Every app developer wants one thing: for the app they have created to go “viral”, or become a massive hit among millions (billions, even) of users. There is nothing more satisfying than to see the download count of the app you have labored over for a significant length of time reach millions. However, it is also a fact that not all apps manage that feat. Some even do not get more than thousands of downloads before they are eventually ignored and shoved aside by other, better, apps.

But it is possible to get millions of app downloads, as evidenced by the top downloaded apps of all time, which include Google Chrome, Facebook, Gmail, Google Search, YouTube, WhatsApp Messenger, Twitter, Skype, Angry Birds, Google Street View, Amazon Kindle, Dropbox, eBay, and Facebook Messenger.

How to Get Millions of App Downloads

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In this article, you will read about 1) the key ingredient of a viral app: content, as well as 2) tips and tricks of getting millions of app downloads.


People download apps for various reasons, but there is one prevailing factor or ingredient that makes an app a hit or a miss. This is the content of the app. In short, what makes the app good? What can it offer to the users? What will the users get from downloading it? What will make the users deem it worthy of being shared to others?

To answer the questions above, the app must pass four tests.

The Value Test

The app must have something of value to share. Is it useful? How useful is it? Will you, as the user, feel good about recommending and sharing it to your friends? What about the app will motivate users to tell their friends or other users about it?

Users will download an app when they see that it can do something for them; they will eventually recommend and share it to their friends once they experience for themselves the usefulness of the app. Some apps fail this first test when the users realize that they do not deliver what they claimed to be able to, and will not even bother telling anyone about it. In fact, they may even dissuade others from downloading the app and recommend something else instead.

Loyalty to an app stems from its usefulness. Apps that prove to be valuable are frequently returned to or used by those who download them. Of course, it follows that the more often they check into the app and use it, the higher its value will go.

The Convenience Test

Let’s face it: no one wants an app that makes them jump through hoops just to download it and share it to others. There is nothing more frustrating than downloading an app and then realizing that sharing it is complicated. It becomes even more of a turnoff when the people you share the app to will find it difficult to register, join, and use the app for themselves.

The app must be easy to share, and actually facilitate joining by friends or those whom it is shared with. One effective way that is done by app developers is to offer tools that encourage social interaction, such as clickable buttons or icons. Some apps can be shared just by clicking on a button, which will then allow the app to appear in their social media accounts’ feeds or timelines.

The Rewards Test

Does the app offer rewards? Does it offer incentives to motivate users to download it, use it and keep coming back to it? Many users look beyond the usefulness of an app and are actually keen on finding perks in using it. When they share the app to other users, do they get rewards for it?

The Engagement Test

Are you able to engage your audience enough for them to continue using and sharing the app? It is not enough that you are able to convince them to download your app and use it for a period of time. It is more important for you to find ways to grow your audience. As the audience for your app increases and more and more users are downloading and using it, that means only one thing: the value of your app is also going up.


Sometimes, you do not have to be too technical in your strategies on how to get millions of users download your app. Of course, as mentioned earlier, the first step in having many users take notice and download your app is to actually have a good app – one that offers something of value and actually encourages sharing. The rest may require a bit more work for you, but if you do them right, you will find your download count reaching numbers that may have been impossible at first.

Make the app design look effortless.

You will notice that the most downloaded apps look fairly simple. The key word here is not “simple”, but “effortless”. At first glance, some may even think that they look too plain and not flashy enough, but that is actually part of the strategy of the app developers.

An effortless design is one that looks almost inexistent, for the simple reason that it has been integrated into the overall look of the app. Many times we get too obsessed on how the app looks and when we get to the heart of the app – its usage and function – we end up disappointed. An app with an effortless design puts users more at ease when using the app, so they will have no trouble using it, even if for the first time. Understand that everyone who downloads an app will have no idea how to use it the first time they open or launch it. There will always be a learning curve involved. A highly convoluted design will add difficulty, making that learning curve too steep. And we all know how users often react to apps that are hard to understand, don’t we?

Make it straightforward. Dispense with too many steps so as to avoid confusion among users.Users want an app that immediately gets to work, doing what it was purported to, without them having to go from one step to another just to get it jumpstarted. They do not want to waste time trying to learn how to navigate the app. Chances are, they will dump the app and look for something else instead.


  • Consolidated registration and sign-in options: Instead of making users create accounts using usernames and passwords, many apps allow users to register or sign in using their existing accounts with other social media platforms, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. This is certainly preferred, since it saves users from having to think of unique usernames and passwords, and fill up lengthy forms with personal information. The personal information they have already provided in their other accounts will simply be imported into the app. This one-click option is also much easier, especially for those who are not too enamored of keying in their usernames and passwords on their phones’ keypads.
  • Simple instructions upon registration: There are no lengthy manuals for apps, although you may stumble on many FAQ files online. However, who wants to pore through pages and pages of how-tos and guides in using the app? There are many apps that, upon sign-in of a new user, display pop-ups with simply written instructions on how to get started with the app. It also instructs users how to add friends or connect with other users of the app.
  • Shows clearly what you can do with the app: From the moment the app is opened, you will immediately know what you can do on it. The interface should clearly display the actions you can do on the app in order of priority. What is the main thing you can do with the app? Then make sure it shows up on the app, right up top. For example, a music sharing app should immediately have the Play/Stream, Search, and Share functions once you open it, instead of the Playback History or Edit functions. They may be in the app, but they are not the top priorities. Now if it is a sound-editing app, then the Edit should be the prioritized action.
  • Consolidated sharing options: Take a look at the Share function. A poor strategy would be having separate buttons for sharing on Facebook, on Twitter, or via e-mail. A good strategy – one that is employed by the best apps – is to have only one button that you can click and will reveal the options to share on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. All you have to do as the user is to select all the applicable platforms that you want to share on, and do it all in a single click.

Offer a frequent reward

Having a reward system in place is really a given. After all, not only do you want to attract users to download your app, but you want them to use it often. To do that, give them a motivation to keep coming back, and nothing motivates better than being rewarded often for using the app.


  • Referral rewards: Some apps give gifts, such as user points, as the case may be, for every friend they invite or share the app to. For every friend that downloads the app, they may also get more rewards. This action will naturally urge the new users to also pay it forward and share to their friends as well.
  • Sign-in or new member/user rewards: It’s not just the users that sent the invitations who will be rewarded. Those who download and use the app will also get to have rewards on their first usage. For example, an app for a shopping portal may give a discount voucher or a coupon. A messaging app may give its new users free themes, stickers or character images. When choosing rewards, make sure they are something that will be of use to them.
  • Surprise rewards: An element of mystery is always attractive. If you offer hidden or surprise gifts to users, this will pique the curiosity of new users. Before you know it, they will be downloading the app and using it in order to get the surprise rewards.

Offer transparency.

The internet is not really the safest place, and app users know that some information about them will be circulating once they join an app. These days, users are more cautious and will only download and use apps that let them know what information will be shared to other users. This is especially preferred when the app utilizes the one-click method of registration or sign-in, assuring users that they will not be posting on their Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, for example.

Always put the users in control.

The app is all about the user; therefore, he should be the one in control. He should be the one with the final say on how to use the app, what information or details will be shared, and how they will be shared. This is commonly done by giving users a control panel. In an app environment, a settings or configuration screen will come in handy.

For example, users using a photo editing software may choose to post the photo on their preferred social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, FourSquare, and more. Or you could let them decide on what notifications to receive, and how they will be received. Some may opt to get notifications when a friend invites or adds them, while others may prefer getting notifications whenever someone comments on one of the photos they have uploaded. Similarly, they may choose to receive notifications on their personal email addresses, or simply read them on the app itself. Again, the key here is to leave the decision up to the user.

Motivate users to come back for more.

It is the repeat customers – the loyal ones that are so happy with your app that they keep coming back and using it – that will serve as your best marketers or advertisers. As long as you keep them happy with what your app is offering and how it is performing, you can be sure that they will talk about your app to their friends, and their friends will also talk about it to their other sets of friends, and so on and so forth. Word-of-mouth remains to be one of the best modes of advertising.

So how can you keep them motivated and interested? You could send them notifications or reminders, encouraging them to come back and use your app. Even a simple greeting once in a while, just to remind them that your app exists, will work wonders.

But even this method has to be done with subtlety. Spamming them or flooding them with reminders and notifications will do the opposite of what you want to happen. They might get irritated and completely uninstall your app.

Focus on the user first.

At the end of the day, it is the user who will be benefiting from the app. It may involve building networks, amassing a huge number of followers, or getting lots of feedback. However, do not forget that the app should always focus on the user. Thus, you have to make sure that the app provides something meaningful to the user on a personal level, with the social aspect only taking second place.

What does this mean? This means that the app should still be useful to the user, even if they do not have to invite friends or bring in other members (unless, of course, the app is purposely for sharing content). Keep in mind that not everyone uses apps for social purposes; there are other users who are “loners” by nature, wanting to use an app without feeling obligated to invite anyone to use it as well.

Put your app “out there”.

Submit your app to various app directories, such as Appolicious. Talk about your app in relevant forums and blogs. Approach trendsetters, influencers, bloggers and even journalists and request them to try using your app, with the request that they talk about it or give it an objective review or testimonial. If you have good content, and the reviewer liked your app, they are bound to talk about it and recommend it to others. There are now a lot of app review websites that you can pitch your app to.

Or you can go ahead and create a microsite or even a blog for your app, and spread the link. Are you creative enough? Create videos or media files about your app and upload them on YouTube or similar streaming sites where people will be able to watch them. Usually, a demo video on how to use the app is a good idea instead of something that simply talks about what the app is.

Another way you can put your app out there is to apply for awards. Fortunately, there are a lot of app awards sites where you can submit your app for consideration for any award. Getting an award, or even having your app nominated, is sure to generate good press for your app, and attract more attention to it. More attention = more downloads.

The road to getting millions of app downloads is certainly not an easy one. However, it can be done and, lucky for you, there are a lot of ways to go about it. All it takes is dedication, effort, and a very good app that is worth sharing, and you’re halfway there.

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