By Manya Chylinski published March 9, 2012

Mobile Content Marketing: How to Market Your Content to On-the-Go Consumers

Smartphones and tablet computers are all the rage these days. So it’s no wonder marketers want to get on board by creating content for mobile sites and applications. When you think about it, though, do you wonder exactly how to get your educational content onto a mobile website or application in a usable way? It’s a valid concern.

Mobile is undeniably a hot new marketing tool. But it is not just a mini version of the internet we see on our computers. Marketers have to think long and hard about what information they want to make available via a mobile app or site, and figure out the best way to do so.

Top considerations for mobile content:

  • Keep word counts short. Smaller mobile screens mean consumers have to do more scrolling to read longer messages — an extra effort that might discourage them from reading.
  • Have a laser-like focus on your audience. With significantly less real estate to work with than a traditional website, it is all the more important to understand the target audience for your mobile site and what information they will consider relevant when accessing information this way.
  • Understand the platform. Will users be scrolling or swiping content in a mobile app on a phone or tablet, or clicking links in a mobile version of a web page? The parameters of the platform you choose may help you narrow your content choices.
  • Don’t be coy. Put the most important info at the top. Users shouldn’t need to scroll or swipe or link to get the payoff. And you risk losing your audience if interacting with your mobile interface requires a lot of work to find the relevant data.
  • Link to longer or more detailed content. If you’ve got a lot of information to share, consider linking back to your full website, or perhaps creating an email link to send the full version of the content. If you link people back to your full website, make sure it is a direct link, so users do not have to navigate via the tiny text.
  • Make sure there is a call to action. A sign-up option, a link to your email newsletter, a feedback button, etc., will make your mobile content more actionable.

Make your content work for your audience

Mobile content marketing is great, but it requires you to expand your view of what content marketing means. There is not necessarily a direct translation from content marketing for websites to content marketing for mobile applications. Because there is much less screen space for information, most mobile websites and apps focus on providing transactional content, such as recipes that viewers can save, store locators, or tools they can use to send a message, check the status of an upcoming flight, etc.

Indeed, if relevance is the ideal consideration for what content to include, then it seems that users may not be as interested in consuming traditional educational content via mobile devices. People aren’t going to read white papers, case studies, or long articles on a mobile site. They might, however, read blog and Twitter posts, watch short videos, or listen to podcasts.

Here are two examples (one mobile application and one mobile website) that show some of the options for making content available on mobile devices and some of the key considerations involved in the process.

Indiana State University

This mobile application for the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry mobile platforms allows students at Indiana State University to stay in touch with campus news and activities. (Reviewed on an iPhone)

User experience. All the relevant links are available directly from the home page. Here users can choose to see the calendar of events, look at a list of courses for the upcoming semesters, access emergency numbers, read news about the university, or log into their account.

Navigation. Navigation on the app is simple and direct. The home page displays the nine primary options via graphical icons. It also provides links to the lyrics for the university’s fight song (with an option to play the song), phone numbers of nearby businesses, the ability to search the catalog of media in its library, and a link to the university’s official magazine. Many of the subpages also feature a one-button link back to the home page, which keeps users from having to backspace multiple times (thus, reloading each page) in order to move into other sections of the app.

Because there is a lot of content to share, users may have to follow multiple links in order to move down into the site to get certain information (for example, when looking for a particular academic course or athletic event). I also found that some of the links (such as athletic events or news items) lead users back to pages on the main university website. Although these pages are not optimized for viewing on a small screen, the links are direct, so users do not have to navigate the main website on their phones to find the information they are looking for.

Search. Several of the pages have their own search functionality — for example, the course list is searchable once a user has narrowed it down to the main subject (such as art or economics). The magazine is also searchable, which is quite beneficial given the amount of content in a magazine and the lack of space for content in a mobile application.

However, the news and calendar functions do not have search forms. The calendar in particular could benefit from the ability to search, though it is divided into sections, such as alumni events, athletic events, music, student academic dates, etc.

Format/ layout. The formatting and layout are clean and simple, as is best for an application like this. The application is branded consistently with the ISU website — it uses the same shade of blue, and the icon for the button to link back to the homepage is the university’s logo.

Discovery Channel mobile

The mobile website of the Discovery Channel is m.discovery.com, and it provides access to many of the same fun items users will find on the main website. (Reviewed via Safari on an iPhone)

User experience. With advertisements at the very top of the page, this mobile website doesn’t look as clean as many branded mobile applications. But on the plus side, the overall user experience has been well-optimized for viewing on a smartphone.

The home page features a sampling of some of the content types accessible from the navigation bar — such as the full TV schedule, Twitter links, quizzes, and the Discovery store. The main page also displays news headlines, the primetime shows for that day, and links to the most popular videos and photos on the Discovery site.

That said, the mobile site does have some challenges. The videos did not play properly during this review, and the blogs did not seem to be updated. For example, the first entry on the topmost blog “Discovery of the Day” was dated April 30, 2009.

Navigation. There is a primary navigation bar at the top of each screen, linking to each of the core content categories: videos, quizzes, photos, news, blogs, Twitter, the TV schedule, and the store. At the bottom of each page (which sometimes requires a bit of scrolling to get to) there are links to the full website, other Discovery network sites, and general contact and feedback links.

The top navigation bar links back to the home page, but this is not viewable when users have scrolled through the top navigation bar, which only displays three topics (out of nine) at a time. That means there is not always a direct link back to the home page. Additionally, there is no function that allows users to search for content found only on the mobile site.

Format/ layout. The formatting and layout on this app are clean and simple. The mobile site branding is consistent with the main Discovery Channel website, using the same shade of blue and featuring the Discovery Channel logo in a banner at the top of each page.

Conclusion

Content creation for mobile websites and applications will never be the same as it is for materials that were designed to be viewed on desktops and laptops — these devices just don’t have enough screen real estate to make that viable. So marketers have to decide what content is most relevant for users who access their information via mobile devices, and how to lead them to the meatier content, when they are ready to go deeper.

What do you think about these efforts to share content for mobile devices? How is your mobile content different from what you share on your main website? How will optimizing content for mobile devices change the way we think about content marketing in general? What are your thoughts about the next steps content marketers need to take in the mobile space?

Want insights on how the most successful content marketers are using techniques like email, mobile content, and more? Read CMI’s eBook: Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Internal Processes and Content Marketing Strategy Tactics.

Author: Manya Chylinski

Manya Chylinski is a marketing consultant and writer helping B2B companies create compelling content and share thought leadership and success stories. Founder of Alley424 Communications, Manya has experience in a variety of industries including technology, higher education, financial services, government, and consulting.

Other posts by Manya Chylinski

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  • http://www.showyourexpertise.com Carl Friesen

    Thank you for this strong analysis of this growing field. My takeaways on this post:

    * There will be a difference between the location-oriented content that people will want to access through their smartphones, and the longer-form, less location-sensitive content on tablets.  I think that this will become two distinct streams of mobile content.

    * Audio podcasts will be big in mobile. This may open up opportunities for longer-form audio, something like the content now available on NPR or from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, both of which take radio broadcast as a serious medium.  Many people now download podcasts for listening while driving, working out or commuting by public transit, and they will be interested in long-form audio content.

    • Manya

      Carl,
      Thanks for the breakdown. I think you are so right about two distinct streams of mobile content and audio podcasts. It rings true with the way I consume information and how I see others interacting. There is just no one-size-fits-all concept for content marketing!
      –Manya

  • http://www.docalytics.com/ Steve Peck

    You definitely bring up some key topics that many organizations (Docalytics included) are struggling to properly address.

    Your concluding comment that “marketers have to decide what content is most relevant for (mobile) users and how to lead them to the meatier content, when they are ready to go deeper” is spot on, however given that 15% or more of content is consumed on a mobile device, I think it is important to not shy away from letting customers discover your ‘meatier’ content (like eBooks/white papers) on a mobile device.

    The trick then becomes how a marketer presents that information and gives them options / reminders to dive deeper with the content once they are back at their desk.

    Have you (or anyone reading this) seen any strategies or services that facilitate this type of engagement, or thoughts around how/whether to allow your readers to find and consume eBooks/white papers during a mobile session?

    Any and all thoughts on the topics are greatly appreciated!

    • Manya

      Steve,

      This is a really good question! I have not seen any specific strategies or services that facilitate mobile engagement for long form content like white papers or ebooks. This very topic been on my mind lately, so your response here is timely.

      When it comes to smartphones, personally I’m not a big fan of reading long form content–to me it’s like reading a novel that is printed on Post-It notes. :) But I know others like to consume that way and certainly tablets are a good format for those types of content. I want to research this; and I’ll share what I learn. Email me and I’ll keep you in the loop. manya@alley424.com

      -Manya