The Best Way to Buy Your First Install

Most developers in the SOOMLA community rely mostly on organic discovery through the app store. The good thing about getting installs for free is the price. The bad thing about it is usually the quantity. There are many resources about how to get more visibility in search results int he app stores and if you are lucky enough you might also get featured. However, there might be a time where you would want to experiment with advertising a bit. This post is a must read if you are going to do that.

Now, it’s really not a secret any more that Facebook advertising is the best channel for player acquisition in mobile games. Most companies name it as their first channel and some of them claim that more than half of their installs. However, advertising your app or buying users as some call it requires a lot of experience. This post will give you a clear recipe for your first attempt in this field in a way that is relatively bullet proof.

Here is the recipe in bullet points:

  • Find the IDFAs of your best users
  • Implement Facebook SDK and add revenue events (IAP + Ads)
  • Create a custom audience
  • Expand the audience by creating a lookalike audience
  • Create an ad group and a campaign that promote your game to the best audience

Pulling the IDFA from the device and building your list

The most critical step in this method is to build your list of IDFAs. There was a lot of talk about Apple rejecting apps that take the IDFA but the reality is that as long as you show ads to your users (most apps do) you are probably fine. You can guess that the magnitude of the reaction was mainly because so many people do it. I had to work hard to find some guidance about how to do it. Here is what I found on StackOverflow – IDFA retrieiving – this answer just gives you the client side code. There are still two things you will need to figure out:
  • Figuring out what defines a good user – I would recommend 3 lists:
    • Users who passed x levels or broke the record y times
    • Players who used their collected coins to buy advantages
    • People who chose to watch incentivized videos or take some other offer for some ingame coins
    • Whales – people who paid in your game
  • Build a server solution to collect the IDFAs you want to store.

Tracking revenue events with the Facebook SDK

Getting more installs is nice but it would be a lot better if the users would generate more revenue than the price you had to pay for bringing them in. When that happens, you can keep buying users knowing that with any users you are generating more money. The easiest way to know that is to implement the Facebook insights SDK and more specifically the app events that allows you to correlate the source with the outcome so you can measure the effectiveness of each ad-group. Here are the official instructions from the Facebook dev portal.

Creating a custom audience

Custom audience is basically a list of users you upload to the facebook platform. In step 1 we created lists of highly targeted users that actually played the game and engaged with it. Put the IDFAs in a CSV file, go to the Facebook ads manager, click on the audiences item on the left side menu, hit the “create audience” button on the right hand side and then select Custom Audience and Data File options. You will be presented with a screen that allows you to upload your CSV file.

Finding users that look like your best users

Lookalike audiences are a simple way to find more users like the ones that already worked well for your game. Facebook would allow you to expand a custom audience to 1% or 5% of the population of the counrty you are targeting. You should choose one of your custom audiences and expand that in a certain country. Note that this feature works well when the custom audience you are using as seed is 2,500 users or bigger.
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