Arts & Culture Digital Insights

You’ve built a heritage app. How do you spread the word?

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Hand holding a phone showing the Apple App Store

In the first quarter of 2019, the Apple App Store featured 2.1 million different apps, while Android users could choose from 1.8 million apps to download from Google’s Play Store.

While both companies have worked hard in recent years to remove poor quality apps from their stores, that’s still an awful lot of apps vying for attention.

You may have the best museum or heritage app in the world, but if your target audience doesn’t know it exists, then there’s little chance they’ll find, download and use it. Marketing is a crucial next step once you’ve built and tested your app. Great marketing is how the TikToks, the Tinders and the Twitches of this world get so popular.

Your niche may be somewhat smaller, but here’s how to get the word out successfully.

The devil is in the detail

Before you even begin to spread the word about your museum or heritage site app, it’s vital to have a strategy in place. And that means plenty of research to answer these three key questions.



Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to explore which marketing tactics best suit your needs.

Museum and heritage app marketing tactics

App marketing theory is quite simple really. Make a big noise in the right place to gain people’s attention, then once you’ve got their attention, get them to visit your site and download the app. Easy to say – but not quite so simple in practice. We’ve already highlighted the vast competition for people’s attention on app stores; that competition is magnified a hundred fold in the real world.

There are, however, some tried and tested marketing tactics to get your app seen and downloaded by the people that matter. Let’s have a look at each, and highlight how you measure success.


The perceived wisdom is that no-one watches telly, listens to the radio or buys newspapers any more. In actuality, those three ‘old-fashioned’ techniques, are, according to research team Ebiquity, the most effective of all media when it comes to marketing. The team used secondary data from fifty different sources and more than 75 published reports from 2010 onwards to build a picture of how each channel performs against the others.

How do you get seen on those channels? PR.

Offer media previews of your app so journalists can play with it before the general public – and consider hosting press days on-site, designed to let the media interact with the app in the right environment. Of course, don’t ignore digital media entirely – bloggers and social media influencers can share teasers with their readers/viewers to help you create a buzz before the official launch. Who you work with depends on your intended audience.

Whether you opt for preview downloads or a bells-and-whistles event to herald your new creation will, of course, depend on your budget and lead time. But done in the right way, PR can get your name in front of the right people, at the right time, with the right story.

Metrics to measure:




Social media

Unless you already have thousands of active, engaged advocates of your heritage site on social media, simply posting about the app and expecting download numbers to soar is unlikely to get you the results you want.

Instead, focus on paid social content, which will have far more of an impact. First, though, consider your audience: which social channels they use, which types of post resonate best with them, what you can do to encourage them to interact with or share your posts.

Metrics to measure:





Social media thrives on content. And while articles in newspapers are hugely effective in raising awareness, social media tends to favour things a little more visual.

First off, you’ll need to decide what your video will look like. Will it be interviews with app creators, footage of the app in use, coverage of your site itself and happy people enjoying their time there? What will appeal most to your target audience, and get your message across in the right way?

While articles in newspapers are hugely effective in raising awareness, social media tends to favour things a little more visual - like video

Then, of course, you’ll need to distribute the app – either via social media, newsletters or, indeed, through PR.

Metrics to measure:




Landing pages

Every element of your digital marketing activity should have a call to action: a button to click, a page to visit, an opportunity for them to find out more about the app and the experience.

If you have a vast budget, a standalone website is just the ticket. Failing that, a detailed landing page is the next best thing.

It’s vital that this landing page is designed to look clean, simple and organised, staying on-brand and providing users with just the essential information they need to make a decision as to whether to download. The page, like your website has to be mobile-friendly, too. Landing pages can contain whatever information you like, but their job is to get people downloading the app.

Metrics to measure:




App store optimisation

How do you make your app appear higher in app store search results and top charts? App store optimisation.

You can do this through advertising, but a recent Spillmetrics report showed that Apple Search Ads cost an average of $0.84 per tap (not even per download). Ouch.

Better to make keywords your focus. There are tools out there to determine which keywords are best for your app store optimisation – but be sure to choose only those that are hyper relevant.

Use relevant keywords in your app name, in the app subtitle or description fields, and in the keyword field on Apple’s App Store. Choose screenshots that will appeal to your target audience, and create an app logo that’s attractive, and you’ll be off to a great start. After the app is launched, encourage user ratings and reviews: A higher rating means a higher ranking and more downloads. But don’t beg for them, there are better ways of going about it.

Metrics to measure:




On-site marketing

Both digital marketing and offline PR can bring fantastic results, but don’t forget about the biggest resource you have in your armoury: your heritage site itself. Admissions staff could talk about the app and hand out flyers while checking and selling tickets. Or, as is the case with the Battersea Power Station heritage trail app and the Serpentine Galleries, among others, why not make use of physical notice boards and other signage to promote the app in situ?

After all, the people who are at your site right here, right now, are in a prime position to be downloading and using your new app – they just need to be aware that it exists.

Metrics to measure:


Measuring your results

That’s a lot of tactics to explore to get the word out – and a lot of metrics that’ll need to be measured. And it’s vital that you do measure. Marketing costs money so you need to be sure the investment is worth it. And you can’t do that unless you measure results. Data also helps you test, measure and adjust your tactics to ensure optimal performance.

Constant monitoring will show you what’s working and if there’s any seasonality to your approaches, allowing you to tweak and tailor as time goes on. For this reason, it makes sense to create a dashboard to measure every element of your activity in a single place, keeping it nice and easy to manage.

Of course, building analytical capabilities into the app itself will help, too. While it’s important to track download numbers, it’s also handy to see how many times the app is used each day, how many active users you have, the time spent on the app, and which elements of the app are the most popular. This will help you to build up your understanding of how the app is used, giving you insight for future marketing campaigns as well as for future app updates.

App creation isn’t over when the final version is live: it’s an ongoing process that will need tweaking and refining – as well as great marketing – to bring you success. What does that marketing and success look like? That’s entirely down to you, your strategy and your preferred approach…

An app is a great way to help people to truly connect with your heritage site, using digital placemaking to augment a place’s offerings. Find out more with our guide to digital placemaking.