How I got 3,238 users for my app in less than two months without spending a $1

I'm not going to ask you to use it, the app is for Tamil language speaking audience, and my native language too. So you can safely continue to read with the guarantee that I won't be pitching it at the end :p

So far I have only spent on servers and not a $1 on marketing, even my spends on servers are covered by Digital Ocean's credits so literally I got 3,238 users by spending only my time and efforts

Two months back I was exploring the funding options for this project on IH here. At that time and before that, I always found posts like how i made x, how i sold x, these posts were not only interesting but motivated me to do more. Now, I'm finally happy to do my part in it...

When I launched my app I had good many questions in my mind, store presence, copy, content inside the app, scaling, marketing, and so on. As it started, my launch didn't go well, I uploaded it to Play Store early by calculating their time to approval, which usually is 5 - 10 days, so averaged out 7 days and planned to post content in my app while it awaits approval. I uploaded. Exactly 9-hours later it gets approved and my app is sitting there without anything in it. It's like a book full of white pages, no print!

Knowing after 2 days it will start showing up on search and organically in feeds, I jumped right in to find and post content to it. I curated the most engaging piece and just went with it.

If you're wondering what I added, it's just videos: dance, lip-syncs, comedy, acts and more. Crovl is a short-form video sharing app for Tamil language speaking audience.

Stats for Crovl's downloads for the last 30 days

  1. After 7-days or so, it had enough content that one would enjoy watching, I started to work on getting downloads, the very first downloads were my family and close friends, I listened to their feedback added and removed videos. Tho I could have sent it to my connections abroad, as I knew they would help reviewing my app, it just didn't make sense to send in something they won't even understand.

  2. I started sending out to more of my friends by personally writing messages to 600+ contacts on my WhatsApp I was not only able to hit 50 downloads, followed by 100 downloads in a few days, I enjoyed small chats with my old friends. Many were supportive enough to share it on their profiles and stories. But their shares didn't help much and only added a very few downloads.

  3. This is where the magic happened. I ran a contest, the contest being, Upload videos to Crovl videos app, the highest video uploader wins only rule was Videos should be your own. The prize was ₹250, like $3.43, that was about it, and it went semi-viral. Initially it had no effect in downloads but I kept reposting the same with little changes to the creatives each time. I didn't even use heavy graphic elements, it was just green and blue text on plain white background I typed using Instagram, something the audience are familiar with and have used.

5 days passed, only now I could see my contest working, I started seeing numbers. This is when I started reaching out to micro meme pages on Instagram and requested posting memes about Crovl or about my contest. Few agreed, and a few agreed but requested me to post about their pages on my profile with 450+ followers. Most of these pages had between 900 and 5000, small but the audience of these pages were mostly friends and much connected resulting in higher engagement. I stayed away from paid promos and pages with huge following. They could definitely help but Crovl just wasn't ready for it.

  1. Contest ends here but still the downloads continued. Shortly, before 4 the downloads started going down, this is when I changed the creatives in the Play Store and optimised the listing overall. I believe this hugely helped me getting new downloads.

  2. I announced the winner. A user uploaded 59 videos and topped hugely from other users that participated in this contest, at the time of this writing this user's videos was at 97. After this announcement post Crovl saw some downloads.

After this there is a decline in the number of daily downloads but still it's decently growing. The decline is also because I'm not focusing much on the app as I spend more time on the community I'm building.

Stats so far
681 new accounts
2,596 active users
19 reviews
$3.43 operating costs
$2.17 overall in Admob revenue

I'm close to becoming profitable. Thanks for reading.

Update: Crovl is now SOLD. Met an amazing person who was interested in taking the project forward.

I shared about the growth beyond 3K users, i.e 3K to 15K users on a post on Medium.

  1. 3

    Also, a story that might interest you. Being completely honest, the type of audience that downloaded my app, this is the same type of audience one would say cheap, low quality traffic. One can see the revenue from ads being really low for an app of this kind, mainly because

    • Google is still reviewing my account and hence a limitation is in place
    • I have capped the ads at 1/5min, this is the only project of mine where I do ads, I hate it and want my users to enjoy the app with very little ads
    • Another factor is the low-quality audience

    The app was mostly downloaded by low-quality, cheap, non-tech savvy Indians from the rural parts of India. I don't like to serve them, I don't know why, this was one of the reasons I mainly serve the US market through my agency. But... things changed with this app.

    I was only motivated by money at first, given that TikTok was banned here and the street's bloody with 1000s of apps trying to take its place. The demand was high, so high even TikTok app templates would get 10k downloads, I was tempted by it and decided to target this audience. Didn't like it a bit, not even a little, but I did.

    Once I started getting downloads and the users started uploading their videos, I saw things from a different angle. My app's users tried to replicate by acting, lip-syncing and trying to do what they saw in the videos of celebrities that I uploaded. Shaky cameras, lip-syncs are out of sync, they're dancing but showing only the face, videos were 480p... what I'm trying to say is it was raw, real and they were all true to what they did. I enjoyed watching their videos more, comment on each, add suggestions and engage with them.

    My revenue is freaking low with them, tech-savvy, well educated, Instagram kids won't like it, but I enjoyed doing it now. No point, it is what it is, a story.

    1. 2

      That's very moving Dinakar. I resonate with the part where money is the initial motivation and then you find even more interest in seeing your users getting value out of it. That's success!

  2. 1

    Congrats! Thanks for documenting your journey. Excited to see where Crovl goes.

    1. 1

      Hey Adam, good to hear. Your website is nice, I feel the pricing is not suggestive that it is monthly. You really bring its a content writing service, but still.

  3. 1

    Good work! This is an awesome example of doing grass-roots marketing and taking acquisition into your own hands :)

  4. 1


      1. 1

        If you're reading this and you're like what 😆😆
        He said, happy and I'm like thanks 🙏 lol

  5. 1

    I appreciate your honesty about the entire process Dinakar. I'm preparing to do a giveaway as well for brand awareness and to introduce my company services. This read was especially good when you gave the reasoning for your strategy about resisting paid traffic avenues.

    I'd like to run a couple of ideas past you regarding your app and it's potential.

    1. 1

      Thanks 🙏. The giveaway, is it for your real estate business or your mentorship? My guess is it's for your mentor program, correct? Looking for ideas 👁‍🗨

      1. 1

        Sorry for the late reply, still learning my way around the forum.

        Actually, the giveaway is non-business related. It's for a scholarship fund. However, you are correct about my offering up my services in this giveaway as a prize. I'm considering prizes of ($50 & $25), a financial fitness bundle, and some of my products and services. For entry just make a donation to the scholarship fund of any amount. For more entries just share the news about the giveaway.

        Also I think you have a great idea with the app. Ever thought about doing a launch of it? Probably some refining and drop a beta launch then, a prelaunch???
        I don't really know all the ins and outs of IH so I won't throw out any names or drop any links here but feel free to email me and can tell you more.

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