One of the biggest challenges facing mobile application developers today is obtaining the right exposure to their app, which will result in actual downloads. There are over 600,000 mobile apps alone in the iTunes store alone. Very rarely does a new app make it to the top of a category list to become even visible in a search.
According to a recent study by ABI Research, there were on average 37 app downloads per smartphone user this year, a 6 percent rise from the 35 apps downloaded per user in 2011. However, the same study predicted that mobile app downloads will drop off in the long run due to several factors. These include an older wave of U.S. smartphone consumers, as well as in Asia and parts of Europe, coupled with the premise that the mobile web is going to become more sophisticated and functional overall and make apps less important. Add all these things up and mobile app developers are fighting to get noticed.
So how can a mobile app developer create engagement and gain exposure to be one of the coveted 37 downloads a user makes a year?
The simple answer is social sharing.
An excellent example of social sharing can be found in the digital music service Spotify. Spotify requires Facebook to sign up for the program. Unless the user disengages the feature, Spotify automatically shares the song being played by the listener complete with the Spotify logo and a link to Spotify's app or an invitation to download the app.
Instagram also gets social sharing. Instagram, a free photo-sharing app and social network, gives the app user the option to share a photo in the Instagram feed to Twitter or Facebook. If the photo is shared on Facebook, the photo shows up in the news feed for Facebook with the Instagram logo and a link to the app, as well as the opportunity to download the app. On Twitter, the feed shows a short Instagram URL with a unique link to the photo.
Lastly, a new app on the scene is SongPop. SongPop is a music trivia game that allows a user to play a game against friends to see who can correctly guess a song title the fastest. You can start playing the game through Facebook and it does not provide an opt-out for social sharing when a user signs up through Facebook. When a user guesses a song title correctly on SongPop, the app populates the user's news feed with the correct answer and provides a link to the SongPop app or an invitation to download.
In each of these examples, an app marketed itself through the use of social sharing. Estimated cost in a marketing budget? A whopping zero dollars. Lea Bailes, a mobile marketing strategist and technology attorney says, "Assuming a mobile app provides significant value to the end user and creates an outstanding user experience, social sharing is the way to get noticed."
If a mobile developer wants their app to have a chance of being downloaded and used, integrating social sharing is a must.