WordData Interviews: Saikala Sultanova from Miniclip

This interview by Evaldo Rossi originally appeared on WordData.com. It is available at this link.


Continuing with our series, this time we interview Miniclip‘s UA Specialist Saikala Sultanova! We’ve talked about app install ads on social networks, bursting your app on Google Play, the trends for 2015 and more. Check it out:

WordData – Saikala, could you tell us about your history and your work at Miniclip? 

Saikala Sultanova, Miniclip's UA Specialist

Saikala Sultanova, Miniclip’s UA Specialist

Saikala Sultanova – I have keenly watched the social gaming space explode in popularity since the early seminal period pioneered by Playfish and Zynga in 2008 and 2009. It has been fascinating to see how much social gaming has influenced the video gaming industry over that time, and to be a part of that evolution.

After completing a Master’s Degree, I launched a career in gaming with Plumbee, a social casino gaming startup based in London. Plumbee was founded by former employees of Playfish. I started from the ground up, learning about marketing and game promotion and gaining valuable hands­on experience with user acquisition, CRM and Growth.

I currently lead strategic user acquisition efforts at Miniclip, a global leader in gaming that develops, publishes and distributes highly engaging games to an audience of 70M MAU across multiple platforms. My primary role at Miniclip is in creating successful initiatives for mobile and web gaming apps with Facebook, Twitter and major mobile advertising networks.

WD – Facebook has better segmentation options and bigger reach than any other social network. Are there any advantages in using Twitter Mobile App Install Ads (besides diversification of user acquisition channels)?

SS – Facebook has been a terrific way to reach and engage gamers of various kinds. Most Mobile User Acquisition marketers know that one can achieve a better scale when testing many different channels to determine what works best for your mobile app. Twitter can also be a beneficial part of the overall marketing mix, and has already provided a few mobile apps with success.

However, the main advantage in using Twitter as a user acquisition channel is additional target user­base. Successful user acquisition is primarily about maintaining positive metrics at a scale, and to achieve it a marketer would need to use a mix of various channels beyond Facebook and Twitter, including YouTube and major mobile ad networks too.

WD – What are the mobile user acquisition trends for 2015 in your opinion?

SS – Mobile User Acquisition over the next year will likely see the following trends come to fruition:

  1. Video adverts are taking over mobile ad space. Unity Ads, Ad Colony, Vungle and many more offer engaging video ad units across their mobile networks. Facebook video ads are off to a strong start too, and is now a preview play in the News Feed for sponsored videos.
  2. Mobile app installs trading deals between developers directly, e.g. Tapdaq andChartboost.
  3. Mobile ad serving mediation platforms, such as Fyber, Mobfox, among others, help aggregate many mobile ad networks in one place and mediate the serving of mobile ads.
  4. Health apps may also do well this year. For example, I came across the MediSafemobile app in the article here. I was curious, so I tested it and it proved to be well designed with an end ­user experience in mind, as well as intuitive navigation and neat interface. Another interesting app is Ultra­Fitness from a London startup. It’s a good looking utility app featuring workouts, meal plans, recipes and a store. All you need to stay healthy is in one mobile app.

WD – Email Marketing is a vital part of any web marketing strategy. Why isn’t it so popular on mobile app marketing if most users probably check their emails on their smartphones?

SS – The main challenge to email marketing are spam filters which makes it very challenging for marketers to get into users’ inboxes. This puts a pressure on developers prioritisation of integrating marketing tools. Although email marketing may be perceived as more personal, it may be quicker and more efficient to use alternatives for some.

WD – Eric Seufert introduced the terms Ladder launch and Trampoline launch to describe different freemium mobile game launch strategies. What’s your favorite, and why?

SS – I like to mix both elements, but ultimately it depends on the business objectives of the app. For instance, imagine the app is built with strong monetization mechanics on In­App Purchases (IAP). I would test it during the soft launch with various UA channels to get projected calculations on retention per channel and LTV.

When the calculations demonstrate strong ROI results, then it may make sense to use the Trampoline
element in key markets, followed by sustaining the position plan. Again, everything would depend on app by app and the target country by country. I would always suggest collecting all data you can, that will give developers a clearer view and confidence in decision making.

WD – Is it possible to make successful burst campaigns for Android apps? Google Play’s penalizes apps with a high uninstall rate, and burst campaigns usually result in of uninstalls.

SS – I understand that Google Play’s algorithm penalises for a high uninstall rates, which necessitates more careful planning of the burst campaign along with a back up plan. Currently, mobile networks’ user acquisition tools, such as Chartboost, Tapdaq, and Unity Ads, among others, are much more transparent, giving developers a clearer view on the target audience.

The Google Play downloads chart is much less volatile and updates ranking charts less frequently. That allows an app to float for longer when it reaches the desired position and generate more Organic downloads on the back of a burst campaign. So yes, I believe it is possible to deliver a successful burst campaign also on Android.

WD – How the arrival of Apple Watch changes the life of the UA Manager?

SS – Well, considering it isn’t out yet it is a little too soon to say. However, I think if I had an Apple Watch I would prefer not to be served any ads.

WD – Thanks for your time, Saikala! Closing the interview, what mobile game have you been playing lately?

SS – I often test various new and existing games as a part of competition awareness. Among all of them, I probably spend most of my time on Clash of Clans, Samurai Siege and Candy Crush. I also enjoy the offline Backgammon Free app on my iPhone while on the train. That said, I am quite a fan of board game evenings when people get together in person to play. I especially love a good game of backgammon and often join West London local tournaments.

Saikala Sultanova has extensive digital marketing experience in creating successful initiatives for mobile and web gaming apps on Facebook, Twitter and major mobile advertising networks. She leads User Acquisition efforts at Miniclip, a global leader in gaming that develops, publishes and distributes highly engaging games to an audience of 70M MAU, across mobile, social and web platforms.

Saikala launched her career with Plumbee, a social casino gaming startup, pushing the game promotion boundaries within User Acquisition, CRM and Business Growth.

You can contact Saikala on Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’d rather meet her in person, you can find her at the Casual Connect speakers’ panel in Amsterdam, February 2015.