Are You Missing Out on Revenue Because Your Content isn’t Mobile Ready?

You’ve got your website, it’s gorgeous. Social media, you’re a master. Email marketing, psh, so 20th century.  Storefront, no problem. So you’re ready to go, right?

But if you stop here there’s a pretty good chance you just missed out on half of your potential market.

By 2014 more people will connect to the Internet through their mobile devices than their desktops. Technological innovations in the mobile field are occurring at an astounding rate, and it’s only a matter of time until the next big thing changes the mobile game again. Smart business owners know it’s time to get ahead of the curve and invest more resources into developing an effective mobile strategy.

Developing an integrated, adaptive plan for mobile content isn’t just another “to do,” it’s a central piece of any effective approach to market, and represents enormous upside when used effectively. In Q1 of 2013, conversion rates through tablets exceeded desktop platforms for the first time. Global expenditure on mobile marketing and advertising is expected to double every year until 2015, and you don’t want to be left in the dust.

Clearly, smart businesses take mobile customers seriously, and we want to find new and interesting ways of capturing their attention. Engaging your following through mobile platforms can no longer be reduced to making sure that your website formats itself properly on a smaller screen. Mobile users are well known for abandoning any site that takes more than a few moments to load, and rarely return to sites that give them a poor mobile experience. Recommend
This requires developing an increasing amount of mobile-friendly content to retain that powerful customer base. Some content can be repurposed, and we’ll certainly look at some ways to optimize your pre-existing content for mobile, but the ultimate goal is to create an experience that’s tailored specifically for the mobile consumer complete with content that meets their unique needs.

By creating a fluid, flexible mobile experience, businesses can easily open up new markets while increasing the overall return on investment from their mobile marketing spend. In order to build that experience, we need to understand three large and intersecting questions:

1.     Who are mobile consumers?
2.     What do they want?
3.     How do I create the best mobile content possible?

Let’s start by looking at the mobile market as a whole, and then go on to address specific kinds of content and the best ways to optimize them for mobile.

1. Is The Mobile Market Really A Whole Different Animal?

There are thousands of articles on marketing and building content exclusively for mobile platforms. But the reality is that treating your mobile strategy as a closed environment is a huge mistake. Successful marketing and content building is fundamentally about delivering the best possible experience to the user regardless of platform. For mobile platforms, this involves understanding what makes something “mobile,” what that really means, and how consumers are accessing and relating to your content through the medium. The goal is to build an integrated approach that plugs your audience into your key content at every level of the user experience. It’s no longer enough to simply say, “How do we build our content so it looks good on a smaller screen?” What you need is a deeper understanding of what makes that market tick and what is truly appealing to an “on the go” consumer.

Here are a few key questions to ask:
  • Who uses smartphones? The short version is most everybody, as 56% of American adults own a smartphone, and by the end of 2013 there will be more mobile devices on earth than people! But let’s get a bit more nuanced than that.

Smartphone use is dominated by users who are young, educated, and relatively well to do.  Slightly more men than women use smart phones, and minority ethnic groups in the United States have a higher overall rate of smartphone ownership than Caucasians. As one might expect upon considering the above factors, smartphone use is considerably greater by percentage of population in urban and suburban areas than in rural areas. Most of the content that you build for mobile should be aimed at the part of your user base that fits this core demographic profile.

PhoneOwnership

  • How do they use mobile? In 2012 comScore conducted a fairly in-depth analysis of  user activity on mobile devices. Approximately 80% of user time was spent on apps, while only 20% of user time went to browsers. Time spent on games and Facebook represented about 50% of the total time spent on iOS and Android devices. This strongly suggests that mobile devices are primarily a tool for leisure. There’s a lot more hardly working than working hard on mobile devices.
  • What content goes where? Certain kinds of content appeal to certain kinds of mobile consumers. As stated above, tablets are an incredibly effective place to make sales through, which suggests that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using them as a purchasing gateway. However, this efficiency in conversion does not carry over to smartphones, which convert at just a third of the rate of tablets and traditional devices. This strongly indicates that, when using the smaller screen, consumers are more inclined towards browsing, reading, and viewing rather than purchasing. Tablets are more interactive, while smartphones are more passive.
  • What kinds of content work best on mobile? Now that we understand who we should target our mobile content to, how they spend their time while mobile, and what their preferred modes of content interaction are, it’s time to consider the kinds of content that really sing on mobile devices.

TimeSpent
Look at your smartphone, and think for a moment about the primary ways that you interact with it. You probably send some texts. Browse your Facebook. Watch some cat videos on YouTube. Maybe skim a few articles. Play a game, or use your favorite application. What do these modes of content have in common? As a general statement they are digestible, visual, and low-maintenance.

Content on mobile is typically broken up into bite size chunks. We skim short articles, browse through 140 character updates, and write texts with every abbreviation under the sun. This content is digestible. It’s easy to understand and interact with quickly. Most of the content is based on images of one kind or another. Big blocks of text are somewhat difficult to interact with on the small screen of your average smartphone, so the most powerful content is often visual. Most importantly, the content is low-maintenance. We don’t have to try too hard or invest too much energy into it.

After addressing those key questions, it should become quite clear that mobile is a different animal from traditional content marketing. While a certain amount of content can simply be repackaged for mobile, it’s critical to develop an integrated strategy based on a deep understanding of what really makes the mobile market tick.

2. Managing Your Images

Images are a cornerstone of the mobile experience. Infographics, pictures, shapes, colors, and visually appealing designs are easily digestible pieces of content that work around the difficulties with effectively implementing text through mobile platforms. Think about the infographics I referenced earlier, they’re much more engaging than a big block of text.

Sunset

Look at the preeeetty sunset. Much nicer than reading a description of one, right?

For all of their value, there are a number of things to consider regarding effective use of images on mobile sites. There are two primary issues, resolution and loading time.

Mobile devices typically do not offer the same high level of resolution and large screen size found on desktops. Mobile devices will often resize large, high resolution images to fit the smaller screen, which leads to a considerable drop in quality. These big images also require a lot of scrolling, and typically do not fit neatly into the screen. We can avoid this by decreasing the average size of images.

There’s another big problem with high image density on mobile sites. Images are large files, they take a long time to load and use up a considerable amount of bandwidth. Most mobile consumers are simply not interested in spending that kind of an investment in opening up your site. By decreasing the number of images we can reduce loading times and increase the likelihood of users actually getting to your beautiful content.

“Hey, wait a sec,” you might be thinking. “This lady just said that images were the bee’s knees, and now she’s saying not to use images? What gives?”

This gets to a common misconception around image-based marketing. The solution is not large images or many images. The solution is images that are high-impact; images that are tailor made to address the core desires and concerns of your market segment. A few powerful images will have a far greater impact than any number of large haphazard ones.

3. To Use Or Not To Use….Flash.

flashplayer03

Just in case you’ve been buried under a rock the past 10 or so years, Adobe Flash is a pretty omnipresent piece of multimedia software. It’s the industry standard when it comes to authoring animation, most games, and Rich Internet Applications, and is virtually omnipresent on desktops. This leads many content marketers venturing into mobile for the first time astray, as they simply stick with the technology that they are most familiar with.

The unfortunate reality is that Flash is almost entirely incompatible with the mobile experience, and can ruin attempts to interact with your carefully created content. Apple and Google have gone so far as to virtually remove Flash from their devices, so users won’t be able to see most of the content built with Flash regardless. If you’re interested in building out mobile friendly media content, stick with HTML 5 for the best user experience.

4. Optimizing Text

Ah, text. The bane of many a mobile consumer’s existence.  Many, perhaps most, content providers are particularly weak when it comes to adapting their browser text to mobile. It’s an inherently difficult proposition, as mobile platforms simply aren’t built for the dense text you’ll find on many webpages. But their weakness can be your gain, as it represents a clearly underserved market. People are tired of pinching and dragging their way around screens that have been poorly optimized, as well as dealing with tiny fonts and regular formatting errors.

Let’s define our terms here for a second. With regards to text, a mobile optimized site is one where the text can be read and links can be clicked easily, without requiring the user to “pinch” or “drag” their way around the screen. There shouldn’t be any need to scroll horizontally, everything should fit neatly onto the full screen space. Consider how different the below site looks after going from the “wall of text” approach to a more mobile friendly design: MobileVSWeb
It’s an enormous difference, and the mobile site is dramatically more likely to generate sales. Mobile optimization is built around a simple idea: function over form. It’s hard enough to read on a small screen, so do everything in your power to make it as easy as possible. The best, fastest way to optimize a typical site for mobile text is by using CSS Media Queries to customize your browser for different sizes of mobile device. It won’t be quite as dramatic as the above, but it’ll save the time and cost of building a customized mobile site. I strongly suggest optimizing your text for easy reading!

Here are three rules of thumb for mobile text:

1.     Break it up. A relatively small block of text on your desktop can look big on your phone, and readers quickly become weary of large blocks of text that lack visual segmentation. Break up your text into bite-size pieces to maintain the reader’s interest.

2.     Keep it digestible. Mobile consumers spend less time on each piece of content, and normally aren’t interested in re-reading difficult content. By keeping it short and sweet you’ll maintain user interest and free them from having to scroll all around the page.

3.     Make it easy. The general rule to never make your customers work hard to acquire your product applies doubly here. Mobile users have short attention spans, and will abandon your site at the first sign of resistance. Make everything as simple and accessible as possible.

5. Optimizing video for mobile

A creative, powerful piece of video content is one of the most effective ways to connect with your following through mobile devices. It allows you to carefully target segments of your market and produce a direct, more personalized and intimate message. The inherently visual nature of video avoids the problems with text and makes it a great fit for mobile devices. Video content consumption through mobile has increased dramatically, so it’s critical to have a well-conceived approach.

Here are a few keys for optimizing your videos for mobile consumption:

1.     Avoid Flash. As mentioned above, avoiding Flash is a must when dealing with mobile devices. In addition to its numerous connectivity problems, it interferes with SEO and can prevent potential consumers from finding your content.

2.     Optimize for small screens. As with text and images, some videos will have a scaling problem when played back on a small smartphone screen. I mentioned CSS earlier, by using Custom CSS or HTML 5 you can make your videos resize automatically to fit the user’s screen.

Most of the other basic rules we’ve discussed for small screens apply to video. For instance, don’t use small text or pop-up images in your videos as these will both be illegible and take away valuable screen space from more important elements.

3.     If you’re not a technician, don’t play one on TV. This goes for virtually all aspects of building your content and a successful business in general! Stick to your strengths. Video can be a very technical process, and getting into the minutia of bitrates, encoding speed, screen resolution, and other such details is enough to get your head spinning in a hurry. If you’re not a technically inclined person, use a pre-built service like YouTube or Vimeo that can host videos for you. Alternatively, hire someone with expertise in the field to solve those problems for you.

Right now, mobile is perhaps the most dynamic and rapidly evolving space for content development, marketing, and advertising. Accessibility has increased dramatically, and it won’t be long before most of our interaction with digital content takes place through a mobile device. As the market becomes increasingly saturated, it will be more important than ever to create a unique experience for the mobile user built around content that appeals to their specific needs. If you develop dynamic, flexible, accessible content for mobile based on a deep understanding of the market and the unique characteristics of its user base, there is no doubt that you’ll dramatically increase your return from that platform!

 Here are 8 other mistakes that your technical writers can be making for your web page.

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About Kaitlynn Russo

Kaitlynn is the Marketing Automation Manager at Ebyline, a platform that connects companies with freelancers to create exclusive, high-quality content. Find her on Twitter. Ebyline Freelancer.

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