The mobile app marketplace has become increasingly crowded, making it more difficult than ever to make your app stand out. Although many developers still utilize traditional marketing efforts in addition to social media, it appears that the latter is the better choices for mobile apps.

A study from earlier this year found that social channels like Facebook and Twitter were more effective than any other method of mobile app advertising. Using social tools improved three main metrics for app marketing campaigns: user quality, conversion rates, and volume. This was particularly effective for games, travel, social, and geo-targeted apps.

Over the past year, Facebook, Twitter, and even Google have released features and product updates specifically geared toward app developers, helping them to build audiences and drive demand. Below we take a look at some of the biggest additions to the mobile app space over the past year.

Facebook Mobile Install Ads


Named “one of the most important new ad products” by Mark Zuckerberg, mobile app install ads have been used by thousands of businesses to drive more than 145 million installs from Apple’s App Store and Google Play. The ad unit enables iOS and Android developers to purchase prominent exposure for their apps inside Facebook’s mobile News Feed. When the ad is clicked, individuals are prompted to download the app right onto their mobile devices — if already installed, it will open automatically.

While mobile app install ads are useful for attracting new audiences, the social network introduced seven new calls to action in October that are designed to reach an existing user base. For example, a retail app can notify existing users of a current sale using the “Shop Now” call to action, or a music app can engage listeners with a new playlist using the “Listen Now” call to action.

During the same month, Facebook also announced relevant features for app developers that expand on the capabilities of its Custom Audiences tool. The update made it so marketers can only serve ads to consumers who have actively shown interest in a website or app. For example, a mobile app can deliver ads to people who have downloaded the app, but haven’t used it in a while.

More recently, Facebook gave app developers the ability to include video within their mobile app install ads. Video is an effective way to drive engagement in News Feed, and now consumers can click play and watch your app in action before installing it.

Twitter App Install Cards


App developers shouldn’t feel deterred by Twitter’s 140-character limit; what the social platform lacks in text, it makes up for in media. Earlier this year, the company introduced a new way to bring people directly to your app from a tweet using Twitter Cards.

Currently Twitter Cards, which make it possible for you to attach media experiences to tweets, are being used by more than 10,000 developers, mobile apps, and websites. Arguably the most important Card feature, mobile app deep-linking allows members to tap a link to either view content directly in your app, or download you app, depending on whether or not they have your app installed.

For example, a travel app can post a tweet about popular holiday destinations and include a link directly under it, giving viewers a chance to download the app. Your social team might also consider including an image in the tweet which can help create an engagement boost. A recent study found that tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites, and 150 percent more retweets than those without.

In addition to Twitter Cards and images, app developers can also use ad targeting to reach individuals with compatible OS versions, devices, and WiFi connections. Apps aren’t always compatible with every version of every device. Now an iOS gaming app can reach people using the iPhone 5, running iOS 7, and who are currently connected through WiFi.

This increased granularity helps you focus your campaigns on specific demographics, and can even help you reach new customers on older devices. And through segmented reporting, Twitter provides you with better insights into the people engaging with your campaigns. This information can in turn be used to inform how you optimize future campaigns.

Google+ Sign-In


In February, Google introduced a new universal login and sharing system called Google+ Sign-In. The button, which is similar to those offered by Facebook and Twitter, allows visitors to sign up for an account on your website or app without having to create a separate username and password. Not only does this give you a chance to identify and learn more about your customers, but it also lowers the barrier to entry.

What’s of particular interest to Android app developers is that anyone who logs in to your website through Google+ Sign-In will be prompted to download your app. Individuals have the option to install your app over the air without even touching their smartphones. This is a valuable option for developers launching new apps, or anyone who might be worried that people don’t know about an app yet.

Shortly after the sign-in button’s launch, Google introduced “App Activities” which surfaces app content in search results. So if someone searches for your site or app (assuming it has integrated with Google+ Sign-In) he or she will see popular user activity to the right of search results. For example, searching for Fandango will show the top movies among Google users. Clicking on a movie will take him or her directly to its page on Fandango.

Mobile has seen rapid growth, both from businesses and consumers, within the last few years. In fact, mobile adoption is growing eight times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s. Looking at Facebook, more than 100 million people access the social network from mobile every day in the U.S. alone. On Twitter, 66 percent of user-generate tweets that mention brands come from mobile users.

This year was big for mobile on social networks, not just for developers but for consumers as well. Apps were launched and updated more frequently, and those who implemented with intention reaped the benefits in the form of new users and higher engagement. As app developers, use what you have now and stay on top of all of the changes and new features to come in 2014.

[Image credit: Jason A. Howie, Jaysin Trevino, MDGovpics, Maria Elena]