GigaOm

How a Tiny Startup Used Twitter to Find App Store Success


With some 58,000 iPhone applications in the iTunes Store, developers face an uphill battle when it comes to building a user base for their applications. But thanks to a simple marketing campaign on Twitter, tap tap tap, a startup with less than 20 employees, has seen its app, Convert, become one of the top 30 most popular paid apps in less than a week.

To celebrate the launch of the 99¢ app, a simple unit and currency converter tool, tap tap tap is offering people who tweet the message featured on Convert's Tweetblast site the chance to win a $6,000, limited edition ColorWare Stealth MacBook Pro. The 14-day promotion that started last week has so far seen more than 16,000 people tweet about Convert, and enough people have downloaded the app to recoup the cost of the Stealth MacBook Pro, according to tap tap tap Co-Founder John Casasanta.

Half-way through Convert's promotion, Casasanta shared his tips on what helped make its Twitter marketing campaign a success:

Consider your target demographic: Twitter is not the right platform for every developer, according to Casasanta. It was a good fit for marketing Convert because it offered access to an older, tech-saavy demographic, tap tap tap's target audience. Facebook may be a better fit for those looking to reach a younger demographic.

Work on amassing a large group of Twitter followers first, then market to them: Casasanta is also one of the co-founders of MacHeist a site that, in addition to selling heavily discounted bundles of Mac software, holds an annual competition in which groups compete to get it for free ). Since MacHeist's Twitter account has built up a following of nearly 68,000 people, Casasanta decided to leverage the audience by posting a link to Convert's Tweetblast site. That was in addition to tap tap tap's own Twitter account, which had 2,000 followers before Convert's Aug. 13 release and has since grown to (at last check) some 22,000.

Offer something for free—something that spurs people to tweet and complements the app you're trying to sell: Apple (AAPL) has traditionally bundled together MacBooks with iPods, so Casasanta decided to take a page from the company's playbook. He settled on the Stealth MacBook Pro—one of the most lusted-after gadgets in the Valley, as only 10 units will reportedly be made—as both the ultimate prize for iPhone users and one that would incite enough excitement to get people to tweet about it.

Though tap tap tap's marketing scheme for Convert worked, marketing promotions on Twitter have proven to be a hit-or-miss strategy for other companies. While Web site builder Moonfruit's campaign gained traction on Twitter, its rival Squarespace's promotion flopped. But tap tap tap's campaign is a testament to how Twitter's viral sharing power can help a startup rise above the rest.

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Jennifer Martinez is a staff writer for GigaOM.

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