Friday, April 13, 2012

Goin' Mobile

In discussing a mobile app with a customer recently, I came to realize that people are having a difficult time in trying to develop a mobile presence.  The huge increase in the smart phone market has left many trying to figure out how they can connect best to their mobile customers. 

I can still remember looking at the Google Analytics report for one of our large clients and seeing big increases in mobile access to their website.  We found that from Thursday through Sunday, there were huge increases in mobile traffic.  Upon further investigation we found that people were browsing the pages with directions and pages that had their menus.  The client had toyed with the idea of a mobile site for a while and after seeing this they were jumping at the chance to go mobile.

If you haven't found a need for a mobile presence, you probably aren't looking hard enough.  Trust us, you need one but how should you reach your mobile customers?  Will you build an app and if you do which platforms will you build it for?  What about a mobile site?  How much will all of this cost?  There are many difficult questions that will come up and all of them will cost you money.  There are seemingly endless options.  A few years ago everyone would have told you to build an Iphone app.  Iphones were trendy and much more consumer friendly than Blackberry devices.  Mobile websites back then lacked substance and in many cases were more difficult to navigate and use than their full size counterparts.  Today, mobile sites are much more versatile and in many cases rival the quality you can achieve with an app.

Modern mobile sites can have the same interfaces that apps use thanks to advanced html5 and CSS standards.  You will often hear of mobile sites being referred to as "web apps".  These are nothing more than mobile sites that look and operate in the same way that downloaded apps would. The big advantage of web apps is that they work across platforms.  You design a single web app and it works on essentially everything.  This is much more cost effective than having to develop an app for each of the major platforms.  The market is no longer dominated by a single system and it's becoming increasingly diversified.  Take a look at the latest ComScore rankings:

Top Smartphone Platforms
3 Month Avg. Ending Feb. 2012
Total U.S. Smartphone Subscribers Ages 13+
Source: comScore MobiLens
Share (%) of Smartphone Subscribers

Google      50.1%    
Apple        30.2%
RIM          16.6%   
Microsoft    5.2%    
Symbian     1.5%

Ultimately you need to know what your clients use and what is the most effective way to reach them and then weigh those factors against how much money you are willing to spend.  There is no silver bullet at this point but mobile web pages are currently the best way to reach the most people for the least cost. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Engaging in social media

We get asked regularly by our clients how they can get people to interact with their social media accounts.  Simple answer, it depends.  The best way to get people engaged online is to find out what engages them in real life.  People go to social media accounts because they have some interest in what you do.  First and foremost, keep your accounts active.  People follow accounts that are dynamic and interesting.  Nobody wants to follow a stagnant account that hasn't been updated in months.  Another really simple technique is to create some sort of actionable post.  A contest is a great way to get people engaged.  It can be a simple trivia question about your history or the history of where your located.  You can also give things away to the winners like merchandise with your logo or a coupon.

Most of you have likely noticed that Facebook has switched over to it's new Timeline style pages.  A lot of people are having trouble understanding the value of this.  You have lost the ability to direct people to your landing page which means it's no longer technically a "landing page", and instead is simply a Facebook tab.  The big advantages we have found are the cover photo.  This is a big space that you can use to grab peoples attention.  You can put a catchy photo, a branded message, etc...but you can change this regularly and it's easy enough anyone can do this.  The other neat feature is the actual timeline.  You can add events that have occurred throughout your business' history.  It has a lot of potential to grab peoples attention and get them to follow you.