Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smart App Download URL: How to Connect Your Mobile Users Directly to the Correct App for Their Devices

Now that you've started using the new At-The-Event feature in your mobile apps, you will want to make sure that your audience has the Apple or Android app downloaded to their mobile device.

Including the Redirect Script on your standard website takes mobile users to the mobile website, which will display a banner link to the proper app store. Word of mouth also helps build app awareness, but nothing beats providing your patrons with direct links to the Apple App Store and Google Play pages for their specific devices.

To help you with this, we've created a Smart App Download URL (SmartURL) that will automatically detect the type of mobile device accessing it and redirect the user to the link on the appropriate app store for their device.  If the link is visited from a desktop or laptop computer, it will display a page with links to both app stores.

How the Smart App Download URL appears on a desktop computer.

Since At The Event is specifically available to your Apple and Android app subscribers, the Smart App Download URL guides users directly to those apps and bypasses the mobile website, which is not compatible with At The Event.

Building the URL

The first step is to build the SmartURL. This is comprised of three parts starting with the base URL. To begin, copy and paste this text:

Next, you will need to include your Partner ID - a unique 7 digit number linked to your account which lets the URL know to connect to your specific apps.

  • Find this by logging in to your Control Panel
  • Click your Partner Name in the upper right corner to visit your Partner Page on InstantEncore
  • Copy the number at the end of the URL:


Lastly, you will need to provide a Qualifier. This can be anything, but for basic uses we suggest using the "Menu App Name" from the Mobile >> Basic Settings page in your Control Panel:

These elements are then combined into a single URL that looks like:

For example:

Be sure to visit the URL in your web browser and make sure it is valid before publishing it anywhere!

Advanced Techniques

As we mentioned, this link can be used in a variety of different mediums.  If you want to keep track of how much the link is used in different ways, you can use anything you like as a qualifier such as:

Short URL

Now these URLs are very useful, but they are not practical for social media.  To make them more manageable, we recommend Google's URL shortening service:

In additional to an easy-to-use shortened URL, this service provides some "Details"; basic analytics to help you keep track of exposure including the number of "clicks" and what Platform (iPhone, Linux - which includes Android, etc) visited the link. These analytics are important to have as they will not be recorded by your regular mobile app's Google Analytics.

QR Codes

Also available in the "Details" area of the short URL is a QR Code image.

You can save this image to your computer and then use it in your printed materials such as signage, flyers, and programs.  You could even go so far as to create different SmartURLs for different printed methods to get a fine-grained view of what methods work best:

QR Codes are the ideal use for SmartURLs as you are guaranteed that your audience member is already using their mobile device and will be able to bring up the correct app with immediate access to your At-The-Event content.

Tip:  When adding a QR code to a postcard, program or other printed item, it is best to include a bit of text telling the mobile user exactly where that QR code will take them.  For example, "Scan this code with your smartphone to download our mobile app and access exclusive content for tonight's show."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Take Your App to the Next Level with "At The Event"

InstantEncore is excited to introduce the next stage in performing arts mobile engagement with "At The Event" - a new feature set for our mobile suite designed to deepen audience engagement and foster community among your patrons before, during, and after the show.

How does it work?

When “At The Event” is activated for an event, a full-image landing page becomes the home screen for your Apple and Android apps on the day of the show.  You control the start and end times during the day for this landing page to appear within the app. When your patrons tap on the landing page, they are taken to special content related to the event.


The Info screen enables you to engage your patrons more deeply with content specific to the event and the artists involved. Standard features include: location-based check-in, things to know, program notes, featured artist bios, and sponsor information. You also have the ability to create custom content just for that performance, connect to multimedia content already in your app, and link out to external URLs.


The Social screen highlights the social media hashtag for your event, aggregates posts with that hashtag from Twitter and Instagram, and allows your patrons to respond with their own posts. If a mobile user does not have an account on Twitter or Instagram, they can use the in-app posting form to engage in the conversation.

(Why not Facebook?  Because most Facebook users have their privacy settings limited to friends and family.  In order for an app to pull in hashtag content, it must be publicly posted.  We did not want Facebook users to become frustrated by submitting a post that did not appear in the social feed due to privacy settings.)


The Offers screen helps you to capitalize on your audience’s attendance by promoting upcoming events, season subscriptions, concession specials, merchandise, offers from external partners, and more.

At The Event Resources

Over the upcoming weeks, we will be releasing a series of posts on this blog to highlight tips and best practices for making the most of this exciting new tool for audience engagement.  In the meantime, here are some resources to help you dive deeper into exploring what you could do with At The Event in your mobile app.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Google Analytics: Understanding Your Mobile Audience

You've set up your Google Analytics IDs and started collecting information, but what does it all mean? With all of the raw data that is collected, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. So, lets take a look at a few easy metrics you can view to get a sense of how your app users are interacting with your mobile apps and mobile website.

Page Depth (Mobile Web) and Screen Depth (Native Apps)

The Page/Screen Depth view is a useful tool to get a sense of how much users interact with your app. While Visit/Session Duration will give you a general idea of how long users were viewing your app, the time is a lower bound and not an exact measurement.  It also does not show how much content they consumed during that time.  The Page/Screen Depth measurement will show how far into the app users explored.

Mobile Web:

Audience > Behavior > Engagement > Page Depth

Native Apps:

Behavior > Behavior > Session Duration > Screen Depth

Your content should be organized so that the majority of the visits are within the first 3-4 pages.  Having some traffic at larger depth quantities is good - it means that people are exploring everything the app has to offer, but remember that mobile apps are as much about convenience (quickly see event information, check out a new video, etc) as being a prolonged immersive experience.  If the majority of visits are occurring at large depth quantities, this could mean that the content your users want to see most is buried too deeply in the app, and it should be made more accessible for a better user experience.

Content Tracking

Now that you have a general idea of how people are interacting with the app, you can see specifically what content is most popular.

Mobile Web:

Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown

There are two types of entries you will see on this report.  A webpage icon next to the path denotes a single page while a folder icon is for all of the pages further down that path.  Click on one of the folder icon entries, find "Primary Dimension" and then click on "Page" to see the analytics for specific content in your app such as events, music, and video.

Primary Dimension > Page
Native Apps:

Behavior > Screens

Because of the differences in how native apps and mobile websites are constructed, the "Screens" report for your native apps is used to review the same information as "Content Drilldown" from the mobile website. You will notice that this view lacks the folder system from before, so in order to isolate a specific type of content, use the Search box on the left and enter in "/music/", "/video/", etc to see a narrowed down list of results.


Operating System

Another useful tool in understanding your audience is the ability to see what kind of device they are using to access your content.  While this example will focus on the Operating System, you will see from the examples that other interesting information such as service provider, mobile browser, and much more can also be seen.

Mobile Web:

Audience > Technology > Browser & OS > Operating System & Pie Chart
Native Apps:

Audience > Devices and Network > Devices > Operating System & Bar Graph

In either case, selecting "Operating System" from the list of Primary Dimensions will display the traffic your apps receive from iOS and Android devices.  Using the "Pie Chart" and "Bar Graph" views can help visualize this data instead of just looking at the raw values.

Push Notification Tracking

As you know, Push Notifications can be one of the most powerful tools in keeping your users engaged and up-to-date on events and new content in your App.   By setting custom date ranges and changing the time scale of the general Audience Overview report, you can easily monitor the effectiveness of Push Notifications that have been sent. Since Push Notifications are specific to the native apps, we will only be looking at that set of Google Analytics data.

Audience > Overview > Set Date Range & Click 'Hourly'
As you can see, there are noticeable reactions to two push notifications that have been sent out.  Hovering your mouse over the chart will also reveal the number of visitors to the App on an hour by hour basis.

Comparing the Push Notification log to Google Analytics

Keep track of your Push Notification reactions over time to see what kind of messaging techniques attract the greatest response.  Google Analytics has an additional tool that can be useful for achieving a further granular view of how users react to Push Notifications.

Real-Time > Overview

By having the Real-Time Overview display active after a Push Notification is sent, you can monitor the response.  If your message directed your users to view a specific piece of content or alerted them to changes in an upcoming event, you will not only be able to see incoming traffic, but if the specific Screens related to that content in the App have been visited recently.

Stay Tuned

A future update to the mobile apps will include the ability to track exit links via the Events report, giving you the ability to monitor when users have clicked ticket or donation links, visited sponsor sites, and much more.

Want to Learn More?

If you want to learn even more about Google Analytics, we highly recommend visiting Google's Training & Certification program to fully develop your analysis skills.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Make Your App Unique with Custom Tabs

Among the many features of InstantEncore's mobile service, the most malleable is the ability to create custom content areas (or "tabs") in your mobile app.  Custom tabs allow you to share a wide range of content and information with your mobile patrons.  For example:

How to Create Custom Tabs for Your App

To create a custom tab in your mobile app, you will need to log into your InstantEncore account and go to Mobile >> Tabs.  Scroll past the list of current tabs, and you will find the "Add a Custom Tab" area.

Here, you can set the name of your new tab by entering the text into the Label field.  The italicized "i" is the default icon associated with new tabs.  You may change this by selecting "Change Image."

You may select one of the icons from our library, or you may upload your own custom icon.  Generally speaking, we encourage you to upload white icons with transparent backgrounds - use .PNG image files. Icons should be uploaded at 72px X 72px.

Next, you need to decide if you will create the HTML content for the custom tab or if you will link to an existing web page.

Using the HTML Editor to Create Content for Your Tab
To create the content for your tab, select "Write HTML for the page," and click on "Create."  This will open a page with an HTML editor for creating and changing content.

The HTML editor has a look and features similar to word processing software or another web content management system.  You can format the text, add bullets or numeric lists, create indentions, add hyperlinks, insert images, create tables, and more.  

At the bottom of the editor, you will see two tabs for viewing  - Design and HTML.  The Design view shows the content as it will appear in the app, while the HTML view shows the programming code for the content. You may use either view when creating and editing content for your custom tab.
TIP: If you insert an image into a custom tab, you may wish to set the image's size in proportion to the size of the screen on which the tab is viewed.  Using a relational size will allow the image to adjust its size depending on if it is viewed on a smartphone, tablet, or mini-tablet. To set the image size, go to the HTML view.  Find <img src="">, and add style="width: __%" before the > closure.
One of the many things you can do with the HTML view is to add <form> and <iframe> elements, as well as other advanced HTML elements.  If you do use advanced elements, you will need to toggle the "Use Advanced HTML mode for this tab" checkbox at the bottom of the screen.

Custom tabs in Advanced mode will open in a browser within the app instead of being directly embedded in the app. Basic HTML custom tabs will have the app's name and highlight color at the top, along with a "Back" button.  Advanced HTML custom tabs will open in a browser with the app's custom background image.  Mobile users simply tap on the "Close" button at the bottom of the Advanced tab to return to the app.

Basic and Advance HTML tabs from Austin Symphony Orchestra.
Click image for larger view
Using an Existing URL to Create Your Custom Tab
To create a custom tab linking to an external URL, select "Display an existing web page," enter the page's address, and click "Create." When your app's users tap the tab icon or label text in the menu, a browser will launch featuring the existing web page.  To return to the app, they simply tap on "Done" in the bottom toolbar.

TIP: If possible, link to a mobile-responsive or mobile-specific URL so that your app's users continue to have an experience that has been optimized for their mobile devices.

The Special Case for Donations and Membership Tabs

Apple prohibits any app hosted in the iTunes App Store from processing donations and memberships within the app - which includes opening a browser within the app.  So, there is a slightly different process for including these tabs in your app:
  1. Add a tab using the "Write HTML for the page" option.
  2. Enter your message to prospective donors or members.
  3. Add text or an image linked to an external URL where your mobile users can make their donations or sign-up for membership.
  4. Go into the HTML view.
  5. Find <a href="">, and add target="_system" before the > closure.
This causes the page to open in a separate mobile browser window, instead of a child browser within the app.  The distinction is minor, but necessary to fulfill Apple's guidelines.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Rock Your App's Description in the App Store

In response to requests from our mobile partners, InstantEncore has added a new field to the Basic Settings for your mobile app:  the App Store Description.

What is it?

As the name indicates, the App Store Description is an open text field in which you may enter the description of your mobile app as you would like for it to appear in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.

When a mobile user searches for your app in iTunes or Google Play, they land on an information page for your app containing your App Store Description as well as screenshots from your app.  The description is your opportunity to introduce mobile users to your app, let them know what they can do with it, and entice them to download it.

Tips for Rocking the Description

Briefly describe what your app does in 
the first 175 characters. Apple hides 
the rest of it behind a "More" link.

  1. Capture their attention with the first two lines of text. The app information page in the iTunes app store displays 175 characters of the description with a "More" link to open the remaining text.  So it's important that the opening of your description grabs the reader's attention and prompts them to tap the "More" link.

    Summarize what your app does and why it's awesome in the first two lines.  Use active verb phrases to help keep the text engaging.  Craft this intro text to end mid-phrase so that it prompts the user to tap "More" to finish the sentence they are reading.

  2. Highlight key features.  Mobile users read app descriptions to learn what the app will enable them to do before deciding whether or not to download it. Make a list of your app's most important and enticing features.  Again, using active verb phrases will prompt the user to envision themselves using your app in the described manner.  Be sure to highlight the unique nature of the content within your app.

    This is also a great place to tell your potential app subscribers how you plan to use the Push Notification feature.  What type of messaging will they receive if they opt-in to you receive these? How will these messages be useful for them?  People tend to opt-in for push notes if they know in advance what types of messages they will receive.

  3. Keep it concise.  While the app stores allow your description to be up to 4,000 characters in length, no one really wants to read that long of an app description.  You should be able to inform the user about your app and compel them to download it with no more than 700 characters.

  4. Make it easy-to-read.  Mobile users expect to be able to scan your description quickly and easily to ascertain what your app does. Avoid writing in paragraph format.  Use bullets and line breaks to foster scanning the text.

  5. Include single-line excerpts from reviews.  Once your app has received positive feedback from users, experts or media sources, add excerpts from these comments to your app description to bring in a bit of external validation.

  6. Update your app description on a regular basis.  As the features, functionality and content in your app change, update the description to reflect the evolution of your app.

How to Create or Change the App Description

Regardless of whether your app is already established or if it is yet to be published, we encourage you to create your own app description:
  • If you have not yet launched your mobile app, you will need to add the app description before your app may be published.  
  • If your app is already established, InstantEncore created an app description for you based on our template as well as the specific features you utilized within the mobile suite at the time of the app's launch.  We ask that you review your app's current description in the app store and modify it to your satisfaction.
The App Store Description field is located in the Permanent Settings section of the Basic Settings page in the Mobile area of the administrative control panel.  
  • Log into your account and go to Mobile >> Basic Settings
  • Scroll down to find the field marked App Store Description.

  • Simply add the description in the text box.  It's that easy.
    • If you are not sure what to write, click on the "see template" link in the paragraph under the text field, and a box containing text generated by our template will appear.
    • You may copy text from this box and paste it into the App Store Description field, where you can then edit it as you like.
  • If you are changing your App Store Description, please notify us at as we will need to submit the change to Apple and Google Play for approval.
    • Bear in mind that it can take up to 10 business days for the app store approval to be completed.