Assisted word of mouth: Get users to sell your app

You can spend lots of money and time advertising and promoting your app. Advertising your app through social network sites and Admob and the like is pretty well the most wasteful and ineffective way of spending your money, in my opinion.

Spend your money and efforts in developing an amazing and great-looking app that will naturally attract users to your app. Spend the money on hiring a graphic designer or other efforts that goes directly towards making your app better.

Most users find out about your app from friends

In this post, I will detail another great addition you can add to your app, which will help sell more copies, let’s call it: “Assisted word of mouth.”

While everyone strives to reach top App Store ranks and have their app featured on various lists, only a select number of apps reach the top rankings, and mostly only for a somewhat short period of time. The top ranks and featured lists are a great way of attracting new users, but these spots are mostly occupied by the same apps week after week.

Consider how often you have heard “Check out this app I just got!” or “Can I check out what apps are on your iPhone?”… That’s right, lots and lots of iOS users hear about apps from their friends, a reliable source they can rely on for input about the latest and greatest apps. A lot of users also get a kick out of being one of the first users of an app, or the one to discover a new great app. “Check out this app, I have discovered.”

Let’s assume your app is great, your users simply love it and you could potentially sell a lot more, if only more people knew about it.


I suggest that you include an easy way for your users to to share the app and their experiences with the app via email, SMS, Twitter, Facebook and most importantly through gifting.

I have a feeling lots of App Store customers do not know about the gifting feature. Imagine if you’ve already convinced one person that your app is awesome, they’ll actually purchase your app again and give it to their friend/family. You’ve just saved yourself having to try and get that person’s attention and convince them why they should buy your – their friend and your current user just did!

While this isn’t factual, I actually think users find it much easier spending another $1.99 (or whatever your app costs) to give a great app to a friend, over buying the app without knowing anything about it. Once the user is hooked and love your app and want to share the experience with their friends, they’re more prone to purchase to app again for a friend.

Sharing options

Following in the footsteps of my previous #idevblogaday post, App support: What’s it worth?, I suggest that you place a simple link in your settings view, or perhaps on your main screen if your app is a game, calling it “Share [APP NAME] with a friend” or just “Share App” if you’re using a smaller button.

When tapping the button, bring up a UIActionSheet with your sharing options. In this example, I am not including Facebook, but add it if you want to. Note: Be sure only to display those options available on the device (so no “Email” option if the device doesn’t have an email account setup, and no “Text Message” option if the device does not support text messaging).

Custom, direct-to-App-Store URL

Create a custom (or other) to your app, so it’s easily read and remembered. For example, I created for my app Next TTC.

Make this link directly to the App Store, not your website. You can only assume that a user will share the link with someone they already know have an iOS device, getting them one step closer to a purchase when they don’t have to visit your website, however great it may be. When they open the link on their iOS device or desktop, it will automatically open the App Store (or iTunes preview site if iTunes isn’t installed).

Use the link in all the sharing options even use it for the gifting option, since it allows you to track clicks. Or use in-app analytics, or create several custom URL links for each option if you want to see stats for each.

Use a short and catchy tagline to use in text messages and Twitter, so it fits within a tweet and text. The users can add/erase text if they want. I use the following: “Get instant, location-based TTC streetcar arrival predictions with Next TTC for iPhone”.

For the email sharing option, consider creating a nice template instead of just “Hey check out this app {link}”. Mike Piontek (@robotspacer) from June Cloud uses a beautiful template when sharing deliveries (and it’s also a great way to share a link to his app) in his app Delivery Status. MFMailComposeViewController takes HTML and CSS, so you can get pretty creative.

For Twitter either use have the user select their preferred app, or just link to Twitter (twitter://post?message=TEXT) or another app like Tweetbot (tweetbot://screenname/post/TEXT) or just the Twitter website (

Lastly, the gifting option. As I mentioned earlier, this feature is somewhat unknown to lots iOS users, so if the user selects this option, a brief description in a UIAlertView is probably a good idea.

Once all this is done, you should be all setup and hopefully see some additional sales without a lot of additional effort!

A few points from this post:

  • Traditional marketing and advertising efforts can be expensive and exhaustive
  • Word of mouth is the most effective advertising you can find!
  • Give the user several options/ways to share a link with their friends: Twitter, Text Message, Email, Facebook and App Store Gifting
  • Use a custom URL which links directly to the App Store, so you don’t create an extra step to your website where you potentially loose their interest
  • Consider tracking effectiveness of each option. If gifting is pretty effective, maybe place it in its own option right on your About/Main/Settings screen
  • If you got the time and skill, create a nice email template
  • For the gifting option, briefly explain to the user what will happen and what steps are required to gift your app, since gifting isn’t a widely known feature of the App Store

Hope you enjoyed this post! By the way, I’ll be at WWDC again. If you’ll be there too let me know. Follow me on Twitter (@runmad) and let’s meet up!