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I caught up with Lorraine Starr from Yippee! Entertainment, creators of the hugely popular Windows 8, Windows Phone and iOS game Chimpact, and got her to share some secrets on how they marketed the app.
“We didn’t get support initially from Apple when we launched Chimpact (although they have since featured us), so like most other app developers we had to do our own PR and Marketing. Most apps don’t get picked up by the app platforms and have to do what they can to get their apps in front of customers. There are three key key elements to marketing that we’ve found really successful. 1. Social Media The key thing we did was build links into the app itself encouraging users to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.
We brought the main character in the game, Chuck the Chimp to life by giving him his own Facebook page and Twitter account.
The key thing is not to bore your audience with endless posts, people will drop out if what you’re saying just fills up their news feed. Only post interesting/news worthy content that resonates with users of your app. We ran a competition to design a Chimp that was promoted on Facebook, offering one person in the UK and one in the US a chance to design a member of Chuck’s Chimpact family and have their design turned into a character in the Windows 8 & Windows Phone 8 versions of the game. The UK winner got the chance to go to our studio in Manchester and see their creation turned into a video game character. You can also connect your Windows Store app to an online identity provider that uses internet authentication and authorization protocols like OpenID or OAuth– so you can get access to Facebook’s open graph API in Windows 8, allowing users to sign into your app using their Facebook credentials.
Social media also gives people a way of asking you for help if they get stuck or give you feedback. We get fantastic comments and feedback just because we’re approachable and users can come and talk to the team. The best way to manage social media is to track the conversations around your app constantly, I do a daily search for ‘Chimpact’ and hijack people’s conversations to engage them and join in the conversation. It’s hard work but necessary.
PR has been the most valuable thing but not easy to do, usually its about who you know and the connections you can make. For example, we serendipitously got some great publicity from the Celtic supporters who happened to mention Chimpact. I jumped on the conversation as Chuck and Chuck ended up engaging the Celtric team mascot, “Hoopy The Hound Dug” and had a picture tweeted round of the two “furry friends”. We even put a Celtic scarf on Chuck which really resonated with the supporters.
We also saw a direct boost from links we had already with a premiership footballer who tweeted about Chimpact for us just from the fact we had a personal link with him. Whoever you know, make sure you let them know about the app you’ve created and pull in some favours! The value of celebrity involvement or endorsement is amazing. The effects are short-lived, they only last for a day or so – as long as the Tweet is in their stream – but they’re very impactful. If you can afford to hire a PR agency then do it, it’s so important to target the wider market. We were lucky enough to get support from Microsoft and saw excellent results from an article in The Sun and publicity from Jonathan Ross, but usually you have to invest in that PR coverage unless you’re well connected!
In the early days I managed to get us a mention in The Times – the journalist Stuart Dredge used to run an iOS news magazine so I knew him from there. He picked up on Chimpact and he put a piece in The Times. It’s important to get your app some coverage in the general mainstream press as well as your local newspaper/s, both online and offline.
Look at who you know and what networks they have that you can hook into. For example, we have the advantage of being based in Media City so they've supported us by promoting Chimpact via their social media and The Brand Detective also gave us a feature through links we had with them. It’s important to look at cross partnerships - who do you work near or is in your extended community that might be interested in your app? People are much more willing to collaborate and help each other than they used to be. If you’re not cash rich then hook up with other devs to do some joint marketing and PR to cut costs. Tell everyone you know - friends, colleagues, family and people you know who work at the platforms you’re working with. Before we started working with Microsoft we saw them as a big, faceless corporation. We've been bowled over by everyone at Microsoft we've dealt with, they’re very down to earth and willing to help which was a huge revelation. No-one else does that. It's really important for the developer community.