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The Messaging Apps Turning to Growth Hacking to Compete

The Messaging Apps Turning to Growth Hacking to Compete

Every day, thousands of social network, messaging and game mobile applications compete for downloads. This fierce competition has led to increasingly aggressive techniques to ‘encourage’ take up of these apps. One method which we’ve seen become an increasing issue, particularly over the last six months, is growth hacking.
Growth Hacking is a method of increasing the user base of an app, which occurs when a user-installed app requests to promote itself by notifying or inviting the user’s contact list by SMS. We first brought this to the industry’s attention back in February and in order to show the full scale of the misuse of the technique we have investigated the most active and popular social and messaging applications in North America over the last two months.

Our new report, which details the findings, found the following apps to be the most aggressive in sending SMS messages to a user’s contact list, while also making it difficult for users to opt-out:

In monitoring the invitations sent during this period we found that Glide sent 57% of the invites, and Tango sent 19.7%. In order of comparison, Glide sent out over 10 times more SMS invites than WhatsApp, an application with low levels of customer complaints, and made it very difficult for users to opt-out of inviting their contact list, leading to the highest number of consumer complaints. Although the Tango app allows users to easily opt out of inviting contacts when they install the app, it also includes an ‘Invite on Activity’ feature, so when a photo is taken using the app, this leads to more invites being sent, resulting in a significant number of complaints.
This issue is now being recognised by the industry, with the news on Friday that Google has made changes to their Android Developer Policy to ban apps from sending unsolicited SMS promotions. We’d advise that if an app chooses to send invites, and if this is permitted by the relevant app store and mobile operator, then it needs to make sure that safeguards are built into the design to ensure that a user can easily opt-out.

While compiling the report, we alerted all the applications identified as generating excessive invites and shared the research with Google and other industry players. We will continue to work closely with app developers, app store owners and mobile operators to reduce the amount of App-Spam being generated.

For more details on the findings and our suggestions on a code of conduct you can download the full report here:

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