7 Steps to Buying Facebook Mobile App Install Ads That Get Downloads

Facebook manage ads tutorial

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Table of Contents

Everyone knows Facebook.

Duh.

…and most people know that Facebook has one of the biggest advertising networks out there.

But how can app publishers like you take advantage of this? 

As the mobile market evolves, one of the obvious next steps is buying traffic from places like Facebook. This means that you can control the number of downloads you get as opposed to simply waiting for the app store to reward your hard ASO work and app quality.

At Bluecloud, we’ve bought traffic a bunch of times both for our apps and for our website. It’s never been crazy amounts, maybe $1,000 a day, but the knowledge gained was pretty awesome.

More importantly, I have helped other companies who were spending up to $80,000/day on Facebook ads.

That’s when I really started to see how this all works.

Many of you have been asking  “How do I buy mobile installs on Facebook?” or “Is this a good idea?” I think it is about time we address both questions more specifically.

First, let's talk about if this is a good idea. Should this be a part of your app marketing strategy?

There are a lot of success stories around, but one that I liked a lot was the story of Hotel Tonight.

Hotel Tonight ad success story

They had a 10X better click-to-install rate than standard mobile banner ads. They were also able to reduce their advertising costs by 30%. 

Uh yeah…Facebook ads for app installations work.

So let's get to work on your Facebook app marketing plan…

[tweet_box design=”default”]This is a definitive guide to setting up and optimizing Facebook Mobile App Install ad campaigns. [/tweet_box]

More importantly (at least in my opinion), I think it’s critical to always be learning new stuff in this business.

The ability to buy traffic is HUGE and will give you a lot of opportunity to make money in the future, even if you do it for other people (as a consultant, etc).

Almost all of this guide is applicable to all types of traffic and products.

The goal here is to give each of you a full overview and answers to some of your biggest Facebook mobile app install ads questions.

Ready to rock?

Yeah you are…

Step 1 – Understanding The Goals of Buying Facebook Mobile App Install Ads

A lot of people think that buying Facebook traffic is all about buying profitable users.

You spend $100 and get 25 users who spend $110.

ROI POSITIVE BABY, LET’S PARTY!

I hate to break it to you, but that’s not going to happen right away.

It’s basically the same odds that you purchase an inexpensive source code and do little work and make $20,000 in the first month. You need to have a solid education and a portfolio to be successful.

I’m not being discouraging – I’m just keeping it real (because most people don’t when they talk about this stuff). Only people who have been doing this for awhile understand how it works.

There are, however, some equally important results that buying installs can provide you…

Data & Business Answers

In a recent podcast interview I did (this is coming out soon) with my traffic homie JP, he talked a lot about this. When he was launching his first multi-million dollar app, they used Facebook not to get users or make money…but to get answers really quickly.

Instead of waiting for organic downloads to drip in, they would blast $5,000 worth of people though their funnels and see what broke. It allowed them to iterate incredibly fast and identify the parts of the games that were holding them back.

Above all else, you’re buying data.

New Users

This is another way to describe the data you’re getting.

You buy installs to get new users.

It’s important to clarify this because users are people – they will leave reviews and send you feedback personally vs just having anonymous data running through Google Analytics or whatever you have running.

Soft Launches in Tier 1 and 2 Countries

Let’s say you just spent a lot of money on your new app. You’ve got a lot of PR buzz and marketing that’s ready to rip when you say “Go.”

Wouldn’t you want to get some intel on how the app was going to perform before doing your big launch (which typically happens in the US store)?

Answer is: yes, you would.

Buying installs allows you to open your app in a country like New Zealand or Canada and buy a bunch of users quickly so that you can see how they use your app.

That is how mega game companies like Supercell do it.

Remember Spooky Pop?

Probably not, because the soft launch didn't work out, so they killed the game. But they used the same soft launch strategy with Boom Beach and it turned out to be a huge success!

So if your soft launch looks good, you update, improve…

…THEN you launch in the USA and get everyone and their sister to tweet about you.

Your app has a much better chance of catching on since you’ve cleared out a lot of the crap that gets people to uninstall.

Qualified Users

The most recent stats I’ve seen put 1.4 Billion people using Facebook (Zuckerberg mic drop). For us users, that means we have SOOO many more funny pet videos to watch.

For the developers working at Facebook, it means they have the biggest data mine ever imagined.

Not only do they know all your browse history the way Google does, but they know all your interests, your connections, your spending habits. They literally know everything about you.

Remember that picture you uploaded with the “cute” caption?

BOOM – You're data.

Armageddon aside, this is a marketer’s dream.

We can now go in and identify people in an incredibly targeted way, well beyond what you might think. This means we can identify the best people to get our app and market directly to them.

As you scale up, you’ll be able to understand who you want in your app but what your BEST users look like – then you turn around and go get more people just like them.

These qualified users suddenly become a very good opportunity to make lots of money for a very long time.

Analytics

Believe it or not, Facebook’s mobile app marketing analytics platform is actually pretty good. I wouldn’t say replace your own custom setup, but if you’re reskinning apps or don’t have the bandwidth to dial in your current solution, it can be a great alternative.

You’ll get in depth metrics that track users all the way down to the In-app purchase level. Not a bad free perk for buying some installs.

Just be sure that you are tracking metrics that matter. Facebook wrote a great blog post about this – Learn more about it here.

Experience

Lastly, you need to try new things if you ever want to be good at it.

Taking action and just doing something with FB Ads is about 1,000x more effective than reading hundreds of blog posts and theorizing.

The more experience you get, the better you’ll get. It really doesn’t matter how many books you read or how good your plan is…pressing the “Start Campaign” button is the only thing that really matters in terms of getting better.

Even $50 will give you an advertising education that you can’t get anywhere else.

Here's a great video that explains what Facebook traffic is all about (these focus on the web, but the ideas are the same for mobile): Moz & Driving Traffic from Facebook

Now that you understand WHY you want to dive into this world, let’s walk through exactly HOW you would do it.

Again, this is not the be-all-end-all, but I will link to resources if you want to do a deep dive.

Step 2 – Setting up your Facebook Ad Account

If you have a Facebook account, you have access to the advertising platform.

Congratulations!

You’re killing it.

Facebook has some documentation on how to set this up which you can find here . If you’re a complete newbie to this, I’d recommend checking that out.

A lot of what you read below will mirror this.

To start, you’ll click over on the Advertising Area. You’ll see a few options on the left hand side which we will discuss a bit later. For now, you just want to make sure you have anything you need ready to go.

Ads manager link

If it’s your first time, they’ll ask you to put in any relevant information and credit card info.

Other than that, you’re done and you'll be dropped into this area (below). Everything else will be done after you setup the other parts of your account. Dope!

Setup conversion tracking

Step 3 – Creating and Installing Your Facebook App

For Facebook to register with your app, it needs to have an SDK installed.

This is just like any other network – Chartboost, Applovin, Admob, etc.

You install their SDK and set up an individual identifier.

In Facebook Ads it’s called a Facebook App.

First, go over to your apps page and click New App. Select the platform from the pop-up that you'll see. For this we'll choose iOS.

Facebook install for mobile - see all apps

Then you'll type in the name of your app and “create new Facebook ID” and select the category.

Create new Facebook ad

Next you'll be prompted with a bunch of instructions that deal with development and integration. If you're not going to code this yourself, just send to your developer.

Note: you want to automatically log app events for In-app purchases on iOS.

Tracking app installs and opens

You will want to copy the “Configure your info.plist” information into a place where you can easily send to your developer.

Configure info.plist for ads

At the bottom of the page, input your Bundle Identifier. This is the name that you use in Xcode like “com.bluecloud.app” or whatever.

If you don't know this, ask your developer to send it to you.

Adding bundle identifier

Once you have everything filled out, you're good to go! Just make sure your dev is in the loop and has everything he or she needs.

You can  tell your developer the following:

Hi XYZ! I hope you’re having a great day! We need to install the Facebook SDK into ABC app.

You can download the latest Facebook SDK for iOS at this link: DOWNLOAD LINK

The app ID to use is: 940829380829083
The app name  is: Kingdom Coins Beach Edition
The URL String is 90802j9028932

Please let me know when this has been installed so I can test in my dashboard.

Thank you so much!!

– Your beloved boss

Feel free to edit that, but you get my point.

The developer needs to:

  • Install the Facebook SDK into your app
  • Copy App ID into plist
  • Copy App Name into plist
  • Copy URL types ID into the plist

Then you should see it firing on your dashboard as active. In a little bit I’ll talk about some advanced integrations, but for now, you’re good to go!

Scroll to the bottom of your page and click the Ads button.

Next step in Facebook Ads dashboard

Step 4 – Creating Your FB Ads for Installs

Finally we get to create the actual ads!

Hooray!

Yahtzee!

Now that you have the app built and working, we’re able to purchase traffic as a CPI (cost per install) as opposed to CPC (cost per click).

THIS IS IMPORTANT: You can buy CPC traffic through Facebook to an app without the FB SDK installed, but you’re essentially “buying blind” because you can’t track on the back side, you have no idea how many installs you’re getting from FB unless you’re doing independent tracking (not recommended).

It's kind of like advertising on TV and knowing you got 100,000 viewers but no tracking vs advertising on Google to 100,000 people and knowing that you got 4,000 conversions from that.

You ALWAYS want to do CPI with this stuff because it will allow you to understand so much more.

More practically, Facebook’s algorithm can understand what’s working in real time and will adjust your ad campaign to get more installs for a lower price.

Before you do anything, you need to make sure your app is approved and ready for business. Go into the My Apps section and submit your app for approval. If there is anything missing they'll tell you what it needs.

Fill out all necessary data, then submit.

For additional reading or troubleshooting, you can read about the app review process.

Submit ads for review

Once you're approved, we can get started.

This shouldn't take very long.

The first step is clicking the “Create an Ad” button in your Facebook dashboard.

Create your first install ad

Next, you'll select “Find potential customers for your business.” -> Installs of your app -> Choose app.

If your app is approved, you should see it there. If it's not, go back to My Apps at the top and find out why.

Find audience for your app
Click continue.

You’ll scroll down and be asked to select your device and demographic information.

This is where you’ll want to read up on other sites about best practices – there are thousands of ways to do this depending on your individual situation.

Ad targeting parameters

For mobile app installs, the demographics information you need to think about is:

  • Platform
  • Operating System (OS)
  • Connection
  • Country
  • Age
  • Gender

Then you'll see the Interests, Behaviors and Connections area.

Refine audience

  • Interests – what people are interested in. If you're promoting your cooking app, finding people that are interested in cooking makes sense.
  • Behaviors – how people behave on Facebook and online. Do they spend a lot? What kind of job do they have?
  • Connections – how closely are the users to your app? Do they have it installed on their phone already?

Tip: don't get too crazy on this quite yet. Make sure you nail down your demographic first, then tackle these.

One thing to remember is that by making these demographic areas really generic, you're going to have a much bigger audience.

The bigger your audience, however, the lower your CTR will probably be.

The more focused and smaller your audience, the better your metrics will be assuming you picked the right factors.

Depending on your budget, bandwidth and general desire, you can do a few of these or a lot. It’s all about testing. Again, refer to some of the courses and resources if you want to learn more.

Then you move down and set your budget.
Set budget for ads

REALLY IMPORTANT: make sure you do not leave it checked to “run forever” – you will wake up to a fat Facebook invoice (guilty). Often it’s best to keep your budget relatively low for the first few days – maybe $15-20 and let the algorithm get used to your app. Don’t worry that you’re only getting a few installs – realize that Facebook needs time to get enough data to be able to deliver you proper installs.

You want to optimize for Mobile App Installs (see the CPI vs CPC logic above) and run ads all the time. As you get more sophisticated, you can change this, but don't worry about it now.

Name your ad set based on what the test you are doing is. Example: Wifi iPhone 5.0+ USA 18-35. For more on what Ad Sets are, check out this article from Facebook.

You’ll be dropped down where you will select an image to use for your ad. The dimensions are 1200px wide by 628px high.

Insert ad image

You may need to create some images for this – options include:

NOTE: Facebook does not allow you to include more than 20% text on your image, so keep that to a minimum. You’ll also notice that you can upload multiple images – this is always a good idea. Facebook will automatically A/B test everything so that you can see what image has the best Click through rate (CTR).

You can test to see if your image has more than 20% text using this tool from Facebook.

You can also see a full guide on how to create compelling Facebook ads here.

As a bonus for reading this far and listening to my crazy brain work, I went ahead and created a PSD that is the correct size.

I also included the App Store Badge  and 5 star shapes as layers in the Photoshop file so that you can easily pop them on top of any graphics you have!

Download the free PSD here

Next you'll fill out the copy.

Create ad copy

You'll need to setup a Facebook Page to link this app to. If you don't already have one for your app, you can do so very quickly by going here.

Then you scroll down and you’ve got to write a Headline, description and call to action button.

My best advice is go through the app store and see what other games are doing for their copy.

Usually it’s something like:

[Unique Aspect of App] + [Type of App]

IMAGE

[Call to Action]

using the button called “Install Now”

Example would be:

NASDAQ’s Premier $0 Fee Bond Trading App
[Image of the stock exchange]
Trade For Free – Install Now!

Then click the green Place Order button at the bottom! Your ads will go into review with FB and usually approved within the hour (max).

You’ll start to see data coming in soon thereafter.

Step 5 – Measure and Improve

WOAHHHH look at all those impressions!

Gettin’ mad eyeballs, yo.

Chances are you’re probably not getting many installs though… and if you are, they’re probably super expensive.

That’s ok! If it was that easy, everyone would do it. Remember – data is good, no matter if it’s what we want to see or not.

There are two areas to improve in your ad campaign:

  1. The ads
  2. The app integration

Improving the ads is really just a lesson in testing.

There’s no secret formula – it’s more about systematically testing different things and picking winners over and over again.

This can be images, ages, interests, whatever.

Keep testing and optimizing ads

The best way to do this is to test one factor at a time.

For example:

  1. Take your best performing image from the original test (measured by CTR) and create 3 ads using that image.
  2. Set up all these ads with all the same information, except one qualifier – lets say age.
  3. That means all information and images are the same, except:
    • Ad 1 = Ages 18-25
    • Ad 2 = Ages 26-35
    • Ad 3 = Ages 35-60
  4. Then see which has the best CTR and Install rate. Rule of thumb is if you’re running a lower budget (less than $50/day) you should focus on CTR. If you’re spending more money, focus on IR. The reason being IR is not significant unless you have enough traffic.

Then you do this again with something else (country?).

Then again (Education level?).

PRO TIP: This is where analytics merge with user acquisition. A lot of people think about analytics in terms of finding out user behavior, but marketers really care about analytics so they know who that user is.

For example – Bluecloud readers tend to be men age 18-35, college or graduate school educated, and interested in employment related topics.

That all comes out of Google Analytics.

Guess who I’m going to put ads in front of if I advertise for a new ebook about starting a new mobile app business and quitting your job?

Review demographic information

You can do this too – as demographic information starts to come in from Facebook users and from your app store users, make sure you look at the demographics in your analytics setup.

It will paint a great picture of who is using your app and give you really good insights into how you should approach this A/B testing (will save you a lot of time and money).

The second piece of the Measure and Improve step is the app itself.

While your product manager side wants to update the app based on user behavior, the user acquisition side of you want to install “Events” that you can track.

In other words, the product guy looks at the analytics and says “People are leaving our app after 45 seconds – we need to include a free bonus at the 40 second mark.”

The user acquisition (Facebook) guy looks at the analytics and says “let’s code in a custom event after level 1 completion and after the first purchase so that we can measure which users we buy complete the parts of the game we want them to…then we can buy more!”

Both are winning strategies.

With the Facebook SDK, you can add in custom events to your code in order to purchase traffic based on that event. If you ONLY want to purchase people who complete your on boarding experience, you can add an event in your code that says “Onboarding Completed” that will fire once a user completes on boarding.

That goes back to Facebook who says “OK that user was not only an install, it’s a highly qualified install” and updates accordingly based on who they were.

Overview of Facebook ad performance

This is an ongoing process as well, but can help merge the product world with the traffic world in an elegant way.

It’s not as complicated as you think – the hardest part is determining what events to track and organizing your work. The best advice I can give is to track events that push people into your engagement loop.

Meaning – what is the one thing your app does that gets people “hooked?” On something like a dating app, it’s finding your first match. On a casino game, it’s getting a big win. It’s what keeps people around. The more you can drive people to do that, the better.

In summary:

  • Systematically optimize your ads to improve CTR and IR
  • Watch the analytics with the new data to improve your product
  • Improve your product’s ad results with better tracking
  • Watch the analytics to gather demographic data to improve your ad targeting

See how this is all connected and cyclical? Everything WANTS to be in sync – your job is to get it in sync.

Maybe while listening to N’Sync?

Let’s hope not.

Step 6 – Optimize and Scale

Step 4 is where most people go insane, especially with mobile installs. The numbers can be REALLY hard sometimes compared to the web because we have to deal with the app store AND the install action.

The equivalent on the web is getting email addresses – which people are still more likely to do.

But, you will see improvement if you keep at it. At the very least, this will force you to really look at your app and make it way better.

When you’re paying for traffic you’re a heck of a lot more likely to focus on the product and the conversion than you are when it’s free traffic.

When it’s free, most people just say “Let’s just get more of it!” instead of thinking about how to convert it. (PS that’s the same advice I give to huge apps with 20+M installs – always audit your traffic irregardless of how easy it seems to come in).

The next step is optimization and scaling. This is where we get into some of the Ninja stuff Facebook has to offer. It’s completely changed the world of social media marketing (and advertising in general) and can do the same for you if done correctly.

Remember how we were doing everything above just to get data? Well, this is when you REALLY need that data. Let’s talk about a few features Facebook offers and then how they can be used to scale correctly.

1. Custom Audiences

Create custom audience for ads
Custom Audiences are predefined groups of Facebook users that you want to target or one reason or another. The full explanation can be found here.

Let’s say you want to advertise your kid’s health app and you have a list of 5,000 parents emails or Facebook IDs who are interested in this topic.

Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to focus on those 5,000 people vs trying to do the whole A/B testing we described earlier? Yes.

Facebook allows us to do this. You can upload this information (email list as a CSV, Facebook IDs, IDFAs which are the identifiers of someone’s app device) straight to Facebook and it will match that information to what it has on it’s database.

So if you upload that email list and 3,000 of those emails match the emails that people use on Facebook – you now have a 3,000 “custom audience” that you can market to.

How awesome is that?

It’s also incredibly powerful. These audiences perform about 3-5x better than straight ad buying in my experience.

But, as you can imagine, they’re way harder to get your hands on.

As I mentioned, your options to create a custom audience include:

  • Email addresses – Upload csv and hope they match (usually 50% or so)
  • Website traffic – Everyone who comes to a site with FB pixels on it is “tagged” and can be merged into a custom audience. Also usually about 50% of total web traffic
  • IDFAs – This is most relevant to you – these are the unique identifiers given to devices by the Facebook SDK when the app is installed. So when Jane installs your Clash of Bees puzzle app, her iPhone is registered with and IDFA of 9032809js098s9dud in Facebook’s database. This is automatically collected via the FB SDK but can also be found in other places if you’re collecting that information (Google Analytics sometimes has this – but check TOS). For more information on IDFAs, you can read this post.
  • Facebook IDs – Same as above – often used when you have a database full of people who login using “Facebook Login” – something like Spotify is a good example. Because you logged into that app using Facebook, they collected your Facebook ID and could turn it into a custom audience if they wanted to. Or if you have a Fan Page and want to export those user ids, etc.

Remember – irregardless of which you choose, these MUST be obtained in a way that is ethical and legal. Just want to be clear about that – you can get smoked if you try otherwise.

Plus that’s just a really lame thing to do.

Once you have your custom audience built and running, you can begin to advertise to that audience.

Let’s say you have a popular website about gardening and you decide to launch a gardening app. You can use your website custom audience to promote your app.

Probably a good idea, yes?

More relevant to a lot of you may be that you have 20 casino apps and each is collecting users. You create a custom audience using ALL of those apps and then use that audience to target your #1 big app.

If you want a super detailed walkthrough of custom audiences, read this post by Jon Loomer.

The only issue with custom audiences is that it’s hard to get them very big unless you have a lot of traffic. That’s why Facebook gives us…

2. Lookalike Audiences

Target lookalike audiences

These are similar to custom audiences in the sense that they are “tailored” to us, but lookalikes allow for much bigger scale.

What happens is that you will upload a set of data (one of the types I listed above) and tell Facebook “go get me more people that look just like these people.” Facebook goes out and will put together a list of 2M-10M users that are statistically close to who you uploaded and allow you to market them.

So let’s say I have 50,000 downloads on my casino app. I don’t have emails or anything, so using a custom audience wouldn’t really help me grow.

I look through my analytics and database and find that I have about 1,500 people that have purchased something in my app.

Those are CLEARLY the best users, right?

I go into Facebook and I upload a list of those 1,500 users. This list can be created if you are tracking those types of events in Facebook or if you are collecting data on a third party and can export the IDFAs of buyers.

I tell Facebook to create a “1%” Lookalike audience which is the smallest number but the most targeted (10% is the least targeted but biggest volume).

Facebook comes back and gives me 2M people that it thinks are as similar to my buyers as possible. I turn around send them my winning ads for the casino game and they convert 2-3x better than the population at large.

With 2M people, as your pool size you’re in business.

Here's a great post on Lookalike Audiences (with walkthrough). With both custom audiences and lookalike audiences, you can learn a LOT more and get super creative with it.

For example, with Facebook’s API you can real time update your custom audience to sync with your database.

If someone is switching from “prospect” to “buyer” on your database, your custom audience can be updated automatically to stop showing that person “prospect” ads and start upselling them the next products.

DriftRock has a product that does something like this – check them out here.

Top grossing apps use this strategy in order to re-engage users, specifically buyers. It’s the concept of whale curation – they’re basically using Facebook ads as a supplement to push notifications and email – show the users relevant content to get them to come back and use the app and spend more. Granted, that’s next level but still pretty awesome.

Once you get these moving, you are on your way to really scaling your mobile marketing advertising like a boss.

3. Other Tactics with Huge Potential

Start Masterminding With Other People Buying Traffic

Seriously, the biggest difference between mobile/apps and the web is the mastermind community. Everyone in the web seems to feel no threat and competition from each other… because they know there is limitless possibility.

On mobile everyone is so close to the chest because they think it’s all about the perfect keyword or strategy.

It's not.

The principles of business apply to this just as much as they do to the web.Find 3-4 people who are buying traffic on Facebook for their apps and show them your account.

  • What’s got the best CTR?
  • What’s worked best for you?

4 people doing all those A/B tests at once is going to find out what works a hell of a lot faster than everyone by themselves.

With 1.4M apps out there – do you really think you’re going to hurt each other’s chances of success more than you’ll help?

Don't give into the poverty mentality that most people have. 

Collaborate, share, dominate.

Fear never triumphs.

Pixel Exchange

Do you know someone who has a ton of apps but doesn’t want to buy Facebook traffic?

Maybe someone who has a lot of apps in the niche you want to buy traffic in?

Fitness is a good example – go to a bunch of fitness apps and ask them if you can put your pixel in their app and pay them $500/mo or whatever based on their volume.

Bam – problem solved.

…and you can use this custom audience for an entirely new app.

You can also do this as an exchange – 5 people all agree to share their pixels with each other and cross promote.

Think about how effective that could be?

Power Editor

This is Facebook’s solution for people running huge traffic and volume through the system. It runs on spreadsheets and allows you to manage/edit hundreds of ads at a time.

This is usually reserved for agencies or big firms, but you can use it yourself.

Power Editor offers more powerful targeting than the traditional interface – specifically keyword targeting (for website URLs) and placement targeting within the app. For more information on Power Editor check out this post.

Create a Database

I did this for Kingdom Slots, but you can make it way, way, way simpler.

The goal of this is collect their Facebook ID or email address in addition to their IDFA.While it may not help your immediate custom audiences, it can open you up to potentially expand to new platforms and sync all the data in a very nice way.

Otherwise you have to do it all in Facebook.

This one is a little more advanced because it gets into how you do internal and retention/engagement marketing based on FB ads, but it’s good to start thinking about.

Maybe next post 🙂

Step 7: Understand the Golden Triangle of Business Marketing

In digital marketing exercises, the golden triangle is always:

  • Traffic
  • Conversion
  • Product

It can be a website, an app, a piece of software, whatever.

You need those three things to have a legit and sustainable business.

Conversion traffic product

Traffic

This is traditionally thought of as app store traffic. ASO reigns supreme, but realize that there is an OCEAN of traffic out there.

Facebook ads are one of 100 traffic sources you could potentially tap into. The most important piece is to realize that the more you can control your traffic source the better off you are. The more you control your traffic period is your ticket to the big show.

What this means is that the best scenario is:

1M users INSIDE your app with a push notification

vs

2nd best scenario: having a winning traffic source (FB)

vs

3rd best: having a winning keyword strategy (no control, but working)

vs

4th best: trying to figure it out.

The purpose of this post is to help you step up to a better situation.

Conversion

This is what’s required to turn that traffic into a user. If you have awful conversion, you’re going to watch a lot of people come to your app and no one download it.

It’s the guy who gets 50,000 clicks to his app store page and only gets 200 installs. If you can’t convert people, you have the equivalent of a leaky bucket.

When you’re auditing your traffic sources, realize how many conversion points you have, especially with Facebook ads.

  • Targeting
  • The ads themselves (headlines, image)
  • iTunes/Google Play store pages (including icon, screenshots, brand, description, video)
  • File size
  • Onboarding experience

…etc etc.

If you’re not getting the right percentage of people from Traffic -> Product, your app is literally missing out on free money.

This is why it’s important to test relentlessly with ads, have awesome analytics and collaborate with people to identify better methods.

Product

The product is the core of everything. What’s interesting is that product people tend to be micro thinking, traffic people tend to be more macro.

This is also why you see so many engineers who build and obsess over incredible products but have no idea how to get it in front of people.

…and why so many people running big traffic usually have crappy products and focus on how to “sell” and “convince” better.

But the truth remains you need both. It’s the feminine/masculine paradox of business – foundation vs growth. More importantly, the product is where all that converted traffic goes.

If you don’t have something that is 100% focused on creating a great experience for the user, you’re toast.

That’s why, even if you want to press the gas as hard as you can on traffic, you need to pay a lot of attention to details and user experience in your app. It may be horribly frustrating to you, but it’s a requirement.

You’ll never reach the traffic levels you want until you have a product that is great enough to handle big traffic levels. It’s only together that you will see the magic happen.

In the meantime, give it a shot.

Seriously.

If you don’t, you’ll never know what’s possible. Facebook ads are one of the new traffic sources, but just start reaching higher with your thinking.

Even if it’s only for $5, just do it.

With any luck I’ll be seeing lots of ads on my Facebook feed in the coming weeks 🙂

If you're interested in learning more about advanced app marketing and Facebook traffic, be sure to join our elite membership portal where you will get hundreds of videos and walkthroughs (all for a $1 trial!).

 

Peace & Champagne,

Carter

How to Make An App
 

COMMENTS

  • Andrew Hubbard April 14, 2015

    Great post Carter! I like how you addressed the fact that most people just starting out shouldn’t expect to create ROI positive campaigns, and highlighted the fact that there are still other reasons to run FB ads. Also agree 100% with you on the point that testing is the key to success here.

    I’ve been super focused on this topic for a while now and my advice to every developer I speak to is to always add the Facebook SDK and set up custom audiences in all apps from day 1. Even if they aren’t planning on running FB ads straight away, it’s worth having the custom audiences populated and ready to rock if they ever do decide to advertise.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 14, 2015

    @Andrew – thanks! Glad you liked it. Yeah managing expectations in buying traffic is paramount. It’s all about progress, not unlike apps. One good quote I heard from Perry Belcher at a conference a few months ago was that with paid traffic “you’re 1 converting funnel away from $10M…that’s why you keep doing it.” Obviously that’s the premium example, but I think the message is on point.

    Absolutely and good advice. Always add the FB SDK even if you’re not thinking about doing this anytime soon. Down the road it could be worth it’s weight in gold.

  • Nick Golden April 14, 2015

    @Carter, terrific practical advice!

    I like to add about lookalike audiences. It’s a golden ticket. Really.

    For example if you’re running a Facebook campaign and track custom events (IAPs, even purchases on your separate website through your app), you can create a lookalike audience after 100-300 conversions and that audience will get you up to 500% return on your ad spend.

    And I’m not exaggerating here. This is from my own experience.

    They really have magical powers with all their data collected 🙂

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 14, 2015

    @Nick – yeah dude, the things I have seen from getting Buyers -> Lookalike audiences are completely crazy. Hearing that you personally did it is even more exciting! Thanks for the comment.

  • Jiri April 14, 2015

    Hi Carter, almost two weeks i am studying how to promote my app via facebook and suddenly I get email from you with this article 😀 Thanks for it !

    But one thing i don’t understand. Why do i need ad account ? I think i can simply create ad for my app without ad account. Or am I wrong ?

    Thanks !

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 14, 2015

    @Jiri – You need an account so that it can track all the statistics, along with the money you spend. It’s also where you create the ad – not sure you can do that without the ad account. Hope that answers your question!

  • Justin Malik Justin Malik April 14, 2015

    Sup Carter!
    Great post… I love the tie-in to IM and funnels–that connection could very well be the future of (many profitable) apps/app portfolios.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 14, 2015

    @Justin – Yeah exactly. I have been talking to a lot of people about this blog post I wrote about creating a backend funnel – the implications with Facebook ads are just ridiculous.

  • Justin Malik Justin+Malik April 14, 2015

    @Carter – For sure. We’ve been thinking about the same thing, and have a (not-for-sale… yet, at least) source code that seems to work with that model, especially building an email list. But as with most things, it takes a good amount of time to get it right so that it’s scalable. We’re still working on that piece, but agreed–FB ads/pixel/lookalike audiences tied in takes it to a whole new level. Exciting stuff.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 14, 2015

    @Justin – that’s awesome. Keep me in the loop on how that progresses. I’m seeing some people in the IM space start to tap into this, a few are starting to make it work. Even the initial results are blowing people’s minds.

  • JAVIER April 14, 2015

    Great article , just what I was looking for, thanks a lot Carter you Rock!!!

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 14, 2015

    @Javier – glad you liked it!

  • Damir April 16, 2015

    Great post!

    Question: can FB ads be used for marketing PAID games?

    Where from does the FB gets the link to the game? (you don’t put the link anywhere).
    Guess it is from the games developer FB page, the “iPhone Store ID” field?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 16, 2015

    @Damir – I believe you can only advertise Paid games via CPC. Not recommended, to be honest. FB gets the link to the game when you setup the Facebook app in the developer center. Thanks for the comment!

  • Manuel April 17, 2015

    Boom! Great post Carter!!!

  • Fred April 17, 2015

    Great article Carter!

    Made some custom audiences but can you explain how to “exchange pixels” (5 people all agree to share their pixels with each other and cross promote. )
    Never had any pixels installed while creating the audiences so am wondering how to do this in practice ?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 17, 2015

    @Manuel – thanks!!

    @Fred – Well, there’s two options really.

    1. You can do an HTTPS post which will share custom audiences between accounts. This requires your FB ad manager to approve so you’ll need to pitch it well (https://developers.facebook.com/docs/marketing-api/custom-audience-website/faq/v2.3)

    2. You get creative on how you’re coding in your app. I’ve seen developers do this successfully where they fire multiple pixels within an app and website.

    Bottom line is that, like anything, if you’re one of the first to do it, there isn’t going to be a clear path…but that’s also why the people that do figure it out get rewarded the most.

  • Sandra Benge April 18, 2015

    Hello, all.. I am looking for an app developer who can write an app for an e-book.

    I can be contacted via email at sandrabenge@hotmail.com

    Or during the daytime at home at 860-238-4225 I also have an answering machine where you can leave a message if I am not home then..

    Serious inquiries.. only please.

    Thank you.

  • Ken Kwok April 18, 2015

    Hi Carter,
    Really Great post & inspiring. I have over 10 casino games on appstore and most of them from you. (Fans) I spent money on facbook and seems like waste of money, a lot of impression but very few download. Then I spent in pay per click campaign in chartboost. Will follow your step by step and share with you later. The the idea of creating a buy traffic group is also great, anyone who want to have a mastermind on buy traffic can pm me at facebook: Ken Kwok.
    Thanks
    Ken Kwok

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 18, 2015

    @Ken – Right on man. Yes give it a shot. It’s definitely not a golden arrow, but there’s a lot you can do with it over the long term and if you have a really solid app. The key is in the analytics.

  • Ivan April 19, 2015

    Hi,

    Facebook mobile ads installs are great. I have had my own campaigns running and cpi is way much lower then on cb or any other network. However you have to know what are you doing and sometimes it’s not easy. I am offering everybody campaign setup for a fixed fee or on a percentage , depense on traffic, that will get you cpi below 0.5$ per installs in countries like France , Italy ,Brasil …ect..or even around or below 1$ per install in USA or UK . You can mail me at honestapps@gmail.com for more details.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 19, 2015

    @Ivan – I’m sure you’re good but $0.50 installs on Facebook is REALLY ambitious, especially when you have no idea who the customer is. Only reason I’m saying this is because I dont want you to make people think that’s the norm. If you want to post some case studies and screenshots of you doing that, I think it would be helpful.

  • Roland April 20, 2015

    Hi Carter,

    Great article. It may be a long answer and possibly another blog post but would it be best to setup parse to collect data to feed Facebook app install info?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas April 20, 2015

    @Roland – Not necessarily. The Parse database is only needed if you want to do marketing stuff – push notifications, email marketing, even direct marketing. You can collect all the FB information you need just by using the SDK and collecting the FB ids automatically whenever someone installs the app.

  • javier May 4, 2015

    so, if someone else is doing this for me, all i have to provide to him is the bundle identifier right ?
    because he is asking me for my apple id and the same for android, is that necessary ?
    or should i be worried about that?

    Javier Cantualla

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas May 4, 2015

    @javier – Apple ID may be necessary to login to your developer account if they need to setup something in iTunes Connect. But for the ads, the bundle ID is what they need to setup the FB app. Make sense?

  • Javier May 4, 2015

    Wow
    Thanks for the super fast answer, Ok yes it makes sense now, thanks a lot for your guidence

  • Mark August 12, 2015

    Hey Carter,

    Fantastic article. This is definitely a definitive guide. Thanks.

    When you say CPI, you reference it as “Cost per Install” but your screenshot above has your budget set using Cost per Impression. From what I was told FB does offer the ability to track installs but they refer to it as CPA (cost per action) and it can only be accessed by programming using the Facebook Ad API.

    Is your campaign set to tracking installs or impressions and if it’s installs, and you set this up in the API, do you have any advice on how do that?

    Thanks again!

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas August 12, 2015

    @Mark – thanks for the feedback. Yes, agreed it is a bit confusing. When you do the setup, you can only set the Impression or Click limits, not install limits. That happens once you get the campaign going AND have the FB SDK loaded into the app on the end as well (so FB can trackback).

    So, to answer your question, it’s kind of both. Does that help?

  • Mark August 12, 2015

    Thanks for the quick reply, Carter. It is very much appreciated. Yes it does help.

  • Jeff October 4, 2015

    Do you need a facebook fan page to create an App Install Ad Campaign?

  • CPCS Theory Test Answers November 22, 2015

    Attractive content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and love your
    blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing for you feeds.

  • Lloyd March 10, 2016

    My team has built an Android app, installed the proper Facebook SDK, and is able to create ad campaigns using CPA, but not CPI. We’ve only been in the app store 2 weeks and have just 120 users. Do we need more “credibility” before Facebook will allow us to use use CPI bidding?

    Thanks for your help (and great write up)

    Lloyd

  • Valentin March 24, 2016

    Hi guys,

    Thanks for interesting post, i am looking to lunch some Facebook ads, but still didn’t understand, for the ads like app install ad with billing_event by APP_INSTALL , when i pay?! for clicks or only for app installs?! facebook SDK integrated, app registered, so i suppose to pay only for installs right?! =)

    regards,

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas March 25, 2016

    @Valentin – yes. You want to purchase for installs. The Facebook pixel will optimize for that event, which will get you the lowest cost. Good luck!

  • Hauptp April 12, 2016

    Hey, great article. Also, wanted to get on the newsletter, but could not yet, will try again later.

    My question is:
    I wanted to pay per install instead of impressions on my bid. I did it with another app successfully, but stuck this time:
    Insufficient Install History: Your account does not have enough install history to start using billing event for mobile app install ads. Please visit https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/ads-api/cost-per-action-ads/ to learn more. (#1815180)

    I made a search on fb or google, haven’t found much…
    Do you know what are the conditions I have to fullfill before swithcing to pay per install instead of pay per impressions?
    Thank you

  • ms October 31, 2016

    Great article man!
    What happens if we are performance marketers and we are promoting apps from CPA Networks or App Developers themselves.. How we utilize FB? And how do we have the pixel do most of the work?

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas October 31, 2016

    @MS – if you don’t have access to the app it’s hard because you can’t track the install or the event. That means you’ll be buying on CPC and measuring on the backside (especially if you’re doing a CPA offer). FB doesn’t love direct affiliate marketing like that either so it’s a slippery slope. Best situation is to get the dev who hires you to grant access to their SDK ID so you can run proper ads. If you’re doing straight arbitrage stuff you’re going to have to use a separate tracking system to back out the installs. Good luck!

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