App Development, Thought Leaders

Digital Ethics: How Does App Strategy Work?

October 7, 2021

by Michael Le

Sr Content Editor at

It's easy to think of technology as a natural part of our lives, but we forget that it hasn’t always been this way. Carissa Lintao reminds us that all apps have a purpose and urges us to be intentional with our product strategies.

Having overseen the growth of over 300 apps throughout her career, Carissa Lintao of Apptuitive has a keen understanding of the ins and outs of app marketing. She knows what works and what doesn’t, and it’s her mission to educate people on how to navigate technology with intention.

Learn her 5 tips on creating a mindful mobile app strategy that can help jumpstart your app idea.

How Does App Strategy Work?

  1. Placing people over profit makes for a stronger app
  2. Ethical reasoning should drive product decisions
  3. Digital creators intentionally promote their content
  4. Mobile app strategies account for all possibilities
  5. Looking into the future helps you set goals

Ethical Reasoning Should Drive Product Decisions

Carissa has worked with a broad range of clients, from Fortune 500 companies to up-and-coming apps. At the end of the day, it’s the customer-driven apps that stand out to her. These are apps that strive to deliver improved value to the end users and contribute to the larger community.

Michael Le: Let's say I'm a business owner, and I want to create a wholesome app that brings joy to many. How do I make sure that I am mindful of my intention as I'm creating this app?

Carissa Lintao: If you're providing a lot of value for someone and you're creating a product that doesn't exist yet, then word of mouth is going to take care of marketing for you to an extent.

For the sake of your example, let's say you were developing a Pinterest app that shows you how to decorate your house. That's more of a utility where there aren't as many ethical questions because you're just focusing on one person and making sure furniture gets in their house. 

But something to think about might be, “Can people book freelancers or movers on this platform to move the furniture into their house?” Or “Are these movers getting paid the standard minimum wage for this job?” 

It's all really about fleshing out the app and the user experience as a whole. Ask yourself those sets of questions. 

I always say the best question to ask yourself is “Why?” Why do members need to be using this app? Why do they need a $7 minimum wage over a $15 minimum wage or whatever it may be? 

As long as you're genuinely trying to put your best foot forward and are taking the reins in being a very mindful person about how things are being built, you are in the right direction wholeheartedly.

When in doubt, the best question to ask yourself is “Why?” This train of thought can help you understand how your users will interact with your solution and what features to build out.

Placing People Over Profit Makes for a Stronger App

When thinking about which clients to work with, Carissa chooses app owners who are willing to drive value back to those around them. She suggests that tech founders and CEOs have an obligation to do good through their work.

CL: CEOs and founders need to take a very high level of responsibility and place people over profits. What people hate these days is corporate greed and shareholder greed. Do these Big Tech CEOs need to be making millions upon millions of dollars a year? Probably not. 

They could be kicking it back to their employees. They could be prioritizing certain development features or their roadmap and timeline to add more value to the whole user experience and to the community rather than extracting from the community.

ML: So, the apps that you empathize more with are the ones that put the users ahead and try to add as much value as possible?

CL: Absolutely. The better half of the people that reach out to me are parents of disabled kids. These are parents who don't have any money in the bank to do anything with, but they want to develop an app as a solution to take care of their kids, friends, and the community. It's such a noble effort. 

For people to come to me with that, I wouldn't be able to go to sleep at night if I was charging these people my normal rates — especially when building an app wasn't the most cost-effective way to go. Building an app from scratch is probably starting at $25,000 no matter who you go to. 

Then, marketing is a whole other beast. You could expect the first year to invest double what you spent on development on marketing. It's a very big business at the end of the day. It's not just something that you can have the "If I build it, they will come" mentality. It's a huge investment and a huge part of your life.

When I'm working with bootstrap founders, I feel very strongly for them. Even if it's something like cutting 25% off so I'm more aligned with their budget, I know that app marketing is such a small portion of what's going on in this person's life. They have their own life. They need to pay bills to keep the lights on. They need to support their family and take care of so many other needs. 

I feel very strongly and empathize a lot with the bootstrap founders and apps that put people over profits first. 

Being empathetic to a clients’ needs and meeting them halfway can be invaluable in growing a business. That way, you can ensure that value is going to the right place.

Digital Creators Intentionally Promote Their Content

Technology is so integrated into modern life that it can feel like a natural extension of your routine. However, Carissa knows that nearly all technology has a purpose and is designed to keep us consuming. She pushes for a more balanced outlook on apps and digital content.

CL: Technology companies are doing practically everything they can in their power to maximize as much as your attention as possible. Because we're so used to that, we're driven to click the next big flashy thing to get engagement, views, comments, and everything like that. 

It really baffles me because, the way I see things going, it's just going to get even crazier. People are doing the most outlandish things ever to get attention. The money is in advertising. The money is in people looking at the link, clicking the link, becoming an affiliate, and clicking on the affiliate links, brand deals, and sponsorships. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with it at all. It's just that everything needs to be in moderation. There's such a lack of education around practically anything that has to do with tech and marketing in general. People don't know how to set boundaries for themselves, and you see tech companies exploiting that lack of information. 

ML: What do you wish our listeners or kids knew about tech? Do you have advice on how to navigate tech in a way that is more productive? 

CL: If there's anything that I would preach to a kid or just have them be more aware of is that apps aren't just apps on your phone. It's very easy to just think nothing of it and be like, "Oh, it's an app. It's there. This is part of my day-to-day life, and it's a normal routine.” 

But, honestly, it's really not normal. Practically every single app is a business, and they're trying to get you to take a certain type of action, whether it's in your best interest or not. And, there's always some type of goal. For the better part of the time, it's more sales, clicks, more attention. Everything ultimately comes down to how much money is being driven into the shareholder's pockets. 

I think if people just had that understanding, they would be approaching everything in a much more mindful way. They would think, "Why is Tinder built like this? I'm not getting any dates. Why am I not getting any dates?" 

For Facebook, they might ask, "Why am I only seeing the things that I want to see? Why isn't there anything challenging my beliefs? I only see the things that reinforce my biases of the world for the better or for the worse.” 

That's the biggest thing — it's just really realizing that every decision that you make is not your choice. Everything is deliberately designed like that for a reason. 

Once you understand how apps and advertising are meant to catch your attention, you can start to become more intentional about your relationship with technology. 

Mobile App Strategies Account for All Possibilities

One of the difficult parts of creating a mobile app is anticipating unknown consequences, but it’s a necessary step to refine your mobile app strategy. Carissa suggests a few questions to help you figure out your user experience.

CL: A guideline I would say is, if there are people involved and they're all communicating with each other, that's something you really need to take into consideration. 

It's funny — they say that any platform that has a messaging feature can be used as a dating app. If all of your users are communicating with each other without any context or guidance or whatever, that's a grey flag. 

You need to ask yourself questions like:

  • “What can happen based on these features?” 
  • “What's the worst-case scenario?” 
  • “What's the best thing that can happen?”
  • “What can I do in my power to make this an even better experience for an end-user?” 

ML: I love that you included very tactile things for how to make a good app. You really do need to think about the user experience, but then you should also ask, “How do I make sure that this app is doing good?”

CL: Absolutely. It's just not something that a lot of people put into question because, again, maybe Big Tech didn't pave the way to make all those big questions at the forefront. For them, it's more or less “How am I going to monetize this?” and “How am I going to maximize user engagement?”

Those are all very valid questions you need to ask yourself and you need to plan for. You're not going to grow as a company if you're not making money and if things aren't progressing. But it doesn't hurt to ask yourself those other questions, too.

To be successful, app owners need to think about both the monetary side of the app as well as the value-add. 

Looking to the Future Helps You Set Goals

Carissa’s career has given her ample experience in navigating the tech world, and she has her eyes set on helping others, too. She talks about her future plans to further her company, touching on her goals to promote communal growth in economies worldwide.

CL: I'm working on an endeavor that's going to go hand in hand with the work that we do with Apptuitive called Kind Innovator. It’s an overarching vision that I would love to see happen in maybe 10–20 years from now. 

We have a big focus on education — we’re making sure to give out a mindful playbook and want to have a lot of resources underneath our rooftop. We’re also putting together a lot of opportunities and just being a network of connecting people. At the end of the day with tech, who you know and who can give you access are really the names of the game. If we can be that node connecting everyone together, I feel like that's going to be a big game-shifting thing. 

The big vision is that I would love to start up some schools in third-world countries and cities that are still developing to give these people the edge of technology. There's just so much opportunity. 

Take the Philippines for example. Let’s say we had those educational resources in place. Maybe we set up English as a second language (ESL) programs, and we were able to teach them about American work culture. What if we were able to set up good habits for them to really thrive on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr and really get amazing, good-quality jobs? 

Imagine if everyone in the Philippines or a third-world country was making 6 figures. Do you know how much money would go straight into their community? It's so family-oriented over there, and it's so community-driven. Everyone would start building each other up that way. 

Tech is just such a platform to level the inequalities we have between the US and the Philippines or Vietnam or South Korea — you name it.

When used to put people over profit, technology can be a way to give equity to communities. Thinking big picture can help you set your sights on a greater purpose. 

How to Find Carissa

Catch up with Carissa at Apptuitive to gain more insights into app store optimization and marketing for tech. You can also visit her personal website, to see what she’s up to now!

Looking for more business tips from a range of industry leaders? Follow our podcast From the Ground Up to check out our other episodes.

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