Liveblogging Inside Social Apps: Acquiring Users on iOS and Android

We’re at the San Francisco Design center, blogging Inside Network’s third annual Inside Social Apps conference.

Kim-Mai Cutler hosts a panel on mobile marketing distribution featuring Fiksu CEO Micah Adler, Flurry’s VP Marketing Peter Farago, Google’s manager of global mobile sales and product strategy George Meredith and Tapjoy’s CEO Mihir Shah. The following is a paraphrased transcript of the discussion.

Kim-Mai: Apple sent out a warning to developers this week on manipulating chart rankings. Peter, what do you think the impact on the marketplace and the rankings is going to be?

Peter: What we’ve seen over the last several months is that these bought downloads have added pressure. If I go back to early Q3, to get into the top 25, it was maybe 50k downloads. There’s a lot of things in Q4 that added pressure — the 4S, the holidays — the bots added more to that. In January, we were seeing 75 and 80k downloads to get into the top 35 and even larger on weekends. Some of that is definitely [new iPhones]. But there has been substantial volume from these bots.

Kim-Mai: Now that developers can’t rely on these services, how will it change the types of apps and games that top the charts?

Peter:  We look at the market from a 3 to 5 year approach. If you’re focusing on the consumer first and making an awesome app [it will get to the top of the charts]. We focus on helping developers understand the audience. The rules of doing efficient marketing spends haven’t gone away just because we’ve had a bump in the road. It shouldn’t change anybody’s business strategy.

Mihir: I think we should applaud the move. Offshore bots where a computer is gaming downloads to make users think an app is good is fundamentally damaging to all of us. My point is that the entire industry needs to get away from this velocity discussion. That we need a direct response component. It needs to be more about well-though-through spend to get your game out, test it, optimize it, to get more and then monetize it… Rather than 2011 and 2010, which were dominated by discussions of velocity.

Peter: There was never this problem on Android. It was “what’s your uninstall rate? Do users open the app? None of these things seem to matter on the iOS app. I think too many people are focused on getting to the rankings. [The should be] focused on building franchises to create a fan base, like Zynga does on Facebook.

Micah:  Apple has taken a lot of steps on cracking down on impostor apps and now this, which I completely agree with.

Kim-Mai: What about changes to the ranking algorithm?

Micah: We haven’t seen any changes, but we have seen unnaturally high apps disappear. We work with all the different sources for downloads and we were approached by these services many months ago and we have tried it — it was presented as an ad network — but it become obvious to us that… users weren’t even launching the app. So we stopped using it after that. But it’s been this well known secret I guess in the ecosystem.

Kim-Mai: They issued a warning, but when you run a traditional campaign or a burst campaign, it can have an affect on the rankings. So where is the line with manipulation?

Micah:  I don’t think there is a line. There is a clear difference between manipulation and influence. If you get a good review, everyone will download your app.

Mihir: I think burst campaigns are in the dated concept of velocity. I think going for a variety of high quality channels with partners that do it the right way — the work with other developers to cross promote, that get good write ups in TechCrunch — that takes time. Burst campaigns in my opinion is a thing of the past. Now it’s all marketing day after day. You go through a Fiksu, you go through a TapJoy, you go through a Flurry. It’s no different than any other medium, but we were spoiled by velocity. But most have become much more sophisticated in the portfolio strategy of getting a great app in the hands of users the same way any other media company does it.