Only a few months out from the launch of Pokemon GO, app makers around the world are learning a thing or two from Niantic about the whirlwind success of their viral mobile game.
The app reached 45 million daily users during the week that immediately followed Pokemon GO’s launch, and in early September, the game had already racked up a cool $500 million in customer spending in just 60 days. This puts the app on track to hit $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2016.
While usership of Pokemon GO has been declining in recent weeks (and only time will tell what the ultimate lifespan of the app is), the viral appeal of the game isn’t anything to scoff at. Niantic was intentional and strategic about making the content and functionality of their game as addictive as possible, and app makers would be wise to keep some of their methods in mind while creating their own apps — especially if they’d like to tap into that same viral energy.
Create a Social World Within Your App
According to Smashing Magazine, an app must pass four tests to become truly viral:
- It must have something valuable to share.
- It must make it easy for users to share and for friends to join.
- It must reward users for sharing and offer them incentives to come back.
- The more people use the app, the more value must be created for them.
Boiled down, Smashing Magazine’s argument is this: in order to truly go viral, app makers need to engage their audience in a socially meaningful way. Every time a user opens your app, they should be able to build on their previous experience with more opportunities for social interaction. Humans are social creatures, and an app that appeals to this quality will more effectively spark organic user growth.
This is even true for apps like Venmo or RunKeeper. By incorporating an element of sharing, either in-app or via social media platforms, app developers are keeping the social inclinations of their users in mind.
Appeal to Nostalgia
Marina Villeneuve sums up Pokemon GO’s knack for nostalgic appeal perfectly: “The children who once dreamed of capturing real-life Pokemon starting in the 1990s are now the nostalgic millennials helping [to] fuel the worldwide success of ‘Pokemon Go.” One of Villeneuve’s 26-year-old interviewees even acknowledged the special circumstances that compelled her to run around at dusk catching digital pocket monsters: “As much as I love this, if it hadn’t been Pokemon, I wouldn’t be playing.”
There’s no doubt that Pokemon GO is capitalizing on millennials’ lingering love for the original Pokemon franchise. The app appeals to people who very likely fell in love with the game the first time around, especially now-adults between the ages of 18 and 34.
So how can developers tap into nostalgia without owning the rights to something as memorable as Pokemon? Depending on the function of the proposed app, everything from childhood memories to documentation of major life events could be incorporated — just look at Timehop for an example of nostalgia in action.
Play on Emotions
It’s about as simple as psychology gets: emotional arousal is one of the main factors that impels people to action. Whether a person feels happy, sad, stressed, or relaxed, these emotions generally yield action.
In the digital world, emotions don’t just disappear. Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has found that activated positive emotions are likely to drive more shares, while controversial emotions may lead to more clicks. As he puts it, “emotional arousal drives sharing… [and] evoking emotion increases word-of-mouth.”
While you may not have the resources (or authority) to replicate the overnight success of Pokemon GO, app builders may find these basic principles valuable nonetheless.
Does your app offer users something social, nostalgic, or emotionally compelling? Get started on your next viral hit and #makeanapp with AppMakr.
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