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What 100 million downloads taught me about growth hacking in America

The iTunes App Store is crowded, and it’s harder than ever to drive new, quality installs of your app. This should serve as a basic “growth hacker guide” to help bootstrapped international developers better understand the U.S. mobile market, and provide specific strategies that will help build your brand and drive people to your app. If you can cut through the clutter of apps in America you will have access to a lot of quality users — the ARPU (average revenue per user) for America is expected hit $51 by 2015 and smartphone penetration is already at 62 percent. For those of you who are not making money from your app yet, you should start with lower cost user acquisition channels. Please note that lower cost means you cannot pay to hire an expert to complete your entire project and therefore you must plan to roll up your sleeves and work alongside with a developer yourself, which will take time and hard work. Here are some tips to guide you! 1. Publicity You have to start with a quality app. With Dolphin, they focused on building a great product and hit one million installs purely through Google Play. Then one day, they saw a HUGE spike in installs and were able to trace it back to an article that reviewed the customization features of Dolphin Browser. The impact of the article lasted for more than a week, and our eyes were opened to the magic of media coverage. In terms of outside help, there are a few great firms in the U.S., and feel free to contact us for any introductions. To tap into the power of publicity yourself, start by researching the following: Who wrote about your competitors? Who wrote about your partners? Who are the journalists that write about your app category? What are the benefits (not features) of your app they may find interesting? Bootstrapped startups should get in touch with reporters themselves. When doing this, I recommend you: Send a short email (using proper English grammar!), and include a relevant narrative about your app and how it taps into current trends. Ideally use a Gmail or company account. Everything else (@hotmail, @yahoo, or country specific domains like .ru or .cn) comes off dated or spammy. Don’t harass reporters. If they pass on your initial news, let it go and get in touch later with a different story. 2. SEO SEO (search engine optimization) is informed by a lot of factors. The easiest factor to control is which keywords you associate with your app — these terms allow searchers to find you more easily. For example, for a finance app, some keywords to associate would be: Finance Personal finance Money Bookkeeping Accounting Make sure you include these keywords in your app description or even your app title to improve discoverability. You can research and analyze your competitor or partner apps to help you better identify keywords that are relevant to your app. SEO can involve many other strategies, but keyword optimization is a great place to start. 3. Exchanges with other developers If you have a lot of users, you can approach another app developer and propose that you promote one another. Only partner with apps that you know you want to be associated with — and this should be based on research! The quality of the partner app and the overlap in terms of audience are important considerations. I’ve found the most effective way to drive installs is via push notification, internal messaging, or small banner and overlay ads (you usually have to pay for this). After you understand your monetization and business model, it’s time to spend some money to drive more predictive installs. 4. Customers who will pay There are plenty of DSPs (demand-side platforms) and exchanges you can work with to drive substantial installs in the U.S. Depending on the season, you’ll typically pay from $1 to $10 USD per install. Yes, it is a lot more expensive than other parts of the world, but these platforms really work. The key is you have to learn how to find quality users: essentially, the ones who will pay to buy virtual goods or coins, or who will upgrade to premium subscriptions. Unless you can measure and predict who the high quality paying users are, I would not recommend paying to drive installs in this way. Once you are clear on your definition of a high quality user, you can then start to develop images, marketing copy, and conduct A/B testing via various exchanges and DSPs. In conclusion Some things that work well in other countries just simply don’t work at all or are too laborious in America. The following are strategies that should be avoided, or at least carefully considered: Putting apps in third-party app stores: This doesn’t drive downloads. App sales are driven through the App Store and Google Play. Third-party app stores pale in comparison. Partnering with smartphone manufacturers: Working with any mobile carriers and OEMs is really time consuming and almost not worth it — unless you have a dedicated business development team in Silicon Valley, China or Korea. I hope this cheat sheet helps clarify the U.S. mobile market, and helps you develop appropriate user acquisition strategies for your app. With creativity, tenacity, and smarts, you will be well on your way to achieving your very own American dream! Source: Edith Yeung (@edithyeung) is the VP of International Business Development at Dolphin, and is also the founding partner of RightVentures. Edith has helped grow Dolphin Browser to over 100 million users across the globe, and is based in Dolphin’s San Francisco offices.

The First Cellphone - 30 years ago...

Somewhere in either Chicago, Baltimore or Washington, someone threw down $3,995 to buy the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the first handheld cellphone, on March 13, 1984 — 30 years ago today.  Chairman and CEO Ed Zander jokingly introduces the 1980s-era Motorola DynaTAC 8000, the first commercially available hand-held mobile phone, during his keynote address at the Venetian during the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show January 8, 2007. On March 6, 1983, Motorola officially unveiled the DynaTAC 8000X, but it would be seven months before the FCC gave the phone its blessing. Inside the phone, primary engineer Don Linder oversaw the development of custom integrated circuits and microprocessors — which were still a new product in the late 1970s — as well as evolving antenna designs to better penetrate buildings and account for height changes during a call, all of which had to comply to ever-changing FCC spectrum specifications. Ameritech sold 12,000 cellular phones that first year, around 10% of which were the DynaTAC 8000X.