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User acquisition is the primary goal of app marketers, although retention is certainly a challenge that also needs to be overcome. So how are app developers and marketers going about encouraging downloads? The 2018 App Marketing Survey from The Manifest finds that social media is the marketing channel that is relied on the most.

The survey – conducted among 301 people involved in app development and marketing – discovered that 34% share of respondents use social media as their primary mobile app marketing channel. That was almost double the share who cited the next-most popular channels, app store optimization (19%) and SEO (18%).

The reliance on social media makes sense given past research indicating that word-of-mouth is a key driver of smartphone app discovery and a leading reason why users download apps.

At the same time, though, research has also suggested that more people first see the apps they install in an app store than in social media. And given the high cost of user acquisition, a feature in an app store can be tremendously important, as it can boost downloads by more than 2000%.

Among the respondents to The Manifest survey who value app store optimization the most, ratings and reviews are considered the most valued factor, ahead of title, icon and keywords.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the respondents said that they pay for social media and search ads for their mobile app. Research has shown in the past that top app publishers spend the most of their app install budgets on video ads, while playable ads are the format they’re most excited about.

In other results from The Manifest survey:

  • Daily active users is considered the most important metric for tracking app success by one-third (34%) of respondents, twice the share who pointed to downloads (17%) as their main metric; and
  • Among those that prioritize retention rate, a plurality (38%) feel that a successful rate is in the 26-50% range, in line with industry estimates of app user retention.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 301 app developers and marketers from businesses across the US. Close to 3 in 4 (73%) respondents lead their company’s app development and marketing while 27% of respondents play an active role in the app’s development and marketing. More than one-third (36%) of the companies surveyed have more than 500 employees; 37% of businesses surveyed have less than 200 employees.

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