Industry Exposed #7: Tapstream “Virality as a mobile user acquisition focus is like powering your city with wind”

Welcome to the seventh episode of our Mobile Industry Exposed interview series! This time, we posed questions about mobile user acquisition and app marketing trends to Mack Flavelle, VP Business Development at Tapstream.


Mack does marketing at Tapstream, the platform that amplifies your user acquisition. The internet in your pocket gets me really worked up. Mammoth hunting is a whole different game with an iPhone.Read our latest interview with Tapstream for Mack’s insights on mobile user acquisition, virality and how to curb app abandonment, as well as what we can expect to see happening in the mobile industry moving forward.

  1. First up, tell us a little bit about Tapstream and your current offering and positioning in the market. Tapstream started out doing mobile attribution, because it wasn’t there and needed to be. But over the last two years, attribution has become a commodity so we’ve expanded our platform to offer a number of tools for mobile growth. Also because those new products are making us money and attribution was a race to the bottom, we now offer that for free.
  2. What are the most important things for mobile advertisers to look for in their tracking provider? It’s not complicated. They should be asking questions like whether they have the networks you want and what they charge. At this point we’re pretty much all putting different shades of lipstick on the same pig. Find a company or account manager you trust, and you should be good to go.
  3. What advice would you give mobile advertisers in terms of best practices for running campaigns, and in general?The single most important piece of information to remember when running your campaigns is that you are the customer and the boss. Too many people defer to the unproven wisdom of their network, or are too meek to ask questions or too polite to own that relationship. When running campaigns, ask a lot of questions. Ask about volume, ask who will see the ad, ask to see examples, ask about fraud, ask anything you want. You have the purse strings. Don’t open them until you feel very comfortable.
  4. Your product offering includes “onboarding links”. Can you explain what they are and how they can benefit advertisers? How are they different from regular deep links?We built onboarding links because according to our data, 84% of your new users won’t open your app more than once. A large part of this abandonment can be tied to users not finding the content or experience they were looking for quickly enough. In this age of short attention spans, not quickly enough is the same as not being there at all: it causes users leave.So onboarding links are like normal deep links in that if the destination app is installed you can take the user to a specific screen in app, but what makes onboarding links unique is that even if the user doesn’t have the destination app installed, they can take the user to the app store and then after they download and launch for the first time you can take them to a specific screen, basically allowing for a personalized first time user experience. We launched them earlier this year as Deferred Deep Links, and this is the second generation of that platform.
  5. Tell us about “Word of Mouth” – do you think advertisers should focus more on virality as part of their mobile user acquisition efforts?Word of Mouth is a referral program to give your most passionate users the tools to spread the word about your app. It’s a tool that allows you to issue a reward to a user after they have text their friends who install the app. Everybody is doing some variation of “post to twitter and we’ll give you $500 gold” but we all know that’s pretty much useless for driving any installs, let alone meaningful installs.Because SMS is 1-to-1 and such an intimate and immediate communication medium, they have a 90%+ open rate. Consider also the fact that personalized app recommendations are actually relevant to me as an individual, and you can see why we created Word of Mouth.As for virality as a mobile user acquisition focus, it’s like powering your city on wind power. If you can pull it off it’s simply the best way to do it: clean, cheap energy in abundance. On the other hand, it has to be perfectly executed, there’s far less room for waste or lost opportunities like there is with more traditional mobile user acquisition strategies.If you can afford to compete with GREE this holiday season, and it’s not hard to imagine them paying $10+/per user, then all power to you. But for everybody else, the higher risk but at least slightly achievable strategy of viral growth makes sense.
  6. How do you think mobile advertising will look in a few months, and a year from now, and what are the main challenges ahead?
    In the short term we’ll see more in-stream ads and more native ads. Every mobile content app will try to have some way of driving app installs. From Instagram to Snapchat to the little guys, it will become highly prevalent. None will be as successful as Facebook because nobody has that degree of explicit, opt-in interest targeting available, but they will try nonetheless.Banner ads will go away almost completely. They don’t work in a meaningful way. It is unbelievably difficult to build a business and an ecosystem that drives the majority of its revenue from fat finger error taps. Video ads will be totally commonplace. Interactive ad elements will finally be widespread, allowing users to try before they buy, inside another app.As far as the main challenge goes, it’s always the same thing: connect the right user to the right app. To be honest there’s probably a perfect app out there for each of us, something we would LOVE and don’t even know we want. Something we would pay way more money than charged for, once we understood the whole value.Mobile advertising needs to continue to evolve until the point that it can connect every consumer with that perfect app.Thanks to Mack for his time. Stay tuned for the next Mobile Industry Exposed interview, which will be published in two weeks from now!