How to Advertise an App: Your Guide to Paid Platforms

There are a number of app publishers earning thousands per day.  However, the key to earning well is ensuring your apps are marketed effectively. For this, you need to learn a number of skills, not least how to advertise an app through direct online ads.

Here, though, we’re going to take a detailed look at the main paid advertising platforms, and how you can go about achieving success in them.

how to advertise an app

Good question, and one that’s worth answering before we dig into the nitty-gritty.

Paid advertising means eyeballs on your product

Organic search can be effective, but you’ll need to get into the top 5 search results to REALLY see the benefits.

Paid ads will give you the same amount of visibility as a top 5 Google position on day one, if you’ve got the budget.

Immediate traffic

If you know how to advertise an app through paid traffic, you can get visitors to your app within the first hour.  It’s the closest you’ll get to ‘instant’ exposure.

Consistent traffic

If you want consistent income, you need consistent traffic. Paid ads will guarantee you similar traffic numbers every day, with no risk of slowdown. As long as you can convert the traffic into sales, you’ll make consistent money.

how to advertise an app

Find your target audience

Platforms such as Facebook allow you to get your ads in front of EXACTLY the right audience. Looking for men in the UK, aged 20-25, who love reading Kindle books and lifting weights? Paid ads will allow you to target them.


We love organic search: it’s hard to beat if you’ve got no budget. However, it’s not quite as easy to track and analyse as paid traffic.  When advertising paid, you’ll be able to calculate exactly what your profits are and analyse your results in order to further your results.

So, we’ve established the value of paid search.  Now, let’s dig into the different available paid platforms and what you need to know.

We’ll start with the big daddy of them all: Facebook…

how to advertise an app

We’ve started with FB for two reasons:

  1. Pretty much everyone’s on it
  2. You can laser-target users more effectively than you can on any other platform

With that in mind, here are the five things you should look at when learning how to advertise an app on Facebook.

Get the targeting right

There are three main ways Facebook allows you to target users:

  • Demographics. This feature will allow you to target people according to location, gender, age, education, income, relationship stats, political preference and even by set life events, Needless to say, this allows for a LOT of exploration in finding the right audience.
  • Anyone who uses Facebook knows that – over time – you naturally start letting FB know which activities you enjoy through things like groups, events you attend and so on. FB ads allow you to use this information to target specific audiences.
  • Behaviours. Like interests but even more detailed, you can target people according to things they’ve actually done. You’ll be able to target people who’ve recently gone on holiday, or regularly visit chocolate shops, and so on.

(Sidebar – If you weren’t aware already of how much information Facebook keeps track of, their advertising platform can be quite an eye opener in this sense!)

So, how should you go about making use of this information?

Make sure you’ve got a perfect user in mind.  The chances are you’ll already know which demographic you’re going to be targeting.  You can use FB adverts to find this out, of course – simply test EVERY demographic and see which one’s the most responsive – but it’ll save you money if you’ve got an audience in mind upfront.

Be as specific as you can. The more detailed you can be, the better. Sure, you know that you’re targeting females aged 40-50 who want to lose weight, but do you have an income bracket in mind? Will their relationships make a difference? How much will where they live impact whether they buy?  It’s better to target an audience of 10,000 that you KNOW will buy than an audience of 100,000 where you’re not sure.

Go after audiences interested in your competitors.  If you’re really, really stuck, it’s never a bad idea to go after your competitor’s audience. (And yes, you’ll usually be able to!).

Visuals are more important than you might think. Facebook users have no problem scrolling past anything which doesn’t catch their eye. A LOT of content gets completely ignored. A really good, high quality ad image can grab the attention of users. Remember, the app marketplace is cut-throat and very competitive: a less-than-professional image will get ignored.

how to advertise an app

If you want users, your app’s got to look good

But how can you tell the difference?

Check out your competitors (again). If your competitors are consistently running one particular ad image, that almost certainly means it’s working. Get your designer to create something similar.

Remember it should be bright, eye-catching and – above all – interesting.  Bland or boring = death.

Spend some money.  If you’re going to use stock photography, put your hand in your pocket.  If your image doesn’t look professional or high quality enough to be used on a cover in your local bookshop, it’s not good enough.

Ensure it’s relevant.  And we mean VERY relevant.  If your gaming ad is targeting teenagers, best make sure it’s a teenager in your ad. No kid’s going to buy an app their dad is using!

Make sure your text is top-notch

Facebook ads don’t leave you a lot of space for text, so what is there has to be good.

Once the image has grabbed the user’s attention, your text’s job is to make people click on the ad.

The aim is simply this: to tell users why their life will be better if they use your app.

Two effective ways of getting good click-throughs are:

  • Make sure your ‘buy now’ button actually says something specifically relating to the user. So, if you’re selling an app that helps weight loss, your button should say something like ‘starting dropping the pounds now’.
  • Don’t overhype. It’s fine to show off your product, but if you’ve got exclamation markets everywhere and refer to your product as ‘the greatest app ever!!!!!!’  you WILL put people off, guaranteed.

For a comprehensive guide on the specifics of copywriting – selling through writing – click here.

Make sure your app’s store page is awesome

Once you’ve got the user to head to your store, you need to do everything possible to make sure they don’t just leave immediately.

(Which in the age of internet attention spans isn’t easy).

Ensure you’ve got some good reviews

Ensure that all the images – and your icon – are well-design and as eye-catching as your ad.

Ensure your app description is well-written. Typos will set off anyone’s ‘amateur’ detector.

(Here‘s a great guide to app store optimization in more detail).

Test everything

The most beautiful thing about Facebook’s advertising platform is that it allows you to test pretty much everything.  You can – and should – test as many aspects of the ad as you can.

  • Test different audiences.
  • Test different ad images.
  • Test different advertising text.
  • Test your app’s landing page.

It’s better to spend 10 bucks on ten different ads than it is to spend 50 dollars on one – you’ll learn far more by trying different methods.

(For a full, comprehensive guide on the practicalities of Facebook ad creation, we’d recommend Hubspot).

how to advertise an app

You might be surprised to learn that Instagram’s own marketing platform hasn’t been in operation too long.

Indeed, it was only fully established in 2015.

The image-focused social network now offers an app-specific ads platform which can be very effective.

Here’s our guide to the ‘Gram.

Instagram ads take the form of a normal post – the only difference to users is the ‘sponsored’ text in the top right.  Otherwise, they look identical to the usual content.

You can promote pretty much anything usual paid ads, though here we’re obviously focused on apps.

There are two types of promotional posts: videos and images.

(There is a ‘carousel’ option, but you can’t currently use it to promote apps, so we’ll leave it alone for now).

What are the benefits of Instagram advertising?


One of the main benefits is the variation in Call-To-Action buttons available, which include:

  • Book Now
  • Download
  • Learn More
  • Play Game
  • Sign Up

And a number of others.  The good thing is, you can test them all to see which one works best.

They perform well. Though the programme is still well in its infancy, statistics from Salesforce – no less – reported Instagram ads as getting nearly double the clicks compared to FB ads.

You can use Facebook’s targeting platform IN Instagram. All of Facebook’s laser targeting added to Instagram’s audience.

Audience engagement is superior to Facebook. Though there are less Instagram users, those users engage a lot more.  The average post reaction rate on Instagram is 4.8: compared to Twitter’s 0.25 and Facebook’s 0.72.

Focused user attention. Unlike other advertising platforms, IG ads are indistinguishable from organic ads, and will appear in the same scrolling timeline.  You can’t skip over them in the same way you can Adwords or FB’s ‘sidebar’ ads.

OK, I’m sold. How do I get results through Instagram adverts?

We thought you’d never ask.

Be visual.  You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Instagram ads are ALL about the main image.  You don’t want your picture to look like an ad, but you do want it to look awesome. Enlist the services of a pro designer.

Quality is key.  If you’re just using a stock photo – and there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s the right photo – then use a good one. Instagram’s captive audience is young, and they WILL notice a rubbish image.

Research your market. Though Instagram’s audience might be less diverse than others, there will still be differences in the posts your markets react to. Take the time to follow the most successful accounts, and take note of the styles, colours and the types of image they use.  There’s no shame in copying what works!

Make sure you really engage with users.  There’s nothing worse than a business that doesn’t engage with customers – and we mean engage as real people, not as a ‘business’ run by robots.  If you go for the old ‘professional but friendly’ voice on Instagram, you can expect to be ignored or – worse – openly laughed at.  You WILL look like the old guys trying to be down with the kids.

Be consistent. Once you’ve chosen the style for your ad campaigns, stick to them. Colour schemes, tone of voice, personality….once someone’s followed you, they’ll expect to see similar content.

For a comprehensive guide on creating Instagram ads through Facebook, head here.

how to advertise an app

Though we’ve mentioned in a previous guide our views on AdWords – that, for now, Facebook and Instagram offer superior targeting – many users do still consider Google’s platform worth exploration.

You must set your tracking up first. 

You’ll need to have your tracking in place before you start running your ad campaigns – and, annoyingly, the process differs depending on whether you’re selling on Android or Apple.

(Click on those two links to get Google’s own technical guides – it’s usually worth having a developer do the integration for you).

Without having your tracking in place, you won’t be able to calculate your ROI or use Google’s own ‘conversion optimizer’ feature, which is useful in itself.

Get your first campaign going

You can advertise on both Google’s display and search networks, and both types of traffic can work well.

  • The search network targets keywords related to your app
  • The display network focuses on advertising within other apps.

If you want sheer volume of clicks, the display network is usually more effective, simply because there are thousands of other apps AND the users that see the ads are all – obviously – app fans themselves.

Both networks enable you to specifically target app installs by selecting the ‘Mobile app installs’ button when creating your campaign.

(There are other specific details in place, too: you can target only specific mobiles, or devices currently on WI-FI networks).

Once you’ve chosen your options, you can choose to bid on either installs or clicks and set your daily budget, before choosing which countries you’re going to take a look at.

Then, all that’s left to do is choose one of the four options for displaying your ads and to create your image and ad copy.

Of all the main channels, Adwords is actually the simplest to use.  (This makes it a good option for beginners).   However, there are still best practises you should adhere to, which you can read here.

paid advertising on twitter

Twitter is the last network we’re going to take a look at.   The folks at Twitter have set up a great step-by-step guide on how to get your ad launched here, so we’re going to focus on how to improve your results once you’re up and running.

All of these tips come right from Twitter themselves, so you can be sure they’ll help you improve conversions and bring down your CPC.

How to create text that grabs the attention

Twitter is one of the more text heavy ad platforms, and relies more on the right words than Instagram or Facebook.  Here are a few key things to bear in mind:

  • If you’ve got a discount in place, make sure you promote it, and always be very clear what your pricing is. Audiences don’t enjoy the bait and switch when it comes to costs.
  • If you’ve got positive reviews in the press, promote them. High user ratings can also help.
  • Don’t overhype. Too many exclamation points is bad news, as is USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS LIKE THIS.
  • Urgency is fine though. There’s nothing wrong with using ‘now’, ‘quick’, ‘limited time’, ‘running out’ and so-forth. Indeed, these have been proven to increase sales on the platform.
  • Be real. This goes for almost every social network: be for real, and address customers as real people.

What to experiment with

Because of Twitter’s copy limits, you’ll need to experiment to find the perfect combination.  Try the following:

  • Different styles and numbers – ‘%’ v ‘per cent’, ‘$10 off’ v ‘save $10’ and so forth.
  • Different kinds of reviews. Which will appeal to your audience: four stars from a national website, or five stars from real users? Is ten four star reviews more valuable than one five star?
  • Different ads for different demographics. It might be that one image sells incredibly well to a particular demographic, but doesn’t translate to another. Whenever you get success with one demographic or one style of ad, dig deeper.
  • Different images. A good, engaging image is a key part of advertising on Twitter.  BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with others.  It may be you can improve on what you’ve already got.  (And remember, good screenshots never fail).

how to advertise an app

Remember, at Iconic Solutions we have years of experience in marketing apps.  We can take care of all the heavy lifting when it comes to app advertisements, leaving you to relax and enjoy the benefits of a successful launch.

Be sure to check out our other substantial guide to marketing apps here.

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