Building Organic Buzz for Your Subscription App
Subscription apps live and die by their user acquisition and retention. Therefore, as a founder, you need to prioritize finding new users and — more importantly — giving them a reason to stick with your app in perpetuity.
Of the two, acquisition is becoming more challenging and expensive by the day. While 65% of leaders list acquisition as their biggest priority, according to the marketing technology firm Iterable, the cost of acquisition is rising rapidly and showing little signs of slowing down. Research from SimplicityDX indicates that businesses lose $29 with each new customer acquisition, compared to just $9 a decade ago.
Meanwhile, new privacy regulations are making the use of third-party data more complex, creating challenges with traditional paid campaigns as more users (especially on mobile apps) opt out of freely giving away their data.
This is ultimately what makes organic media so effective. It can be leveraged to bring in new customers and to drive more loyalty — both acquisition and retention. The lifetime value (LTV) you create through organic media efforts will be far more successful for your business in the long run, leading to recurring revenue and a higher likelihood of subscribers purchasing add-ons in your app.
Through organic media, your subscription app can build brand identity and engage subscribers to maintain, and even grow, your user base. Paid media will no doubt be a cornerstone of your overall media strategy, but it’s essential to know how to use an organic strategy as a low-cost, effective way to round out your media budget.
Organic media = a winning strategy
Organic media refers to all the tools used when generating content and conversations between brands and customers without paid promotion behind it. This includes social media, earned PR, and — particularly for subscription apps — optimization for web search and app marketplaces.
In a 2022 survey of online brands, the Search Engine Journal found that for organizations that said they have “high organic maturity,” 86% expected their organic budgets to increase during the next 12 months. That same SEJ report also indicated that 90% of those same companies saw a 5% or greater increase in their overall website traffic.
We also know that organic strategies for search are far more cost-effective. Google traffic is easier to earn through organic SEO optimization than through paid ads — with 70% of clicks going to organic search results rather than the sponsored links.
But beyond the data, organic media is widely touted for its use in brand building. Organic media is more focused on direct communication, making it a terrific way to foster customer communities and drive retention. When subscribers see the breadth of your influence and the values you uphold, they’ll choose to stay with your brand longer.
Overall, investing in organic media often results in higher ROIs because most initiatives are far less expensive than paid media.
Invest in an organic media strategy
Organic media is instrumental in brand building, fostering deeper loyalty with customers, and forming customer communities, but when done correctly, it can also drive awareness and even new user acquisition. You should use your budget to invest in tools and team members that can implement these strategies most effectively, incorporating social, SEO and app-store optimization, and PR.
Consider some of the potential staffing upgrades you can make as you begin to flesh out your organic media strategy and budget:
- Community or social media manager: These team members engage directly with your community, working on the frontlines of social media to respond to and even start conversations with fans and subscribers. They’re in charge of coordinating social posting, content creation, and even planning and hosting events for your subscriber communities.
- Publicist or PR specialist: True to the name, these team members are the creative and logistic leads in developing and executing PR. They’ll work with your creative team to come up with viable ideas, then coordinate with media outlets for placement in digital and print publications, radio, or TV.
- SEO analyst: These technical experts leverage public data through Google and other search engines and platforms to devise an optimal SEO and app-store optimization (ASO) strategy. They’ll uncover keywords to use, assist in organizing content calendars, and identify ways to boost the relevancy of your site and app in search to drive organic traffic to your brand.
Hiring a team will constitute a fair chunk of the budget you’ve set aside for organic media, but with the right staff in place, you’ll be able to devise and execute a strategy far more effectively than on your own.
Tactics for boosting organic traffic
Your initial investments in an organic strategy will set a foundation for future success. Focus your efforts on social media, PR, and SEO to directly drive growth and build your brand. Here are a few ideas and examples of how these strategies have been executed in the subscription app space.
💡 Organic social media
Organic social is the most commonly discussed aspect of organic strategies — and from a media perspective, it’s the easiest and cheapest way to develop your brand voice and communicate directly with your subscribers. This category refers to all the content shared freely on a brand’s social feeds, including posts, photos, videos, or other interactive content.
While posting content on these platforms is free, producing the creative may require some budget spend. Here are a few tactics to try for organic social:
- Highlight customer stories: Top-tier brands love to champion their customers and subscribers, both to highlight them as examples of product or service success, and also to provide a platform for them to tell their own stories, which builds loyalty.
- Embrace influencers: Though not necessarily free to produce, implementing an influencer strategy so that they will share your brand with their audiences on social media is a surefire way to attract attention. Whether you have the budget for five- and six-figure-per-post celebrities, or just want a few industry-specific micro-influencers, these individuals provide their built-in brand awareness as well as a sense of expertise to help elevate your service.
- Diversify content types: The material you post doesn’t always have to be rote, self-serving content. Though it’s smart to highlight the qualities of your service, it’s equally as important — and honestly just fun for customers — if you involve yourselves in social conversations.
A subscription service that struck gold using organic social media was the language-learning app Duolingo. Their deep dive into the world of TikTok, a fast-growing social app with a massive young audience, used a diverse content management scheme. Whereas originally they posted almost exclusively educational content, they opened up their strategy to include more reactive and engaging content, responding to celebrity posts with videos that included reactions from their owl mascot, Duo. This helped their follower count go from 100,000 to nearly 2 million.
💡 PR and viral marketing
PR, viral, and guerilla marketing tactics are typically low-cost opportunities to make a splash and get eyes on your brand — especially if you have the freedom and resources to get really creative. When coming up with ideas, consider these three key aspects that make earned media so effective:
- Think about your target audience: Pulling off a big stunt is exciting and can grab headlines, but earned PR should bring in the right audience and potentially loyal customers who resonate with the action itself. In other words, a stunt for publicity’s sake is not going to be nearly as effective as one that speaks to your target demographic.
- Create something conversation-worthy: Simply put, if your PR tactics are uninspired, they won’t do much to drive attention to your brand — no matter how many press connections you might have to report on your activity.
- Make it brand-relevant: In the same vein as thinking about your target audience, your brand activity should have a sense of consistency and reflect your values. Launching a flash mob in the middle of Times Square might create a splash, but if it’s in service of promoting your meditation app, the message will not be in alignment with your mission.
These initiatives don’t have to cost much at all. The dating service company Honeypot (now launched as “Thursday”) needed only about $60 when they pulled a small but eye-catching stunt at a London subway station. There, they set up a whiteboard with writing on it that, very comically, “attacked” their own CEO, claiming he had cheated on his girlfriend, and stating that “Honeypot would never be as big as Hinge.” As a self-proclaimed “micro-dating app” that aims to reduce the seriousness of these services, the stunt was received as a hilarious hit, resulting in over a million impressions across platforms (not to mention lots of online press).
💡 SEO and app-store optimization (ASO)
To this day, a significant portion of app page traffic — both online and in marketplaces — is driven through organic search. By optimizing your pages and postings for search engines, you’ll position yourself to nab organic search traffic and get potential subscribers curious about your service. Here’s what you can do:
- Simplify your app and service description: Too often, subscription
services will try and fail to condense their elevator pitch into short and sweet descriptions. For instance, though you have space for 30 characters in the App Store subtitle section, find a way to simplify your service into three to four words, weaving in a high-performing keyword that potential subscribers are likely to search.
- Include helpful imagery: Though your app probably already includes some form of imagery in the marketplace listing, be sure to audit your current material to see how informative it is about the in-app experience.
- Encourage positive user reviews: An excellent way to drive App Store traffic is by generating, and even encouraging, positive app reviews from your existing subscriber community. To boost your numbers, you can even incentivize them with access to additional content or features if they leave a five-star review.
Putting organic media into practice
In implementing any of the above tactics, be sure to understand the resources and time needed to execute each idea correctly.
- Organic social: The ideal organic social strategy relies on your customer communities. Start by building up your organic support on social media, investing in hiring strategists and community managers who can communicate with users online to solve CX questions, or just open up the conversation and focus on brand-building. From there, you’ll have the basis to generate more reach with your organic posts and spread your message even further.
- Earned PR: Nothing beats a creative, high-quality PR team. But beyond just nailing down the right talent to bring in, be sure to develop relationships with external media partners to highlight your viral marketing efforts and engage (at no cost) with the press. Plenty of tools exist to help you identify and start those conversations, including platforms like HubSpot PR kit, Muck Rack, Prowly, and Newswire.
- SEO and ASO: Developing strong SEO and ASO capabilities requires access to tools that allow you to research the keywords, common topics, and other terminology that will drive search traffic organically to your app either through search engines or in the App Store.
While organic strategies typically cost less than paid media, they still demand a budget. Founders need to consider how they invest in marketing holistically, specifically if and when their brand is ready to grow. Explore financing options like Braavo that can help your subscription app tap into funds quickly. In leveraging your recurring revenue, you’ll be able to sustainably grow your business through new marketing efforts, product development, or whatever you might need.
With funding possibilities in mind, think about how organic media should play a foundational role in the way your subscription app is marketed. These brand-building strategies are not just important for the immediate success of your business, but also to the long-term values of your brand, which is what your subscribers will ultimately fall in love with.