Hey, want to make a billion dollars? Then design the next big social network…
Seriously, social apps have taken over the world (and our smartphones) and made a few lucky individuals very wealthy. It’s not all that surprising when you look at the stats:
- 98.3% of mobile users have Facebook installed on their devices.
- YouTube was the most popular app of 2020, with a mobile reach of 72.8%.
- Telegram was the most downloaded non-gaming mobile app in January 2021.
What do these statistics tell us? Social apps aren’t going the way of the dodo anytime soon. This is great news if you’re an app developer working in the social apps space—assuming you have a solid ASO strategy in place, of course!
In this article, we’ll look at the 25 top-grossing social apps in the iOS store. The goal? Tease out the ASO insights, best practices, and secret ninja tricks successful apps in this category use to reach new potential users and increase installs.
Prepare to learn:
- Must-know ASO strategies used by the top social apps
- How to run more effective App Store page experiments
Disclaimer: The information used in this analysis is available to the general public. The conclusions drawn in the text below are original and stem from the Storemaven team’s knowledge and experience, as well as industry-standard benchmarks.
Check out the other analyses in our App Store Category Spotlight series:
What’s a Social App?
A social app is any app that allows users to interact with each other by sharing ideas, distributing information, or otherwise expressing themselves within a virtual community.
But, of course, you already knew that…
Social apps need no introduction. They’re used by billions of people around the world on a daily basis and seem to have taken up a permanent residence at the top of app store charts. From Facebook to Instagram and YouTube, social apps have literally changed the world.
They’ve even launched new industries—15 years ago, Instagram influencers, YouTube personalities, and Facebook ads experts didn’t exist. Today, people use social media platforms to build careers and make money in previously unimagined ways.
You might think that the Facebooks and Twitters of the world don’t have to worry about ASO. After all, everybody already knows about and loves these apps, right?
In reality, a well-crafted ASO strategy is essential to the continued success of these apps. Without one, they would lose users to an endless stream of upstart platforms, looking to take their place at the top of the Apple App and Google Play charts.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 25 highest-grossing social apps in the USA iOS store, as of April 30th, 2021 to uncover their best ASO secrets!
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Social Apps: Categories
Before we dive into the meat of this analysis, App Store creatives for social apps, we need to talk about something a little more mundane but equally as important: categories.
You might be surprised to learn that not all top-grossing social apps place themselves in the “Social Networking” category in the iOS store. In fact, only 12 of the apps we analyzed (48%) identify themselves this way. Other options include News, Business, and Photo and Video.
Out of the 25 apps we looked at, only two of them had completely unique categories. TikTok falls into the “Entertainment” category, while Pinterest fits comfortably into “Lifestyle”.
The question is, why aren’t all of these apps in the “Social Networking” category? Would anyone deny that Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are social apps? Yet these networks are placed in the News, Business, and Photo and Video categories respectively.
Our belief is that developers place their apps in ulterior categories in order to differentiate their offerings from the horde of other apps flooding the iOS store.
Social Networking is competitive. By placing your app in a different category, you can increase your rankings in the charts, drive more organic traffic to your App Store page, and (hopefully!) generate more installs, users, and revenue.
- Experiment with different categories to differentiate your app from competitors.
- Make sure the category you choose actually makes sense for your app. For example, Instagram is a social networking app, but it sits in the Photo and Video category. This works because the app allows users to connect by sharing photos and videos.
Social Apps: Icons
Now that we’ve covered categories, we can talk about icons—a vastly underrated element of your ASO strategy. Why? Because your icon is the most visible app store creative you have. It appears everywhere, from search results to category charts to Facebook ad campaigns.
Our research shows that an optimized icon can boost conversions by as much as 30%! Let’s take a look at the icons for the top social apps to see if any patterns emerge.
The first thing we notice about icons in this category is that 96% of them display a logo of some kind. The only social app to buck this trend is Clubhouse, which uses a black and white picture of a woman instead of a slick, easily recognizable logo.
There are two possible explanations for Clubhouse’s decision:
- The developers want to differentiate their app from the competition. Clubhouse was launched in March of 2020, which means it’s still in its infancy compared to industry titans like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. By using an actual picture, rather than a logo, Clubhouse could be trying to tell users, “Hey, look at me, I’m different!”
- As of this writing, Clubhouse is still invite-only. You can’t simply download the app from the Apple App store and participate. You have to be invited to join by somebody who’s already a part of the platform. It could be that Clubhouse hasn’t created a logo yet, because they’re currently focused on app development.
It’s always interesting to analyze icon colors. Is there a rhyme or reason to the colors top-grossing apps use? Or is the process based on the random preferences of developers?
We can’t speak for every category in the Apple App Store. But when it comes to social apps, colors tend to be all over the map. For example, 28% of the apps analyzed for this article use blue as a main color, while 20% use red, 20% use black, and 12% use purple.
There is one common thread, though: eye-catching hues.
Every app that we analyzed for this category breakdown, aside from Clubhouse, uses bright and/or contrasting colors in its logo to attract attention.
Title and Subtitles
The Apple App Store allows developers to display an app title and subtitle next to their icons in the first impression screen.
After analyzing the titles and subtitles of the top-grossing social apps, we discovered that 36% of them use their app title to better explain what they do. For example, Twitch’s title in the iOS Store is “Twitch: Live Game Streaming”.
This is a great strategy to use if the name of your app is ambiguous. “Twitch” could mean almost anything. So the app developers clarify things by including “Live Game Streaming”. Now potential users know exactly what Twitch is.
When it comes to subtitles, we were surprised to learn that 20% of the social apps we analyzed DO NOT use one. This seems like a missed opportunity.
Sure, Facebook and Instagram are universally known at this point and can get away with not using a subtitle. But lesser-known apps like SocialBee.io, MeWe Network, and Clubhouse should follow the example of the other top-grossing apps.
Most apps in this category use their subtitles to do one of two things: describe what their app does, or explain the benefit of using their app.
For instance, Houseparty’s subtitle is “Group Video Chat,” which perfectly describes what the app does. On the other hand, Signal, a private messaging app, has the subtitle “say ‘hello’ to privacy”, which describes the main benefit of the platform.
- Logo icons are the most popular and provide instant brand recognition.
- Bright, eye-catching icons that use contrasting colors are preferred.
- If your app has an ambiguous name, add text to its title to clarify its purpose.
- Don’t neglect your subtitle; use it to describe what your app does or its main benefit.
- And take everything written above with a pinch of salt, until you test it to validate every conclusion matches your situation.
Social Apps: Videos
App Store videos are one of those love ’em / hate ’em things…
Some developers love them because they’re proven to boost conversions by as much as 20%—unless they’re poorly made. Bad App Store videos can actually harm conversions by 20%, which is why some developers won’t touch them with a 10-foot pole.
At Storemaven, we are definitely pro-video. Especially since our research indicates that users who watch an App Store video are 3x more likely to download. The trick is making sure your video is, you know, good. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The average App Store user watches a video for 6-8 seconds
- The first 1-3 seconds of a video are the most important
- 98% of app store users watch video without sound
Interestingly enough, only 3 of the 25 apps we analyzed for this article use video. These apps are TikTok, WeChat and Houseparty. While videos for social apps aren’t nearly as important as they are for, say, RPG games, we’re still surprised by this low number.
If your social app is just entering the market, a well-crafted video could give you a leg up.
Like TikTok, Houseparty’s video focuses on in-app footage that showcases its numerous features and benefits. It also makes good use of captions to clarify things for viewers and includes engaging music for those who decide to deactivate the mute button while watching.
Unfortunately, Houseparty makes one big mistake: the video starts with a branded splash screen. As mentioned above, the first 1-3 seconds of an App Store video are the most important. Houseparty wastes them by displaying its logo right off the bat.
TikTok has created a great video to help encourage installs. It starts fast—no branded splash screen—and shows actual in-app footage. After watching the video, potential users have a great idea of what they can do with the app and why it’s become so popular.
TikTok makes good use of captions to better explain what the viewer is seeing. The video also includes a fun backtrack, but audio isn’t needed to understand the content.
It seems TikTok, Houseparty, and WeChat all attended the same seminar on “How to Make an App Store Video” because WeChat’s video is nearly identical to the two above.
WeChat’s video uses in-app footage, plus captions, to help viewers understand the many features of its app and why said features are beneficial. It also uses upbeat music, but the effectiveness of the video isn’t impacted when users watch on mute.
Like Houseparty, WeChat does make a serious mistake: it starts its video with a branded splash screen, which isn’t recommended and could be harming the app’s conversion rate.
Note: All three videos are in portrait mode.
- Most of the top-grossing social apps do NOT use video. A well-crafted video for your app could help differentiate it from other social networks competing for attention.
- Whatever you do, don’t start your video with a branded splash screen unless your app already has amazing brand recognition. Users want to see what your app does and why they should download it. They don’t care about your logo.
- A groovy backtrack can elevate your video, but don’t rely on sound. Most people will watch your video on mute so it needs to make sense without audio.
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Social Apps: Screenshots
We’re just going to say it, your app’s screenshots are really important! Get them right and you can boost your CVR by 28%. Get them wrong and your CVR could take a 15-25% hit… Ouch!
What do the top-grossing social apps do with their screenshots to encourage downloads? After analyzing each image used, a few things stood out:
- Number of Screenshots: If we remove Clubhouse from the analysis (for reasons stated above,) we find that the number of screenshots used ranges from three to eight. It should be noted, though, that 48% of the apps used exactly five screenshots. This 48% includes industry heavyweights like Facebook and YouTube. Remember users don’t waste time scrolling your gallery till the end.
- Portrait vs. Landscape Mode: When it comes to screenshot orientation, portrait mode is the clear winner. Every social app we analyzed uses portrait mode screenshots exclusively. This tells us that there’s no reason to get fancy. If your app is used in portrait-mode, make sure your screenshots follow suit.
- Screenshot Content: So what kind of screenshots do top-grossing social apps use? By far, the most popular screenshots in this category show in-app footage and use captions to better explain what users are looking at. But we should mention that captions are optional. Facebook, Instagram, MeWe, and Clubhouse don’t use them. As a general rule, if you can convey the features and benefits of your app without captions, feel free to forego them. If not, there’s nothing wrong with extra text.
- Visual Elements: We noticed two more things about the screenshots used by top-grossing social apps. First, when captions are present, bright, eye-catching colors are usually chosen for the background. And second, panoramic screenshots are used but not popular amongst the apps analyzed. If you’re not familiar with the term, a panoramic screenshot is an artistic image that spans two or more images in the iOS store. They encourage users to view more screenshots in the gallery.
Apple App Store users are 10x more likely to view screenshots than read descriptions. Make sure your screenshots are fully optimized by keeping these main takeaways in mind:
- Screenshots have a huge impact on your app’s CVR.
- When in doubt, use five screenshots. But plan to test this number to see if it impacts the number of installs you generate.
- Portrait mode screenshots that showcase your app’s features and benefits are best.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with captions, bright background colors, panoramic screenshots, etc. You won’t really know what works until you try different options.
Supercharge Your ASO Strategy For Social Apps
There are a lot of differences between top-grossing social apps. Many of them target different kinds of people and allow them to interact in different ways. Even so, most apps in this category use similar ASO strategies to better market themselves in the iOS store.
We encourage you to implement the tips, tricks, and best practices uncovered throughout this analysis. Just remember to test everything you do and track the results!
Speaking of App Store page testing, have you tried Storemaven yet? Our industry-leading tool will give you to deep insights you need to optimize your App Store pages and boost conversion rates. Request a free demo today to see our solution in action.