Developers are looking to gain as much exposure as possible for their apps, but often the amount of exposure available is severely limited by budgetary concerns. Paying for advertising isn’t something every independent app creator can afford, especially when there’s not necessarily any guarantee that it will help. That’s why Tap for Tap wants to offer them a chance to get some exposure for free, via a marketing system that resembles the link exchange programs that were popular in the earlier days of the web.
With Tap for Tap’s program, when a developer shows ads in their own Android or iOS app, they receive credits, which can then be used to have ads for their own app shown in other mobile software using the system. Tap for Tap offers a two-to-one ratio in terms of earning and spending credits; two ad units shown (there’s two in a single Tap for Tap bottom ad banner) equals the ability to show one of your own ad units (half a banner) in someone else’s app, and there’s no real monetary cost incurred.
Tap for Tap co-founders Eric Dyck and Todd Dunlop both have plenty of experience in online advertising, and they say cheap ways to promote an app without engaging in incentivized downloads or other strategies that might incur Apple’s wrath is something they saw mobile developers asking for regularly. The Tap for Tap model, which is free and which they hope also encourages a sense of community support among independent developers, struck the two as a great way to help small companies without a marketing budget at least dip their toes into the waters of online advertising.
Others are trying similar things – SessionM, from former Quattro founder Lars Albright, provides a free platform for developers aimed at driving engagement and discovery through a cross-game virtual currency that users can collect and redeem in exchange for real-world rewards from brand advertisers. When asked about what Tap for Tap can offer that larger free platforms can’t, Dyck indicated that simplicity and a personal touch was part of the company’s appeal.
“Our simplicity is definitely something that helps set us apart,” he said. “We definitely are a scale solution, and there’s no money involved at all. We’re also really trying to stay true to making relationships with developers, really kind of bonding with them.” Dyck emphasized that one thing he and his co-founder Dunlop, who previously founded affiliate marketing firm Neverblue where Dyck also worked for six years, learned during their experience in online advertising was that personal relationships are still key to maintaining successful online business arrangements.
Dyck also noted that unlike SessionM and other similar offerings like Kiip, Tap for Tap isn’t running any kind of incentive-based campaigns around engagement with ads, which makes them less susceptible to things like Apple’s clamp down on past efforts by freemium apps to game rankings via incentivized downloads. Also, he says, there’s plenty of room for multiple app advertising companies and models to succeed.
“There’s a massive land grab right now for advertising real estate,” he said. “There are apps out there that have huge, huge marketing budgets, and they’re driving up the cost for everyone, so we wanted to provide an offering that lets the little guys in on the action but also provides another outlet for those with big budgets looking to pay.”
That’s where Tap for Tap’s revenue model comes in: The company charges large publishers and developers for their remaining inventory, and pairs it with the free ad units from small developers. Since those small developers are offering ad space in their apps in exchange for the privilege, the Tap for Tap model actually generates a ton of new inventory that they can then sell to the big players who are grabbing it up so readily.
Tap for Tap just completed a PhoneGap plug-in, and is working on something for Unity, too. “We figure a lot of our market is going to be in those platforms,” Dyck said, which allow people to cross-code apps for multiple platforms. Also, the company will eventually introduce more sophistication to its current model, using algorithms to determine when a developer partner’s ad space is worth more than just a two-to-one ad exchange (as is the case with apps that get higher downloads and engagement), and providing them with either more ad placements in exchange for their space, or even offering the ability to receive a certain percentage of revenues generated by the ads appearing in their products.
For independent developers, ‘simple’ and ‘free’ will be welcome words indeed when it comes to marketing products. Tap for Tap’s challenge will be in keeping things simple and straightforward as they add more depth to their business model, and also making sure that no one involved feels like they’re getting a better or worse deal than anyone else. Still, for developers wary of spending thousands on free app promotions and at a loss about how to get more exposure in an increasingly crowded market, this could be an attractive option.