Antonis Tsagaris

@sebastian212000

How paid app promotions failed me

Take my money

And the one thing that consistently works

Last summer I released my Android app, Looxie and decided to experiment a bit by having various (relatively) low-cost services submit my pitch to a number of publications and tech blogs.

I have to say in advance that this article is not a hit piece on any of those services. They did what they promised they’d do. My article merely concerns the results of those paid promotions.

You might imagine that, with me writing this disclaimer right at the start of the article, things didn’t exactly take off. And you’d be right to imagine that.

What I used

After some extensive research (ten minutes of really intense Google ninja-searches and one minute of trolling The Verge forums, that is) I decided to go with Promotehour, Pitchmantra, BetaPage and TechGreet.

Promotehour.com

Here are the Promotehour PR plans, seen through a purple-tinted filter, added by me at no charge to you:

Even though that “Submissions” plan height difference triggered my OCD and caused a flare-up of my IBS, I went for the low-cost Submissions plan, since I didn’t really intend on spending a lot of money on this sort of thing. Plus, I wanted to try a couple of other services too.

Now, Promotehour promises to submit your application to 50 startup communities for 69 dollars. And they do that. They submit the app to 50 startup communities that you yourself could submit to for free, which is fine, because it would have taken you a lot of time to do it by yourself. Fair enough.

Pitchmantra.com

Next, I went to the Pitchmantra website and this is the plan they offer:

“Why not?” I thought and pressed the Get Started button.

Turns out, “getting started” actually means “spend an hour or so sumo-fighting our app search function before stumbling onto the solution through a combination of luck, favorable lunar phase and black magic” in whatever the Pitchmantra guys’ language is. It’s a really concise language, I’ll give them that.

After managing to submit Looxie, I paid the 49 bucks and waited for the results.

BetaPage.co

Next stop? BetaPage. BetaPage allows you to submit your startup for free and wait a couple of months for it to be featured or pay a fee of 25 dollars (I don’t know if it has since changed its price) and be featured within 48 hours. I chose to pay the 25 dollars, since I wanted to have some control over the timing of the experiment.

What does “featured” means? Well, it means this:

In all fairness, it used to have a picture of our landing page below the title too but it has since been removed (after a redesign of the site).

BetaPage will let other users vote for your app, if they like the idea. Looxie got 44 likes, which put it at second place on the day it was featured. (June 26th, 2016).

BetaPage also shares their featured apps on their social media accounts on the day they are featured.

TechGreet.com

Similarly to BetaPage, TechGreet lets you either submit yout startup for free and wait for it to be promoted or pay 23 Australian dollars and jump the queue, which means that your startup will be promote within 48 hours.

Here’s the deal:

Not bad for 23 australian dollars. The fact that the dollars are australian also made me think “That’s not a promotion plan. That’s a promotion plan” to myself, which amused me greatly and was worth the price of admission itself.

Was it worth it?

The title of the post should give you a hint.

Now, let’s be honest here: spending approximately 160 USD for promotion does not exactly entitle someone to the promotion they’d get from a dedicated PR agency.

All these services are offering at the lowest tiers is essentially

  • Submission of your app / startup to quite a few communities, thus sparing you the pain of having to submit it yourself
  • Social sharing on their accounts
  • Maybe a feature on their site

Should I go ahead and do it?

Let me be clear ab0ut something: if you plan on doing this to increase your app installs or user registrations, do not do it. At least going by my experiece, it will not give you a boost in installs and/or registrations.

I took a look at my app downloads and user registrations for some time after the promotions started.

Promotehour and Pitchmantra send you a report with proof that your app was submitted to the communities they claim they’d post it to.
BetaPage and TechGreet send you an email to let you know that your app has been featured and shared.

No difference compared to a normal period at all. No increased downloads, no increased registrations, nothing.

If you’re thinking of doing this for SEO purposes, backlinking and all that black magic I’ve never really understood, maybe it’s worth it.

Although be warned that more than a year after the promotions, when I do a google search for “Looxie”, I get outranked by THIS THING, which was originally released in 2010 and hasn’t been produced since 2014.

My fault, I should have called my app something Lovecraftian like H’Sog-Shoboth. Going for something so similar-sounding to an already-existing product didn’t do me any favors. Our other service, Karkoona, ranks first with also relatively minimal promotion.

My conclusion is that it can’t hurt to try it (since it’s relatively inexpensive) but it also can’t hurt to keep your expectations in check. Don’t do this expecting a huge boost in ranking or downloads. You’ll be mentioned in some places across the Internet. That’s it.

Also, don’t go in expecting any sort of personalized service at these sort of prices. Looxie, which is an Android exclusive, was also sent to iOS review sites and I kept receiving emails telling me that they couldn’t feature my app on their site. It’s just a blast of emails and form submissions to various agencies, at least as far as Pitchmantra and Promotehour are concerned.

Again, I had no right to expect any better for the price. Just letting you know what you’re in for.

What’s the one thing that works, then?

Oh, that’s easy: Reddit.

Reddit is the best place to promote your app, as long as you’re doing it within the guidelines of the subreddit you’re in and without being too much of a spammer.

You don’t have to spend all your day in Reddit to make a meaningful contribution to the community. Make an informative post and share it with the people there. Upvote some helpful comments. Be what I call NotABot.

Here’s some help:

r/android

Do NOT post a thread about your app in r/android. It will be removed within minutes and you’ll get a virtual slap on the hand.

Instead, every Saturday you’ll find a weekly thread called Saturday APPreciation. On the top of this thread, you’ll find a post saying [DEVELOPER APP PROMOTION HERE]

Reply to this post with some info about your app, along with a link for the Play Store or F-Droid. Don’t try to sound like a company. Be a person and reply like a person.

If your app is paid, offer some promo codes so that people can get your app for free. This seems to go down particularly well.

If you decide to post about your app every week, change it up a little. Don’t copy and paste the same text every time. It will get boring for users and you won’t enjoy it anymore either. Best case scenario: post about that new feature you have added or how the new version of your app sucks 90% less battery than the old version.

Most importantly: don’t give up after a week. It takes a while for people to notice you.

r/androidapps

This subreddit is much friendlier to app submissions. You can go ahead and post about your app, as long as you come clean and say you’re the developer. You can indicate this by adding a [DEV] tag before the title of your post.

As long as your app is reasonably useful and doesn’t look like complete crap, you’ll get some feedback and downloads.

Don’t just post the thread and leave it alone; reply to every comment people make about your app. The good and the bad. Make sure that every reply comes in your inbox so that you know you’ve received a comment. This goes for every subreddit, of course.

In general, even though Reddit can be pretty brutal, for some reason r/androidapps is a bit like a peaceful haven. Don’t take this as license to be a human spambot or a complete asshole, of course.

How do I know that Reddit works?

Simple: I see a significant increase in downloads every time I post in the weekly app promotion thread or in r/androidapps.

Of course, number of downloads is not the only measure of success: people that download Looxie through Reddit are usually among the most active users of Looxie, as e-mails sent to me reveal.

I’m also convinced that all blogs, podcasts & tech sites that featured Looxie in their weekly picks and best apps of the week roundups found out about the app through Reddit.

I can’t be 100% sure about that (no hard evidence) but when I post about a big update or post again after some time has passed (on Reddit), an Android blog or tech site will soon include the app in their app roundup. This has happened regularly.

Conclusion

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on the paid promotion sites. I think that it’s my fault I was disappointed by the results, since I had unrealistic expectations.

The title probably shouldn’t be “How paid app promotions failed me” but “How I had no idea what I wanted from paid app promotion sites but went ahead and paid for their services anyway. Christ, what a dickhole” instead. But that isn’t as catchy.

My advice? Avoid using this kind of marketing for your app. Maybe the more expensive packages work better. In fact, I’d love to hear from anyone that had any sort of success from these services (and no, testimonials on their site do not count).

Instead, take your show to the (virtual) road. Go on Reddit. Speak with your users. Give a shit and look like you’re trying. And then, if your app is really worthy of even a bit of attention, you’ll get it.

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