By James Haslam
App marketers are beginning to look beyond the confines of traditional paid marketing to impact their bottom lines. Thanks to the increasing difficulty of mobile marketing, as well as questions about the ethics and efficacy of paid advertising, marketers are seeking out different channels that can boost their brand image, build a community and increase app downloads.
Content marketing is one way of standing out. When done right, it’s often to great benefit for businesses. Take Intercom, the Live Chat app, which built a "$50MM ARR Empire" on the strength of its content marketing. In another case, Groove HQ gained 1,000 subscribers in 24 hours from a single blog post that was amplified effectively.
However, only a handful of app businesses are making the most of content marketing, and it could be a big opportunity you’re missing out. Here's a list of three of the best examples of content produced by app companies (and some honorable mentions) that will inspire you to put content marketing into action.
Headspace: Health, mindfulness, and blog posts
Everyone’s familiar with Headspace by now — its ads are seen almost everywhere, from 30-second spots on YouTube to impactful match cards on Tinder. However, many also know Headspace from the company blog, The Orange Dot, which publishes posts focused on reinforcing the message of both the brand and the product.
The lesson to take from Headspace is simple: “write what you know.” The Orange Dot augments its product with content, creating articles ranging from simple meditation tips to guides on improving sleep.
The Orange Dot also boasts a distinct Tone of Voice that’s amplified throughout the blog. Watch one of its ads, then follow up with a quick read of any post. Tonally, they’re similar, creating a sense of branding that pervades right through to the app’s onboarding content to put “users in a thoughtful, receptive state of mind.” Consistency, so goes the phrase, is key.
Blinkist: A unique monetization model
Blinkist is only one of a handful of apps that produces content which it both monetizes and distributes for free. Subscribers gain access to what’s called “Blinks,” or bite-size summaries of non-fiction books. However, Blinkist’s distribution of content goes further, with the Blinkist Magazine freely available, along with the podcasts Simplify and Self? Help!
All this content generation is at the heart of Blinkist’s brand building, setting themselves apart from the competition (and into the realm of bigger news publishers) by actively creating great content consistently. As with Headspace, the material is laser-focused on its niche, with titles such as “10 Books That Will Change How You Live Your Life” summarizing titles that exist for further reading on the app — boosting retention and discovery for users.
Blinkist is also knowledgeable of the paid channels which work well for it In a recent post on the MGS blog, Sandra Wu, Digital Marketing Manager of Blinkist, said, “we’ve found success with paid content marketing, an advertising strategy that drives people to a blog rather than the app store.” Though it might seem counterintuitive to some to reallocate budget from pure acquisition activities, it’s the background effects, known as uplift, that creates results. Blinkist gets “2x the CTR, which leads to 50% lower CPCs” by offering content advertisements instead of a direct download.
The lesson to learn from Blinkist? The real secret of content marketing isn’t just in producing great work, but amplifying it effectively.
Smule: Community highlights make great content
For the uninitiated, Smule is a social karaoke app that allows users to perform either solo or to duet with each other, creating unique, shareable content. Unlike our other examples, it’s the users that generate the most content — Smule can then curate the best of it.
This is where Smule’s YouTube channel comes in. Their channel highlights the best performers, which inspires new and old users alike to create content to hopefully receive the same coverage. Also, these highlights encourage discovery of new users to follow, and also to sing along with.
The result is a global music community with over 50 million active users. This proves finding the right channels to highlight your community and encouraging it to grow can be a great way to generate even more content, receive increased engagement and get new customers.
Some other examples of great content marketing come from Fitbit and Evernote.
When it comes to Fitbit, that “write what you know” mantra hits home, as the blog focuses on tons of recommendations for the best ways to fit more exercise into your day, and on dieting tips for all ages. The articles are audience relevant and help boost product retention like Headspace.
As we saw with Blinkist, Fitbit also promotes its content effectively, with a network of influencers both organic and paid to help drive the app’s popularity. Also, by writing about topics of all kinds, the receive links from a variety of different niches, from health blogs to tech magazines.
Evernote pulls off it’s content with style, by setting the blog apart with smart visuals. It’s a reminder that content isn’t all about the words — it’s also essential to make your blog visually appealing.
What’s to learn from our examples?
Be relevant: Whatever category you’re in, stick to it. Keeping your content suitable for your audience is critical, both for audience interest and brand building.
Find the right channels to promote: For some, organic traffic is enough. However, like Blinkist, you may find success in paid amplification. Others still might see the most value in content tied to influencer marketing. It all depends on where your audience is, and how they respond.
Celebrate your users where you can: Some platforms, like Smule, center on community-creatives, so show off your best when you can. This takes the effort out of creation, but also encourages users to stick with your app, and either find or produce more content.
Content marketing is nothing new, but it is a challenge to get right. Be prepared for a lot of experimentation (and many mistakes) on the road to a successful content offering. There’s still tremendous opportunity for motivated marketers —- but, just like paid advertising — one that is sure to become saturated, making the path to success that much harder.
If you’d like to learn more, I’ve recently published my first book — a guide to everything SaaS content marketing. The book will give new marketers the tools to succeed, by providing the steps to plan, write and publish content well while being mindful of the common pitfalls on the way. Download it today.