Last week we looked at different approaches to monetisation; this week, we look at the move to mobile consumption of content.
The media & the message
While most online communities will benefit from a well-functioning mobile platform, the nature of the users’ engagement with the community should dictate whether strategy should focus on mobile as the principal access channel.
Increased mobile activity
As smartphone and tablet penetration has accelerated, more and more content is being consumed on these mobile devices.
From July 2011 to July 2012, internet usage in the US (measured in minutes) increased by 21%. This increase comprised a 120% increase in mobile app usage and a 22% increase in mobile web access. Internet access through PCs increased by a meagre 4% in comparison.
However, a large share of this new mobile activity is being taken by a new breed of social networking tools that have been developed specifically for mobile, such as the over-the-top messaging tool, WhatsApp. Vine and Snapchat (and previously, Instagram) are also dominating content sharing in the mobile space.
Apps vs. the mobile internet
Recent research from mobile-analytics provider Flurry found that four of every five “mobile media minutes” are spent in apps rather than on the web.
Facebook – engagement via app
Earlier this year, Facebook’s mobile app replaced the website as its members’ favourite way to access the social network, and Flurry’s research shows that it has the highest level of engagement of any of the apps/mobile sites reviewed.
Starting again or going Home?
Zuckerberg himself has admitted that if he had to create the social network again from scratch, a mobile application is the first place he would start.
But Facebook’s recent launch of ‘Home’ (mobile desktop application for Android) and AT&T’s embarrassingly quick discontinuation of it highlights the difficulties of trying to re-create from scratch the way we engage with familiar media.
Other communities, other approaches
- Twitter has the advantage of being designed specifically for mobile devices (although the service can be accessed through a desktop). The mobile functionality suits the social nature of an online community that depends on communication between members.
- LinkedIn has also released a series of apps for different mobile OSs. However, although its heritage is on the web, it has struggled to create functioning HTML5 apps that can satisfy the heavy data demands of its user base. It recently admitted to a creative U-turn with the recent release of another series of native apps designed for specific operating systems.
Yet LinkedIn benefits from greater acceptance in the workplace, where a large proportion of members will have internet access via their PCs. Web traffic information from Alexa indicates that a significant amount of LinkedIn’s user traffic occurs whilst members are at work, more so than other predominantly social online communities. As a result, LinkedIn’s growth in user activity has been less reliant on mobile channels, which currently represent c.25% of user traffic (although this percentage is increasing).
What can we learn from this?
- Don’t rush to re-brand: Although the movement to mobile will likely be an important step for many online communities, not all will have to rebrand themselves as a ‘mobile company’ (the term used by Zuckerberg).
- Social and mobile are linked: Online communities that facilitate a predominantly ‘social’ connection, such as Facebook or an online dating platform will benefit from the continuous access granted by a mobile platform.
- Corporate content supports the web: Online communities that are linked to an industry or a profession will be most active during normal working hours and so remain well suited to desktop access.
The way your users interact with the network, and whether they use it as a platform for social interaction or a way to consume specific content, will determine the optimal way to manage your migration to mobile.