6 Tips To Get Your App Noticed

On May 13, 2009
Brian Akaka (email) is the Founder/CEO of Appular, an iPhone app marketing and PR agency. Brian was Director/Marketing at Freeverse, where he helped sell millions of apps, including two of the Top-10 paid apps in Apple’s “One Billionth App” promotion.

Longtime readers will remember our Five Tips For Getting iPhone Reviews post from early this year. It remains one of our most popular articles.

Getting app reviews is part of a larger category of getting your app noticed. This article, expanding upon and broadening the earlier piece, provides six straightforward ways to get your app some attention:

1. Embrace Twitter. Build a Twitter account, and reach out to the community with active participation and updates about your app.

Twitter users are early-adopters, and a large percentage of them are iPhone/touch users. There is a large and growing community of iPhone developers on Twitter and because a lot of the review sites monitor Twitter it’s a great way to get noticed.

Keep your Tweets personal and not a constant news feed. It’s an important business tool, but constant self promotion will leave you friendless and unconnected. Twitter is great because it also allows you to chat on a more personal level with all your followers making it a great way to reach out to your contacts and make new ones.

The best thing about Twitter is that it’s a very accepted social networking tool within the iPhone community and that means fast efficient networking.

Also consider integrating Twitter into your app to grow a community and make a fun way for people who purchased your product to interact.

Looking for Twitter role models? Check out @nattylux and @kshepherd, the adorable couple at Imangi Studios.

2. Be active in the forums. Forums are a great way to meet other developers, as well as introduce yourself to the most dedicated of iPhone app customers.

Again, forum participation allows you to connect to your potential audience on a much more accessible level just like twitter. Being connected to your consumers and having them know you on a personal level will create a sense of loyalty. Remember these people are mostly held in high regard by their peers as the “in the know” as far as iPhones are concerned and their endorsement can viraly market your app without you having to lift a finger.

For places that developers and the public hang out, look to the forums at Touch Arcade. For a more developer-heavy environment, mosey over to iPhone Dev SDK forums.

3. Make a big stink about it – or find someone who can. You’re a developer, not necessarily someone who is talented at marketing. Specialization is important. If you don’t think that you can successfully spread the good word about your app, then find someone who is talented at promotion, either a “Marketing Guy” on your team, or use a specialist company such as Appular. They need to start distributing information early, often, do it in a compelling way, and make sure that they are being heard by the right members of the media: journalists, editors, and bloggers.

4. Create one spectacular screenshot and send it out as early as possible. This seems very common-sense, and yet very few developers are doing it. The old “a picture is worth a thousand words” maxim definitely holds true. A great screenshot allows users to see your vision of how the app will work, even before you have finalized the app. If your app is graphically intensive consumers will often purchase it based on screenshots alone so make sure each screen shot is show room worthy before you send it.

iDracula, the one-time #1 paid app, is an excellent example: its launch was much-anticipated thanks to its stunning screenshots posted a screenshot to the Touch Arcade forums. One forum member’s enthusiastic response: “OMFG thats (sic) looks freaking sweet cant (sic) wait!!!!”

Similarly, Weightbot’s snazzy UI was covered on TUAW weeks before its release thanks to some bang-up screen shots posted to Flickr.

5. Figure out your killer feature. What is it that makes your app so great? After all, you invested your time and effort into your baby. What separates it from the other 40,000+ apps out there? You need to know exactly what makes it a “must have” app, even if it’s for a very small segment of the general audience. This message needs to get out there, front and center! Even if you are marketing an app or game in a somewhat saturated genre make sure you differentiate by focusing on what makes your product new and exciting.

Rolando, the critically acclaimed game was highly touted for its innovative controls and gameplay (video). Its combination of tilting, to roll your character around, combined with touching objects with your finger to interact with them, was the major focus of ngmoco’s marketing strategy. By focusing on its very innovative gameplay, they were able to demonstrate Rolando was an instant classic and must-buy app.

6. Update your apps often, and incorporate suggestions from readers. Even if you aren’t able to build much buzz at the launch of the product, the fight for visibility has not been lost. By improving your app over time, customers will notice, and review sites will too. Again, they are looking for news that their readers find interesting; hearing about your app from readers is the best way to get their interest. Updating also refreshes your app in the “New and Noteworthy” list giving you multiple chances at getting impressions from prospective consumers.

Flick Fishing, which launched in November 2008, it is still near the top of the charts after 6 months due to its ambitious updates that included the introduction of a story mode, secret powerups, and most recently, Fish Net, a way to compete in virtual tournaments with your friends. Another notable App that has used updates to its advantage is Pocket God, which is updated every week and uses the announcement of each update as another marketing opportunity.

Thanks to Brian Akaka for contributing this article. Have an article, or an idea for an article, that might interest our readers? Contact us!

0 responses to “6 Tips To Get Your App Noticed”

  1. Christopher says:

    Or make an amazing app that gets noticed by Apple. Seriously! They have a team that reviews apps (apart from the submission review) and chooses to feature apps on iTunes, in the retail stores, and of course on TV.

    Another way is to comment on this post with a link to your app. 🙂

  2. Eddie Wilson says:

    My only recommendation to new developers is when trying step 4 (sending out a screenshot early) be sure you’re near the 90% point in development. Last thing you want to do is send out a photoshop comp and have your app turn into vaporware.

    Step 5 is key, it’s Apple mantra if you ask me. Each piece of software they produce has ton’s of features and integration, but they all have 1 KEY feature that defines the app, and the app name is usually focused on that 1 killer feature. Iphone apps should do this to a more extreme due to their simple nature.

  3. A lot of the tips are common sense, however, when you are working night and day to get your app finished, marketing is often forgotten about and left right til the last minute!!

    https://twurl.nl/ifoh2c – iAboutClock

    https://twurl.nl/21g3ad – iTextClock

  4. Mark says:

    Having just launched an app on Apple today your post and advice comes at the perfect time. Being a business tool it isn’t as flashy or the latest gizmo but I see how engagement will be key. If I could turn back the clock! Thanks

  5. LOLerApps says:

    Great post. I’m telling you, it’s very difficult to get noticed, especially in categories such as entertainment and games. We’ve been doing a lot of these tips already, and even still it’s difficult. There’s a little bit of luck and timing involved, but keep trying and it will eventually work out hopefully.

    Here’s our app we’re trying to promote at the moment:


  6. millenomi says:

    I’m reading this as Apple has put me on the front page of the UK, DE and AU stores. THIS IS DOING WONDERS TO MY EGO.

    I tried to do some of the same things you say in this article, but a screenshot doesn’t really capture the app’s feeling — so I did something a little grander (heh), a YouTube video: https://infinite-labs.net/mover/

    Looks like it worked 🙂

  7. Brian Akaka says:

    Hi guys, thanks for the feedback, I’m glad that the article was helpful to you.

    I completely understand that it really is a struggle sometimes to get noticed. Hard work and innovation will put you ahead of the crowd, but it requires a lot of brainstorming and elbow grease. The work is not done once you’ve finished your App, don’t think that you can sit back and let the money start rolling in once it’s submitted. On the contrary, the fight is only half-done.

    Getting featured by Apple is always great, but with the limited # of slots they have, it isn’t really something anyone should expect. Every developer feels their app belongs in those spots, but unfortunately it isn’t a reality.

    To promote your app, you really do need to fight and scrap for survival, it’s a tough world out there. Good luck to all of you!
    -Brian (feel free to email me, my contact info is above)

  8. Ryan says:

    Thanks for the feedback. We’re following this to a tee and hope to bring some more exposure to our virtual slapping application SlapApp. We hope you all check it out our video: https://tinyurl.com/cq6b2e

    [email protected]

  9. gizerpa says:

    I though you might be interested to read this article on how the App Store market is saturated and consumers are getting confused. Wonder if it’s time to enter the market with a different strategy?
    Artcile @ https://smartphone.biz-news.com/news/en_US/2009/05/22/0001/iphone-has-changed-dynamic-of-us-smartphone-market

  10. kooaba says:

    @millenomi: Congrats! We also created a short screencast showing how visual search with kooaba for iPhone works and how it’s connected with your web-based Library. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-irojen3T6M.

  11. Doug Hogg says:

    Excellent article. Thank you Brian. We have been utilizing it since it came out, but we had several miss-steps that others will want to avoid.

    On June 10th at the iPhone Launch Party, we demonstrated our first app: ,iSamurai: Two-Player Sword Fight, a real-time accelerometer-based Wi-Fi game where the iPhones’ motions are used to attack and block–in other words, a sword-fighting simulation. Correct block of an attack = ring of striking swords from both iPhones. Incorrect block = cry of pain from the defender’s iPhone.

    We were late getting started with Twitter, but are using it now.

    Here are our miss-steps. 1) While keeping the details of our game secret for the Launch Party, we posted a picture of a dojo that is so spectacular, some people thought that we were creating a first-person shooter-type sword fighting game, and some forum members were disappointed since iSamurai wasn’t what they were expecting. Moral: Promote with reality.

    2) When our game finally appeared on iTunes, we were pretty excited and we all started posting about it late at night after the iPhone Launch Party, but a couple of our guys posted in a forum without spelling out that they were part of our team. Some members of the forum figured it out and they were annoyed. I had to apologize for failing to train up our people on forum manners. Moral: Promote your app honestly.

    So now we are working on step 6. What would you like to see in the next version of iSamurai?


    Doug Hogg
    Toy Kite Software

  12. Well, the sad truth is that the gold rush for iphone apps is over. I mean, imagine for a second you were part of the 50 or so apps which were read when the app store launched. 50 apps !! Not 50000. These guys must have made a killing…

    Today, it’s a much more complex game, with multibillion dollar game companies trying to promote their apps like crazy with some $$serious$$ marketing campaign. It is certainly still possible for an independent small developer to make it big on the appstore, but it’s getting more and more difficult.

    And of course, here is a link to my latest app (Time Capsule)
    Time Capsule

  13. Brian says:

    Thanks for the tips. I took some of your advice and went to the Touch Arcade forums… I did a promo code giveaway for my new game. Let me just mention that it is imperative that you drink a Coca-Cola before you do it!! Those people are ravenous and it’s hard to keep up with them! Seriously though, that site is really cool and the people there are cool too, so thanks for the lead.

    App Website: https://destroyobjects.com/playfootball
    App Video: https://bit.ly/playfootball_video

  14. Kiki says:

    All great info….. my frustration is knowing where to blog or twitter…. those areas seems as vast and as challenging to be heard in as the App Store. It is fun to do (but takes time to sound quick witted in 5 words or less) and I have no idea what kind of impact it is having!

    Our killer feature is that our game breaks new ground in word games because it’s a puzzle, a quiz game, a clue game, and a word game all wrapped in one! It’s a clever word association game for people that like Jeopardy, Scrabble, Boggle, etc. How do I find people that twitter about word games?! Are there people that twitter about word games???

    App website: https://www.keymaba.com
    App video: https://www.headfakegames.com/video.php

  15. Great Article is there anyone who knows a great marketing company to help out with your app?

    Oil SPill

  16. Gina says:

    Great Article. We are really trying to follow these steps. Our reviewers have branded Wordweaver as “Better than Bookworm” but Bookworm remains in the top 10 slot for games/wordgames and we are floating around so far down the list.

    Wordweaver LITE:

    Wordweaver $1.99:

  17. Ryan says:

    I’ve got an app I’d like to promote. The Word Chase, a fun little word game you can play anytime. It’s very addictive.

  18. Thanks Brian, very useful tips. Marketing is essential but tough for small companies like ours, MagicSolver.com. It is time consuming and not so obvious in an international market. Our first app Sudoku Magic, although one of the best Sudoku game available at the moment on the App Store with very good reviews and a unique photo technology to capture Sudoku in any newspapers, has difficulties to really take off in the market.
    I really hope that our second app release today, FaceShift, a photo app which detect faces and can automatically swap your face with your friends’ faces, will find the success it deserves :-). We released a Lite version to allow everyone to try it for free.
    We will use your tips.
    If you have any innovative ideas for our small company to promote our apps Sudoku Magic & FaceShift, just drop me an email, I would be delighted to have your feedback

  19. This is a great site, thanks for all the great ideas. I just finished developing an app called iWaiter for people working in restaurants. It’s definitely a work in process getting the word out but its fun! If anyone has any more tips on how to get noticed in the app store let us know!

  20. I can’t believe how hard it is to get recognized!!! Does anyone out there recommend a good person for marketing??? My new apps that I am promoting are two educational games… they teach you how to read… check them out

  21. What a great article. Thank you! We are currently trying to push our new Auto Recall app, that we thought would be very useful to iphone owners. Here’s a link if anyone is interested https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/auto-recalls/id366446682?mt=8 It’s a really neat app because it lists recalls for any vehicle both old and new. We just released the app and I had a few emails sent saying how cool it is because, as it turns out, many people don’t even know their cars have recalls! The odd thing is that we did not get any ratings or reviews. I actually tried to write one myself to see if it would go through, and it did not. To test it out I had a friend try from their phone, and again the review never showed up. Something is strange and meanwhile my app is sinking to the bottom with no reviews 🙁 What is that about?