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Burst Campaigns for Mobile App Marketing

Ithai Eldan Ithai Eldan | 2.8.21

This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated in August 2021. 

Promoting a mobile app is no easy task, and it’s only getting harder every day. Thousands of apps are submitted to the app stores daily, meaning the competition is constantly growing. You need to take advantage of all possible avenues that can help your app beat the competition. That brings us to one of the most useful techniques in app marketing – the burst campaign. This method of user acquisition has become very popular in the past few years, and with very good reasons.

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How does a Burst Campaign Work?

A burst campaign is a process of aggressive media buying over a very short period of time (24-48 hours) aimed at exposing the app to the largest audience possible. So instead of spending the budget over a few weeks, a burst campaign uses the budget to create a much quicker “burst effect”.

The Burst Campaign Effect

A burst campaign, unlike traditional app install ad campaigns, generates a large quantity of downloads in a short time. This affects not only the size of the user-base, but also the app rank in app store charts. That’s because app downloads is a ranking factor in both app stores’ algorithms, and the more you receive in a shorter time period the more favorably the algorithms will respond.

The app stores also want to encourage app discovery, so they offer app charts that feature top apps in each vertical. It’s super difficult to reach the top charts, but it’s highly coveted because it can lead to game changing organic growth. There are a number of factors at play here, including – quite significantly – the app’s number of installs. Burst campaigns can help with the app downloads and thus top charts feature. In the Google Play Store, traffic that comes from these pages rather than search results is referred to as “explore traffic“. 

Similarly, achieving a prominent spot in the search results will significantly increase organic downloads due to increased visibility, creating a chain reaction of downloads and users.

Utilizing the ad spend in a short time period will lead to a sharp increase in download volume that will then increase the app’s rank. The app’s increased rank will provide it with better positions in the top charts and search results. 

All of this is especially effective if the app is useful, relevant, good quality and updated. But these aren’t the only reasons to launch a burst campaign for your app.

The main advantages of a burst campaign are:

  • Improved exposure in search results
  • Prominent placement in app store charts and search results
  • Low cost-per-installs (CPIs)
  • Sharp increase in organic downloads
  • Massive user-base growth

Burst Campaign Best Practices

When it comes to burst campaigns, it’s wise to know the full ins and outs before you invest a large proportion of your budget to the marketing campaign strategy. 

How can I do a Burst Campaign?

An app marketer will send a social media ad out to your app’s target users. Users who click on the ad are taken to a unique landing page that showcases the app’s main benefits and features, or the app store page itself. You can use mobile measurement partners (MMPs) to help you distribute them via multiple ad networks, and to know which users to send the ads to based off of attribution data. 

 

How Many Downloads do I Need for the Burst Effect to Work?

The number of downloads needed to rank high enough in the app stores to get a surge in organic downloads varies between app stores, platforms, categories and locales. For example, in order to reach the charts in the US, you would need at least 120,000 downloads. However, this volume of paid downloads will yield about 60,000 organic downloads.

When Should I Launch a Burst Campaign?

One of the most important decisions when planning a burst campaign is timing. When is the best time to launch a burst campaign? You might think that the best time for a burst campaign is when the app is launched. This isn’t always true. Newly launched apps often encounter bugs and issues when exposed to a large and varied audience of users, so your burst campaign efforts could be wasted if this happens to you. In addition, having the chance to optimize the app store page for conversion before sending masses of traffic to it can make a huge difference. Check out our app store optimization guide here

For some apps, a burst campaign should be timed with events and seasonal rise in popularity of certain categories. For example, a gift list sharing app would do better if advertised around Christmas in the US and a vacation booking app will be more popular during local holiday seasons and the summer.

When to launch a burst campaign…

  • At app launch: kick things off with a bang by using a burst campaign to bring users to your app when you first launch it. Even if you generate more brand awareness than app installs, that’s a good place to start. 
  • During seasonal and local events: whether that’s the Holiday season in December, the summer vacation, back to school month, etc., burst campaigns can often make a bigger impact when the app is relevant to these time periods. 
  • When your app success is dwindling: pick things back up by sending a large number of paid users to your app quickly, to then increase your rank and bring in a large number of organic users. This cycle is the key to successful app maintenance.

    Don’t Stop at The Burst

    Although burst campaigns are an effective method to market apps in highly competitive categories, it can’t be your only app promotion tool. It’s important to combine a long term user acquisition and retention strategies, along with app store optimization (ASO) efforts as well as a result-oriented media buying plan. And of course – optimize and refine your app and marketing strategy for the highest ROI.

    Use A Variety of Ad Networks

    The likelihood of your ads reaching new and unique users will increase if you vary your burst campaigns across numerous ad networks because their inventories will differ and offer you a wider pool. However, take note: you need an MMP to make sure you don’t get charged more than once for the same install when adopting this varied method. 

    Use Analytics to Your Advantage

    You have access to attribution analytics, so use them. They allow you a glimpse into where your installs come from and how users engage with your app, which is essential information for future burst campaign strategy. You need to understand the profiles of your users to know who to target with your burst campaign. 

    Avoid Ad Fatigue

    When you’re sending ads out at the volume burst campaigns require, there’s always the potential that some people will respond negatively. It’s not fun to see the same ad over and over on your social media feeds, and it can definitely cause ad fatigue.

    To avoid this as best as you can, ensure you’ve got multiple different ad options in your catalog. You can play around with different ways of displaying your ad creatives, e.g. rotating them, adjusting the color ways slightly or mixing up the copy. You should be changing them up often to keep them feeling fresh. 

    FAQs

    What is a burst campaign?

    A burst campaign is a process of aggressive media buying over a very short period of time (24-48 hours) aimed at exposing the app to the largest audience possible.

    How do burst campaigns help?

    There are many advantages of a burst campaign. The main ones are improved exposure in search results, prominent placement in app store charts and search results, low cost-per-installs (CPIs), sharp increase in organic downloads and massive user-base growth.

    When to use a burst campaign?

    This depends on your app type and how new it is. Sometimes, a burst campaign is effective to build a solid user base when your app is first launched. However, newly launched apps often encounter bugs and issues when exposed to a large audience, so you need to be wary. Often, a burst campaign should be timed with seasonal and local events for maximum impact. E.g. a gift related app would do well around Christmas, as would a vacation booking app during local holiday seasons and the summer.

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