People 'n' Issues

How to manage a mobile app community

January 3rd, 2017
Understanding how to leverage a mobile app for business involves an understanding of the differences between apps and social media, particularly when it comes to building effective growth and engagement strategies, writes BRADLEY ELLIOTT, MD of Platinum Seed.
Smartphone with cloud of application icons

By now, most businesses understand the true purpose of an app within the business mix – apps should align with the objectives of a business to achieve an end goal. Following on from this, many businesses have found that a well-managed app community – much like a social media community – can also have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Key differences

The user experience is fundamentally different, because social media users tend to consume content more passively than app users. Understanding these key differences is crucial when developing an effective content strategy for a business’s app, because it provides insight into tactics that may actually detract from your brand’s message.

Unlike social media which relies on algorithms to determine whether content is seen and engaged with, apps offer a direct line of communication to end users, using push notifications which virtually guarantee users get to view the content you send them.

In addition, it’s important to understand the difference between ‘engagement’ and ‘usage’. A social media strategy prioritises engagement for a content-driven platform, which is not always the case for apps – a news and current affairs app, for example, would naturally experience a great deal more engagement than a service-based app like GetTOD, which users would probably engage with only a few times a year.

Developing a content strategy

Understanding how apps differ to social media is vital when it comes to building an effective content strategy for an app platform. While social media platforms are open and public by nature, apps are a great deal more intimate – remember that app users make an active and often informed decision to download an app, which is a lot more deliberate than simply liking a brand’s Facebook page.

For this reason, the messages delivered through apps need to be geared toward maximising impact and strike the balance between being frequent enough to encourage engagement, without spamming users with endless streams of information. Be sure to keep a close eye on app analytics to gauge user activity and preferences by day, week and month.

However, apps that focus on creating a community on a brand-owned platform can still use tactics similar to those typically used on social media platforms, as content can often co-exist with community-generated content on the platform. On the other hand, service and entertainment-centred apps are generally reserved for only the most important communications, such as new offerings and half-off sales.

Building an app community

App downloads form part of an integrated digital strategy, which encompasses multiple digital channels – including paid media, digital campaigns and content marketing. While the level of user engagement with an app depends on whether the app’s purpose is to deliver content, there are a number of ways to increase downloads.

Offering incentives to encourage more app installations, using well-thought-out brand campaigns to launch special features or new offerings, and leveraging existing owned channels like email and even social media are all great ways to grow an app community. Businesses can also employ above-the-line awareness strategies using print media, out-of-home advertising and gorilla marketing to drive app downloads, each of which can have significant impact when implemented correctly.

Data gathering

A major part of any good digital strategy is the ability to measure return on investment and return on objectives. Apps should have in-built analytical features that allow businesses to monitor user behaviour and preferences (as long as this is provided for within the app’s privacy policies), which not only helps gauge the impact of the app on the bottom line, but also ensures that the app experience is constantly improved on, resulting in more user engagement and usage.

Apps and social media may have some inherent and often obvious differences, but there are many similarities between the two when it comes to community management. This guide provides a brief overview of how to approach building, nurturing and monitoring a brand’s app community, but you can always get in touch with professionals for more valuable insight.

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