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Experimenting with Paid App Acquisition

facebook app ad newsfeed mobileAfter a year of my iPhone app being out and only having a free version, I finally launched a paid version of the app. 

Before that I just had it available for free which made money off of ads.  With 80,000+ total downloads, it does ok revenue wise but I was kind of curious to see what paid download numbers might look like.

So I launched that a few weeks ago and then thought, hmm, when I’m on my phone I’m seeing a lot of ads in my Facebook news feed for mobile apps.  I can click the ad and go right to the download page in the App Store and install it.  Like this one:

This is HUGE for app companies and for Facebook.

The App Store is a black hole of discoverability and one of the big frustrations for app producers is how to get their product in front of the right people.

Facebook delivers the goods and stands to make big $$$ off of app companies.

I wonder if we’ll see ‘Promoted Apps’ within the Apple App Store one day?

Anyways, I got curious about all of this and decided to set up a campaign for my paid app to see how it works.

Why pay for app downloads?

But first – why advertise my app on Facebook?  Surely it won’t be profitable to run ads which cost $.3-.$5 a click to an app that costs .$99.  No, it probably won’t be profitable, for me.  But it’s just an experiment where I’m risking a very small amount of money to see what kind of influence it has on downloads.

If you’re a small time app producer like me, running Facebook ads is certainly not going to be profitable.

But it can be a great strategy for small app companies with a little bit of cash to spend who’re looking to ‘seed’ their app out into the world and get it into the hands of their first few thousands users in order to get traction.

If you have the cash to spend, you can use paid downloads to get a large amount of downloads in a short amount of time, which quickly shoots up your ranking in the App Store charts – which leads to huge, huge numbers of people discovering your app organically.

It’s an even better strategy for brands and agencies with big budgets who can afford the media spend without the immediate ROI.

Getting started with buying downloads

To setup my first ad for my app, I went to Facebook and clicked “Create an ad”

Then I selected the app install option:



From there I pasted in the iTunes URL of my app.


Then I had to figure out who to target.  The app just shows you the date and time of your iPhone photos.  It’s pretty much useless to people with iOS 7, but for people who haven’t upgraded it serves a need.  So I selected the OS options. Unfortunately I couldn’t limit it to people who have below iOS 7, only people who have above a certain level.


I could have just left it like that and called it a day, but then I would’ve had the most generic ad ever.

What I did to narrow down targeting for my multi-use, wide user base, general utility app – was niche down to a sub-set of users.

I knew from some reviews and from friends that parents would use the app to track their newborns baby pictures and look back a few months to see when a particular photo was taken.


Since parents are the most liberal spenders and one of the greatest markets to sell to because they will buy basically anything for their children, I decided to go that route.



Then I had to write some copy for the ad:


I added the “$.99” at the end to make sure that people knew it was a paid app before clicking through.  People looking for a free app are not going to click this ad – which saves me money.  If someone clicks through knowing that it is a paid app AHEAD OF TIME, they’re more likely to convert and actually pay.

Then I had to create a photo.  So I found an old photo of me and my little sister and did a Photoshop hack job to make it look like it was in the application.  I saved that out in the Facebook mandated specs – 1200×627 pixels.

You can also install Facebook’s SDK code into your app which allows them to track your ads so you can see exactly which ads are converting and how many actual downloads you are getting from each ad.

Pretty cool.

Then I was good to launch.

There are tons of other channels that are available for paid app acquisition (Including Twitter as of this week)  but Facebook is definitely the easiest to set up at first.

P.S.  Looking for help with your paid app acquisition and getting maximum downloads in minimum time?  Contact me at ben@benphilabaum.com

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