How to make your app go viral: 5 actionable ideas from Mada Seghete


by Lindsey Witmer Collins 

These are my notes from a webinar by Mada Seghete at Branch, which you can watch first-hand here. She shared some great insights that I thought a lot of my clients could use, but the webinar is about an hour long, so I thought I'd publish my notes here to save you some time. I apologize for lack of footnotes on some of this data. Check out her slides for that.


Most people search the app store for a specific app, not a topic, e.g. people will search for "Nordstrom" more often than for "shopping app".  When people are searching for the best app for breastfeeding for example, they are more likely to do that online, in part because neither app store (iTunes or Google Play) is great for discoverability.

(SEO: Search Engine Optimization, ASO: App Store Optimization)


  • K-Factor is the measure of an app's virality. Ideal virality is K=1, where every user who downloads your app brings on one additional new user. This is incredibly difficult to achieve. The formula to calculate K-factor is:

    K = i x C

    K = number of downloads

    i = # of people who invited new users

    C = percentage of invites that are accepted

  • Apps convert 120% better than mobile web

  • App users are 2.5x as engaged as web viewers

  • The average persons daily use of the mobile web is 19 minutes versus 1.9 hours on apps


1. Google Search Ads. 
Run ads to drive traffic directly from Google Search

2. Improve the SEO of your website and its content. 
Make sure to add an app download banner to the top of your site so that anyone who is viewing your app, especially on mobile, will have a directly download link. You might also use a pop-up.

3. Use Deep Links
- Have corresponding info on your site and your app and create a link directly to the same info on the app as on the site (AKA "deep linking"). 
- Also consider driving people from web search or ads directly to content in your app, also using deep linking, e.g. you could advertise a How-To article on Facebook that links to the article inside the app. The user is first directed to the app store to download the app, and once they've downloaded, they're taken directly to the advertised content. 

4. Create Contagious Content. Branch ran an experiment that found that social content with high engagement (likes and shares) improves the SEO of the site it was shared from. A few interesting takeaways:

  • Positive emotions drive higher sharing

  • Negative emotions drive higher clicks

  • People are more likely to share things that enhance their image, e.g. How far I ran this morning, my great taste in shoes, my alignment with a cause, etc.

The seven emotions of contagious content:

  1. Awe, e.g. Eating cucumber skins cures cancer

  2. Anger, e.g. Congress passes new legislation banning birthday parties

  3. Anxiety, e.g. Is there arsenic in your ketchup? Read the five brands that use arsenic.

  4. Fear, e.g. Drinking coffee found to cause cancer

  5. Joy, e.g. 10 cutest cat videos of 2017

  6. Lust, e.g. Images of beautiful clothes

  7. Surprise, e.g. Most reliable cars of 2017. You won't believe #5...

5. Boost referral rates. Virality requires that people share your app. Here are some ways to increase sharing:

  • Rewards. Give a reward to both the giver and the receiver. It's best to give something outright than to give a discount on something. 

  • Personalization. If you were referred by person A, you see person A's face when you are signing up, or the invite itself had person A's face. Or both. You get the idea. 

  • Double Viral Loop. If person A shares the app with person B, when person B engages in the app, notify person A and link them to person B's engagement, e.g. the post they shared, the shoes they bought, etc.

  • Referrals are more successful when the recipient has already heard of your brand. If you have heard of an app a handful of times from different sources, a referral is likely to tip you into action. If you haven't, it's less likely.

  • Make it easy. Sharing the app is one step or one view. Once the app is downloaded, engaging with it is easy. Consider if it's possible to get rid of login on first use (maybe they only need to login when they engage); 56% of users said they did not sign up for an app after downloading because the login process was too lengthy.

I hope this is helpful! Happy audience-building, friends.