Guest Post: Presence management, the next discipline for mobile-first organization

Editor’s note: The following guest post was written by Prashant Singh, co-founder of Signals. The company is currently in stealth mode. Before Signals, he was a product manager at mobile developer Spice Labs. He’s also currently the Delhi chapter founder of Mobile Monday, a community of mobile industry people.Prashant Singh profile picture

Every new wave in the software industry comes with its own and unique set of challenges. Organizational structure needs to evolve in order to live up to the challenge. The rise of the PC era led to the creation of a new functional subdivision in organizations such as program managers, product managers and more. The rise of the Internet era led to the creation of online marketing via search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and more. The rise of the social web led to the creation of “growth teams” as a functional unit. Smartphones will undoubtedly be the next wave of our industry. So, it’s natural to ask the question: What functional realignment do we need to do in order to best prepare our teams for a mobile-first world dominated by the dynamics of the app stores? After half a decade of experience in the mobile app industry, I can say that every app development firm worth its salt need to focus on “presence management” as a discipline inside their organization.

What is presence Management?

Like product management (PM) of the PC era, SEO teams of the Internet era and growth teams of the social era, presence management is a cross-functional team which operates at the cross section of engineering, product and marketing. Their responsibilities include ensuring:

  1. Discovery: The product receives proper visibility in the market place.
  2. Engagement: Users are sufficiently engaged and convert latent goodwill of users into increased distribution or revenue.

Both of these activities have its own share of methods, best practices and domain knowledge. Translating them in the context of your product gives you your presence management action items.

Elements of presence strategy

Understanding structural deficiency of app stores:

App stores are not monoliths. There are silos around geographies, devices, languages and more. Here are some of these silos and ways to exploit them to our advantage.

Geographic Silo: What you see in the app store in India can be very different from what you see in France. If your app is specifically relevant to French users then you should highlight that by providing a description in French, putting keywords in the language and localizing the content and interface in French. Your chances of getting your app seen increase. Most devices sold in the Middle East and China have a vernacular input support. These are big markets for all app stores. Yet less than 10 percent of developers choose to localize their app descriptions in Arabic or Mandarin. My anecdotal research suggests that less than 30 percent of search queries on app stores are in a local language and most of them are underserved. Therein lies an opportunity. In addition to that, you can also try using country specific promotion strategy (“Free apps on St. Patricks Day!”) or content strategy (Holi-themed Bubble Breaker game in India).

Device Silo: These silos are around devices too. For example, the iPhone 5 is different from iPhone 3GS. If your app is using a specific feature of a new device, which can be used by the platform owner (e.g. Apple or Android) to demonstrate the capability, then they might be interested in highlighting your app in the app store. Examples include BBM integration on Blackberry, PureView integration on Nokia, Retina display support on iPhone, near field communication (NFC) on Samsung’s Galaxy S 3 or heavy duty processing power on the Nexus 4. App examples include Game your Video, Viddy and Socialcam. All these apps showcase the video capabilities of iOS. All three apps were featured by Apple at some point. What you should remember here is that you don’t need to build a new product from scratch. You need to incorporate the new technology in some feature of your product and do it well. For example, the use of iPhone 5 optimization by Temple Run to make it on the ‘Featured’ app list in multiple geographies.