When you’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into a mobile app, you want to make sure that it’s getting downloaded and seeing engagement. Fortunately, both Facebook and Instagram Ads can be particularly useful when it comes to increasing mobile app downloads.
We’ve come a long way since games like Tetris were the only “add-ons” that we’d have on our phones. Around 42% of even small businesses have mobile apps, and an additional 30% are planning on creating one soon.
Since mobile apps increase functionality for users while simultaneously giving brands a way to stay in touch with their target audience (including push notifications, of course!), it’s clear that apps are inherently valuable.
Getting users to download your apps, however, can be a little tricky.
This is true whether you’re trying to connect with cold audiences or to get existing customers to download a mobile app. You need to convince them that it’s worth the effort to download the app, taking up valuable space on their phone.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at seven simple strategic steps you can take to increase your mobile app downloads on Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads.
1. Target Existing Customers
While some apps are an entire business (like Candy Crush, which is the entire product the business stands behind), many apps are designed to offer additional services or convenience for customers. Stitch Fix’s mobile app allows users to take a sneak peek at their upcoming fix, for example, and bank apps let you make transfers and deposit checks remotely.
If you’re a business whose app is an extension of your site or your products or services, you should start by targeting existing customers. Use custom audiences to show ads to users who have purchased from you within the past 30-90 days, depending on your customer lifecycle and typical buying periods. (Note that you can change these timeframes more, depending on your business, and they’ll still be effective. If you’re a dealership who just rolled out an app to view a car’s metrics, show the ad to anyone who owns a car with these capabilities).
You can also use your new app to reach out to long-lost customers, seeing if they’re interested. Let’s say that your business offers a financial spending and tracking tool to customers. Past customers may have left for other mobile-friendly tools that would allow them to scan receipts. Reaching out to tell them about your new mobile app may help win a few of them back, and increase overall usage in your product across the board.
If you’re getting used to the new FB Ads interface, know that you’ll need to create a new target audience from the Ads Manager and not “Create an Ad.”
And if your app is something that sets you apart from the competition and that may help you attract cold audiences, great! We’ll look at that in a second.
2. Focus on Lookalike Targeting for Cold Audiences
Lookalike audiences are a safe bet for most campaigns when you’re trying to reach cold audience members, or those who have never heard of you. They allow you to reach users who are demographically similar to specific custom audiences, so we recommend focusing on audiences that are high-value and who use the app regularly.
In order to do this, you’ll want to set up Facebook’s SDK within your mobile app. This works like the standard site tracking pixel, but for apps. It helps you create retargeting campaigns or lookalike audiences by anonymously tracking who is using your app and how. You can see exactly how to do this here.
You can create lookalike audiences off of those who are just engaging with the app regularly, which would indicate that the app is valuable. If you’re trying to reach customers who are most likely to opt for in-app purchases, you can also create a campaign retargeting users who have made in-app purchases in the past.
I use a tracking app, for example, called MileIQ. It lets me track the miles I drive, which I use to track business miles that I can use as a business expense on my taxes. There’s a free version of the app that only tracks 40 drives per month. That was enough for me, because I work mostly online and work from home. My husband, however, upgraded to the professional paid version because he drives a lot more for business purposes as he works in tech. He would be more valuable as a lookalike audience “model” as opposed to me for this particular app.
3. Segment Audiences Based on Mobile Devices
Want to increase mobile app downloads? Do everything you can to make it as convenient for the user as physically possible. This includes using audience segmentation to ensure that you’re showing the right app store landing page to the right users based on the device they’re using.
As an iOS user, I’ve clicked on mobile app ads before only to be taken straight to the Android store. This doesn’t do me any good, and I’ve clicked away every time and never converted. Most users will follow suit; you want to strike while the iron (and interset!) is hot, and if you don’t, they’ll trail off and you’ll likely lose the chance to get the download.
To set up device targeting, you’ll go to “detailed targeting” and then choose “Behaviors.” Find “Digital activities.”
You can then view “all mobile devices by brand,” which will show the right ad to the right users.
4. Show Images & Videos of the App in Use
Your customers may be overwhelmed with apps and a little over trying to find new ones right now. So many businesses have apps, after all, that they really only are interested in downloading the ones that will be valuable to them.
You’ll see the best results with Facebook and Instagram Ads when you focus on demonstrating value both in the copy and the visual components of the ad.
Your images and videos should ideally go beyond just showing a person holding a mobile app; it should show how the app works, highlighting different use cases along with how easy it is for people to use. People want to see the interface and functionality so they know that it can deliver, and the copy should reinforce this.
Let’s look at an example. This first ad for Freshbooks is a video ad that simply shows someone scrolling on their phone, listing benefits like “Track your invoices and record payments all in one place.” It implies that there’s a great mobile app and that it’s convenient, but it never says this, and it definitely won’t encourage mobile downloads.
This ad, on the other hand, does a lot more to convince users that the mobile app (and the service itself) is worthwhile. You get to see a screenshot of what the interface looks like, which puts users at ease while grabbing their interest.
Images showing the interface are great, but try to include videos showing actual use of the app. Split test both to see what works for your audience.
5. Choose the Right CTA Buttons
Choosing the right CTA can be a game-changer for the results of your campaigns. Our own experiments have shown that having any CTA can decrease cost by 2.5x, and choosing a relevant CTA for the ad can increase performance.
When it comes to the best CTA buttons for your mobile app install campaigns, we generally recommend any of the following:
- Learn More
- Sign Up
The “download” and “learn more” CTAs are typically going to be most effective here. If you opt for the “Download” CTa, make sure that you mention there’s a free trial or free basic version of the app (if applicable). The lower the risk and financial investment for customers, the better; most people won’t want to pay just to try a mobile app even if they’re already customers of your business.
Split test the different CTA buttons and see what’s best for you. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on cost, your quality scores, clicks, and actual app installs. One may be slightly more expensive but result in higher-quality leads, so look at big-picture data here before making any changes to your campaign.
6. Keep Instagram & Other Mobile Placements in Play
While many advertisers typically leave their placements on default (you can read more about when you may want to tweak them and why you should here), you definitely don’t want to be removing mobile-first placements when it comes to mobile downloads.
Users are going to be most likely to download the app when the landing page opens up on their phones instead of their desktop. This is how you can get a lot of impulse installs that you might not have gotten otherwise. Keeping mobile placements enabled, therefore is key. This includes Stories, Facebook’s audience network, and of course, Instagram.
Some advertisers have avoided using Instagram because of the perception that they’re drastically more expensive per action than other placement types. This actually isn’t true anymore; while costs go up and down, Instagram’s costs have decreased and fallen closer in line with what you’ll expect from similar placements on Facebook’s feed.
And since most Instagram users are primarily mobile users when it comes to the app, and that ads are showing up exclusively on mobile, and that Instagram users are exceptionally high-engaging and receptive to branded content, you don’t want to miss out on this valuable placement.
7. Promote Referral Programs for Your App
A large number of apps have referral programs. If you have one, consider promoting it through Facebook and Instagram Ads to your existing customers. Bonus points if you can create a custom audience of high-engaging app users, as they’ll likely mention the app (and recommend it!) to their friends.
You can see an example from the AirBnB app here:
Referral programs will typically offer an incentive like $10-50 off, one month free, or in-app credits for both the referrer and the referee. Mention the specific benefits in your ad copy. Have the ad take users right to your referral page on the site. If they’re automatically logged in, they can read the details of the program and then email, text, or share on Facebook a referral message and code.
Keep in mind that referral programs can be a great way to reach new customers and land them quickly. Referral programs typically yield higher-value and longer-retaining customers, making them well worth investing in. Focusing on referring new users to your mobile app can help you increase installs quickly, so promoting this on Facebook and Instagram can generate engagement and installs fast.
Mobile apps can be incredibly valuable to the businesses that create them. You can offer more functionality to your audience while staying more connected with them, both of which can be wildly advantageous.
Following these seven easy steps can help you increase mobile app downloads quickly on both Instagram and Facebook.
And if you’re looking to increase app engagement or in-app purchases, pro tip: Create retargeting campaigns based on the SDK tracking to re-engage recent app users who are most likely to be brought right back into the fold.
What do you think? How do you use Facebook and Instagram ads to increase mobile app downloads? What strategies have worked best for you? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!