In today’s world, the way we consume information has changed at the speed of light—or perhaps more accurately, at the speed of electrons.
The quaint days a few decades ago when television was dominated only by the big three networks or when the daily newspaper was the primary source of news are long gone. Today, consumers have multiple avenues from which to gather information, and they expect to have that information delivered when they want it, in a way that’s convenient for them.
For more and more people, that means using a mobile application (mobile app) on a smartphone or other digital device so that we can automatically access the data we’re seeking, whether we’re looking for paint-color matching software or an app that reminds us our oil needs to be changed.
Government agencies are increasingly moving to meet this consumer demand by developing and releasing their own apps to satisfy citizen needs. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service released IRS2Go early this year in order to make it easier for people to find out the status of their tax returns. A subsequent update to the app included integrating an application programming interface (API) with GovDelivery Digital Communication Management (DCM). By doing that, users could easily sign up to receive timely tax tips via email. The impact of this integration was an enormous increase in direct outreach for the IRS. In the first month, more than 14,000 subscribers signed up to receive tax tips from the IRS, and 72% of those subscriptions could be traced directly to the mobile app! (As a point of comparison, subscriptions to the same topic last year during the same one-month period only totaled 4,390.)
Or in the case of the U.S. Census Bureau, the mobile app they developed and released called “America’s Economy” pushes out important economic information such as retail sales data or new construction numbers directly to user’s digital devices. It gives the Census Bureau another clever way to satisfy its organizational mandate to provide data to consumers about the economy and populace.
So how can a government agency or organization most efficiently serve this growing consumer preference for receiving information via mobile app? To do this effectively, you need a strategy that will guide you and your team through pre-development, design and the eventual launch of your app.
First, you must understand that for consumers to download and then use your app, they need to be able to find it in the crowded sea that app stores have become. (Thousands of apps exist, and new ones are developed every minute.)
To make your app both noteworthy and easy to find, you need to think about the keywords that a consumer might use to locate it. Many online tools exist to help you work through this process. For instance, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a free online program that can help you brainstorm and work through this process by showing you keywords that might relate to a term you choose.
For instance, type in “road closure” and related keywords such as “traffic conditions” or “traffic and road conditions” come up, along with a host of other variations. Since you never know exactly how your audience may choose to search, it’s a helpful exercise to go through at the beginning of app development.
If you want consumers to know that you offer an app that provides updated road construction information, your keywords might include your city or county name and “road construction” or whatever combination makes sense for your organization.
Likewise, you need to name your app something that reflects its purpose. If your app describes road conditions in Topeka, “City of Topeka Road Conditions” might be a matter-of-fact name to consider.
You’ll also need to understand where consumers might expect to find your app or in which category it most logically belongs. Categories exist for a myriad number of apps, but what the consumer first sees when logging into an app store are apps ranked by “popularity” or number of downloads. To search further into the store, a consumer can click on the categories tab to view apps sorted by topic, such as business, entertainment, social networking and more. Perhaps an app designed to alert your audience to severe weather conditions would fit under the category “weather” or “news.”
By visiting and researching the categories available, you’ll have a better understanding of where your app might logically live.
It’s hard to miss the cool iconography with apps these days. For your organization’s app, you’ll need to create an attractive icon to represent the app but also your organization. The icon will appear on users’ smartphones or other digital devices, which is a great place to further your organization’s brand awareness with the public.
Keeping with the example of a road conditions app, perhaps a highway sign icon superimposed on your cityscape would make sense? You want the user to immediately understand what your app does, and how it would be of value to them. (You’ll also want to have screenshots of the user interface of your app posted behind your icon in the app store—in other words, you want users to understand what they’ll see when they download and activate your app, and to understand immediately why it will be of value to them.)
Getting the word out
After all this, the most important part of the process is to get the word out that you a) have an app and b) tell people what it can do. If the consumer doesn’t know about your app or doesn’t understand how or where it can be accessed, all the great content in the world won’t help.
Paid marketing is one route to getting the word out about your app, but it certainly isn’t the only one.
You can tout your app on your website, send an e-mail notification to subscribers or consider adding note to statements or notices sent from your office to let consumers know your app exists. And don’t forget to announce the app on your Facebook page or to Tweet about the new tool. And a press release can provide a way to get local media to help publicize your new effort. This may also help your organization’s app to get featured on one of the popular mobile app review sites online.
Finally, be sure that you make use of an analytics tool post-launch that will help you track how many people download your app. This will also give you insight into how organizations with similar apps are faring the marketplace. MobileDevHQ and App Annie are two popular analytics tool that you may want to consider, as well as Google Analytics for mobile.
Mobile apps give you one more tool with which to conveniently—and efficiently—provide the information consumers want when they want it. Has your organization created a mobile app? How did you promote it? What tactics were successful? Let us know in the comments.
Want to find out more about the Census app? Hear directly from the Associate Director for Communications for U.S. Census at our annual digital communications event in Washington, DC on October 16. Hear from leading experts from around the Federal government about leadership development, new technologies, and digital communications best practices. Registration is free, but space is limited. Reserve your seat today.