I work for a messaging app, and here's some of my thoughts:
Our iOS app was launched before I joined. It was a soft launch and adoption was mostly friends. The app back then is a far cry from what it is now, and knowing what we know now we probably would not do a big launch. A soft launch allowed us to gather data, feedback, and slowly improve the app - we discarded major features, reworked and redesigned huge portions of the app etc. This also allowed us to assess our target audience and play around with messaging. We placed major focus on improving user retention and generating as much love as possible from them (I do a lot of outreach and user support).
We've been getting significantly more traction nowadays with the new and improved app, and lots of love from our users. This has helped us do a slow climb up the charts (we're now top 25 in Social Networking in Brazil, peaked at top 5; more than a year after we were first available in the App Store).
A few more random thoughts on the App Store rankings etc:
- Unless you rank in the top 100 overall rankings, you're not going to see significant increases in downloads. Our biggest increase in downloads have come from users loving the app and then telling their friends, not from where we sit in the App Store.
- I've had many conversations with advertising partners/people who say that they can get you to the top of the charts. The spend to get there is absolutely ridiculous, and unless you have a cool 20 to 50 grand to throw in a one day campaign, there's no point
- Having a "shark fin" pattern could be a bad signal
- If it really doesn't work out for you, but you think you have a killer app, you could always pull the app, rebrand and relaunch