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What are Mobile Apps?

Mobile apps are software programs developed for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. They enable mobile devices to be used for entertainment and productivity. Most mobile devices come preloaded with natively designed mobile apps from their manufacturers (like Apple or Samsung) or the mobile service providers with which they’re associated (for example, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.), but many more apps are available through device-specific app stores like the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon App Store, and more.


Mobile Apps and Functions

The purposes of these apps run the gamut. From utility, workplace productivity, and navigation to entertainment (games, films, social), sports, fitness. And, just about any other categories imaginable. Streaming content, as well as social media, are two of the most popular fields of mobile app development and adoption. In fact, YouTube and Facebook are the most widely used apps in recent years across all platforms.

Many online entities have both natively designed mobile websites and mobile apps. In general, the difference lies in purpose: an app is usually smaller in scope than a mobile website, offers more interactivity, and presents more specific information in a format that’s easy and intuitive to use on a mobile device.


How Mobile Apps Differ from Desktop or Web Applications

Many mobile apps have corresponding programs meant to run on desktop computers. Mobile apps have to work with different constraints than their desktop equivalents, however. Mobile devices have a wide range of screen sizes, memory capacities, processor capabilities, graphical interfaces, buttons, and touch functions, and developers must accommodate them all.

For example, mobile app users (like website visitors) don’t want to scroll sideways to see text, images, or interactive touchpoints, nor do they want to struggle reading text on mobile devices. An additional consideration for mobile app developers is the touch interface common to mobile devices.


What ‘Mobile First’ Development Means

Before the widespread adoption of mobile devices, the software was first developed to run on desktops and laptops, with a mobile version coming after. Tablet and smartphone usage is outstripping that of desktop computers and laptops, reflected in-app sales trends. In fact, 258.2 billion apps were forecast to be downloaded in 2022. As a result, many developers have turned to a “mobile-first” approach. Meaning that their mobile versions are the defaults, with the desktop versions being adapted for their larger screens and more expansive specifications.

Acquiring Users for Mobile Apps

Acquiring users will depend largely on platform distribution. Distribution is typically in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Also, with other app stores like Amazon. For mobile apps, marketers typically focus on acquiring users through Facebook advertising and Google App Campaigns, as they’re highly effective channels for acquiring app installs.

For many advertisers, Facebook offers the highest volume and quality source of advertising traffic through Mobile App Install Campaigns. Fully capitalizing on the potential of the Facebook platform requires heavy creative testing and, more importantly, continually adapting to changes in Facebook’s advertising strategies and algorithms. Over the past few years, Facebook has ramped up the frequency of advertising product changes. Top mobile app advertisers have followed suit by ramping up the frequency of strategy changes. Looking back historically, the strategy we deploy today is very different than the strategy we deployed six months ago. Interestingly, this statement would hold true for any backward-looking period of time over the past five years. Put simply, our strategy is always changing to keep up with Facebook’s best practices for Mobile App Install Campaigns.

Alongside Facebook’s ad solutions are Google App Campaigns. They let advertisers create ads where people can download an app directly from an ad. App Campaign ads – and all the settings available for Google App Campaigns – are designed expressly to generate app installs, such as for mobile apps.

 You can use other campaign types, like display ads and even text ads, to advertise apps. But, the conversion rates for those campaigns are terrible comparable to App Campaigns. You are more likely to get people to install an app if they only have to make a couple of clicks.  


Planning a Mobile App Advertising Campaign

Mobile app advertising campaigns work much like any other advertising campaign, with a few key differences.


Know your audience.

Mobile interfaces may be simplified compared to desktops, but they’ve got just as many (if not more) distractions. If you want your message to get through all the noise, you’ll need to know what type of messaging will appeal to your ideal users. You’ll also need to know which channels and publishers your ideal users flock to.

Find out which channels and ad formats fit your budget.

Don’t blow your budget on a display ad on The New York Times if a few in-app ads will work.

Get your tracking and reporting dialed in.

Data-driven marketers love mobile app advertising. It’s a blend of art and science. With the art driving the creative development and science requiring a lot of number crunching. It’s rare to find someone who can manage both aspects. But we have tools that can make up for any shortcomings in your teams’ skillset.

Develop great creative. A lot of it.

Creative is your most effective lever to improve performance. Especially now that Facebook and Google have effectively taken over intraday bidding and budgeting. We also simplified media buying with improved machine learning algorithms. As a result, advertisers need superior creative to achieve breakthroughs and experienced Facebook and Google partners can provide it.

The problem for startups and SMBs, until now, has been the expense of creating a sufficient number of high-quality ads to produce runaway successes (i.e., the 5% of ads capable of beating previous high performers) and manage creative fatigue.

A 5% success rate means 19 out of 20 ads will fail along the way. That’s a lot of creative. Without human talent driving the process, social advertisers stand to lose a lot of money in their efforts to strike gold.

Use Optimization Algorithms to Their Advantage

Facebook and Google UAC have improved their optimization algorithms. So much in recent months that advertisers of all sizes can access sophisticated optimization algorithms without becoming social advertising experts. Both new and established companies can automate the most repetitive aspects of campaign management and achieve comparable financial results.

This means social advertisers are now free to focus on what really counts: creative development, creative testing, and audience selection.

But in each of these areas, there’s still a big service gap for startups and SMBs. It’s difficult to find agencies offering experienced, affordable, robust creative, and rigorous testing in-house. These are the exact capabilities you need to ensure efficient advertising spend.

We recently began offering three tiers of managed user acquisition and creative services for Facebook, Instagram, and Google UAC. This will help close the service gap. Also, it will allow startups and SMBs to compete more effectively. All mobile app developers and lead generators now have the means to get profitable and scale their user acquisition on Facebook and Google App Campaigns. Regardless of budget size.


Takeaways for Mobile Apps Marketers

For mobile apps, Facebook Mobile App Install Campaigns and Google App Campaigns are the best tools to acquire valuable users. If you aren’t squeezing every drop of opportunity out of Facebook and Google ads, it’s time to up your mobile apps.

mobile apps




Read our blog post, UA Media Buying Model, and see how it works in tandem with our Ad Concept Model. Learn the media buying best practice strategies for Facebook Android, Facebook iOS SKAN, Google, and TikTok.

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