By Jodi Harris published August 30, 2013 Est Read Time: 8 min

How Your Content Plan Should Change to Improve Mobile Engagement

mobile consumersLooking for help with your biggest content marketing challenges? We’ve invited some of the experts who will be speaking at this year’s Content Marketing World to share what they’ve learned from their experience in the industry.

Last week, our panel of sharp content marketing minds passed along advice they received from their own mentors on what it takes to succeed in a content marketing job. But for today’s post, they share some of their own insight on an issue that businesses are increasingly facing — how to create a content plan that will engage audiences on the mobile channel. 

Consumers are able to access the world at their fingertips through their mobile devices. With the plethora of information they have to choose from, they expect content to be remarkable and useful (at the very least) in order to even grab their attention — let alone sustain it and channel it toward a desired marketing goal.

Let’s take a look at our CMW speakers’ responses to the question, “What changes do you think content marketers should be making to improve customer engagement and interaction on mobile devices?

Stephanie LefflerThink mobile first. More and more people are consuming information on their smartphones. Write as if they will be reading on their phones, and add attention-grabbing photos that will stand out. Create content in bite-sized pieces that can be stitched together to form longer-form articles — or be kept separate to serve mobile users. Stephanie Leffler, CEO and Co-founder, Crowdsource | @Crowdsource

Amanda Maksymiw headsotThe reality is that mobile is often the first screen your audience is using to interact with your content. The key is to optimize, rather than develop a custom app. Ensure your content is readable on mobile devices, get rid of the too-small fonts, and include more visuals. Amanda Maksymiw, Content Marketing Manager, Lattice Engines | @amandamaks

Heather MezaRethink your web experiences. Old approaches like giving people access to low-tech “tools” on a website are not enough. We download apps like candy. Customizing content, taking advantage of location, and thinking about real-time opportunities are key. Heather Meza, Head of the Digital Media Solutions Center, of Expertise, Cisco | @HeatherMeza

Lauren MolerSeparate the visual display from your content creation process. There is so much variation in how users see content that it’s not efficient to create content for a single display. If you don’t need the content for mobile, you probably don’t need it on your main site, either! Once you start thinking with that mindset, you can explore things like responsive design to help users view content better on mobile. Lauren Moler, Content Strategist and Information Architect, National Instruments | @merrymoler

Paolo MottolaRather than trying to create content and shrink it, think about your creative and interaction design starting on the small screen first, then expand upon the experience for the larger screens. Paolo Mottola, Digital Engagement Program Manager, REI | @paolojr

jodi navtaConsumers are unpredictable and fickle. It’s very hard to predict their exact location, or their mood, or their needs at the moment that you are connecting with them on their mobile devices. You want to give them the opportunity to explore your content on their terms, so make sure that your content is easy to find, anytime. And make yourself available 24/7 — sometimes they want to connect at very odd times… —Jodi Navta, VP of Marketing and Communications, Coyote | @jodinavta

Phil ParanicasCommunicate succinctly. Whatever you’re thinking is the minimum number of words or graphics you need to illustrate your point is probably too much. More importantly, if you are looking to interact with [mobile consumers], give them tools to do so easily. Use precise calls to action that link to clear, user-friendly content or functionality. If you are expecting someone to fill out a form on their phone, give them large form fields, and as few fields as possible to gather the information you need.  Phil Paranicas, Director of Digital Media, ThomasNet | @Flip2Market

Roger C. ParkerFor the growing trend towards customer engagement and interaction on mobile devices, content marketers must place greater emphasis on chunking content elements into short nodes, and sequencing them in the right order on a variety of resizable screen sizes and different tablets. Smaller screens don’t just reduce the size of screen elements. Instead, as screen sizes get smaller, fewer screen elements must appear at key decision points, followed by text pages without distraction.

In other words, responsive design should be based on elements of blog and website demand that can display in a proper order on a desktop computer screen, but be remapped in different shapes and with fewer elements for smartphone and tablet screens. Roger C. Parker, Content Coach, Speaker, and Mind Mapping Resource | @RogerCParker

Justin PremickDoing mobile well takes an understanding of what is and isn’t easy to do on a mobile device. If it’s not easy to do, people aren’t going to do it.

So what does mobile lend itself to doing? Short, low-friction actions: sharing, liking, tweeting, taking pictures, looking at pictures, reading short-form content, watching videos.

What doesn’t mobile lend itself to doing? Consuming long-form content, filling out forms, writing more than a sentence or two.

If you want to increase engagement from mobile users, create content with goals that are easy to do on mobile, and avoid content that requires too much from the user. Justin Premick, Director of Education Marketing, AWeber | @justinpremick

Jeff RohrsI think the first thing they need to know is how their customers and prospects use mobile devices. Don’t build your mobile content strategy in a vacuum of what you think consumers want — build it upon what you know they need and will use. Jeff Rohrs, Head of the Marketing Research & Education Group, ExactTarget | @jkrohrs

Buddy ScaleraThere are two recommendations that come to mind:

The first is the most obvious, which is to put yourself in the mind of your target user (they may not actually be your customer yet!).

Think about what that person wants from you during that “mobile moment.” Yes, your messaging is important, but they may have a specific need that feels (to them) more urgent than what they are being messaged on.

And if all else fails, you can always ask them what they want.

The second is a little less obvious, but no less important: Have a meeting or two with your technology developers. Often, we’re just telling them what we want, and they are trying to make it work retroactively.

I’ve found that talking to developers and listening to what excites them can help you understand other ways of using [mobile] technology. Developing on mobile is complex stuff with lots of variables, so you’re usually dealing with very smart people who want to do good work.

Tell them what you want to do, and solicit their feedback early in the process. Talk with them — not at them. You may find some eager partners who have been waiting for an opportunity to contribute what they know. Buddy Scalera, SVP of Content Strategy & Media, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide | @MarketingBuddy

CraigWaller2010-150x150Mobile isn’t a platform, it’s a set of behaviors — don’t think about the devices, think about the context. Much mobile usage actually happens inside the home. It’s changing the behavior of how we consume content on the couch, not just on the train. Craig Waller, Head of Content Operations, Pace | @jcraigwaller

michaelweissrev-150x150Ten years ago we used to talk about how writing for the web was not the same as writing for print. Well, now we are talking about how creating content for the web is not the same as for mobile.

Developing for mobile requires new thinking and creative user interactions. People have expectations when it comes to engaging with content on a 5-inch screen. They may be spending more time on their tablets and smartphones — but only if the content fits the experience. Is it a game? Is it a video? Is it an app? I don’t have the answer to this because I don’t know who you are targeting and what your goals are. But I do know that just building a responsive website does not mean you will have a successful mobile campaign. Michael Weiss, Managing Director, figure18 | @mikepweiss 

Rob YoegelLearn to better understand your customers. Not just what devices they are on, but what is contextually relevant to them when they are on those devices. An irrelevant experience on a great mobile site is still a bad experience. Instead of focusing on mobile, focus on creating content that’s relevant to who the customer is, what the customer wants, and when the customer wants it.Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Initiatives Lead, Monetate | @RobYoegel


It’s clear from our experts’ advice that content planning for mobile engagement requires creativity, a bit of flexibility, and a whole new set of considerations. When looking to interact with consumers on mobile devices, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

Use a mobile-first perspective:

  • Plan your creative and visuals for the small screen, and then adapt the experience to larger screens.
  • Create content in brief, succinct bites that can be consumed quickly — and repurposed easily into other content pieces.
  • Consider responsive design techniques to optimize viewing across all screens.

Be aware of the unique challenges and benefits of mobile media:

  • Leverage location capabilities, as well as real-time messaging opportunities.
  • Be aware that not all fonts and formatting will translate well to a mobile user experience.
  • Avoid the “essay question” when requesting user information, and make sure any forms you use function properly and can be viewed clearly on mobile screens.
  • Make sure content is easy to find, easy to explore, and easy to share. In addition, focus on low-friction actions like sharing, “liking,” and tweeting if you want consumers to interact with your mobile content.

Above all, make sure you have a good understanding of who your customers are, what their needs are, and what information and services they need when they are engaging with your business on a mobile device.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

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.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is director of content strategy at CMI. She describes her role as a combination of strategic alchemist, process architect, and creative explorer. Prior to this role, Jodi spent over a decade developing and managing content initiatives for brand clients in the entertainment, CPG, health care, technology, and biotech industries, as well as for agencies and media brands. Follow her on Twitter at @Joderama.

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