10 steps to grow your mobile app on Facebook

A friend of mine recently asked me how to effectively promote a mobile app on Facebook Ads, what are the best practices, and what to do if they haven’t had any paid activity before. While there is no single best answer that I could quote here, I did suggest a few steps I would take with such a brand new app. First, no rash moves. Second, plan your activity with the insights I listed below. 

No rash move here gets you closer to your goal. Like launching your paid activity right away, because of your competitors already being in the game. The more next steps you plan in advance, the fewer obstacles you face later on. Which of course means less money that you may lose in a meaningless way.

Let’s see what you can do to promote your app with Facebook Ads.


Table of contents

  1. Define your in-app funnel
  2. Create an App ID on Facebook
  3. Add Facebook SDK into your app
  4. Set up standard in-app events
  5. Hold on with the paid activity
  6. Create app-installs lookalike audience
  7. Create app-launches lookalike audience
  8. Create top active users lookalike audience
  9. Start exploring down-the-funnel audiences
  10. Change your optimization goal

1. Define your in-app funnel

This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many app owners don’t do it at the very beginning of the entire process. If you don’t have a plan for tracking your users’ behavior inside your app, you won’t be able to correctly explain to Facebook which in-app activities are valuable to you. In other words, Facebook needs to understand what in-app actions are important for you to successfully find similar users who will follow the same path. The screen views alone are not enough these days.

Tracking your users’ behavior inside your app allows @Facebook to understand which in-app actions are important for you to successfully find similar users who will follow the same path.
https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #mobileapp #FacebookAdvertising

For e-commerce apps, you can plan the entire user journey, from viewing a product screen, through adding it to cart, up to purchase. For games apps, you should consider measuring the accomplishment of each game level or time spent by users inside the app. In my own app (dedicated to bargain hunters in chain stores, Tropiciel Okazji), I track each case when any leaflet is opened and viewed, or if any product is added to the shopping list.

That’s why, before you make any move forward, think strategically of all the events you want to track inside your app and order them in a way a typical funnel looks like. It may look like the following:

app install -> app launch -> products’ list view -> product’s description view -> add to cart -> payment -> purchase

All of this will help you prioritize the actions of your app promotion and reach a key audience later on.

2. Create an App ID on Facebook

This is a must-have. In order to promote your app on Facebook, you have to add it to its system and setup correctly. Albeit, the truth is, you don’t have to actually. You can promote any mobile app out there you want on Facebook, but with limitations to optimize towards link clicks only. Well, we all know such optimization is usually pointless and gives you no value. It’s burning money with a minimal chance for positive results.

You can promote any mobile app out there on @Facebook, but with limitations to optimize towards link clicks only. Which is usually pointless and gives you no value.
https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#mobileapp #Facebook #Facebookadvertising

To obtain an App ID on Facebook and link your app with this social platform, you need to visit Facebook for Developers page and create a new app. If you’re not a technical person, you will have to ask your app developer for a hand here, especially with such things as adding Key Hashes for Android apps.

There are two important steps here you should be aware of:

  1. Link your app with your Facebook Business Manager, as well as with your Ad Account you will use for promoting your app amid Facebook platforms.
  2. (Optional but worth considering) Allow Facebook to automatically log in-app events, which may help save your efforts in the future (its algorithm will recognize what in-app actions are performed by your users, so you won’t have to set them up manually).
Allow Facebook to automatically log in-app events, which may help save your efforts in the future.

3. Add Facebook SDK into your app

This is basically the most difficult step and it probably won’t go without your developer help. Once you have a Facebook App ID, you need to ask your developer to implement Facebook SDK (software development kit) into your app. It’s like Facebook Pixel but for app purposes.

Why is SDK important? Because it’s a way Facebook may track your users’ behavior inside your app, as well as collect data about in-app events. So the exact same way the Pixel works. Without it, you won’t be able to successfully make use of targeting features on Facebook Ads.

Note that if you already use tools like AppsFlyer or Adjust and have their SDKs implemented into your app, you don’t have to install Facebook’s one. All the crucial data is already stored by SDS of these tools. However, you’ll need to create a connection between the above tools and your Facebook Manager to allow Facebook to take all (or some) of the collected data into its system. Such a connection will send not only an app usage data but also all the set-up in-app events.

if you already use tools like AppsFlyer or Adjust and have their SDKs implemented into your app, you don’t have to install Facebook’s one

4. Set up standard in-app events

There are two basic types of events on Facebook – standard and custom ones. The first ones are predefined and are related to such an activity as Complete Registration, Start Trial or Purchase. The others are all the events that are important from your app point of view (a user activity essential to your business model). In the case of my app, one such custom event is when a user finishes reading the entire shop leaflet.

Although custom events give you more flexibility, there is one key issue with them – you can’t optimize your Facebook paid campaigns towards them. At least for now. You need to use standard events for optimization purposes.

Custom events give more flexibility, but you can’t optimize paid campaigns towards them. Instead, use standard events.

If no event works for you, choose the one closest to the desired user activity.
https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #mobileapp #FacebookAdvertising

Don’t worry if no event from the standard list works for you. Choose the one closest to the desired user activity. So for my app, seeing the entire leaflet is considered Achieve Level, even though this event was intended for mobile games.

One awesome thing Facebook did is a codless way of recording your in-app standard events. Basically, it means you can launch your app in parallel with Facebook Event Manager and point out all the activities you treat as an event. You don’t need to write any IT code or use any complicated tools. Even for non-technical people, it’s really easy.

Thanks to the codless way of recording your in-app standard events, you can launch your app in parallel with Facebook Event Manager and point out all the activities you treat as an event.

This is a step where all the fun of promoting your app begins.

It’s not the best idea to start promoting your app right away after accomplishing the above steps. Why? Because the Facebook algorithm doesn’t have much data it could use in order to find new users for your app. You need to feed it with some.

Hence, what I’d recommend to you here is wait a while before launching your paid campaign. All this to collect organic user data. Based on those users, you’ll create your first target audience later on.

How long should you wait? I’d say 2 weeks would be enough if your app collects decent organic installs volume (meaning over 700 installs). In general, the more initial organic data you have, the better for your paid activity because Facebook will be able to correctly understand who to target with your ads.

What if you don’t have any chances for organic installs? Well, try to consider launching an awareness campaign first. This is exactly what we did for one of the Ladder’s clients in the past. We created a landing page with a waiting list along with an exclusive offer for those who decide to sign up for being first app users. And it was launched as an awareness campaign by targeting key audiences. It didn’t require a high budget, and thanks to this, we obtained the first data about the profiles of our potential users.

If you don’t have any chances for organic installs for your mobile app on @Facebook, try to consider launching an awareness campaign first.

https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #FacebookAdvertising #mobileapp

6. Create app-installs lookalike audience

Once you collect your initial users’ data, it’s time to launch your first paid campaign. For this reason, create a lookalike audience based on the people who installed your app. Facebook recommends having at least 1,000 events for building an effective lookalike audience (one of a given type, e.g. installations). Based on my experience, I’d start even with as little as 200 events fired.

What range of lookalikes to build first? Even though from my recent experience bigger lookalikes have been working well, I recommend starting with 1%. Being on this stage, you want to gain the crucial users which your app was created for. Based on their activity data, you will plan the next iterations of your features. To get the most out of your first paid campaign, remember adding exclusions to your targeting options (i.e. those who’ve already installed your app).

Even though from my recent experience bigger lookalikes have been working well, I recommend starting with 1%. Being on this stage, you want to gain the crucial users which your app was created for.

7. Create app-launches lookalike audience

This step is crucial if you don’t want to waste too much money.

You’ve launched your first paid campaign aimed for collecting new app installs. But the truth is, you want to get away from this lookalike audience as soon as possible. Because there are many people who easily make the decision to install a new app, but often then even don’t launch it. So even if your Cost Per Install (CPI) is super low, it actually may not matter much.

Only real app users matter. Those who only installed your app without launching are of not much use to you. That’s why you want each spent money on turning them into users that will give you value.

To do that, you have to switch your app-install lookalike audience into app-launches one as soon as you have enough event volume to do that (note – this event is created automatically by Facebook). In other words, you ask Facebook to start finding similar people to those who really opened your app (not only installed).

I wouldn’t change the optimization goal at this stage. At least not if you haven’t collected enough events for moving to the next stage of the funnel. Just stick with app installs volume as your campaign optimization goal, but change your target audience into a more valuable one.

To get more valuable users for your app, stick with app installs volume as your campaign optimization goal, but change your target audience into a more valuable one – app-launches lookalikes.

https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #mobileapp #FacebookAdvertising

8. Create top active users lookalike audience

Another step I’d recommend would be creating a new lookalike audience, based on the most active users of your app. As you can imagine, some of your users will only be occasional. Some of them will abandon your app very quickly.

The most active users are of greatest value to you. They spend the most time with your app and they are most likely to go through the entire user’s journey, ending up with the final conversion. That’s why it’s good to use the data about these users to build a new target group. Namely a lookalike of your top users.

By default Facebook Ads Manager allows you to create such a user segment, based on your users’ engagement. You can pick the top 5%, 10%, and 25% of your most active users to create a lookalike audience later on. Which one to choose? Well, it depends on the number of users. If there aren’t a lot of them in your database, go for the top 25% first. Otherwise, you can create the 5% or 10% right away.

By default Facebook Ads Manager allows you to create such a user segment, based on your users' engagement. You can pick the top 5%, 10%, and 25% of your most active users to create a lookalike audience later on.

9. Start exploring down-the-funnel audiences

If you grasped the previous steps, you will know how to proceed further. Based on your in-app funnel, review the collected events data of its successive stages. It can be visiting a product page, creating a user account, or any other, depending on your app funnel. Basically, how many of your users have moved further down their journey. If enough – create a new lookalike audience based on that event.

Based on your in-app funnel, review the collected events data of its successive stages. If enough users have moved further down the funnel, create a new lookalike audience based on that event.

https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #FacebookAdvertising #mobileapp

The idea is one – to replace the previously used lookalike audience with a new one that better reflects your business needs. In the beginning, you needed as many app installs as possible. Then, you searched for people who could actively use the app. But now, you want more people to perform certain actions in your app. This way, you start reaching a better and better audience from the funnel point of view.

Though, you have to remember how the Facebook algorithm works and how it improves its effectiveness as conversion volume increases. Hence, don’t turn off your running lookalike audiences only because you have enough data to create a new one. Both may be running in parallel, but keep an eye on your Cost per Action (CPA) of each of them to assess whether to pause any (and exclude them correctly so that they don’t overlap).

Pro tip: don’t turn off your running lookalike audiences only because you have enough data to create a new one.

But! Keep an eye on their CPA to assess whether to pause any (and exclude them correctly so that they don’t overlap).
https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #FacebookAdvertising

10. Change your optimization goal

The more users and data about their behavior inside the app you have, the easier it will be to change the optimization goal of your campaign. Hence, if you see your current audience generating a large number of events from the lower stage of the funnel, don’t hesitate to launch a new campaign optimized for that event. Bear in mind your end goal, which is usually a final conversion (e.g. in-app sales). With all the steps mentioned above, you are trying to gain a large number of users for the upper stages of the funnel as effectively as possible. The more there are, the greater the likelihood of final conversion. And the more final conversions you have, the sooner you can change your campaign’s optimization to that conversion.

The analogy here is exactly the same. As soon as you start generating a large amount of event data (say Add to cart), create a new campaign optimized for this goal. In this way, your money is mainly spent on promotion to people who are most able to get to this stage of the funnel (i.e. install the app -> run it -> see the product screen -> add the product to the cart).

Pro tip: as soon as you start generating a large amount of event data (say ‘Add to cart’), create a new campaign optimized for this goal.

https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #FacebookAdvertising #mobileapp

Well, don’t be surprised when you notice higher CPI for your new campaign. This is a normal situation as Facebook starts to focus on another event in your app funnel. To verify if your campaign is effective, you need to compare CPAs (in this case, the cost of adding to the cart) of the campaign optimized for the app installation with the one for conversion.

One final note. Always use the App installs objective to promote your app. Even if you want to optimize a new campaign for a specific conversion. Because for a new user to achieve this goal, they must first install your application. Conversions as a campaign objective make sense only when you plan to launch a retargeting campaign (to reach people who already have your app installed).

Always use the App installs objective to promote your app. Because for a new user to achieve this goal, they must first install your application.

Takeaways

Promoting a brand new mobile app doesn’t have to be a challenge as long as you plan your next steps in advance. The solution I have prepared may help you better build your tactical plan, but remember that basically only by testing you can maximize your results.

If your budget is limited, you can try to use the bid or cost cap. This will reduce the reach of your ads but will allow you to control the costs for the results. The more scenarios you test, the more effects you will ultimately be able to achieve.

Pro tip: if your budget is limited, try to use the bid or cost cap. This will reduce the reach of your ads but will allow you to control the costs for the results.
https://blog.ladder.io/grow-mobile-app-facebook
#Facebook #FacebookAdvertising

Don’t forget about creating outstanding assets. Don’t expect great results if you use non-distinctive creatives. The video format definitely brings the best results (hence it’s widely recommended by Facebook), but static images can also get you noticeable ones. One of my favorite tactics is using the app’s screen against a strong, distinctive background. This almost always increases the visibility of the ad.

Finally, remember to regularly follow your users’ comments and try to respond to them, even to negative opinions. From experience, I can see that this helps in building a long-term relationship with users and increases the likelihood that they will recommend your app to their friends.