You’ve built a heritage app. How do you spread the word?
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.
- Who is your target audience? Your immediate thought might be ‘everyone’, but that’s never the case. Take a look back through any visitor data, be it mailing list sign-ups, visitor book entries, competition entrants or social media followers and work out who they are. It’s likely that your site will appeal to a particular demographic: your task is to understand these people, build a detailed profile and work out how to reach them, so you can talk to them directly. This profiling will determine everything from the channels you use to reach these people, to the tone of voice that will resonate with them the most.
- What is your objective? What does app success look like? Without knowing the answer to this question – without having a solid objective in mind – planning a marketing campaign is impossible. Set yourself a measurable goal: that way you can gauge your return on investment (ROI), or your return on objectives (ROO).
- What else is out there? How are other heritage sites marketing their own apps? Are there any channels that crop up more regularly than others? Are they doing something on the App Store or Google Play that you hadn’t considered? How are they marketing their app on their own website? Take a look at the apps that top their app store categories, and try and find out why they’re so successful.
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:
- Active coverage: Coverage that you (or your PR company) have specifically secured as a result of this particular campaign. This can be subdivided into different tiers depending on whether coverage is national or local, top-tier media or lower.
- Share of voice: The number of conversations about your brand, divided by the number of conversations about your niche. This can also be compared with your pre-PR share of voice, as well as that of your competitors.
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 reach: The total number of people that your social media postings have been seen by – which could be measured on a channel-by-channel and/or a total basis.
- Engagement: The number of people who have interacted with your social media posts. This may be in the form of likes, comments or shares.
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?
Then, of course, you’ll need to distribute the app – either via social media, newsletters or, indeed, through PR.
Metrics to measure:
- View count: The number of times your video has been viewed (although this should be taken with a pinch of salt if your video is in a place where auto-play is possible).
- Play rate: The percentage of visitors to a page where your video is hosted that actually clicked the button to press play.
- Engagement: Different to social media – this is a figure that shows how much of your video each individual watched, and is expressed as a percentage.
- Click-through rate: If your video includes clickable links to the App Store/Play Store where people can download the app, what percentage of the viewers actually clicked through to find out more?
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:
- Traffic source: Where are those visiting your landing page actually coming from? This will show you which of your marketing tactics are working hardest for you, and which are having little impact.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of visitors to your landing page who then click through to download your app.
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:
- Keyword rankings: How is your app faring when it comes to ranking for the most important keywords, and does this change over time?
- Category rankings: Where is your app ranked in its category?
- Conversions: What proportion of visitors to your app store page are actually downloading the app?
- Installs: How many people are installing the app?
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:
- App downloads: If it isn’t too intrusive, you could always include a short, one-question poll on the app’s launch screen to ask users how they heard about the app, giving you an accurate picture of how your on-site marketing has worked.
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.