A Guide to App Install Advertising on Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter

App install ads have become a highly competitive and lucrative market, and before we look at the main players let’s take a look why they work and why developers are keen to invest in this form of mobile marketing.

Before the big three platforms – Facebook, Twitter and Google – took a large slice of the pie, developers had to rely on a bunch  of independent ad networks to promote their cherished apps. The absolute advantage these three big boys hold to persuade developers to advertise on their platforms is the powerful personal data they possess on their users.

App install ads work because apps are easy to buy with most iOS and Android users already having their credit card connected to their operating system’s app store. Developers are happy to throw money at these ads if in return they get qualified traffic that will download their app from sources outside app stores, such as social media.

For advertisers it’s all about ROI (return on investment) and installs are easy to track. By using sophisticated software development kits (SDKs) and mobile tracking partners, such as Tune, Facebook, Twitter, and Google are able to clearly measure when an app install ad leads directly to an actual install.

“As long as these installs produce users with lifetime values higher than the ad price, they’re ROI positive and developers will keep buying them,” says Josh Constine of Techcrunch.

So, let’s take a look at the main players offering mobile install ads.


Facebook App Install Ads

Facebook’s News Feed is regularly seen by almost 950 million users on their mobile device

Source: Facebook

Source: Facebook

“The Facebook mobile News Feed is a constant presence in the day-to-day lives of 945 million people, and therefore prime advertising inventory for mobile-first companies,” says Jesse Pujji, CEO and co-founder of Ampush.

Since the social media giant launched its Suggested App Ad Format in 2013, more than  half of the top grossing apps on the App and Play Store use Facebook App Install ads.

If you’re new to developing on Facebook, there is a quick and easy way to get your mobile app ad for installs up and running by copying and pasting your app’s Google Play or Apple App Store URL into the FB Ads Create Tool, and by linking your ad to a Facebook Page. It’s a fully-integrated service that reveals the name of the app, a short description and image of the app, category and an all-important ‘INSTALL NOW’ button that will open the app’s page in Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

 A video tutorial on how to setup Facebook App Install Ads

“That low cost, and the quality of users Facebook’s App Install Ads deliver is crucial because buying installs only makes sense if you earn more on each user you acquire them it cost to rope them in. Facebook’s wealth of targeting data means it can show the ads to people who’ll actually want them and have the device the apps are designed for, so people actually become users with high lifetime value,” says Techcrunch’s Josh Constine.

The latest addition to Facebook’s App Install Ads is the carousel format, available through its ads API and allowing mobile app developers access to the same ad format for post engagement ads. Supporting up to five images with links, the carousel format is interactive, attention-grabbing and helpful for both direct response and brand awareness marketing, and will definitely capture audience attention. On the desktop version some advertisers are claiming as much as 75 to 180 percent higher click-throughs with a carousel.

An example of Facebook’s new carousel format for mobile apps


Source: Facebook

“I’ve spent the last two years working with top app developers to promote and grow their apps, and can say I’ve seen Facebook Mobile App Ads (previously known as Mobile App Install ads) evolve into one of the most effective marketing channels for app developers and marketers,” says Pujji

Why are Facebook App Install Ads so effective? According to Pujji it’s their ability to achieve three key objectives:

  1. Increased installs
  2. Greater engagement
  3. Higher retention rates

Each of these objectives on their own are like the Holy Grail for mobile marketers, but the collective triumvirate delivered by Facebook Ad Installs means “that app developers also achieve a much larger goal – a higher ranking in the app store, the number one place consumers discover apps,” says Pujji.

Why choose Facebook?
Mobile Users (% of total users): 1.2 Billion (82%)
Perfect for: Short campaigns targeted to specific user personas


Twitter App Install Cards

Brands are able to target their ads on a user’s feed by using Twitter’s own data

Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

Just like Facebook, Twitter’s ad ecosystem presented marketers with a brand new terrain when the micro-blogging platform launched its Twitter App Install Cards last year. Taking advantage of its existing card system, Twitter App Install Cards function the same way as Facebook App Install Ads and can be targeted to specific demographics as well as ‘Lookalike Audiences’ of highest value users, along with tailored audiences for advanced acquisition campaigns.

Brands are able to target their ads based on Twitter’s own data – both traditional; such as gender, geographic, language and more specific information including; keyword, interest, and TV targeting.

The integration when an App Install Card is enabled allows the ad to automatically port the app’s name, ratings, price and icon, along with a short description from the App Store or Google Play. Users are able to open the app directly from their Twitter feed, where a notification pops up inside the platform once the app has installed.

The call-to-action only displays in Twitter for iPhone, iPad, and Android apps, and only when the user does not already have your app installed.

So how do Twitter cards for developers work?

One of the most important features is the ability to let users to download your app (if the user doesn’t already have it installed), or deep-link into your own app (if the app is already installed on the user’s mobile device). Developers can enable app installs and deep-linking on any kind of Twitter Card by using sets of markup tags, provided on Twitter’s Developers’ page.

The tags specify the download redirect for users who have not yet installed your app on their device. This will work across iPhone, iPad, and Android (Google Play).

An example of what the prompt will look like if the user does not have the app installed

An example of what the prompt will look like if the user does not have the app installed. Source: Twitter

Source: Twitter

At the time of writing, there is evidence that Twitter is also experimenting with a carousel-style app install ad unit that displays in timelines on iOS and Android devices, similar to the Facebook development.

“The carousel ad unit gives users the ability to swipe through a selection of promoted tweets the unit is set off from the timeline by a break in the background shading and labeled with a ‘Suggested Apps’ heading, “ says Martin Beck in his report for Marketing Land. “Whether enough people will swipe through and click through to make the ads effective is another issue, and likely one of the metrics Twitter is studying in the test.”

Why choose Twitter?
Mobile Users (% of total users): 227.2 Million (80%)
Perfect for: Real-time campaigns targeted to specific user personas


Google Ad Words Mobile App Installs

 Google offers a wide range of campaigns for its mobile app

Source: mobilemarketingmagazine.com

Source: mobilemarketingmagazine.com

If you want to reach Google’s estimated 1.17 billion monthly unique search engine users then you can do so by its Google’s Search Network, Display Network or Video Network (see below)

 Before you create your campaign, Google advise you to think about your advertising goals:

  • Are you interested in getting people to download your app?
  • What about encouraging people to open your app and take action?

 And the search engine giant offers a bunch of different campaigns to fit developers and marketers’ needs.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, app install ads on Google’s Search Network cannot be targeted according to user demographics, so keywords are fundamental to the success of your ads. And, when it comes to app engagement campaigns on the Search Network, re-targeting is only available for Android apps.

Upgrading to app installs campaigns

Google has also announced that starting in July 2015, Search Network app promotion ads created outside of the mobile app installs campaign type will stop running. If you have click-to-download ads or “App/digital content” ads in your Search Network only campaigns, you’ll need to move your ads into a new “Search Network only – Mobile app installs” campaign.

Advertising your app on Display Network is relatively simple

Source: Google

Source: Google

On the Display Network, advertising your mobile app in Google is relatively easy and you can reach people while they’re using other apps that are similar to yours with app install ads. The best way to create an ad is through the AdWords platform monitor and if your app is featured in the Google Play store, you can link your AdWords Account to your GooglePlay account, say AppsBuilder in a blogpost.

App install ads are a key part of “Mobile app installs” campaigns, as they link directly to not only the Google Play Store but the Apple App Store, making it a cinch for people to download your app. These ads are smart: they’re designed to show on devices where they’ll have the most impact. When you set up a new campaign with only app promotion ads, your ads show only on phones and tablets (not on desktop computers). You can also choose to display your ads only on mobile phones by ticking the box next to “Exclude tablets” when you’re creating your ads.

When it beefed up its mobile app installs last year, Google identified a demand for ads that can get consumers to re-launch their apps as research shows that only 80 percent of apps are only used once after being downloaded.

Businesses are also struggling to convert application installs into regular, engaged customers, where, of course, app install ads and deep linking to apps go hand-in-hand, as the former gets the app on consumers’ mobile devices, then the latter points consumers to the right information in their app when searching, said a report on Techcrunch.

Why choose Google Adwords?
Mobile Users (% of total users): Over a billion unique users per month, mobile users (n/a)
Perfect for: Longer campaigns reaching large audience


YouTube TrueView Mobile App Install Ads

Advertising your app on YouTube? Think video TrueView

Source: blog.apps-builder.com

Source: blog.apps-builder.com

With at least 1 billion viewers – 550 million of which are on mobile, that is a hell of a lot of eyeballs to target. What makes YouTube ads different from Facebook and Twitter? One word: video.

On YouTube, you can showcase your app via TrueView ads when people are watching their favourite videos by simply linking your app’s ID to your campaign. Instead of being directed  to a download page, users will be able to click and install the app directly from the ad on YouTube. It’s that seamless.

And the power of sight, sound and motion makes YouTubers twice more likely to download apps. With TrueView, advertisers can reach potential customers based on their interests, previously-watched videos and demographics.

Research has also shown that TrueView Ads on YouTube really resonate with users:  eight out of 10 viewers said they prefer them to standard in-stream ads.

Like the other social platforms mentioned previously, targeting is based on user demographics, interests, categories and device/OS. YouTube’s mobile app install ads are connected to the AdWords, platform so developers obtain the same privilege of connecting their account with Google Play with access to all the download data.

Slideshare on how to use YouTube’s TrueView format


Why choose YouTube?
Mobile Users (% of total users): 550 Million (55%)
Perfect for: Video preview of your app to targeted audience



Where’s Apple? You might be asking. For now the Cuppertino tech company appears content to let other platforms get on with it while it concentrates on hardware and taking commission from developers on the App store.

With the app store overpopulation problem getting worse in general, one thing’s for sure – and that’s that app install ads will continue to grow and become increasingly important.

“Sophisticated retargeting by adtech startups like URX and Nanigans will help developers pull dormant existing users back into apps, or trigger whales to make purchases. These ads could remind people to check out the new clothing line in a fashion app, buy access to extra game levels, or check out must-see content that could rope them back into a social network,” says Constine.

As for which platform is the best for your app, as always it’s down to your budget and what you hope to achieve with your app. Facebook and Twitter offer developers a short campaign at a fixed price so you can get an idea as to whether it is worth splashing more cash to get your app towards the top of the pile.