How Mobile Apps Go Viral: 7 Potent Tips You Can Use Today

Joel Lee 07-04-2016

Mobile app development is all the rage these days, mainly because there are so many success stories of apps that went viral and brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. It seems easy enough, doesn’t it? Deceptively so.


Whether you’re coding the app yourself The Best Languages for Mobile App Development in 2016 The world of mobile app development is still going as strong as ever. If you want to get started, it's not too late! Here are the languages you should think about learning. Read More  or hiring someone else to do it How to Make Your Own Mobile App with the Right Developer Inside everyone of us could well be the idea for the next best-selling mobile application. App developers can be found throughout the Internet. This guide should help you hire the right app developer. Read More , know this: making the app is the easy part, finishing the app is a bit harder, but getting people to use your app is where a lot of businesses fail. After all, if it was easy, we’d all be millionaires.

There’s a lot of luck involved, but the good news is that you can bend luck in your direction by sticking to the tips below. If it seems tough, keep with it — perseverence is essential to success 6 Lessons From Pixar That Will Set You Up For Success The secrets of storytelling tend to reflect the secrets of success in real life. You owe it to yourself to take one minute and consider how Pixar might make you more successful. Read More .

1. Start With a Strong Name

Once you have a working prototype of an app, the very next thing you need is a name that sets the tone for the app and accurately represents what it does. For a while, the trend was to use nonsensical, made-up words that resembled real nouns and verbs, but you can do better than that.

The most important thing is that the name should be unique, easy to recognize, short, and descriptive. Avoid generic terms and avoid sounding too similar to another app. Good examples include Instagram, Dropbox, Evernote, Tinder, Duolingo. Bad examples include Kik, Tango, Badoo, Viber.



Obviously an app with a bad name can still become popular, but a bad name will definitely make it harder to succeed in the early stages.

Ultimately, the reasons why you need a good name are: 1) you want to make it easy to spread by word of mouth, 2) you want it to be eye-catching, and 3) you want the name to stick in people’s minds for a long time. A good name has huge influence over the “stickiness” of an app.

2. Establish a Web Presence

After you app goes public, people are (hopefully) going to be talking about it with friends, family members, and maybe even strangers on the Internet. What do you think these people will do when they hear about this new app of yours?

They’re going to hop over to Google and search for it, and you’re going to want to capture every last ounce of that traffic — which means you need to build and establish a website before the app goes public and people start searching for it.


What makes for a good website? A release date, detailed screenshots, a video or two, a “Features” page, a
“Price” page, and maybe even a “Testimonials” page, depending on what your app does. Also, practice good SEO so that your page becomes the top result for people searching your app’s name.


Not only is a website informative for those who may be interested in what your app can do, but a website also legitimizes you in the eyes of skeptics. The better looking your website is, the more credibility you earn for yourself. It’s unfair, but that’s how it works, so you need to be on top of it.

Don’t be afraid to pay good money for a proper web designer. A bad web design could turn away hundreds or thousands of potential customers, and now those customers aren’t spreading your app by word of mouth, so you lose even more potential money. If you skimp here, you’ll pay for it later.


A social media presence is also important, but only if you can really commit the time and energy to make it work otherwise it will just end up being an ineffective timesink.

3. Build Pre-Launch Hype

Even if you’ve gotten this far and your app is finished, you still can’t consider yourself ready to launch your app because nobody knows about it yet. In fact, if you launched it now, you’d probably see zero downloads on the first day. Dead on arrival.

Ideally, you should set a release date that’s several months into the future and spend that time drumming up awareness and excitement about your app. Pitch your app to relevant forms of media coverage: app news sites, app reviewers, app blogs, and even YouTubers.



Remember to sell the benefits of your app rather than simply describing what it does. Nobody will care that you made yet another note-taking app, but they will care if you made a way to pay friends back with one tap (Venmo) or developed a faster and more convenient way to type (Swype).

Now here’s the key: develop a good landing page and an email list. The landing page should make visitors excited about your app and what it will do for them, then drive them to sign up on your email list so they can get notified as soon as the app goes live.

The email list is absolutely critical! Let’s say you collect 10,000 email addresses. Now when your app launches, you can send out an email to each one of those people and you’ll get thousands of downloads on day one. This initial explosion will snowball into more downloads later as word of mouth spreads.

4. Create a Press Kit

The process of building pre-launch hype can be exhausting, so you should consider creating a press kit that you can send out to reviewers, news writers, YouTubers, etc. More importantly, the press kit should be downloadable on your website so anyone can cover your app without going through you first.


A press kit should include three main things: first, a press release that describes your app; second, full contact information in case somebody wants to get in touch with you; and third, high-quality videos and screencaps that people can use in articles and such.

Not having a press kit won’t be the end of the world. However, the point of all this is to make it as easy as possible for others to provide coverage of your app. The easier to make it, the more coverage you’ll get, and every bit of extra coverage is good for exposure.

5. Polish the User Experience

Every app that ever got popular fulfilled at least one of these two criteria: either it solved a problem that no other app solved OR it felt better to use than every other app that did the same thing it did. Now that the mobile market is saturated with so many apps, your best bet is to pursue the latter.

In other words, you need to polish up the user experience as much as you can. Users will put up with some inconveniences, but different users have different thresholds for how much they’ll endure — and when those thresholds are crossed, those users will quit at best. At worst, they’ll give your app a one-star rating.


What exactly does “polishing” mean? It means listening to feedback, identifying the parts that frustrate users, and improving on them. This could include things like fixing bugs, reducing resource usage, improving interface design, adding missing features, and even changing the app’s appearance.

You goal should be to get a five-star rating out of every user. If you can do that, you can be sure that word of mouth will make your app go viral in no time.

6. Refine the Revenue Model

For some reason, most mobile app users can be quite stingy. Nevermind that mobile devices can cost hundreds of dollars these days! Most of them still won’t fork over $5 (or even $1) for an app that they find useful, and the ones who are willing still won’t pay a cent until you’ve proven that your app is great.

Therefore, your choice of revenue model is crucial. You might feel that your app is worth $10. And you know what? Maybe it is. But think about the amount of apps on your own phone. How many had an upfront price like that? Chances are, most of the apps you use are free to some degree.


The unfortunate truth is that most users aren’t willing to risk paying for an app unless they can try it first, which is why so many apps have shifted to a freemium model of in-app purchases Why You'll Never Stop Seeing Ads & IAPs in Mobile Apps Advertisements and in-app purchases in mobile apps and games can be really annoying. Unfortunately, they won't be going away any time soon. Here's why. Read More . It also helps reduce incentives for mobile piracy Piracy On Android: How Bad Is It Really? Android is notorious for its rampant piracy, so we investigate exactly how bad it is. Read More , which is something to consider as well.

But at the end of the day, if you want to increase downloads and increase the chances of going viral, your app needs to have some kind of free option so that users can at least try it out. Whether you add a paid version with more features is up to you.

7. Provide Incentives to Share

We’ve already talked about how word of mouth is the most powerful marketing force in today’s tightly-interconnected social media landscape. But instead of being passive and hoping that your users tell others about your app, why not be proactive and encourage users to do just that?

In other words, reward people for sharing your app with others. You get more exposure and they get a few extra perks to enjoy. Everyone wins, so there’s no reason not to do this. In fact, one could even argue that you need sharing incentives to go viral these days.


Referral programs are a must if you can. One example of an app that does this is Dropbox, which increases your storage limit for every friend you invite. Another example is Uber, which rewards you with ride credits for every friend who signs up with you as referrer.

Promotions and giveaways are also great ways to get your app out there. Maybe run a limited-time offer where users can upgrade to premium at a discount, or maybe users who log into your app once every day for a week are entered into a drawing for prizes.

The goal is to get people talking about your app. All you have to do is make sure your app is actually likable and worth using so that all of those first-time users are converted into long-term fans.

What Are You Working On?

Again, I want to reiterate that none of this is easy, but every successful entrepreneur has to go through it How To Spark Personal Growth: 5 Tricks Of The Entrepreneur Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, but everyone can learn something from the entrepreneur. By tapping into some of those entrepreneurial traits, you can radically alter your own life in an upward direction. Read More  at one point or another. Hold fast and you’ll soon find your app garnering more attention than ever before.

Still a newbie with nothing but ideas floating through your head? What are you waiting for! Get started with Java and Android app development So, You Want To Develop Android Apps? Here's How To Learn After so many years, one would think that the mobile market is now saturated with every app imaginable to man - but that's not the case. There are plenty of niches that still need to... Read More  or start learning Swift for iOS app development The Best Places to Learn Swift, Apple's Programming Language If you want to learn Swift, now is the time to dive in. The language has a bright future and the faster you learn it, the sooner you'll be able to reap the rewards. Read More . Then complement your learning with these helpful mobile app development blogs Designing A Breakthrough App? 7 Mobile Development Blogs You Should Read The mobile space is so new that trends are constantly shifting and new insights are made every day. If you plan to develop mobile apps, how can you keep up without going mad? Read More .

Got a cool mobile app idea? Are you working on something right now? Share with us below and tell us what kind of marketing tactics you’ve used to boost awareness of your own apps.

Image Credits: mobile app icons by Nata-Lia via Shutterstock, Stacked Mobile Devices via Shutterstock, Mobile Interface Example via Shutterstock

Related topics: App, App Development.

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