How to drive organic social downloads even if you’re a total noob

By John Koetsier April 26, 2024

You see social killing it. You know billions of people are there. You see random silly things go viral, products explode, and apps go nuts, and you wonder … why isn’t that us? Have no fear: there’s a strategy to drive organic social downloads, even if you’re a total noob.

(You know the drill: hit play, keep scrolling …)

A social shopping community

Mys Tyler (think: Ms. Tyler, not My Styler) is a social shopping community, currently at about 650,000 women, built on the premise that a lot of us hate shopping. But a few of us love it, and if those of us who hate shopping can find someone who looks like us and shares our style, maybe magic can happen.

As in: she shares stuff, women like it, they buy it, and they get what looks good on their body type. 

“We all have to get dressed every single day, whether we like shopping for clothes or not,” says Sara Neill, CEO and founder of Mys Tyler. “If we match the people who love shopping with the rest of the people in the world that have their same dimensions, then they can do the job of shopping for us.”

There’s a huge benefit for retailers here as well as anti-shoppers: whereas 40% of fashion that’s bought online is returned, Neill says, only 5% of what Mys Tyler members buy meets the same fate. That’s huge for profitability and it’s way more efficient for shoppers. (How many things have you intended to return only to nope out of actually doing it?)

Mys Tyler has grown quickly and fairly cheaply via Facebook and Instagram (plus other non-social strategies; keep reading to the end) but that’s led to its user base skewing older. Not necessarily a problem, but if you want to attract younger shoppers, you probably need to go to TikTok.

And therein lies the problem: what if you get the ‘gram, know Facebook, understand adtech, but aren’t particularly familiar with how TikTok works and why things go viral there?

Noobs welcome: how to drive organic social downloads

The simple answer: find people who do. 

So Neill started an internship program with a twist: she’d introduce not 1 but 10 interns to building an app-based business, and the interns would help build and execute Mys Tyler’s TikTok strategy. (Part of the reason for the go big or go home strategy: a lucky mistake: overspending on the internship job ad led to 500 candidates, many of them top quality.)

“We started going through and we only wanted one, but there were so many great people that were coming through and so we ended up interviewing 20 people and then we thought, you know what, let’s change the scope of this internship and rather it being one person that works with us, let’s make it more like a 10 week course,” Niell told me.

So the interns spent an hour a week learning about product prioritization, affiliate marketing, customer journey mapping, social media marketing. Each of them took over the company’s Instagram account for a day, for example.

Essentially, they got a mini-MBA in running a mobile business.

In return, Niell asked them to build TikTok creative and campaigns for Mys Tyler, which the company would then boost with some cash. The goal: organic social downloads, or cheap paid ones, via boosting.

Organic social via Spark Ads

“So your job for next week is to each of you create something for TikTok,” she told the interns. “It can be you doing a selfie video or if you don’t feel comfortable being on camera, it could also just be scrolling through the app and like doing a voiceover or typing over it. So whatever you feel comfortable with, just create something and then we’ll load them all up next week.”

In the process, she taught the interns how to set up a campaign, what an adset is, how to target, and so on.

The type of ad she chose was TikTok’s Spark Ads, which are native ads on influencers’ own pages. The benefit for Mys Tyler was real, organic, authentic content. The benefit for the interns was that all the likes, follows, shares, and comments happened on their own TikTok accounts.

“So they get the likes, they get the comments, they get all this like engagement, but three seconds in, it has the call to action to download Mys Tyler,” Niell says. “And so what’s great about that for us is because now it’s creative with their profile picture, their name. So it’s really organic content that has a call to action to download our app.”

Then Mys Tyler put some money behind them.

Just like ads you design and build yourself, not all hit it out of the park. But one got over a million watches, which was super-exciting for the intern, and very beneficial for Mys Tyler. And it wasn’t just about views. Mys Tyler’s CAC dropped significantly as well.

“At the beginning we had a cost per install of $2.93, and by the end we were down to $0.76 cost per install,” Neill says.

The key was getting a lot of creative: creative fatigues quickly on TikTok, she adds.

One more thing: paid PR

There was another strategy that Mys Tyler used to drive significant downloads, and it’s one I hadn’t heard before from a mobile marketer or executive: paid PR.

Here’s Neill’s 50-second explanation:

Essentially, it’s paid editorial: you pitch Vogue or Women’s Health on a topic, set a cost per click, and if they’re interested enough, they’ll write about it. They’re incentivized to get people to click, Neill adds, so there are plenty of links in the story.

Just one drove 5,000 downloads all by itself. But the key is they weren’t just downloads. Because people had read an editorial piece on the app, how it works, and what it does, they were invested enough to actually sign up and create accounts in Mys Tyler:

“We had over 5,000 people download the app and create an account, like go all the way through the funnel from that,” Neill says. “They were really high engagement people because they’ve read a whole article about it. They really understand your business. They’re not just like, what’s this app? It looks like it could be appealing … I’ll give it two seconds of thought and then give up on it. So that has been incredible for us.”

The installs are great, and the sign-ups are even better, but there’s an additional bonus: media you can leverage wherever you want.

For example, since the Buzzfeed article said “this app is the closest thing you’ll find to a personal stylist,” that became part of a Meta ad.

Plus, they’re helpful for your investor deck if you’re raising money.

Much more in the full podcast

As usual, there’s much more in our full discussion.
Check out the full video above or on our YouTube account, or subscribe to our podcast wherever podcasts are found.

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