Mobile First Content Strategy: From Optional to Mandatory

content marketingBack in “olden days” — oh, like a mere decade ago — having an attractive and functional website was the most critical priority for a business. Today? That website is still essential, but more and more it’s taking a backseat to today’s top task: designing and maintaining a successful mobile site.

Why? The answer is an awful lot like famous bank robber Willie Sutton’s reply when he was asked why he robbed banks: “Because that’s where the money is.” The answer to why mobile is critical? Because that’s where consumers are.

The Migration to Mobile

Recent data from an Outbrain study reveals that content consumption on mobile devices is growing rapidly. In the U.S., people consume almost half (44 percent) of content on their mobile devices and the percentage is escalating every year. In Asia, the trend to mobile content consumption is even more pronounced. In Japan, that percentage is already 54 percent and Singapore steps in at 52 percent.

That’s backed up by Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report showing that the average American adult spends 5.6 hours each day on the internet — three of them exclusively on mobile.

“The shift from using the Internet a few times a day for long sessions to many times a day for short sessions will have profound impact on what we consume,” noted Meeker. “Bite-sized content and experiences are becoming favorable.”

Inside the Mind of the Mobile Content Consumer

This week, MMW was privy to the findings of a new survey conducted in recent days by Pollfish, a leading survey platform that delivers in-depth online surveys at lightning speed through mobile apps on a global scale.

Per the sweeping insight gleaned by Pollfish, mobile content consumers have an increasingly voracious appetite for videos, social content, and games.


But with everything from user location and time of day, to a blog’s headline and video thumbnail strongly influencing whether or not a mobile user will consume or ultimately share content, digital marketers have much to study and explore if they wish to formulate a smart and effective mobile content strategy.

“We need to think mobile-first AND mobile-optimized. It’s not enough to do either alone and really connect with your customers,” says Ray Beharry, Adjunct Professor of Marketing at NYU, and Head of Marketing at Pollfish.

To review the complete findings of the Pollfish survey, click here.

Forming a Game Plan

At the start of the trend to mobile, many businesses simply tried to transfer their websites to mobile, with less than positive results. Now everyone knows that doesn’t work. There’s a huge difference between how content is consumed by readers when they are on mobile devices as opposed to desktop.

The brightest minds in marketing are telling the truth: it’s time to think mobile-first.

“Adopting a mobile mindset isn’t about reaching customers with advertising on mobile devices,” Beharry adds. “Customers want to connect with great content that’s tailored to their needs. That means providing what they want, when they want, where they want- and how they want it. And for that, you have to think mobile-first.”

How to proceed?

Here’s a simplified four point plan:

  1. Focus on mobile first and foremost because that’s where everyone is going. Half of them are already there — it looks likely all of them will soon be.
  2. Understand the need to design mobile sites differently than websites. Mobile screens are smaller, attention spans are shorter, and briefer text combined with bolder images work best.
  3. Stay up-to-date on changing mobile technology. Every new advance — every new bell and whistle — provides marketers opportunities to use them to great advantage. “The very nature of mobile platforms is one that supports personalization. Interconnected apps, location information, and other behavioral data make it easier than ever to deliver customized experiences through mobile, more so than through desktop options,” reports tech commentator Jonathan Crowl at SkyWord.
  4. Analyze results to continuously improve your mobile site. Be prepared to spend time and resources to find out what works and what doesn’t. What are people clicking on? What do they ignore? Find out why.

Then there’s the nitty gritty about what works best on mobile devices.

When it comes to text, shorter snippets are recommended. Does that mean you have to abandon all the lovely prose that’s sitting on your website? No. In fact, the algorithms for search engine optimization (SEO) actually rank longer, more thorough copy higher. But serve mobile text in what some call “bite-sized nuggets” and provide tappable options (secondary go-to screens) to more reading. Letting your customers make the decision usually translates into more time spent on your mobile site.

It’s also a good idea to make text accessible (no five-dollar words just because you can), concise, and actionable (go bite-sized, but give options to read more, see more, or buy now). Of course, there will be differences in approach and vocabulary depending upon whether you’re reaching out to dry-wallers or dentists, but keep your audience in mind. Remember that the best writing replicates how we talk. Be conversational, not pedantic (oops — there’s a five dollar word).

As for headlines: work on them. Headlines draw the attention and convince a reader to investigate more, so their creation is not a throw-away assignment. Headlines are to text what lures are to fishing and you’ll need worthy bait. In other words: make sure that worm wiggles.

A picture really can be worth a thousand words. Mobile users react positively to stunning images and to bold color. Ditto for video, which is fast becoming an essential part of any well-designed mobile site. Of course, the same trends are impacting websites, too, but on mobile it’s mandatory.

“Taking a mobile-first approach to video requires paying close attention to the rise of micro-video,” explains Jayson DeMers, the founder and CEO at AudienceBloom. “Services like Vine, with its six second limit, are pushing the envelope in terms of how brands convey their message. It’s not always practical to convey a message in six seconds, but look at video and visual content through the same lens as text: can this be shorter, tighter, or more efficient with my viewer’s time?”

In sum, “mobile-first” should be your new mantra. Yes, it’s different from desktop — but not that difficult, once you get the hang of it. And you’ll meet the nicest people when you go mobile: your customers.