One of the earliest successful marketing strategies for mobile games was burst marketing—using tactics to get your app installed by a huge number of people in a short amount of time. The advantage is that you get a big boost in viral uptake because, hopefully, your app showed up higher on the charts, much more often in searches, and got more buzz on social media.

Once can easily refer to Pokémon GO for a high-end example of what a huge audience gained in short order can do for visibility. However, the Pokémon GO craze was entirely viral, with no marketing effort to speak of involved in its success.

Yet burst marketing isn’t the compelling proposition it once was. Back in the halcyon days (only a few years ago), the cost-per-install (CPI) was low and a mere $20,000 or $30,000 spend was enough to get you a good position on the top downloads chart. Now, we’re in the land of $4 or $5 CPIs, with many more apps vying for visibility and a great deal of different ways to spend your marketing dollars. Is burst marketing still viable?

Yes, say experts in the practice—if you are careful, burst marketing can still deliver good results. First, though, let’s be clear about how burst campaigns are typically put together. A typical burst campaign is designed for a two-to-three day period to achieve maximum awareness, visibility, store ranking and organic installs in the long run. These are composed of either incentivized or non-incentivized campaigns that are either paying users to install your app or not. Of course, there’s really no choice on iOS since Apple banned incentivized installs. For the most part, though, there are some ways around the issue.

User Quality

One thing that’s going to be true of a burst marketing campaign is that you’ll probably not be getting the very best group of players, the kind that stays engaged with the game for a long time and spends a lot of money. In fact, just a small percentage of those players will go on to make in-app purchases—and that would be considered a good amount. That’s an inevitable byproduct of the goal of a burst campaign, which is to get the largest possible number of users in a short time.

Still, you should try to find ways to make your audience as profitable as possible. Look for demographics that match your prospective paying players when you’re searching for ad inventory to buy for the burst campaign. Make sure the ads you create are aimed at getting the right kind of players, choosing among the audience you’re reaching to find those that are most likely to get engaged with your game.

When Should You Run A Burst Campaign?

The obvious time to run a burst campaign is at product launch, when you’re trying to get a large number of users as quickly as possible in order to generate some organic installs. Some research shows that paid installs drive three organic installs, so running a campaign can generate long-term benefits.

Besides the initial lift for a game, though, burst campaigns can be useful at a particular time of the year—the holiday season, when gift-giving and app installation is a popular activity. With new mobile devices and gift cards for app stores, finding and installing apps gets a boost. So that’s a prime time to try a burst campaign to see if you can inject some new life into sales. It would probably be best to pair this with a significant new content release, and/or a holiday-themed content release. Your burst campaign advertising, if properly constructed, may help reactivate some lapsed players by highlighting what’s new and exciting in the game.

When your game’s installs plateau, it’s also a good time to consider a burst campaign to drive numbers back up. Again, pairing this with new content, particularly new game modes, is important to make the most of your expenditure.

Best Practices For Burst Campaigns

Certainly a burst campaign has its downsides, perhaps now more than ever. You’ll get mixed results even in the best cases, with many low-quality players. That’s going to affect your rankings and reviews, and if you get too many players who are a poor match for your game, you may find your review scores dropping. That’s why it’s important to find the right target audience by selecting the right ad networks—and the right ad inventory.

It’s very important to realize that a proper burst campaign is expensive—or it should be. Underspending on your burst campaign is throwing money away. Take a look at your goals for the campaign and the costs you’re likely to see, and budget to make it possible to meet your goals. That means careful planning and selection of ad networks is a must, and there are so many to choose from it’s going to take some work to select the right ones for you.

Plan the burst campaign carefully, with an eye toward finding audiences that you haven’t reached before. This may be in a different geographic area or a different demographic area. Work with new ad networks and inventories to see if they can reach an audience that’s new to you.

One of the interesting ways to succeed with a burst campaign on a smaller budget is to try to make a run at the top downloads chart in a smaller country, where your ad spend won’t need to be as high. What good will it do you to chart high in a place like Denmark, or New Zealand? There are several reasons. First, it may help you gain a significant audience in that country, which—and you’ll spend less money doing that.

One thing that you should realize is that the App Store and Google Play aren’t going to give you the same results with any kind of burst campaign. Google’s rankings use a large number of factors, unlike Apple, and in general the top ranks are just more static on Google. Besides, you’re probably going to want to tailor your campaigns somewhat for the nature of the iOS and Android audiences and introduce even more reasons for the campaigns to perform differently. Expect that difference and work it into your strategy.

Before A Burst Campaign, Polish Everything

It’s important to make sure that your app is ready for the burst campaign in every way you can. You’re going to spend a significant amount of money, and it doesn’t make sense to do that when your app page isn’t in great shape. You should make sure you’ve got the right icon, the right videos, the perfect screen shots. Everything. Your game needs to be in the best possible shape, too—major bugs should already have been squashed, the game play and game balance have been refined and tested—and especially your monetization is working well. Ultimately, your burst campaign has to be about making a profit, so you need to keep that goal firmly in mind.