5 Proven Ways to Connect and Engage With Your App Community

Connecting And Engaging With Your Community

Connecting With Your Community is vital, because at the end of the day, a perfectly coded app sitting in Google Play with no customer loyalty or engagement doesn't add up to a pile of beans. It doesn't matter if you're promoting a brick and mortar business, an online resource or a mobile app, marketing fundamentals need to be front and center in order to achieve successful results.

That said, let's take a look at some fundamental ways to connect and engage with your community while creating and promoting your app.

Building Your Community

What does every download of your app mean to you, the developer? Is it just another notch on your bed board? Another buck in your pocket? Another small boost to your ego?

Seriously, take a step back away from it all and truly think about what a download actually is.

Every single download represents one person somewhere on this planet–a warm-blooded, living and breathing human being–interested in what you created for them. It's someone who wants desperately to have a connection with you and to build a relationship with you… and to give you their hard-earned money.

People don't download apps because they're secretly hoping they won't like it. They download apps because they're hoping for transformation of their lives for the better. Whether by some sort of utility function performed for them, or by simply providing a temporary escape from real life. They WANT to love your app. They're rooting for you. But if their experience with your app is cold, impersonal, and they're left unsatisfied, they'll quickly uninstall it move along to find engagement elsewhere… like with one of the other millions of apps out there.

So if people downloading and trying out your app only once isn't exactly your wedge of cheese, and you're instead more interested in building a loyal community of users who are fanatical about your app (and most-likely your future apps) and who will use it and play with it on an ongoing basis, then there are a few questions around building your loyal community that you must consider:

  • Why should you build a community?
  • When should you start to build your community?
  • Where should you build your community?
  • How do you build a community?

Since these questions overlap, are multi-faceted, and all work symbiotically with one another, We'll first look from a 30,000 foot view, and then dive deeper.

Let’s examine the first question of "Why?"

If you ask any successful brick and mortar business owner, they'll most-likely consider their list or database of customers and prospective customers their number one asset. And the reasons for this are simple: loyal customers keep giving you their money, they become unpaid salespeople and advocates by spreading the word, and they don't cost you much, if anything, for repeat business, as opposed to the cost incurred on new customer acquisitions.

And if you need yet one more reason, in a recent interview conducted by AppClover.com with AppBusinessBrokers.com founders Eric Owens and Mike Kemski, they stressed the importance of building a list from a company or app valuation stand-point. They shared that the bigger your email list and community is, the more your app or app business is worth.

While these are all great reasons as to why you should build a community for your app, the reality is, most app developers fail to concentrate their efforts on doing so. Instead, they ignore this fundamental step in favor of simply crossing their fingers in hopes that the App Store God's will grant them success just because they built an app.

Even though there will always be the exception-to-the-rule stories where some apps immediately skyrocket to success, the harsh reality is, banking on that happening for your app is like heading to Vegas and betting your life savings on a game you've never played before. If you want to ensure long-term success, you need to build a strong community.

In addition to the aforementioned reasons as to why building your community is so vital, one last doozy of a reason is to announce your app's launch. But wait, does that mean you have to start building your community before your app is even finished? You bet your sweet keister it does.

This brings us to the second question to consider regarding building a loyal community, and that is "When?"

The short answer for that is, now… or better yet, yesterday!

When your app gets approved on the App Store(s), it's natural to experience a little wave of sales (and adrenaline). But if you want a real rush, and a flood of sales upon releasing your app, then building a community BEFORE your app is available might be something to think about. The more people you can get excited about your app before it's release, and the more anticipation you can build, the bigger and more successful your app's launch will be.

The fact is, apps that get a truckload of downloads in a short amount of time (i.e. during your app's launch) are more likely to appear at the top of Google Play's listings. Which means more people will find it organically and download it, increasing the chances of a more permanent spot atop the app store ranking charts. This snowball effect can soon turn into an app download avalanche.

While you can't guarantee success, building up a community beforehand that you can announce your app's launch to will ensure as many people as possible will know about your app the day it is released to the market, and a sizable loyal community list will certainly increase your chances!

But remember, after your app has launched, don't lose touch with your community. Keep them posted on app updates, milestones you've reached, new apps you're developing, and anything else you can think of to keep the dialogue going and the engagement level high.

This leads us to our third question to consider regarding building a loyal community, which is "Where?"

Every marketing strategy you implement should funnel people back to your website–whether it's a website for your app, or your app company’s site. You want to build your online database of users (i.e. get their email address). This is important for the reasons already mentioned when answering the “Why?”, but also for one more critically important reason.

Let's look at a hypothetical: What happens if Google decides if not longer likes your app and boots you from the store? Presto, your database of users is gone! You can no longer communicate with them, send them notifications, or generate revenue from them. And you just lost your biggest bargaining chip if you ever wanted to sell your app business. By creating your email database via your app’s website, you're building a safety net and asset for your app business at the same time.

Whatever marketing strategies you're implementing, whether it's social media, video marketing, email marketing, guest blogging, sending smoke signals or putting little rolled-up messages in bottles and sending them out to sea, make certain your end goal is to drive them back to your website, and get them to opt-in to your database one way or another. If this is something you need to learn more about, you can check out AppClover.com for the step-by-step tutorials that can walk you step-by-step through this process.

And now that you know why, when and where to build your community, the final question to be answered is "How?" Let's take a look at some ways to create some engagement, funnel people back to your website and ultimately onto your email list database.

Presentation: First Impressions Are Key

This may seem like an odd thing to think about when it comes to engaging with and building your community, but remember, we're visual creatures by nature… it's one of the main ways we communicate and consume information.

The fact is, your app needs a place to hang its hat. And you need a place where you can focus all of your marketing efforts on driving people to and make all of your announcements regarding your app, or future apps. And your community needs a place to learn, interact and engage with you and your app.

When you think about your visual presentation of your website, promo or demo videos, and the actual app itself for that matter, you should plan to do so in a manner similar to presenting a 5-star gourmet meal. The reality is, it doesn't matter how deliciously fun, addictive or useful your website or app is, your users will ultimately make their minds up within the first couple seconds upon seeing it. So you can either slide the equivalent of a can of spam in front of them, or present to them a beautifully prepared medium-rare Australian venison medallion proudly resting upon on a bed of herb infused gnocchi, drizzled with a port wine reduction. Which one do you think they'll be more likely excited to consume, and better yet come back for seconds of?

You only get one chance to make that first impression, so you might as well do what you can to create a meaningful and enjoyable experience for your users–this will dramatically improve your conversion rate of them taking action (be it joining your list, making an in-app purchase, upgrading from the freemium version of your app to the paid, etc.).

For some help creating an awesome looking website, check out the Free App Wordpress themes on Apptamin.com. And to look at other App websites for inspiration, you can visit AppSites.com. And to put your best foot forward on your actual app's graphics, there are some great articles from some of the industry leaders on everything from icon design to app design principles found on AppClover.com. And to find great designers for your graphics, check out crowdspring.com, 99designs.com, dribbble.com or elance.com.

One other over-looked marketing fundamental that plays a huge psychological role which should be utilized both on your app’s website, the app store listing, and the app itself is "social proof". The more raving reviews of your app, the more followers of your website, Facebook or Twitter profiles, the more likely it is people will be intrigued and ultimately join in on the fun. It's our human nature to favor the herd mentality. Think about it, have you ever visited a website that displayed thousands of Facebook fans, or gone to a Twitter profile that had thousands of followers, or checked out an app that had thousands of positive reviews? You probably thought, "Hey, if they all like it, I might too!"

If a bunch of people have done the legwork and gone through the trouble of checking something out and left positive feedback, that speaks volumes about the quality of that app. You most likely don't even need to read all of the reviews, the fact that there are so many reviews and Facebook likes says it all – it's popular, and most likely for good reason, so it’s probably safe to download. Tap.

So if you can sprinkle your website with positive testimonials, add a Facebook Like Box to show off all of your followers, you'll be doing your conversion rates a huge favor. And make sure to do the same with your app by adding some raving reviews to your app's description. Strategies like these take very little effort, yet yield huge results and leave lasting impressions.

Social Media: Creating Engagement 140 at a Time

Social Media pulls double-duty in some aspects. While if used properly, it's a powerful tool for community engagement and also an important weapon in your marketing arsenal when it comes to building your list. The fact is, millions of people use popular social media networks like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, so promoting your app on those platforms is smart. Doing it effectively, however, is easier said than done.

Before you kick off your app's social media campaign, there are a few rules of engagement to consider. But first things first, you need a Facebook page and a Twitter account at the very least. And if you're planning on doing some demo and promo videos, it can't hurt to set up a YouTube channel as well. Once your profiles are set up, the idea is to repurpose your content and use it in multiple ways across all of your social channels.

After you create your profiles, make sure to keep the messaging consistent with your app's image. Don't constantly tweet out messages about your promotions… they will be ignored, and worst, you'll annoy and turn off potential future users of your app. Instead, keep your content and messaging fresh, topical, relevant, trendy and intriguing. People will follow you because they are entertained, or because they find value in what you're talking about. Not because you're promoting your app. And remember to keep your followers and subscribers up to date with your app by posting upcoming features and improvements that you're working on. This will keep the engagement going, and also build some anticipation around new future versions of your app.

Write some great posts about the industry and submit them to other blogs, industry websites, your own website or article directories, and find subtle ways to incorporate, or draw a connection to, your app. DO NOT write glorified advertisements for your app. This is a no-no. Whether you create an article that is a list of apps, like "top 15 most useful sea-monkey breeding apps", or "must-have full-contact origami apps", the idea is to subtly work your app into the mix. Then, put your social media networks to work, add a post blurb on Facebook and Tweet about it. Get the word out and share the article with as many people as possible.

Another way to put social media to work for you is to find individual app reviewer's social media profiles and ask them to review your app through those platforms.

You can also find other apps, products, or industry influencers within your app's niche that dovetail nicely with your app, visit their social media profiles and "follow", "like" and "subscribe" to them and post links back to your complimentary app. As long as there is no competition, a simple message that suggests that fans of their app might also find yours fun, useful, etc. can't hurt. Tweetpi.com is a great tool to automate the process of seeking out other related people on Twitter.

And don't forget about the power of social media integrated INTO your app as well. If it makes sense for your app to build in some sort of social component, don't hesitate to do so, as chances are it won't go viral without it. Visualize your own Facebook wall for a second and think about how many times you've seen your friend's scores or updates for popular apps like Words With Friends. Well, think about how powerful that truly is–not only did you see it, but so did the other 250, 500 or 1000 friends on their list. Boom, instant viral success. This is both a great engagement and marketing tactic that some of the most successful apps on the market are utilizing.

Community Forums: Gaining Your "Street Cred"

Whenever the subject about "building a list" or growing a community, the inevitable question always pops up, "How?" Obviously there are is no single answer to that question, but one sneaky and free tactic a lot of people don't think about is simply hanging out in forums and chatting with people. Believe it or not, when you approach this the right way, you can really get started building a community, without spending so much as a wooden nickel.

Forums, by definition, are just online meeting places for like-minded folks with shared interests. What this really means to you is that there are highly targeted prospects, just waiting for you to come along and spark up and cultivate a relationship with.

Say for instance, you've created a game app. All you need to do is a simple Google search to find some forums you think might fit the bill (for best results, make sure they are active and have a large community), join and contribute. Answer questions, offer advice, and make sure your presence is known by adding value to the conversations. The next thing you'll know is that people will begin to seek you out (i.e. look for your website or app), or ask you what you've got going on, which is a great invite to talk about your app.

Now mind you there is one golden rule to consider for this to work effectively–No direct marketing. Period. It's considered the equivalent of spam - it's another no-no, and you won't make any new friends by doing it. Unless someone directly asks you about your app, game, or website, don't mention it. Keep your conversations plug free, as pushy marketing has become a thing of the past. Trust me, if you contribute, and come from a genuine and authentic place, they'll seek you out.

Guest Blogging and Writing: Becoming An Authority

This is something entire book’s have been written about, and for great reasons. It’s free, and it’s a powerful marketing model being utilized right now in the app industry with tremendous success.

Take for instance AppClover.com. We are constantly writing and contributing articles around industry topics to relevant news sites, developer's blogs, and magazines. This helps us out in a few ways: It extends our message and brand to other audiences that we previously didn't have access to, it gives us perceived credibility, and it gives us a little SEO “link juice” in the process. In addition to contributing our articles (like this one), we also do many interviews as well, for the same basic reasons. It builds up our authority, leads people to search us out, find our website, and hopefully sign up to join our community so we can start to open up a dialogue and build a relationship.

The idea of just writing and submitting a bunch of articles may seem easy enough, however there are a couple of prerequisites. You absolutely must have a competency in what you are writing about, and you must also have a commitment to helping others. This isn't just a self-serving tactic–You have to deliver value. Give up the best stuff ideas and thoughts you have, and people who gained value from it will hopefully check you out in search of more.

On the flip side of the same marketing model coin, AppClover.com has also built an entire contributor-based website that's comprised of free content from some of the world's most successful app developers, appreneur and CEO's of top App resource websites. The value exchange we offer to every single one of our heavily-vetted expert contributors is that we provide them with a new steady flow of prospects and help to elevate their authority in exchange for their exclusive guarded and valuable app marketing and monetization strategies to share with our AppClover community.

This is truly a powerful "win-win" free marketing models to engage and build a list that you can put to work for you to help build your community.

And if you take this engagement and list-building strategy, along with some others that you may already know or practice, and mix them in with some tactical app marketing strategies, you'll begin building not just a community of loyal fans, but also a successful app business.

Hope you enjoyed this article - please feel free to share it with others, or leave a comments below.

Until next time...

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About the author:

Matthew Lutz - Co-Founder and COO of AppClover.com
Founded and ran a 7-figure boutique advertising agency catering to international client (i.e. got to take lots of “business trips” to the Caribbean)? Yup. Worked as an online and affiliate marketing gun-for-hire on multiple 7-figure product launches? Been there done that. So what was the natural next step for Matthew Lütz? Apps of course!

As Co-Founder and COO of AppClover.com, Matthew, along with his business partner and CEO Len Wright, are working diligently at creating and maintaining a global app marketing and monetization online resource hub and community, along with publishing the world’s first monthly app marketing and monetization mobile magazine – AppreneurMagazine.com, and building a platform for people to publish their own Apple Newsstand app, called Appzine Machine – whew!

And when Matthew’s not doing all that work stuff, he leads a pretty quiet life with his family in California … well, as quiet as it can be with a 4 year old and a 2 year old ;)