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How To Build A Successful Marketing Stack In The New App Economy

white iPhone

There are many ways to drive users consistently to your app while delivering exactly what they want in the form of an entertaining and – if you’re lucky – addictive in-app experience. Based on your initial target market along with what you learn about your users, all it takes is a series of steps that are tactical, measurable, and scalable in methodology.

While your business needs must always be tied directly to your implementation plan, there are many things you can do to interact directly with your core user base while simultaneously reaching target market groups.

Here are 5 key steps to get there:

1. Know and Serve Your Audience

Beyond Google Analytics and platform-specific marketing tools, tap into the social media earpiece to speak with and listen to your core user base.

Outside of basic affinity metrics, what are their interests? What do they want, and most importantly what do they care about? Do you attract design nerds, community lovers, foodies, music fans – perhaps a combination of several of these groups?

What daily problems do they face, and how can you help solve them through technology? By learning about your audience, you’ll best be able to draw conclusions about what type of content to create and experiences to deliver and thereby stay one step ahead of the game.

Target markets are the measurable, critical component that ultimately drive app growth. The key is to hook these users early by delivering exactly what they want (or something close to it) while consistently keeping yourself in their digital spheres by leveraging the channels where they hang out the most.

After that, the real fun begins – this is where you can work on bringing the somewhat-to-average app user to ultimate fan status.

2. Deliver, Deliver, Deliver

Related to #1, you should provide users with exactly what they want. Deliver items tied to their interests, and you will open the door to increased usage, upsells, and app growth.

Don’t forget that your #1 marketing channel is word of mouth. This directly contributes to the velocity of the number of downloads acquired and is also a key metric for visibility in the iTunes app store in terms of store ranking and feature placement.

Seed content by hiring top-tier and relevant storytellers to expand your reach on blogs and social media. Create engaging content – and don’t worry about the rules. Create Instagram content just as cool as your friends would create. Reach out to influencers through various platforms (again, where they hang out), and you’ll wind up with a channel that can create significant impact.

3. Embrace the Funnel

Tap into how people are using your app. User behavior is telling, from the newbie to the frequent user. Examine where they drop off and investigate why it happens. If your on-boarding screen is collecting the correct information, you already have basic contact info available. This creating an easy entry point to remarket by offering incentives to return for more, which leads to the following…

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot

Stay true to your product roadmap, but always be available and willing to ask questions. If something isn’t working and you receive the same feedback time and time again, the suggestion may be worth acting upon.

If a feature recommendation comes to the table that actually makes sense, that’s a terrific thing. And it’s free feedback! Let that feedback gently inform your product roadmap, and keep iterating on the product with this information in mind.

5. Utilize Tools with Built-in Engagement Mechanisms

Facebook bought Parse for a reason – they are now directly tied to developers and thus can make the development process of integrating with Facebook simple. Twitter and Google are also in the game of making significant investments in tools that provide easy access to app analytics, built-in promotional tools, and other strategies that provide natural stepping stones into proprietary advertising platforms that drive app downloads, which in turn drives revenue (Facebook earned $1.95 billion in Q3 2014 on mobile ads alone).

While it’s been proven that buying ads on Facebook works well, further evidence shows that content-driven engagement will always be of interest. Combined with the above tactics – examining user behavior, knowing and serving your audience, creating original content, and not being afraid to pivot – you can leverage many tools that lead to the promotion and distribution of a highly successful app.

Secrets And Whispers: The Social Limits Of An Anonymous Internet

Secret - Speak Freely

“If you could kill someone once a year and get away with it, would you?”

This was an anonymous message posted to the app Secret and according to its algorithm, was written by someone I know.

Users were outraged and dismayed at the words, quickly posting comments like  “get help” and “what’s wrong with you?!”

I was somewhat reassured by the decibel level, readjusting my social antennae slightly towards some semblance of moral compass. The reactions served as a reminder that oftentimes in social media, communities tend to police themselves.

It got me thinking. Was the writer serious – or was he or she merely taking advantage of the medium to be controversial?

Will we ever really know what kind of friends we have? And what does that say about us? (Am I that messed up too?!)

Secret and Whisper are mobile apps that allow users to anonymously post thoughts generally 1-sentence in length. The unmoderated submissions  range from from fluffy to business-ish  (e.g. Silicon Valley rants and rumours) to the profound. The delight lies in where these topics intersect –  a technological venn diagram distributing random missives to the masses.

Twenty years ago at the dawn of the popular internet, anonymity was de rigeur. Digital omnivores created arbitrary handles and sent requests for information only when we could confirm, to the best of our naive ability, that the information sent was heavily encrypted on the receiving side.

With each considering keystroke of our credit card we added a fake layer of security, a counteragent framed of deliberation and trust.

Tap, tap. Tap, tap. I. Am. Trusting. This.

In chatrooms and private messages we reduced our identity to the most basic credentials.

30/f. New York City.

We placed a premium on self-disclosure.

In recent years, these allowances turned a significant corner. Not only did we become eager to share our personal information but we did so in a way to showcase our best possible self. This showmanship comes at a price –  there’s no ability to retreat from the real world through anonymous browsing or mutual confession.

Disappearing messages are also of trend.  In this model, content disappears after a preselected duration of seconds. Most evidenced is the wild success of SnapChat, who turned down a $3B (yes, billion) offer from Facebook, deciding instead to retain ownership and go forth on their own.

The messaging service was rendered primarily for serving the needs of a typical lowest common denominator, in this case sexting. While the postings aren’t anonymous, their temporal nature provides a semblance of safety since in theory, the content will no longer exist thirty seconds from now.

Online privacy has always been a hotbed issue, and anonymity with some added ephemerality appear to be good partners  for communicating in today’s closely monitored world.

Perhaps these expedients serve instead as counteragents;  a fallback solution until we discover the real technological lifecycle here.Even if messages allegedly  “disappear” or post without provenance, there’s a precedent-setting case waiting to happen if these postings can in fact be tracked. If a threatening message is shared, will the government intervene? Should they?

Given the level of trust in digital security today, it would be little surprise if these messages were not traceable.

After all, when the message is sent, after the tiny bit of information is posted to a server somewhere, ownership is transferred from the creator to the owner along with social currency of unfair supposition. Context is lost and the message becomes subject to whomever has the largest fists and holds its grip the tightest.

Ultimately, who holds the strings?

Let’s again go back twenty years. Let’s say I took a photo (let’s say, just for fun with one of those sassy disposable cameras). I had it developed at the local drugstore and kept  the album at home. Would the government have the right to search my house?  Would they have the right to search the records from the drugstore without probable cause? And who defines probable cause, if, like my friend who posted on Secret, we’re clearly all a bit nuts?

If secure, tools like Snapchat and Secret enable us to exercise our first amendment rights. We can speak, question, and share freely without running the risk of being held to either substance or context. This goes back to the beginning of the popular internet when it was less about oversharing and more about simply…connecting.

However, this right should be exercised with caution. If  you don’t have anything nice to say…it probably shouldn’t be posted at all.

Data is the new Journal. (2 of 2)

cyber_c

Social sharing sites like Facebook and Google+ are great for countless reasons. The discovery factor is amplified and quick. We have the ability to catch up and communicate with people easily and on-the-go.

Our social networks, paired alongside various algorithms, place everything in somewhat omnidirectional proportion to our personal interests. Some folks watch the stream of information passively while others can’t help but participate. Frequently. Like a habit that’s hard to break. But habits are usually created because there’s some sort of personal payoff involved. What’s in it here?

Do we participate out of boredom? For entertainment? Documentation? Self-declaration? All of the above?

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Guiding Music Discovery In A Non-Linear Way

Kanye West

The future of facilitating music discovery is giving users the ability to find the right blend of content by delivering it within the the right context – and (this is key here) going to where they are.

As an online radio programmer and DJ, I need to consider ways to better the process of music discovery. A  listening experience refers more to the technological aspects of the user interface that includes usability and audio quality. Discovery – how users find music – is a big part of this equation and is the focus of this piece.

So…what the heck is non-linearity?

I constantly think about ways to use digital tools for sharing music with those who friend or follow me. So far, the process is far from linear. Meaning, there is no singular place to go for sharing music with others because music fans are scattered. There are many methods for listening, and countless ways of communicating what it is we’d like to share.

Our habits are also non-linear. We seldom visit the same sites over and over again, let alone in the same order. The way we engage with content creates non-linear paths of engagement and discovery.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Last night, I was reading a blog post and needed to look up an unfamiliar word. When I Googled the word in another tab, the second entry down was a random article from NY Magazine that just happened to include said word. I went to the NY Magazine site and read the entire article. Then, I clicked over to their fashion section and browsed a few posts before heading back to the original blog I was reading.

Depending on how you look at it, this wayward path can be maddening – or just the we operate.

And if we have something to share, the key is going to where fans may happen to go however wayward the process.

Exfm screenshot

Exfm screenshot

Sharing music can be something as simple as posting a cool music video to Facebook with some context around what makes it great. It can be tracking, charting, and sharing plays in Last.fm, or creating a deep playlist on a streaming service that’s left to discovery. It can also be favoriting a track to a social discovery site like blip.fm, like.fm, or ex.fm.

The key here is working all the spokes to go where your users are. It’s no longer acceptable to rely on the one-way method of communication that traditional media provides.

Streaming Music Services

Streaming full catalogs of music is finally becoming accepted by the music industry. A study in traffic research that came out last week reports that the popular television and movie-streaming site Netflix has overtaken illegal file-sharing service BitTorrent. This reveals that the demand for legal, paid-for content is quite high. Copyright-holders need to bless legal streaming services, less they find folks out to pirate their content instead.

This movement seems to be happening whether content providers like it or not.  Amazon launched a cloud locker service in early April, allowing users to store and stream music from any device. Amazon chose to launch the product without permission from the major labels. Google has a similar service coming (it’s currently available as a closed beta version), and Apple is expected to launch one soon.

Many other dedicated services exist that place an emphasis on social sharing and discovery, and their catalogs are expanding in leaps and bounds.

Tracks per Service (May 2011)

  • Slacker: 8 million
  • Rdio: 8.5 million
  • MOG: 11 million
  • iTunes: 13 million
  • Napster: 10 million
  • Rhapsody: 10 million
  • Grooveshark: 6 million
  • Spotify: 13 million

Source: ReadWriteWeb

Spotify screenshot

Spotify screenshot

 

Curating Music Experiences

Spotify is an incredible music service that boasts the largest catalog at 13 million tracks. Perhaps because they’re based in EU, their content is deeper and richer than American-based services who tend to place more of an emphasis on mainstream charts. They’re apparently getting close to agreements with the major labels, with several agreements in place with indie distributors like IODA, Tunecore, and CD Baby.

A big drawback in Spotify is in it’s lack of curation. Rhapsody, while it’s interface leaves much to be desired, does an excellent job of providing recommendations by means of editorial picks and lists to choose from. Spotify has content is in place with discovery primarily generated through user-created playlists, large directories of which can be found both on and off Spotify.

New Music Tuesdays is a weekly playlist featuring – you guessed it – weekly releases newly available to the marketplace.  It’s one of the bits of media I can’t wait to explore each week (another is Friday’s music video playlist from Yewknee).

Oftentimes, I’ll know what kind of mood I’m in but need help in finding music to match it. It would be great if some guidance was in place from a trusted musical source. I’d also love a way to discover playlists within the application by mood, style, obscurity, and other criteria. Slacker Radio does a stellar job of doing just that.I use it all the time for streaming radio at home when I’m going for a specific ambiance.

Rdio screenshot

Rdio screenshot

Other services based in the US, like Rdio, connect directly with brands for providing curated listening experiences.

At the annual NARM Convention in Los Angeles last month, I had the opportunity to chat with Marisol Segal, VP of Business Development at Rdio.  “We’ve been expanding our catalog,” she says. “Our goal is to have close to 10 million songs in the very near future. We’re also filling in the gaps and focusing in on niche genres…like electronic music, as an example.”

Rdio partners with organizations that already have a strong voice in music, or happen to match up exceedingly well there. “We look for the right match, says Segal. “It’s really on a case by case basis.”

For instance, if you’re a helpless Pitchfork devotee (they tend to provide a veritable kaleidoscope of what’s new and cool) you can check out playlists like Pitchfork’s Top 200 songs of the ‘90’s and the Pitchfork Festival 2011. Likewise, if you dig the vibe that the Fader group has to offer, (they offer a fresh b-side approach to indie rock, hip-hop, and dance), you may love seeing what they’re up to in your timeline.

For the brand, it deepens their media scope and furthers brand awareness outside of the primary medium, whether it be a website or print magazine. Most importantly, it entertains and connects with fans on a highly interactive level. This strengthens the relationship from both sides, allowing the brand to learn more about their audience, while the audience aligns their awareness and trust to the brand.

As a music fan, I love experimenting with all the various streaming sites. And like many folks, I consciously choose not to limit myself to just one. It gives me a better understanding of what works – and gets my internal gears going with possibilities and room for improvement. Plus, it’s fun! I’ve learned that each service is different, and they all come with their own respective lists of pros and cons that ultimately drive the industry forward.

Go There – And Give

Using Spotify and Rdio as examples above, the libraries of legitimate discovery sites are growing.

Labels also need to offer up exclusive recordings, or they’ll always struggle with piracy. Music fans are rabid for it all.

The wild wild west nature of the internet gives us access to the remixes, the white labels, the live bootlegs and pre-releases. Sometimes they even come directly from the source. This is huge in the hip-hop community where rappers are constantly releasing fresh material to further their reach. Kanye did it, Lupe does it, and Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group was created from it.

The job of any music organization is to now go to where their audience is, instead of the other way around. If your users are on Twitter and Facebook, make sure that engaging there is a cornerstone of your digital, marketing, and communications strategy. Start collecting bits of digital media to share, and hire a copywriter to make your posts fresh and engaging.

Each campaign should have specific goals in mind that are driven by engagement. From closed loop social deals to realtime social optimization, the possibilities are endless once your top influencers are tapped.

Create playlists in places like Spotify, MOG, Rhapsody, Rdio, and Last.fm. Give away free mixtapes and exclusive offers. When you’re working all the angles in a smart and interesting way, it’s hard to be ignored.

Would you be interested in a run-down of all the various streaming sites? How about ways to further engage your audience? Let me know in the comments section below!

5 Great Film Soundtracks of 2010

Syndicated from Yahoo! Music Blog: As Heard On…

2010 was a year of many noteworthy film soundtracks, ranging from lush scores to clever collaborations to unique choices in music supervision.

Below, a short list of some of the most notable – and inspiring – collections of the year!

1. The Social Network

One of the most unexpected and captivating soundtracks in 2010, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross teamed up to create music that speaks volumes to the electric energy of the film based on the social networking site Facebook.

The original score integrates seamlessly with the pacing and mood of the film, nearly making it an unseen character in itself.

iTunes: The Social Network (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture) – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Starring the quirky and beloved Michael Cera, Scott Pilgrim must battle to the death with seven ex-lovers to win the affection of his latest love interest.

The film features an all-star soundtrack curated by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. Godrich recruited Beck to create music for fictional band Sex Bob-omb, with tunes for rival band Crash and the Boys penned by Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene with Brendan Canning.

Other music featured in the film comes courtesy of rockers Black Lips, Metric, Plumtree, and T-Rex.

See Metric Perform “Black Sheep” live at the 2010 Comic-Con Conference:

iTunes: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [Deluxe Version] – Various Artists

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