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Mobile marketing... mobile apps vs. mobile-friendly website?

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Mobile Mrketing: Invest in Mobile Apps or a Mobile Website?

At both the ACT and eduWeb mobile marketing workshop sessions in July, a popular question was this: Should we first invest in mobile apps or should we be creating a "mobile-friendly" website?

Wise people differ on the answer. 

The Urge for an App

Apps are best done for special events that can range from virtual tours to campus transit instructions and time tables to specific marketing campaigns. An individual app done for mobile is easier to do than reconstructing an entire website. And after all, there's an app for just about everything anyone wants to do online, isn't there?

Advertising can make it seem as if apps are the "must have" element in mobile marketing. Yes and no. Research says that few people regularly use more than a few apps, no matter how many they download.

The Need for a Mobile-Friendly Site by 2011

If limited resources force you to make a choice, I'm in the camp that says work on creating a mobile-friendly version of your regular website and have that ready by mid-point 2011.

Don't do apps if doing them means postponing work on a website that will please people who access it from a mobile phone. We are not talking about iPads here. The mobile device that people are most likely to use to get to your site are iPhones and Androids. Maybe Blackberry. Check your analytics report to see what people are using now and track that growth every month from now until December.

Consider this from the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in July:

  • 65 percent of people 18 to 29 years old use their smartphone to access the Internet. Just under 50 percent of people 30 to 39 do the same. Expect those numbers to grow.

Top Tasks for Mobile: Student Recruitment

For the best marketing impact, you won't be able to get away with "mangling down" (thanks to Drew Stevenson, University of Minnesota for that great phrase) your regular website. Instead, you'll have to make difficult choices about the content that's most needed by people visiting your site and make that the main focus of your mobile efforts. That will force more attention in navigation to the top tasks people want to complete on your site. Consider these for student recruitment:

  • Read a list of academic programs available
  • Calculate the net cost to attend your school
  • Register for a campus visit
  • Make an inquiry
  • Check application status
  • Pay an enrollment deposit

Example of a Mobile-Ready Site: College of Charleston

The task is daunting but far from impossible. College of Charleston says it has adapted 95 percent of its regular website for mobile access. Frankly, that almost seems more than necessary. Adaptation to mobile just might be a great time to identify those seldom-visited pages on your regular website that people can't bear to remove. Mark them as "not needed for mobile" and focus instead on your most used pages.

Visit the College of Charleston mobile site. Start by reading the description of the change and then use your smartphone to see just how well it works. One of the first things you'll note: you don't have to "finger flick" to make the type large enough to read when you arrive at a page.

The Charleston site makes a strong first impression. That first "curb appeal" of your site, mobile or not, will help or hinder the success of your marketing efforts.

Expect more "notes on mobile" soon.

Mobile Marketing Presentation on SlideShare

The eduWeb version of my mobile marketing workshop, "Mobile in the Marketing Mix: Crafting a New Communications Strategy," is online now at SlideShare.

Mobile Marketing with the American Marketing Association

Register for "Getting to the Core of of Social Media and Mobile Marketing for Higher Ed Institutions" webinar after you check the September 22 topic list. I'll be speaking on strategy for an effective mobile marketing effort.

That's all for now 

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