Whenever, wherever: The continuing evolution of mobile

May 1, 2012

Last April, Microsoft Tag predicted that by 2014, mobile Internet will overtake desktop Internet usage. For many people, the mobile phone is an extension of the human body or maybe a second brain. It’s portable and personal, and according to mobiThinking.com, there are 5.9 billion mobile subscribers — 87 percent of the world population.

As I described in the article, “Understanding ‘Black Twitter’:  A look at the increasingly diverse Internet population,” (Tactics, October 2011) certain groups of people are more likely to access the Web via mobile devices than traditional Internet connections.

Are you mobile-friendly?

Ease of use changes habits.  According to Microsoft, 86 percent of mobile device users surf the Web from their phones while watching TV.  Many people are choosing to use their phones instead of their desktop computers. So if  I’m watching a morning talk show and see that a company is launching a contest on your website, based on analytics, then I’m likely to go to your site using my mobile device.

According to mobiThinking.com, 71 percent of smartphone users who see TV, print or online ads, conduct a mobile search afterward. Of Alexa’s top 20 websites, 18 have a device detection feature that adapts the website to the mobile phone that it is displayed on. It’s not an app, so the big advantage is that it works across all platforms no matter what type of phone someone is using.

Keep in mind that mobile Web viewers have different objectives from desktop Web users. Mobile Web viewers are usually in action mode, while desktop users tend to be in research or browse mode.

Here are a few ways to make sure that your website is mobile-ready:

  • Install a plug-in that detects when someone accesses your website from a mobile or tablet device.  This will format your site so that it displays properly.
  • Create a mobile version of your website that contains the content that visitors likely want to see if they’re on-the-go or in active mode. This includes hours of operation, contact information, directions, event calendar or today’s scheduled events and options to pay, purchase or donate.

How can you adapt?

The evolution of mobile has opened the doors for us to speak to audiences directly and in multiple ways.  This places a significant amount of control in the hands of the PR practitioner. Because of the unfiltered relationship that mobile technology helps facilitate between us and our target communities, messaging can be more dynamic than ever.

For example, take the campaign that American Express launched this March at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. The campaign was an exclusive concert for AMEX cardholders who met two requirements: They were SXSW attendees and they linked their AMEX cards to a Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare account.

While all three social media platforms are available via mobile devices, the location-based service Foursquare is the best example of how mobile delivers a message to the target audience on their terms. Each time that a cardholder checked into a location via Foursquare, they received a notification of any applicable AMEX offers.

Promotions with check-ins aren’t exactly a new concept.  What’s significant here is how the brand broke the cyber wall and didn’t require customers to download an AMEX app or sign up on their site.  The company used existing social platforms to provide value to their current customers and gain new customers as well. Five years ago, that wasn’t possible; and two years ago, this technology wasn’t as inexpensive as it is today.

What will consumers gain?

Consider what your audience can gain from your brand. In addition to coupons and offers, the types of content that can help you engage with various communities include:

  • Instructional videos:  This type of content delivers helpful information whenever and wherever your consumers need it.

    Playboy’s “How to Tie a Bow Tie (with Playboy)” video reinforces the brand’s positioning as an authority on being well-dressed, and extends the brand’s reach on the Web in an unexpected way.  Think of aspects of your company culture or hidden talents that you can share via short videos.
  • Quick bits of information: People who seek information using their mobile device are looking for immediate answers or responses, so tell them about any specials, deals and discounts, or share a little-known fact about the company.

    For example, at West Alabama Icehouse in Houston, visitors get a free beer with their first Foursquare check-in.
  • Things that create positive feelings about your brand:  Think of ways to enable your community to connect with their friends without demanding too much attention in return.

    Last year, Office Max launched the “Elf  Yourself” campaign. It lets site visitors create dancing elf photos and e-cards to share with their friends on social media or via email. It was fun and fostered a warm feeling about the Office Max brand.
  • Location-centric Web content: This is the equivalent of providing visitors with a headset for a self-guided audio tour of a museum.

    At the Houston Zoo, a fact or anecdote about the animal you’re visiting pops up when you click the animal’s location on their map app.

    A simple way to connect is to add information about your business that only appears when accessed from a mobile device. For instance,  include a sentence or two about the history of your office building. Even if you think the fact is boring, it’s a story that can reinforce your branding.
  • Insights into your company culture: Give your fans an insider’s perspective.

    Mobile apps like Instagram let you quickly capture and share day-to-day experiences.  Your community wants to see the insider’s view to feel better connected to you.

The ubiquity of mobile devices gives you the opportunity to engage with your community in a more personal way when they shop, watch TV and socialize.  The challenge is to ensure that you and your organization connect and adapt to the rapid changes in how people consume and interact with information.

Katrina M. Esco
Katrina M. Esco is a professional services manager with Schipul – The Web Marketing Co. (www.schipul.com), which helps organizations succeed online. Follow her on Twitter at: @KatrinaME.


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