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Apps, marketing, Photography, Uncategorized, video

When we think about the social media landscape, the major networks and messaging apps, where monthly active users total up in millions and billions come to mind: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat and WeChat.

The industry immediately feels out of reach for newcomers looking to break in. After all, with existing platforms offering features that address a wide-ranging array of needs, is there anything new that can be launched to entice users?

But perhaps, the opportunities now lie in niche markets.

Take Strava as an example – created as a social network for athletes, the app has garnered tens of millions of users. There’s also Swipe Labs, a social app studio that has been acqui-hired by Uber in a bid to make its app feel more human.

These startups are showing that even in the crowded social media space, it’s possible to grab a slice of the market pie.

In this article, I’ll touch on the core features that define social media apps, and share tips that have proven to be successful for startups and entrepreneurs we work with at Abovav.

Core features of social media apps:

1. Profiles

Personal profiles are a key feature for social networking apps; as seen from a 2017 study by Statistia, apps that enable users to actively promote their own accounts garner the highest popularity among users.

Therefore, app makers need to focus on developing features that enable users to set up and personalize their profiles – such as uploading a picture, adding personal details and inserting links to blogs and personal websites – quickly and effortlessly.

social media profiles

One way to do is to allow users to set up profiles through linking up with social apps that they’re currently using, so their profile information may be automatically retrieved.

Profiles are a primary means for self-expression, so it needs to feature tools that allow for personalization. These tools may range from filters and frames for profile pictures, to background pictures and colors, as well as different themes for the content or layout of the profile.

2. Feed

Memes, animated GIFs, eye-catching pictures, news updates – a constant stream of content that shows up on a newsfeed is what keeps users engaged on social media. These content typically fall into three categories:

  1. Updates: Updates are posts where users share about where they are or what they’re up to, such as including their location on an Instagram post, or checking in to Facebook Places.
  2. Expression: Popular social media apps cater to their users’ need for self-expression through the following ways: implementing features that enhance or make the user-generated content appear unique, making the process of posting up content as easy as possible and enabling users to target their posts at different audiences.
  3. Esteem: These types of content bolster the self-esteem of users and make them look good. These could be posts that show them in flattering situations – like vacation photos in an exotic destination – or content that enables users to gain rewards for their activities. For example, LinkedIn users are awarded the All-Star profile status for making improvements to their profiles, while Swarm unlocks access to stickers for users who increase their number of check-ins on the app.

3. Connection

Apart from communicating with other users, app makers need to put in place mechanisms that enable users to connect with one another. Here are five ways in which new connections can be formed:

  1. Search: The search mechanism needs to be carefully designed so as to allow users to look up real-life friends and acquaintances, as well as individuals they’re keen to connect with online. Beyond full names or usernames, parameters and filters should also be added so that users can sieve out results that are relevant to their needs.
  2. Groups: Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, Twitter lists – these are communities curated or formed to gather users with common interests and values. Creating groups can be an extra feature or the key focus of an app, as in the case of social platforms like MeetUp and Citysocializer. These group-oriented networks connect users to social groups and events within their city.
  3. Social networks: With approval from your users, connections may be obtained from other existing social networks.
  4. Suggestions: Based on information that the app has access to, recommendations can be made to connect users with similar interests, personal profiles or locations.
  5. Content: Connections are established when users interact and share content with one another. Yet, different types of users engage with content in unique ways. App makers need to understand how each type of users engage with content, so that they’ll be in a better place to design feeds that foster interaction among a diversity of users.

The following show examples of different user types, and common ways in which they interact with content:

  • Discoverers:  These users enjoy seeking out new content constantly, so multiple social media feeds that showcase a variety of content – from user-generated content, to trending news – would appeal to them.
  • Seekers: While discoverers are happy to browse through new content without any particular objective in mind, seekers are on the lookout for specific types of content. Hashtags, filters and search parameters are mechanisms that essential for these users.
  • Commentors: These individuals enjoy sharing their views, so features like status updates and comment sections are key for letting them kickstart conversations and discussions.
  • Supporters: Liking a Facebook post, favouriting a tweet, clapping for a Medium story – these individuals are keen to show their support for content that resonates with them.

4 Tips for creating a successful social media app:

1. Recognise changes in the competitive landscape, and adapt quickly

Steve Jobs’ statement, “Picasso had a saying – ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’” is one that rings true in a competitive mobile landscape.

App makers need to keep a close eye on and adapt to strategies and features implemented by key competitors.

It’s how platforms like Facebook have thrived, while other sites which once enjoyed greater popularity, such as Myspace or Friendster faded into obscurity over time.

More recently, Facebook has been duplicating popular Snapchat features through the launch of Stories and selfie filters on Instagram.

In a TechCrunch interview, Kevin Weil, VP of Product at Instagram states:

“This is the way the tech industry works, and frankly it’s how all industries work. Good ideas start in one place, and they spread across the entire industry. Kudos to Snapchat for being the first to Stories, but it’s a format and it’s going to be adopted widely across a lot of different platforms.”

2. Understand your audience, and meet them where they are at

Social media apps and sites that have failed often committed one of the following mistakes: they changed something that was already working well, or made users perform additional actions to engage with their site when there was a simpler alternative.

social media feed

MySpace’s customised profiles created an exasperating user experience – they were often slow to load, difficult to read and had tacky designs. And Ping had made it mandatory for users to recreate social networks on its site, instead of integration with existing networks.

The key lies in making it effortless and convenient for users to use your app.

It’s one of the reasons why Facebook has retained its popularity – the app has created a framework where users can perform a variety of actions without closing the app. For example, its adoption of widely used features on Snapchat means that users will have little reason to switch between different social media apps.

3. Cater to a specific niche

While networks like Facebook offer myriad features and ways to connect, its wide-ranging appeal can make users feel a little lost.

Here’s where niche social apps can step in by offering users to connect with a smaller, select group of individuals who share similar interests, professions, and aspirations.

An example is Infield Chatter, a social media app launched this year by the Major League Baseball (MLB).

Although baseball fans may easily connect through Facebook groups or pages, the app fills in the gaps in areas where platforms like Twitter or Facebook don’t: it offers an alternative for individuals who gather online just to talk about baseball, and creates a safe space for MLB players and fans to interact with having a team in place that browses and regulates the site.

4. Stay ahead of social media trends

When conceptualizing your app, it pays to stay ahead of emerging trends and to understand how individual users, as well as brands and marketers, are impacted by these trends.

“What are features and trends are popular among users today? How are brands utilizing these features? How will these trends impact upon the broader social media landscape?” are examples of key questions that you’ll need to consider.

I’ve outlined three prevalent social media trends below:

Messaging is transforming social media

In an article on the Buffer Blog, content crafter Ash Read points out that the rising popularity of messaging apps and bots are creating fundamental changes in the way we use social media.

A quick overview of user statistics supports this point: according to The Economist, many teenagers now spend more time on smartphones sending out instant messages rather than browsing social networks, and WhatsApp users spend about 200 minutes weekly on the app.

A RadiumOne study indicates that 70 percent of all online referrals come from dark social – a term that refers to social sharing that can’t be accurately measured, such as when individuals share content through private channels like email, private groups messaging apps.

how to build a social media app

As social activity increasingly takes place in these channels, users may shy away from making public posts to news feeds – which has traditionally been the focal point for interaction and discovery among users.

This poses an important question for social media app makers: What will social media mean, and will it someday refer to a completely different form of interaction altogether?

Rising popularity of ephemeral content

First popularised by Snapchat, ephemeral content refers to impermanent content or messaging that lasts for a limited period of time.

Its surge in popularity has given brands and marketers cause to implement strategies for ephemeral content marketing, and come up with new content ideas. These may range from behind-the-scenes features, to how-to videos and contests or giveaways.

Live video streaming is trending

live streaming

The live streaming landscape may be young, but it has already seen a surge in live streaming apps and usage.

In 2016, live video streaming app Periscope reported that its users made over 200 million broadcasts, and watched more than 110 years of live video daily.

And on New Year’s Eve, Facebook Live saw record-breaking numbers of users who broadcasted videos of their new year celebrations all across the world.

Increasingly, brands and marketers are incorporating live streaming as a key part of their social media marketing strategies.

It’s often used to share events with followers who weren’t able to attend, conduct product demonstrations, broadcast panel discussions or interviews and offer behind-the-scenes looks.

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Apps, marketing, Photography, Uncategorized, video

As Peter Drucker, “the founder of modern management”, once famously said, “what gets measured gets improved”. It’s very easy for startups creating, marketing, and selling digital apps to confuse essential metrics—i.e., those that are evidence-based and actionable—from erroneous stats—i.e., “vanity metrics” that do little other than boost ego. Why does this matter? Because measuring the right mobile app metrics is crucial to understanding not only what your company is doing well but also what you need to change; collecting the wrong data (or the right data in the wrong way) can mean the death of your startup. In this article I’ll discuss 5 app marketing metrics that all startups operating in the mobile space should track.

Before we begin discussing mobile-specific metrics, it’s important to note that there are a number of financial metrics that all startups should measure, regardless of whether they create apps or not.

These core mobile metrics include:

  • Fixed vs. variable costs;
  • Cash balance;
  • Burn rate;
  • Breakeven analysis and breakeven point;
  • Profit; and
  • Cash flow and cash flow forecasting.


1. ARPU and LTV 

mobile marketing metrics

Building on Steve Blank’s definition of a startup, when organizations implement “repeatable and scalable business model[s]” they gain the capacity to market and sell with efficiency, which promotes growth.

The Lifetime Value of a Customer (LTV) is one of the key metrics according to which this efficiency is measured.

In a very broad way, the LTV represents the financial value of your app insofar as it signifies how much each app user (i.e., customer) is worth to your company across the span of his or her lifetime usage.

Josiah Humphrey at Appster recently provided a more specific description of LTV:

 “[LTV is the] projected revenue that a customer is expected to generate during his/her lifetime. In the simplest of cases, [it’s] calculated by multiplying the yearly cost of your service by the number of years for which a person is expected to remain a customer of your company. Example: if your service costs $100 per year and your average customer stays 5 years then your LTV is $500”.

Early-Stage startups might have difficulty trying to estimate their LTVs if they lack concrete data. 

In that case, one way to roughly gauge LTV would be to locate similar companies in your industry for an idea of what a comparable LTV might look like.

The general consensus amongst many venture capitalists and entrepreneurs is that profitable businesses operate with LTVs that are at least 3x higher than their customer acquisition costs (CACs): 

mobile metrics

The Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is a slightly different metric, one that correlates to the purchases and overall spending habits of your customers.

Investopedia defines ARPU as:

 “[A] measure of the revenue generated per user or unit. Average revenue per unit allows for the analysis of a company’s revenue generation and growth at the per-unit level, which can help investors to identify which products are high or low revenue-generators. … Companies may also use this information to determine which product lines are lagging”.

In general, you want to drive both LTV and ARPU as high as possible whilst growing your user base. 

2. CPI and CPLU

imac-apple-mockup-app-38544

Cost Per Install (CPI), as the name suggests, is a measure of the amount of money your company spends in order to acquire one user who installs your app.

 Tubemogul.com describes CPI from the perspective of digital ads:

“CPI (Cost Per Install) campaigns are specific to mobile applications. In a cost-per-install campaign, publishers place digital ads across a range of media in an effort to drive installation of the advertised application. The brand is charged a fixed or bid rate only when the application is installed”.

CPI, thus, tracks paid installs rather than “organic” installs (source ).

As Alberto Furlan points out, CPI is calculated according to the following formula:

Expenditure on ads ÷ total installs = cost per install

Example: $5,000 (ads) ÷ 1500 (installs) = $3 CPI

Cost Per Loyal User (CPLU) is a measure of the cost of acquiring a “loyal” or “active” user, typically defined as somebody who opens an app at least 3 times within a specified timeframe (12).

Arguably, CPLU is the more meaningful of the two metrics because it reflects how much money your startup must spend in order to acquire a customer who actually uses your app versus one who merely installs your app.

When analyzed in conjunction with your ARPU, your CPLU can help you to calculate:

  1. The return on investment (ROI) for your marketing efforts; and
  2. Your breakeven point, i.e., is the point at which your revenues (the amount of money you’re bringing in from sales) exactly match your expenses (the amounts of your fixed and variable costs). This is important because the point beyond your breakeven point is where you begin to accumulate profits (see here). 

The most recent data from Fiksu DSP, a mobile marketing technology company, show that:

  • The global CPLU average in the mobile space is $2.51 (April 2016);
  • The global CPI average for iOS is $1.88 (January 2016)
  • The global CPI average for Android is $2.42 (January 2016)

Screen Shot 2017-08-16 at 11.24.35 AM

(image source)

3. User Retention

pexels-photo-377909

Today, 5 million apps are available for download on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

However, nearly 85% of all smartphone usage is dedicated to 5 apps or fewer; and almost 4 out 5 users never use an app again 72 hours after first installing it.

In other words, most people use only a few apps consistently and abandon all other apps for good.

User retention, therefore, is clearly a significant problem with which all app-centred startups must deal.

Some estimates, like those discussed by Apptentive, suggest that only 4% of iOS and Android users continue using an app 12 months after first downloading it:

Retention-Problem

As my partner at Appster, Josiah Humphrey, recently noted, “the moment you successfully acquire a new customer you must start doing everything you can to retain that customer for as long into the future as possible”.

Inc.com and Molly Galetto both provide helpful definitions of customer retention:

“Customer retention refers to the percentage of customer relationships that, once established, a business is able to maintain on a long-term basis”.

“The goal of customer retention programs is to help companies retain as many customers as possible … begin[ning] with the first contact a customer has with a company and continu[ing] throughout the entire lifetime of th[at] relationship”.

Why is measuring retention important when it comes to your mobile app metrics?

Because, as Alex Walz points out:

“Knowing your retention gives you a much better indication of your app’s success and current customer-base [than do certain other metrics]. Your app might have 100,000 downloads, but how many of these people are actually active? [Retention data make it possible to answer this important question]”.

Retention, thus, allows you to refine and more specifically target your marketing efforts due to its ability to reveal your best (i.e., most engaged and long-lasting) customers.

Improving your user retention rates is one of the greatest ways to effectively boost you LTV numbers and increase your overall revenue.

4. Engagement

pexels-photo-211052

Engagement as such is not a singular, specific metric. Rather, it can be measured by tracking and compiling the data from various other metrics, including session length and interval, app interactions, user opt-ins, and app screens per session (source).

Engagement is important because it gives a sense of the quality of the use of your app over and above a purely quantitative assessment.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest mobile apps generate the most impressive engagement data.

The following graph, which compares 90-day retention rates with frequency of use per week for a variety of app categories, gives some insight into how it’s possible for massive high growth startups like Facebook to receive a $200 billion valuation.

QuadrantChart_EngagementRetentionStats_ByCategory-resized-600_0

A highly engaged customer base not only drives retention and LTV numbers but also promotes positive network effects built on virality and social shares.

Engagement, thus, is crucial for startups to assess.

5. NPS

pexels-photo-207569

One of the top metrics of customer satisfaction and app virality is known as the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

It’s measured by asking your users the following key question: “On a scale of zero to ten, how likely are you to recommend our app to a friend, family member, or colleague?”

net-promoter-score

Netpromoter.com outlines the differences between the various kinds of respondents:

  • Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth.
  • Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings.
  • Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth”.

The total NPS is calculated by subtracting the total number of detractors from the total number of promoters.

It’s important to follow-up the main NPS question with “Why?” questions as to figure out the reasons behind your users’ answers.

Regardless of whether your NPS is very high, very low, or somewhere in between, you still need to determine your users feel as they do.

This mobile marketing metric is extremely useful because: 

  • It helps give an indication of whether your company is on track in terms of finding product/market fit;
  • It measures the value and viral potential of your app; and
  • It signals the extent to which your users are likely to share your app with others and inadvertently create new customers for you (i.e., a high score suggests that your users are likely to favorably rate and spread the word about your product).
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Apps, marketing, Photography, Uncategorized, video

What makes a great app?” It’s a question I’m often asked when working with startups and entrepreneurs at Abovav.

While there are numerous elements that define a great app – from its UX and UI design, to how addictive or user-friendly it is – we’ve gathered insights from mobile experts, and distilled it down to a select few factors below:

1. Provide a user-friendly experience

The mobile app landscape is a space that undergoes changes at a rapid pace – new apps are launched daily, and new technologies are revolutionizing consumer experiences. To stand out and boost customer loyalty, app makers need to focus on getting the basics right.

survey by app market and data insights company App Annie indicates that a user-friendly experience has been voted the top factor (59 percent) for driving user retention, above other factors such as value-added features (35 percent) or targeted relevant content (29 percent).

Below, I’ll share a few tips for creating a user-friendly experience:

Convey value proposition early and quickly

google store optimization

With countless apps available on the App Store and Google Play, it’s critical that users understand the value of using your mobile app right from the very start – and within a short span of time.

According to a survey by research firm Clutch, 72 percent of respondents said completing all onboarding processes is less than a minute is a key factor in their decision to continue using the app.

Keep the onboarding process short and sweet

A Clutch survey showed that the longer the time it takes for users to provide information, the more frustrated they became. 28 percent of respondents were frustrated by a one to two-minute onboarding process, but when onboarding took longer than two minutes, the number increased to 33 percent.

While these timeframes may serve as a guideline, keep in mind that there are exceptions to the norm. A banking app will require more personal information and a longer time to onboard users compared to a note taking or fitness tracking app, for instance.

Regardless of the recommended timeframe (less than a minute), the main objective is to align your onboarding processes to the purpose of your users, as well as the functions and needs of your mobile app.

Don’t force a single app to serve multiple goals

Add too many features to your app, and it runs the risk of becoming a Swiss Army knife – a tool that performs myriad functions, but inevitably winds up confusing users.

Robbie Abed, formerly Director of Marketing at Y Media Labs advises:

“Apps aren’t websites, and need to have a laser focus to succeed.”

He shares that at Y Media Labs, the design, development and strategy teams start off projects by defining just two core use cases for building a mobile app.

Cut out the clutter

how to become an appreneur

The three-click rule may have been busted as a UX design myth, but it’s a rule that’s still worth considering when designing your mobile app, as it makes you rethink the necessity of all the screens and steps you’ve included.

I’ve included a couple of tips below to guide you towards creating a simple, easy-to-navigate design:

  • Test it out: Test out your product with friends and family in the early stages of design. Pay attention to the areas where they get stuck when using your app, and make corrections to remedy these points.
  • Two-tap rule: In a Fast Co. article, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer elaborates on her two-tap rule for app design. Says Mayer: “Once you’re in the app, is it two taps to do anything you want to do?” If no, time to redesign the app.” The Yahoo Flickr app illustrates this rule – from the main screen, users can browse through groups, set up alerts, take a picture and perform additional functions easily in just two taps.

2. Be adaptable in a competitive landscape

Apps that have continued to achieve user growth and revenue over time are adaptable to changes in a highly competitive landscape. Here are steps you can take to set your product up for long-term success:

Pivot quickly to cater to user demand

“Stay flexible” – that’s a key lesson that Rahul Varshneya, founder of Appreneurship Academy, an online workshop for aspiring app entrepreneurs has learned from working with businesses across diverse industries.

He elaborates in an Influencive article:

“There are no bad ideas, just bad entrepreneurs – those who can’t learn from their mistakes and pivot. You can always start with a product that doesn’t work, but you can always turn it around.”

Take Instagram as an example. Originally created as a check-in app called Burbn, founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger saw that the app wasn’t getting much traction and that most users were using the app to snap photos.

Noticing the user behavior, Krieger and Systrom decided to focus on a single aspect – mobile photos – and worked to pare down Burbn to a few core features, such as photo-taking, liking and commenting.

Pivoting swiftly was a move that paid off for Instagram – on the day of its launch, the app garnered 25,000 users and quickly rose to become the top free photo-sharing app.

Pay attention to new developments in your industry

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App makers need to keep a close eye on changes occurring within their industry – or run the risk of becoming obsolete as new trends and competitors emerge.

Pandora is a case in point: while it was once a pioneer in the internet radio space, it now lags behind competitors like Spotify and Apple Music in more ways than one.

For example, its subscription-based premium service, which allows for on-demand music streaming was launched only in March this year – way behind other providers like Google Play and Amazon Prime Music.

3. Provide stellar customer support

A great app doesn’t just stop at providing a user-friendly and engaging experience; it also needs to deliver stellar customer support – and continue to do so long after the app development is complete.

Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of mobile apps.

Gartner report on mobile customer service indicated that:

“There is an immense gap between mobile adoption and successful customer service and support on the mobile device, which undermines enterprise strategies for mobile…Through 2017, 80% of enterprises will not achieve competitive advantage through their mobile strategies due to poor customer service.”

Mobile app makers are forgetting that when it comes to customer loyalty, it’s about getting the fundamentals – like treating your customers well – right.

Here are some tips to help improve your app’s customer support experience:

Be where your users are

Make it easy for your users to get in touch with you through implementing an in-app solution for communication, such as a tap-to-call button or a live chat function.

Make it personal

Personalising communication with your users helps create greater engagement, makes your them feel valued and fosters a sense of connection.

While brands like Zappos go as far as reaching out with a homemade card or gift for special occasions or providing personalised mobile shopping experiences, simple steps – such as signing off responses with a personal name, as opposed to a “no-reply” address or a company name – are just as effective in conveying the message that your app is a human brand that engages in real conversations, and provides reliable support when needed.

Actively seek out and respond to customer feedback

study conducted by mobile customer engagement software Apptentive and Survey Monkey showed that customers expect companies to be more communicative on mobile than on other channels, and to ask users for feedback.

Among customers who preferred to leave their feedback through in-app channels, 64 percent expected companies to seek out their feedback directly.

Yet, asking for feedback is just one part of the equation. 55 percent of respondents who leave feedback through in-app channels indicated that they aren’t likely to remain as customers if their feedback is seemingly ignored.

This shows that it’s equally important for app makers to acknowledge, and provide a timely response to feedback from users.

4. Stay ahead of rising trends

Successful apps stay relevant to shifts in the demands of their users and an ever-changing mobile landscape. App makers need to be aware of emerging trends and understand how these trends are changing the way individuals utilize mobile apps when conceptualizing their apps.

Here are two key trends you need to know:

Augmented reality apps are set to be a game changer in the mobile space

In a CNBC interview, Bertrand Schmitt, CEO of App Annie shared that AR looks set to create a relatively huge shift in the industry.

With the launch of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, users can expect “better, higher quality experience, as well as many more apps leveraging AR”. Schmitt further elaborates on AR’s wide-ranging impact, which will span across “gaming to non-gaming…social, and even some utility apps”.

Bots are the new apps

In a Forbes article, contributor Elad Natansan explains the rising importance of bots in the future of mobile.

The benefits are clear: within the context of messaging platforms, bots allow for easy engagement (there’s no need for users to leave a chat app), effortless installation (no app downloads or account registration are needed) and are never “shut off” (as bots continue to run in the background and are able to identify keywords, they are thus able to respond to a user’s intent).

While search requires user intent, bots are able to push the content that we require.

Over time, they can learn about the types of content we seek and engage with, and deliver content that increasingly meets our needs. For example, you might be chatting about your travel itinerary in a chat group. A bot identifies travel-related keywords in your conversation, and recommends tours and activities accordingly.

This creates a new dynamic and changes the way we browse and interact with apps altogether.

As we’re increasingly able to complete these actions, and more without leaving a messaging platform, users will eventually have little need for a separate native mobile app or to conduct manual searches in browsers.

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