the app store.

The app Acorns does a great job with this. They are a financial planning app and provide resources on their site related to investing. It’s a great long-term marketing strategy that not only helps people, but also allows Acorns to attract more downloads to their app.

However, know that SEO is a long-term play.

Don’t expect to get users right away after publishing a few resources on your website. An effective SEO strategy could take six months to a year to start showing results. But if you stick it out, you’ll have a steady flow of website visitors that can find your app organically.

If you’re looking for a good comprehensive guide on SEO, check out this article.

4. Guest blogging

Guest blogging is the act of publishing your articles and resources on other websites. If you’re a brand new app, and leveraging SEO as a marketing strategy, guest blogging can help you accelerate results.

Rather than spending months trying to build an audience, you can leverage someone else’s audience.

Many bloggers and publications online need helpful content for their readers, but they don’t always have enough writers and resources to publish content at a frequency they’d like. They also don’t always have the best subject matter experts to write their content.

This is your opportunity to be that expert that can help their readers.

However, to be honest, this can be a fairly time-consuming process as you’ll have to find the right person to reach out to, pitch them topics, and go through the process of writing an article. But, if you can successfully find a guest posting strategy that works for you, it can be a great way to drive more attention to your app.

It’s also a great way to build backlinks to your website or app, which in turn helps you rank higher in search engines. Many great marketers leverage this strategy. However, because it can be time-consuming, it’s not something everyone does. If you’re willing to put in the work, this strategy could seriously make you stand out from competitors.

There’s a great article on guest blogging that I highly recommend checking out if this is a strategy that interests you.

5. Social media marketing

Since the rise of social media in the past couple of decades, brands have found ways to leverage social media platforms to find users.

Similar to guest blogging and SEO, the key to a successful social media strategy is to provide useful content. The goal here is to build a brand that resonates with your target audience.

Your goal here shouldn’t be purely about getting more downloads. The goal with social media is to become an authority in your niche and be the go-to place to find helpful and inspirational content.

Some great social media apps, at the moment, to build an audience are Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.

It’s important to have a social media presence on all of these platforms. However, if you’re just starting out, you should just focus on one.

If your app is more visual, you might want to go for something like Instagram and TikTok. With the rise of short-form content, these platforms are a great way to build an audience. There are lots of resources online to help you create a strategy for each platform.

If you’re a more information heavy app, you might want to focus on something like Twitter. This can be a place where your brand posts helpful content and engages with other users that are in your niche. If you’re leveraging SEO and posting content on your website, Twitter can be a great place to publish snippets or summaries of your articles.

Cash App and Webflow are good examples to look at for inspiration for your Twitter strategy.

6. ASO (app store optimization)

The app store is essentially a search engine, which means that there are strategies you can implement to show up higher in search results. When launching an app in an app store, there are ways you can set up your listing to allow potential users to find you easier.

Focusing on ASO, or app store optimization, will give more visibility to your app listing. Search Engine Journal, a reputable publication about search engines published a great guide on ASO you should check out.

Some of the basics of ASO include:

  • Creating proper titles and descriptions about your app
  • Writing descriptions that include keywords related to your app and niche
  • Finding ways to get more positive reviews
  • Having a good brand with a rememberable logo
  • Choosing the right app categories
  • Adding screenshots and videos of your app

There are lots of ways to go about ASO, but the key thing here is to create a listing that looks trustworthy, is rich in information about your app, and has a lot of great reviews. This will allow app stores to better understand what your app does and if it’s liked by those who have downloaded it in the past.

These signals will allow your app to show up higher in app store search results and give you more organic app installs.

7. Giveaways

Giveaways are a great way to get your audience engaged and motivated to spread the word about your app.

The key to having a great giveaway strategy is to have a great offering. If you’re a fitness app, this could mean giving away a free subscription to a paid membership plan.

This strategy works well with social media — as you’ll need an avenue for reaching an audience. Once you get the ball rolling with social media, you can create a giveaway post that encourages people to share your brand.

For example, you can ask people to retweet (on Twitter), or tag X number of friends (on Instagram) for a chance to win a membership to your app.

This will create an army of marketers for you — leveraging your audience to tap into new audiences.

If you don’t already have an established social media presence, you can also collaborate with other brands related to your app and create a co-marketing giveaway strategy (more on that later).

Be sure to check out some examples of giveaways to help give you some ideas on how to approach this marketing strategy.

8. QR codes

QR codes are a quick and easy way to get someone to land on your app store listing or website. You can use a QR code generator to turn a link into a scannable code.

Many smartphones these days have the functionality to read QR codes from their cameras, allowing anyone to easily scan codes that send them to a link.

Once you create a QR code, you can find creative ways to promote it. This could be in the form of business cards and flyers that you hand out to people, stickers, social media posts, and more.

During Super Bowl LVI, Coinbase had a popular TV ad that was simply a QR code bouncing around on the screen. Humans are curious beings, and because QR codes just look like barcodes, some people want to scan them just to see where they lead to.

The QR code ad that Coinbase launched was so successful that it caused their app to temporarily crash because of the high volume of visitors. It goes to show that, when promoted cleverly, QR codes can be a good way to quickly drive people to a desired destination.

9. Leverage in-app referrals

Out of all the marketing strategies out there, word of mouth is probably the most powerful one. People trust recommendations from their friends and family. If someone can recommend your app to a friend, there’s a good chance they’ll download it.

The only issue is that word of mouth is hard to manufacture. You don’t really control how others talk about your app with their friends or family.

Or, do you?

There’s a popular phrase coined by Brain Balfour that gets tossed around in Silicon Valley that says “retention breeds acquisition, not the other way around.”

This essentially means that the longer someone uses your app, the more likely they are to spread the word about it. While you don’t have control over how others may speak about your app, you do have control over creating an app that is so good that people keep opening it.

Your goal should be to create an app with such a good user experience, people can’t help but tell their friends about it.

This is why apps with a low churn rate last a long time.

Think about how Facebook grew massively in the late 2000s. They had a large user acquisition network effect where friends would tell each other to get on the platform so they could add them as a friend. Because of Facebook’s friends feature, many users began inviting friends and family to the social media platform so they could up their friend count.

There are ways to manufacture word of mouth, to some degree.

This is why in-app referrals can be so powerful. You can create a feature within your app that encourages people to invite their friends. Of course, you have to give a reason for someone to want to invite their friends.

This could be in the form of something like “invite X friends and get X for free.” Or it could be in the form of social status, where people want to invite their friends for some form of social currency.

A successful referral program gives users some value in return for an action. This value can be in the form of free stuff or social status.

Just look how Clubhouse grew in late 2020. When Clubhouse first launched, you could only make an account if someone invited you to it. And because everyone’s profile said who invited them, it became social currency for people to want to invite their friends to the app.

App referrals are powerful.

If you have no users, you might want to leverage some of the other strategies on this list to get the ball rolling. Once you have a few passionate users, you can find creative ways to get them to help spread the word.

10. Partner with other apps

Last, but not least, you can partner with other apps in your industry (or complementing industries) to help get the word out.

These partnerships can be in the form of co-marketing campaigns, where two or more companies (or influencers) work together to help each other reach a new user base.

This strategy could be as easy as agreeing to retweet each other's tweets, to something more technical like adding integrations between apps.

You could also partner with other companies on guest posts, giveaways, app reviews, or even social media posts. There’s no one-size-fits-all with this strategy.

It’s more about being creative and creating real relationships with other apps to help each other grow.

You should never go into a partnership purely for selfish reasons. A successful partnership means all parties involved win.

If you decide to start reaching out to companies to partner with, you want to keep this in mind — create a situation so good that it’s a no-brainer that they’ll want to work with you.

Conclusion

There are many options for marketing an app. We just went over 10 strategies you can use for your mobile app marketing strategy.

These strategies can be deployed on their own, or together, to generate powerful results. Remember that marketing is about helping people discover and guiding them to where they want to go.

Bad marketing is just telling people to download your app with nothing in return. Good marketing focuses on helping people and giving them the right information that will allow them to decide on whether or not they want to download your app.

The strategies mentioned here can help you get the ball rolling on your first thousand users, and even give you ideas for how you can continue growing your app for a long time.

We hope you found this article helpful. If you’re looking to build your next mobile app, with all the right app features, we encourage you to check out Bravo Studio.

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