11 Instagram marketing tactics to skyrocket app downloads

September 11, 2017

Marketing your app on Instagram is one of the most cost-effective ways to drive downloads and retain users. The social networking app boasts over 700 million monthly active users, mind-blowing engagement numbers, and the social network shows no signs of slowing down.

But just posting pictures of your app won’t do you marketing efforts any favors. To succeed, your brand needs to have a smart strategy that involves a lot of engagement. In this article, we’ll discuss 11 tactics that popular apps like Evernote, Musical.ly, and Bumble use to leverage Instagram to engage and acquire users.

Influencer Marketing

Asking influencers to promote your app on Instagram is one of the most powerful and effective marketing tactics. Here are a few key statistics:

  • Influencer marketing content delivers 11x higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing.
  • 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference.
  • Businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing on average.
  • 49% of people say they rely on recommendations from influencers when making purchase decisions.

Reaching out to influencers is an easy process. Most have an accessible email address listed in their profile for business inquiries. If not, sending a direct message works just as well if not better.

How to Contact Influencers

  1. Research the influencer(s) you’re reaching out to and keep your message personal. Copying and pasting the same email/DM to everyone will almost guarantee no response.
  2. Craft a subject line or opening sentence that piques interest.
  3. Maintain a friendly tone, and keep the message to 3-6 sentences. There’s no need to elaborate on your company’s history, the technology behind the app, or any information the influencer would find irrelevant.
  4. Offer the person you’re reaching out to something they would find valuable. (Money, free merchandise, etc.)

Example – Bejeweled

The wildly popular Bejeweled app can attribute its popularity to influencer marketing. The gem-matching puzzle game utilized Instagram influencers, in particular, to build brand awareness, engagement, and app downloads through the #ShinyPlace campaign.

As a result, Bejeweled’s ranking rose 520 places after the campaign according to App Annie (702nd to the 182nd top-grossing app). And since the launch of the campaign, the game’s rank has climbed from 454 on the top-grossing iPhone games charts, to 135.  

Have a Cohesive Theme

People follow Instagram accounts for the theme itself. Creating a cohesive theme is critical because the social network solely focuses on visual content. If one picture or video isn’t in line with the aesthetic, it will look extremely out of place and will ruin the entire theme.

Best practices

  • Stay consistent with one message you want to send across.
  • Stick to your brand’s color palette.
  • Crop all of your images the same way, or use the square cropping feature.
  • Maintain a high-quality standard.

Run Contests

Running contests and giveaways on Instagram is one of the easiest ways to gain hundreds or even thousands of followers and downloads in a short period. In fact, accounts that run Instagram contests grow their followers 70% faster over three monthsthan accounts that don’t.

How to Run Your First Instagram Contest

  1. Establish a time frame and goals: 1 week, 100 followers 
  2. Keep the entry method simple: Follow and tag 2-3 friends in the comment section.
  3. Use relevant 30 hashtags
  4. Share the contest on your personal social media accounts to gain initial traction
  5. Giveaway a relevant prize: Something related to your app
  6. Pick a random winner and repeat

Utilize Hashtags

Hashtags are one of the most important channels for discovery. Consider hashtags of the utmost importance when posting. Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement. So utilizing them in every post will increase visibility substantially.

Best practices

  • Take advantage of the 30 hashtag limit in every post.
  • Include a mix of short-tail (#bike) and long-tail (#fixedgearbike).
  • Don’t list the hashtags in the caption. Post them as a comment instead. This will declutter the picture when it comes up in the user’s feed.
  • Piggy back off of relevant, popular hashtags (#TBT, #FBF)
  • Include one branded hashtag in each post.

Create App Install Campaigns – Video

Video is the most powerful form of advertising and Instagram is the perfect platform to deploy this strategy. Instagram’s focus on visual content and its powerful advertising tool give marketers the best chance of reaching their ideal users.

To create an app install campaign, you’ll need to login to your business’s Facebook Page and follow these ten steps:

  1. Go to Ads Manager.
  2. Choose App installs as the objective for the campaign.
  3. Enter the app store URL.
  4. Fill in the criteria of your target audience.
  5. Ensure that you check off Instagram in the placements section.

  1. Target people who like pages of 10 complementary services, products, or apps.
  2. Target people with related interests to your app’s niche.
  3. Define the budget and schedule.
  4. In the format section, choose the video you want to run.
  5. Fill in the details of the ad (Headline, Text, CTA)

Example – Taichi Panda

Snail Games, a Chinese mobile game developer, had been actively promoting their hit app Taichi Panda on Facebook since the game’s launch (2015), but to increase their app installs, the company decided to start experimenting with advertising on Instagram. By running highly engaging Instagram video ads, Snail Games saw a 339% increase in app installs as well as a 1.5x higher rate of in-app purchases.

The company now runs Instagram advertisements on a continual basis. You can learn more about Snail Games’ success by reading their case study.

Best practices

  • Grab attention within the first 3 seconds.
  • Nail your caption. Be creative not “salesy.”
  • Don’t rely on sound to sell the ad.
  • Highlight the main features or the user experience.
  • Always test different ad creative.

Cross Promote

Cross-promoting with a relevant product, service, or app, will allow you to siphon a brand new audience that’s most likely interested in your account.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between cross promoting and cross posting. Cross-posting entails posting the same pictures or videos across multiple social networks, cross promotion is more authentic and is unique to the context of the platform (preference of media consumption, audience, actual messaging, etc.).

Best practices

  • Create a compelling call to action.
  • Include your app icon in photos.
  • Cross promote with accounts that have the same amount or more followers than yours.
  • Don’t cross promote with just one account. The more accounts you can partner with, the better.

Create Shareable Content

Shareable content simply means any photo, video, boomerang, or story you post should compel people to tag or DM their friends/family. This is the easiest way to obtain new followers, and increased engagement ーbut it’s also the hardest. Here are a few types of pictures that perform well specifically on Instagram:

  • Infographics
  • Memes
  • Inspirational quotes
  • Photos that ask a question
  • Photos that elicit responses (controversial, emotional, etc.)

It’s also ideal to create content with the Instagram algorithm in mind. Here are the factors that affect it:

  1. Engagement: The more comments, likes, and direct shares your post has ー the better.
  2. TimelinessInstagram favors posts that are recent and relevant in users’ feeds.  
  3. Time spentThe more time a user spends on a post, the more relevant it seems. Meaning, Instagram will surface similar posts higher up on feeds.

Leverage Stories

Instagram Stories is the best way to keep your app top of mind without flooding your followers feeds with too many pictures. It’s also a great way to drive engagement:

  • Instagram Stories have the highest engagement rates of any social platform, with 250 million daily active users using them as of June 2017.
  • 15-25% of users who view a Story with a link will take the extra step of engagement by swiping up.
  • Stories take up the entire screen, making for prime social real estate. Users will be solely focused on your content ー avoiding distractions like social proof.

You should aim to be creative as possible while telling an actual story. Here are a few ideas:

  • Give users a behind the scenes look at your company.
  • Utilize location stickers to place your account in front of local,  potential followers.
  • Feature user-generated content.
  • Have “takeovers” with other brands or influencers to siphon their audience.

Run a User Generated Content Campaign

Sharing user-generated content, or “regramming,” is a powerful way to acknowledge your followers, and it doesn’t require any work on your part.

The social media management platform, Buffer, ran a user-generated content campaign and under six months, the company’s account grew by a mind-blowing 500% (4,250 to 21,000 followers). Of course, results will be different for everyone, but the point being, this tactic works if done right.

How to Start from Scratch

  1. Determine what type of pictures will reflect positively on your brand
  2. Search through relevant hashtags and repost fitting pictures: For example, if your app is an interval timer for workouts, search hashtags like #liftheavy, choose a relevant photo with a lot of engagement and ask the source for permission to repost.
  3. DM and ask the source if he/she would consider taking a photo specifically for your account.
  4. Repeat.

Engage with followers

Responding to comments and liking tagged pictures of your brand may seem unimportant, but in the grand scheme of things, it should be one of your priorities 一 especially if you’re building a following from scratch. This shows your followers that your brand is engaged and is willing to take the time out for their fan base ー something most brands do not do.

When responding, keep in line with your brand’s tone. This is key because most people unfollow brands on social media because they either use slang/jargon, try to be funny when they’re not, or they don’t have any personality at all. Strive to find the balance between staying true to your brand and keeping up with the type of content your audience wants to see.

Best practices

  • Use “we” not “I.”
  • Be personable.
  • Respond quickly.

Take Advantage of Linking Out


Instagram allows accounts one place to link out 一 the profile website link in the bio. Utilize this space to drive visitors to either a landing page or the App Store.

App Store: Consider linking to the app store if you believe the majority of users that will visit your profile will not have your app. The reason being, this experience will direct the user to the app store listing seamlessly.

Landing page: This option is recommended if the majority of users already have your app installed. This will allow users to open the app without navigating through the App Store page.

Learn more about linking from Instagram by reading Branch.io’s “Driving Mobile Growth: Deep Linking From iOS Instagram.”

Conclusion

Instagram should play a key part in your marketing strategy because it is full of opportunities: it can be utilized to keep your app top of mind, you can drive brand awareness and engagement, quality video ads thrive on the platform, and much more.

To complement your Instagram marketing strategy, check out our comprehensive list of 35 app marketing tactics.

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