The impact of word of mouth on mobile app downloads

Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing method when it comes to spreading your mobile app. When people talk about an app to their friends and family, they think of it as advice rather than advertising.
The biggest challenge mobile developers are struggling with is getting downloads. Developing mobile apps is difficult. But spreading the word about mobile apps is even more difficult. Freelance developers are usually programmers and have no marketing skills at all. While a few years ago it was enough to publish an app in the app stores, ask friends and random people on forums to get the first downloads, now that there are more than 2 billion apps out there developers need to be creative. The following graph shows how people find out about apps they download:


As you can see, no matter how awesome your app is, 77% of mobile users download mobile apps that they heard through word of mouth meaning they will probably don’t care about your app, unless they see in the top charts.

According to researches, a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.

The easiest way to get your users to talk about your app is asking them to share and tweet about it to their friends. Although, this is different from real word of mouth, where you can freely talk about something, users are already used to application posts on social sites and your app will be seen by many many people in a short period of time and can easily go viral if done right. Similarly to „Leave a feedback” and „Rate the app” pop-ups, you need to ask your users to share the app at the right moment. Try to find a positive moment, where user interactivity is at its highest and you’ll see how many people will share it with your friends (use an analytics software, but Facebook analytics is also interesting).

Word of mouth plays an important factor in distributing your app and nothing shows it better than the following examples:

SnapChat – 9 months after the app’s launch, the founder’s mom told about the app to the founder’s cousin, who was a student at a high school in Orange County. He then told their friends about it and the app spread throughout the school. Then other high school students in Souther California picked it up, and the number of daily users grew from 3,000 to 30,000 in a month. Then the press picked it up as well, and a New York Times article was responsible for helping SnapChat reach the top of the App Store chart, but it was initially SnapChat’s success that drew the press’s attention.

Instagram – The founders invited technology bloggers to try a test version of the app before the release. One of their contacts was Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter who liked the idea and sent images to his Twitter followers via Instagram. While chances are low that you know someone like Jack Dorsey, make a research on relevant bloggers and don’t forget: everyone knows someone who knows someone famous (Google blog: your topic and set the time frame for the last 30 days to find relevant posts in the last month).

Yik Yak – The anonymous bulletin board spread from Furman University and the regional universities near Florida during the Spring Break:

“Things were just spreading by word of mouth,” said Buffington. “You know Spring Break was huge for us – everyone went down to Florida and that’s how we spread to every school in Texas… from there we spread to Wisconsin, to Cornell to Boston College, so we are pretty much at every single college in every single state besides a few of the West Coast states.”

As SnapChat’s and Yik Yak’s example shows, the best way to create buzz about your app is to focus on the target users at a specific location. I know it’s easier said than done but you need to do whatever you can to create buzz. Participate in radio and TV shows, leave leaflets at hostels, send emails to blogs, build a kickstarter campaign, use cheap Reddit advertisements, build a social profile whatever you need to get people to talk about your app.

Need more downloads? Select one of my app promotion services and I will promote your app to 30 quality app review sites and millions of people on social sites.

Balint Farago

Entrepreneur, startup enthusiast, gadget fan. I travel a lot and in the meantime I develop and promote mobile apps.

  • Bálint Tóth

    Great article!