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Apple Wants YOU to Develop TV Apps

At their September Keynote event, Apple launched their fourth-generation Apple TV with a vague release date of October sometime. With a week to spare, it looks like Apple will squeak in their latest set-top box right before the end of the month.

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at WSJD Live to announce that “the foundation of the future of TV” is available for order as of today and that shipping will begin by the end of this week (Friday, October 30).

As discussed in my ‘Are Apps The Future of TV?’ post, the biggest new feature of the Apple TV is its new App Store. So that you don’t turn on your new set-top box to be greeted with a barren App Store, Apple has just started accepting app and game submissions from its development community.

Apple has provided app developers, like us, with guidelines for supporting major Apple TV features and submitting tvOS apps. Now they’re calling out potential app entrepreneurs and startups, like YOU, to change the way we consume and connect with television.

So what do disruptive app developers and entrepreneurs need to know about the fourth-generation Apple TV?

In this post, we examine Apple’s next big product and how you, as an early adopter, can create apps that change the way we gather around our big screens.

 

What’s in the Box?

Made entirely from glossy and matte black plastics, the new Apple TV looks just like its two predecessors, only around 50% taller with two rear port changes. All audio has to go through HDMI and the previous micro-USB port has given way to a USB-C connector. As iFixit notes, a giant heat sink inside makes it noticeably heavier than before.

The new Apple TV will also be shipped with a new Siri Remote, which is black on top and silver on the bottom. To make scrolling quicker, Apple has replaced the prior four-direction navigation circle with a small matte glass surface that can be used for navigational swipe and gentler positing. Gyroscope/accelerometer sensors are hidden inside the remote for future games, and not user within the main Apple TV interface.

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The evolution of the Apple TV Remote.

Four new buttons have been added to enable the Siri Remote to control your TV’s volume, activate twin built-in microphones for Siri voice input, and quickly return to the Apple TV’s main menu. Apple has also included a multi-month rechargeable battery this time that can be refuelled with an included Lightning to USB cable.

 

What’s the new Software?

Apple has substantially redesigned the Apple TV’s user interface with an ambitious, visually appealing set of improvements. Everything’s been whitewashed with a brighter colour palette, text has been flipped to Apple’s new San Francisco font, and drop shadows have been added. Translucent panes introduced in iOS7 have made their way to tvOS, with even better results.

One big change that isn’t obvious from screenshots is speed: the new Apple TV lets you zip rather than plodding through menus, thanks in equal parts to a considerably beefier A8 processor and the more responsive Siri Remote. Additionally, app icons and cover art images now wiggle in 3D thanks to an Apple mandate that developers include 2-5 parallax layers to create depth.

Much of the new UI, including Apple-developer widgets like Weather and Stocks that aren’t represented by app icons, can be navigated using Siri voice commands. You have to hold down the Siri Remote’s microphone button while you speak to get Siri to “hear” and process whatever you say. This takes a little adjustment, but is better than killing the Siri Remote’s by having it endlessly listen for the words “Hey Siri” or, even worse, trolling questions like “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuckwood”

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Siri’s answer to the age-old-troll question. Source: MacRumors

By holding down the mic button, Siri can be activated in the middle of pretty much anything, including videos. You can use Siri for voice-controlled navigation, “What did they just say?” type inquires, and lookups of information related to whatever’s currently playing.

Along with the new UI and Siri Remote, the biggest new addition to Apple TV’s Software – well, for us app developers and entrepreneurs – is the soon to be opened App Store. More than likely, the set-top box will arrive with only a handful of Apple-developed apps pre-installed, leaving you to choose which third-party developed apps will be filling up your Home screen.

 

What To Expect From TV Apps and Games

The A8 processor inside the new Apple TV is one year and three generations old, which is to say that it’s already been surpassed in power by the iPhone 6s/6s Plus’s A9 and iPad Pro’s A9X. But with at least as much horsepower as these other Apple products, the Apple TV will be well-equipped to play new games, as well as thousands of games previously released on iOS devices, assuming that they’re updated to support the tvOS operating system.

Expect the graphics in 3D games to be roughly on par with consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with no shortage of ability to handle 2D games of any type.

One note of caution about tvOS games: for all of the set-top box’s incredible potential as a gaming platform, Apple continue to ignore requests from serious gamers regarding basic controller issues, such as allowing developers to offer games without support for the restrictive Siri Remote. It remains to be seen whether software and hardware decisions like this, which have upset many within the gaming community, kills the Apple TV’s ability to win over major game developers and their customers.

While apps are a lot easier to code than games, the Apple TV’s living room-focused interface hints that Apple’s not looking to see it turn into a cut-rate Mac. Basic widgets to extend the functionality of traditional TV features – watching sports, learning about the weather – will appear quickly, as will tvOS versions of Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu Plus and other channels.

However, don’t expect Apple to endorse creation apps, web browsers, or other Mac mainstays for the platform. Well, not yet, at least. Similarly, it will be interesting to see whether compromised apps with audio and/or one-way video calling take off in the absence of integrated FaceTime-caliber hardware.

 

Have An Idea for a TV App?

Even though prior versions of the Apple TV haven’t been mega-hits, the second- and third-generation models proved to be quite handy for everything from watching videos to occasionally putting FaceTime calls on the big screen.

I’m personally very excited about the fourth-generation Apple TV’s potential and think the next year will be a wild ride for early adopters. The first two or three months may be chaotic for developers and entrepreneurs as they rush to get hastily completed apps and games into the Apple TV App Store. In time though, the right kind of apps will change the way we experience television for the better.

What kind of apps would you like to see on a television platform? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

An App Entrepreneur’s Guide to Facebook Marketing

To advertise your app successfully on Facebook, you need to understand Facebook’s unique opportunities, and how it differs from other marketing channels. Within this guide, we highlight the core aspects of Facebook mobile app marketing, explaining the process from start-to-finish and providing tools to scale your operations towards sustainable and cost-effective ad campaigns.

 

More and more business are moving their budgets away from traditional advertising channels and increasing their social spending. According to eMarketer, Facebook’s social platform commands the highest market share in mobile ad spend with 37%. Why is this the case?

It’s simple: Facebook Advertising works.

However, putting together a Facebook campaign is no small task if you’re attempting to scale operations and maximise your ads’ ROI. When you’re trying to get people to download your app, every user – and every dollar – counts.

The upside is clear — Facebook is something you want to explore if you’re looking to grow user adoption. But if this is your first foray into paid acquisition or Facebook ads in general, it can be daunting to set everything up.

But worry not — the following step-by-step guide will walk you through everything you need to know about the Facebook campaign creation process from conception to execution.

 

Finding your uniqueness

So here’s something you probably already know from scrolling through your Facebook Newsfeed: Most users only spend one second on an ad before moving on. This is an extremely short window of time to grab their attention, show value, and get them to take action.

The best way to capture a user’s attention is to provide a clear message. As discussed in How To Optimise App Store Screenshots, the visuals should depict what the user will get from your app. If your app is a mobile game, your ad better show off the core gameplay. This seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how an ad transforms when people brainstorm visuals — a smiling guy, multiple tag lines, the presence of a phone etc. These visuals may be valid in the right context, but when put together, add noise that confuses your message.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.32.18 am✗ Cluttered with too many tag lines                  ✓ Shows value and prompts user action

So how do you achieve clarity? You identify your unique selling point, or USP. This is something you offer that your competitors don’t, or something your competitors don’t do well. It’s what sets you apart in the marketplace, but also the core of your app’s experience.

As part of our Rocketfuel Workshops, I help entrepreneur’s determine the USP of their app product by applying the following 5-step process:

  1. List the features and benefits that are unique about your product or service. Do a Google search and compare your features and benefits with your direct competitors. Identify the benefits that set you apart.
  2. Decide what emotional need is being specifically met by your product or service. Think about this from your customer’s perspective and add it to your list.
  3. Identify aspects of your product or service that your competitors cannot imitate. Put a star beside anything that cannot be easily duplicated, reproduced, or copied.
  4. Create phrases about your unique product or service that are short, clear, and concise. Use the words from steps 1-3 that you singled out. Be sure they can be easily communicated to and understood by your customers.
  5. Answering your customer’s primary question: “What’s in it for me?” Make it to the point and state it as a benefit to the customer.

 

Making your first campaign

Facebook provides their free Power Editor to create campaigns. If you followed our 5-step USP process from the previous section, I recommend using Power Editor for your first campaign as it allows you to attach an image that highlights your USP and plug in all relevant targeting information. Simply put, it sets up your campaign’s framework for you.

But don’t go attaching that image just yet!

Make sure that the creative image that you’re using is both relevant and engaging. If you just want to humor or surprise your target users, a Meme image might get some clicks, but very few people will convert.

Facebook Birthday

Humorous? Yes. User conversion? Probably not.

Long story short, avoid clickbait. Best case, users will install your app and then quickly uninstall it when they realise it has nothing to do with the ad they clicked. Worst case, you’ll upset users and damage your brand’s reputation, probably leading to a few bad reviews across your app’s Facebook page.

When you consider that 60.3% of all mobile sharing takes place on Facebook, you need to make sure that your app is part of that number the right way!

Remember the goal of Facebook campaigns: You want conversions, not just clicks. You want good users. The ones who were meant for your app the moment they picked up a mobile device. The ones who will buy your app’s Premium version, subscribe or make in-app purchases.

When making your first Facebook campaign, here are a few things to consider:

  1. The 20% Rule – When you’re making your design brief, keep one big thing in mind — your creative can be at most 20% text. Covering it with copy and call-to-action text won’t pass approval.
  2. Size up your creative – Before you or your designer get cranking on making an image, make sure it’s the correct resolution. If you need a visual reference, the Facebook Ads Guide displays each ad type.
  3. Make your campaign in Power Editor – The whole campaign process within Facebook’s Power Editor is very straightforward with many editing options. Furthermore, Facebook provides a video tutorial to creating ads in Power Editor.

One last thing before you create your ad: creative is much more important than copy. According to Elias Sandler, Founder and CPO of Adquant, Ad Click is determined 90% by creative and only 10% by copy. Simply put: Facebook users want to see, not read. Tune your ads accordingly.

 

Optimising your campaigns

So you’ve researched your user, thought of ways your app stands out, and made your first campaign. Now you need to look at optimising things.

If your ads go untouched — especially on a platform as fluid and changing as Facebook — you’ll see your once-awesome campaign’s budget evaporate with little growth to show for it. Don’t underestimate the importance of optimising, and doing it regularly.

Once you have an audience built up on your app’s Facebook page, or you have an email list to pull from, you can start using Lookalike Audiences. Facebook will automatically figure out who your top audience is through metrics you set, then go out and find people similar to them so you can target them with your ads.

To leverage Lookalike Audiences, first you need to create a Custom Audience with all your existing users. From Custom Audiences, you can locate hundreds of thousands of users who have never engaged with you but have a high likelihood of wanting your app.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it is worth it when you consider that advertisers can lower their new customer acquisition cost by 73% by setting up Custom Audiences.

MarketLand recommends the following ways to target Lookalike Audiences:

  • Similar to mobile app users – Target users that engaged with your app in a certain way. Be it downloading something or making in-app purchases, any trackable activity can be a trigger to make users targetable.
  • Similar to Facebook page fans – You probably have a Facebook Page with some fans, so put them to work for your app. Find other people out there that look similar to your current fans.
  • Similar to website purchasers – This requires you to have a Facebook Conversion Pixel installed on your website, but you can reach people similar to those who previously made purchases on your website. E-commerce apps should find this particularly useful.

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Target optimisation is a great way to save precious budget dollars, so make sure you take time testing and evaluating your ads. Explore the full list of targeting options when building your own campaign, as there are a number of Facebook-specific techniques you can leverage.

 

Your users are waiting…

So you’re now equipped to conceive and execute your own Facebook ad campaigns. This guide should serve as a framework for all your future campaigns to ensure that you find new users and keep people engaged with your app.

Identify your app’s unique selling point. Create campaigns people want to see. Optimise your ads to target potential users.

Many startups are running into Facebook 
without a map, so use this guide to your advantage and secure great ad placement at a much lower cost.

Do you have any tools and tips for Facebook Marketing? We’d love to hear about them.