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This article was published on October 21, 2015

Top myths mobile startups tell themselves about user acquisition

Top myths mobile startups tell themselves about user acquisition
Matan Talmi
Story by

Matan Talmi

Matan Talmi is CEO at Drippler, which inspires people to make the most of their tech and apps; it is one of the top app discovery players on Matan Talmi is CEO at Drippler, which inspires people to make the most of their tech and apps; it is one of the top app discovery players on Android and iOS, driving millions of referrals a month to app downloads and helping leading app companies grow their user base and acquire high LTV users. Matan is President of the Mobile Growth Fellowship’s Tel-Aviv Chapter.

So you’ve put in all the hard work. The long hours of development, testing, and planning your app’s launch are all behind you. Or maybe you’ve finally received seed funding or possibly just had a really successful Series A round. Congratulations! This is the time to start thinking about ramping up the growth of your startup. For most developers, that means one incredibly important task – user acquisition (UA).

Despite how vitally important UA is, it’s remarkable how many incredibly smart developers leave this step till the very end – if at all. Some startups plan to just release their app into the wild and wait for it to catch fire.

They may have a brilliant PR strategy, but all these efforts on their own aren’t going to do the trick without a well thought out, in-depth strategy for UA that leverages as many of the disparate tools available as a startup can reasonably manage.

It’s precisely because it’s so important and because so many companies are working to crack the UA puzzle that it has become one of the most popular topics of discussion in the startup community. That being said, there is still an incredible amount of misinformation out there about UA.


Over the course of building my own startup, we learned an incredible amount about UA – some of it by chance, some of it by trial and error, and even more by having our strategies work out as we had hoped. So I have summarized many of these misconceptions into the key myths that startups face as they set out on their UA efforts and I’ve provided a key set of recommendations to help other startups tackle the problem.

Myth #1 – Endless ramping up

There is a common misconception that if you buy 10 Downloads for ‘x’ CPI, you can buy 10,000 for the same ‘x’, or even less. We all wish this was the case, but almost always the opposite is true. As you look to scale up your campaigns, the cost will rise but the volume will not go up at the same rate simply because you will start to compete with more people than your original niche.

Myth #2: Burst campaigns are bad marketing

Although these campaigns are comprised of incentivised installs – many of which may be poor quality users – you may nevertheless achieve a minimum of two organic downloads per incentivised user. This is a result of the higher App Store position you can achieve as a result of the burst. The bottom line is that burst campaigns can be good marketing if used correctly.

Myth #3: Facebook “one-ring” of UA

Yes, Facebook is a great source of traffic and we all know (or will soon) about the custom audiences and granular targeting that keeps many of us UA people bidding for space on your News Feed. But with that being said, there are many, many different sources of traffic on the Web, there is no such a thing as ‘one size fits all.’

Facebook Crop

Every product is different and a source that works for one may not work for another, so it is crucial that you thoroughly explore the marketplace. Finally, give yourself some breathing room in case one source starts performing poorly, so you can quickly switch budgets around and still keep your goals on track.

Myth #4 – A high ranking in the app stores is the Holy Grail of UA

Do not overestimate the effect of being ranked #1 in the Books and Reference category, or any category for that matter. Getting to this point will surely get you tens of thousands of free downloads and users, right? The hard truth is that the benefits of being at the top of the niche product categories is almost nonexistent and the Top 30 Apps in the Play Store command the vast majority of the organic “Lift” from being in these positions.

So now that I’ve busted a few of your UA bubbles, I can tell you that there is no need to panic. Yes, UA is harder and more complicated than many developers want to believe. And yes, it can also be expensive. But our experience has shown that a well-balanced strategy that incorporates multiple tools can result in an effective and yet still affordable UA strategy. Here are some recommendations that can help you devise the best path forward. 

Recommendation #1: Be first

Become a user acquisition newshound. Stay in touch with your contacts on Facebook and Twitter to stay so you can be one of the first to test out a beta or be one of the early adopters.

Being able to run App Installs on a platform few people are using is obviously going to be less competitive. However, history is full of examples of the benefits of adopting a new source (Google, Facebook, etc.) before they became mainstream tools for everyone – and increasingly competitive and expensive.


So how can you ensure that you’re the first to know about a new tool, strategy, or technique? Sometimes it’s as simple as setting up a smart set of Google Alerts to keep abreast of the latest news. It’s a straightforward process to add the keywords you need to follow and get timely alerts about the latest news on these topics.

Google alerts is an automated Web based service that monitors that internet for relevant developments, news, and websites based on the subscriber’s settings. Notifications are sent daily to the subscriber’s email.

Recommendation #2: “Know your customer” – by analyzing the data

Planning is key when considering UA and the first step is to develop an understanding of who your customer is.

Integrate with Google Analytics, Mixpanel, Kissmetrics, Facebook Insights and learn about your customers. Consider running A/B tests just to figure out how a segment of your customer base responds to specific parts of your product.

Try and contact your customers and incentivise/encourage them to complete surveys – this is a great way to get real feedback. Here are some more details to help you understand what analytics tool it best for you:

Google analytics is a free web based analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic. They offer such services as data collection, management, reporting and consolidation. Google analytics offers a premium version targeted towards enterprising companies and a mobile version for android and iOS users.


Web analytics company, Mixpanel helps businesses understand consumer behavior through tracking user options rather than web pages visited.

Kissmetrics specializes in digital marketing. They provide timely insights to help marketers make well informed decisions on how to turn turn website visitors into customers.

Facebook Insights helps track user interaction on a Facebook page. All admins of the page have access, and can view and track current users to understand performance.

Recommendation #3 – Test, don’t assume

A/B test everything from the playstore/appstore to your UA ad copy, creative, targeting and sources. Ad Copy and Creative on Facebook won’t necessarily be successful on Twitter, and in turn won’t necessarily be successful on Ad Networks.

Do large changes in your Creative/Text in the beginning and only start narrowing down the iterations (e.g. changing the color of the Call to Action) further down the line. Beyond that, you need to make sure to test a large mix of different channels to find the right mix for your app and your users.

This will of course include the giants like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but you should also look at the more focused players such as IronSource, Motive, and AdAction, each doing slightly different things, here’s how to find the right testing tool:

IronSource is an online software distribution and data analytics company. Using their targeting platform, ironsource is able to more effectively connect designers and manufacturers with various users.

Motive Interactive is a mobile advertising firm that specializes in mobile and online games. They are on of the industry leaders in UA developing market technology to tailor ad campaigns to users needs.

AdAction is a mobile app media company dedicated to UA for app developers. They specialize in performance marketing and media design having a very high user retention rate.

Recommendation #4 – Tracking

Data is key to establishing whether a source you have tested is effective and for understanding your target customers even better. Make sure the tracking works properly and set up your campaigns so that you can easily work out and crosscheck where and what you are running with the results that you see.

There is no shortage of tools available to help you keep track of the effectiveness of your campaign. Some of the leaders in the space are Kochava, Tune, Adjust and AppsFlyer all help developers understand what media is driving installs of their apps, each in its own unique way:


Offering a holistic approach on analytics, Kochava’s platform give mobile advertisers a visualization of real time data on their users acquisition activity. This provides information including the launch and lifetime value.

Tune is an enterprise for mobile marketing. Offering SaaS products, Tune helps marketers manage advertising relationships across both mobile and desktop software.

Adjust is a mobile attribution and analytics company. Their comprehensive Business Intelligence platform provides marketers with advanced rankings, ratings, and reviews.

AppsFlyer is a mobile app tracking and attribution platform integrated with over 1,000 partners. They allow you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing techniques and user acquisitions in real time with a universal SDK.

When you’ve collected all this data consider using an online BI system to manage all the data you will start receiving, such as RJ Metrics, Looker, or Singular, to allow you to properly organize, analyze and optimize, here’s some more info:

RJ Metrics is an analytics platform for online businesses. By consolidating and analyzing data scattered across multiple platforms into a cloud-based data storage, they help their users examine and act on results.

Looker, a relatively new company in the software industry, utilizes BI to make data more accessible to companies and data analysts.

Singular is geared more towards AI and augmented reality. Using analytics and Big Data, they look to create solutions that will augment human intelligence leading to smarter business decision making.

Recommendation #5 – Be creative

It is incredibly important to constantly take a step back from your data tables and excel graphs or lift your head up out of Facebook for a moment and take stock of what you have done and how you could approach it completely differently.

Often an acquisition source will lower in performance over time and you need to be very creative to keep it steady or improve. Think outside the box about what your customers might be interested in or how you could approach them differently and test it out. If you’re having trouble finding inspiration, why not try these 15 ways to hack creativity?


True, the myths about UA abound, but if you follow my recommendations, you’ll be able to see a return on your investment, rather than having your checks return.

Read Next: Don’t get screwed: Focus on customer retention over acquisition

Image credit: Shutterstock

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