Mobile Apps and Mobile-Friendly Websites for Business: 
The Next Big Thing in Internet Marketing?

Shortly after Internet accessibility via mobile phones started to take off, marketers started to encourage businesses to build mobile versions of their websites. But there is always a gap between innovations and those who follow up in order to take advantage of the latest technologies.

mobile-friendly website with responsive WordPress theme

ComBridges’ new mobile-friendly website design uses a responsive WordPress theme

But, now that there is a meaningful volume of web visitors checking out every website (yes, even yours!) via mobile devices, spanning this gap is becoming more of a requirement. And yet, there are still a very significant number of businesses who don’t have mobile-friendly websites. The really bad news, particularly for those who are falling behind, is that the gap is widening between those who are meeting the demand for mobile-friendly web communications and those who are not. The good news is that there are a new generation of business communication tools arising in the form of apps and new kinds of websites that make meeting this need increasingly accessible. Illuminating these trends with specific examples is the purpose of this blog post.

The Mobile Web is Exploding

These changes are unquestionably dramatic. While the Web was born on desktop computers, it is obviously no longer simply a desktop medium. By May 2012, fully one tenth of the world’s web traffic was arriving on your digital doorstep via mobile phones and tablets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the “developing” world that is truly leading the charge. In those countries where cell phones have long outnumbered landlines, more than one-half of web use is now coming via mobile devices. This demand for mobile delivery is now forcing the issue and providing further fuel for the shift in how websites are designed. In this environment, for a company to ignore the need for the mobile-friendly delivery of its Web content not only limits that company’s engagement opportunities because they are essentially “dissing” a significant segment of their audience. In the US alone, mobile is now estimated to be about 15% of web traffic. Bottom line, this form of resistance to change (or upgrades) will also exclude that company from a significant component of how the next billion people will get online.

Chinese woman with iPad

Photo by Robert May, April, 2013

Not Your Father’s Website Design

Web development for the mobile age itself is advancing quickly. One of the latest innovations is called responsive website designs. Because responsive designs automatically adjust their layout to suit the device being used, they offer a relatively simple solution that can eliminate the complexity of having to create a separate mobile-friendly version of your website. But this means that those—like my company recently—must invest in a redesign in order to keep pace with the mobile revolution. But that’s not all. The pace of change does not slow down. It accelerates.

Span the Gap with an App

Now, at least for marketers who are committed to the leading edge of engagement with social media savvy users who love their mobile devices, a responsive design may not be enough. Mobile apps are yet another important innovation because they combine the emergence of ever-expanding Web access via mobile devices with the ability to communicate directly, in a native form (i.e. within the mobile medium) via customized business-specific functionalities from Facebook feeds, to special offers, to location-based components.

A recent article by SmartMediaTips on mobile statistics points out that over 50% of an individual’s time spent on a smartphone is spent using apps. In 2011, smartphone users downloaded 17.7 billion apps, and this number is expected to increase to 108 billion by 2015. As a result, more than 300,000 apps were developed in the last 3 years. In a sense, apps are the new websites (just like “60 is the new 40.”)

The good news is that some newly developed Web-based SaaS (software as service) resources are make building basic apps far more accessible and affordable than previously imagined. The result is a new trend in mobile marketing: the development of business apps that can be used by companies of virtually any size. Of course, many large, enterprise-level businesses have already jumped on the app bandwagon, including banks, Starbucks, Google, and even Walmart’s new checkout app. Now, there are mobile apps for the rest of us.

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites

A business mobile app means that your website can be programmed to offer mobile users an interface for your website and social media content that is all the more friendly, not only with a vertical layout that fits a smartphone screen, but with an interface that features icons (rather than web-style text links) that are also a natural for the touch of a screen. Thus, an app offers more than a responsive website design. An app gives your business a mobile presence that can put local or social media interactivity in a more prominent position. In particular, an app allows your loyal customers and followers to retrieve content, like audio podcasts or video commentaries for example, that are more conveniently accessed while on the move. Likewise, Facebook posts and tweets, which are commonly accessed via mobile, can become part of your business app’s featured content.

One logical strategy is use the app to make your social media marketing and content marketing outreach more accessible. For example, when individuals are standing in line at the bank or at the grocery store, with an app at their fingertips, they will much more easily be able browse through your Facebook posts. In fact, they are certainly more likely to visit your Facebook Page while on your app rather than from Facebook’s own app where they are far more than likely to be distracted by their family’s photos, etc.

Likewise, if you host a contest, offer a coupon or some other form of promotion, those who get involved with your app can much more quickly check contest updates from an app and receive automated notifications (with permission of course). The app makes waiting for your responsive website to load, asking the user to find the contest page, then wait for that page to load, etc. seem prosaic. An app simply makes any interaction with your web content immediately available with a simple touch of an icon, rather than forcing a web page and more complex navigation through the smaller screen.

Learning from Experience

Small Business mobile app example

ComBridges’ Facebook Feed in our test mobile app

By way of example, as a boutique web design and marketing agency, our company, ComBridges used to have a mobile-friendly version of our website that was visible via smartphones. This was developed using a WordPress plug-in called WPTouch Pro. Recently, we have redesigned and relaunched our own site with a responsive WordPress theme.

What opens up the opportunity for a small business like ours (and so many others) to have its own app is online software services like Conduit.com’s Mobile. While these apps do require a small, additional monthly hosting fee, they are easy for developers like us to implement. So much so that some do-it-yourselfer small businesses could even build apps on their own. It’s a work in progress, but if you have a smartphone, you can preview our first generation mobile app via any mobile device at combridges.conduitapps.com.

You will notice that what you see on our app looks very different than what you see on our website. It’s designed for mobile interaction. In fact, thanks to Conduit, much of the content is automatically derived from our Facebook Page, Twitter feed and more. As you can see, many of our social media pages are featured along with easy options for contacting us, including click to call functionality.

Greeting the Mobile Future

According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of individuals who own smart phones keep their phone within reach 24/7. And 5.1 billion of the 7 billion people on earth own a mobile phone. With these numbers in mind, why wouldn’t every business want to make it easier for their customers, blog readers, Twitter or Facebook followers to engage with them via a mobile app?

Another benefit is that if you develop your business app now, before the gap widens further, you may well be seen as an innovator. At the very least, you will prove yourself smart enough to get an early jump on the next wave of mobile marketing strategies, rather than letting the gap widen between you and your competitors, as well as between you and your customers.


Jon Leland is author of “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts that Every Business MUST Know” and is the president of the boutique web design, video and Internet marketing agency, ComBridges.com. He was assisted in this article by Tara Hornor who also writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company.

 

The Visual Web Demands New Video Presentation Tools & Techniques

One of my ‘mantras’ is that “It’s not about the technology. It’s about the communication.” 

Quick infographic, presentation image

This image took about 5 minutes to create

Both the good news and the bad news is that online communication is becoming more and more visual. So much so that I’ve begun calling it “The Visual Web” and wrote this blog post about the trend.

The first is about the style of visual communications and the continuing “epidemic” of bullet-point list laden presentations, such as those created in PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote programs. (And given the increasing value of sharing presentations via SlideShare, presentation style is more important than ever.)

The second is a new tool that can be applied to both online videos (which I now consider a “must have”) as well as to the increasingly important content marketing strategy of creating infographics.

1. Presentations Done Right

Authenticity in online communications is an important key, and that means you have to walk your talk. Here’s a presentation that does just that. It illustrates what I agree are some of the most important techniques and style points about presentations using PowerPoint or Keynote, and it does so without bullet point lists. In fact, it not only makes a good case against all that text and bullet lists that we all see in far too many presentations, but it also offers some valuable resources. (New to me were Pictalicious for color palettes and PowToon, see below. I already love and recommend the iPad app, Haiku Deck.)

 

2. The Best and Easiest Online Video & Infographic Tool I’ve Seen (ever?)

 I will have to return to the subject of PowToon with a more complete review. For now, I’ll give it one of my highest recommendations which is, “I want to learn this app.”

It’s an online application designed for the creation of all kinds of online videos with an impressive array of built-in animation effects. Their site is full of examples, so I’ll just embed their excellent introductory video. If you are interested in this kind of production, ComBridges can do it for you, and more cost effectively than ever thanks to this tool. Check it out!

 

What do you think?

 

Great Video Underscores the Mobile, Multi-Screen Marketing Revolution

One of my mantras seems to be “it’s hard to keep track of how fast things are changing when things are changing this fast.” 

It really is hard to ‘grok’ 67 million iPads being sold in just two years, isn’t it?

The question as posed by this video is “Are You Adapting?” That’s a great question given that mobile web traffic was 1% is 2009 and it was about 12% in 2012 and that’s rising rapidly. I highly recommend this highly visual video via the Associated Press and the international sports video agency, SNTV as a wake up call. (And, if you will please forgive a brief moment of shameless self-promotion, we would love to help your company or organization adapt to and take advantage of these changes. I think it’s safe to say that they will effect every organization either as an opportunity… or an opportunity missed because someone else in your niche got there first… or adapted more effectively.)

“It’s a Wonderful Web” ENewsletter Highlights Facebook Pages, Google AdWords and Luscious Links

The March 2013 edition of our “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter is out. It includes:

  • social media puzzleWhy a Basic Facebook Page is Not Effective Marketing
  • Get QuickStarted with Google AdWords, the World’s Biggest Ad Platform
  • Luscious Links including where to find great images for your blog, why Google+ is a must, and Twitter’s Vine video app

If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to read it online.

Is Vine, Twitter’s Video App, Useful for Social Media Marketing? Expert Reviews & Luscious Links

The face of online video, or what I like to call The Video Web, has just grown a new “nose.” In other words, there is now a new dimension to the online video world. In case you haven’t heard yet, the latest mobile and social video sensation is called Vine and it’s a free download app for all major mobile smartphone platforms.

Like Twitter, Vine uses #Hashtags as a way to find things and connect to stuff

Like Twitter, Vine uses #Hashtags as a way to find things and connect to stuff

Vine videos take the form of some pretty neat (and of course sometimes boring) little six-second video clips that are tightly integrated with Twitter, who recently bought the company. (FYI, Vine videos are also post-able to Facebook.)

While Vine is getting some mixed reviews—ranging from raves that it’s “the next big thing” to distain that there’s too much porn—I think the truth is that it’s got potential. While we wait to see if its buzz will last, in my opinion, Vine is fun and worth checking out.

As you will see from the aggregated “luscious links” below—all of which are from what I consider to be a solid selection of social media authorities—many major brands as well as smaller businesses are already experimenting with Vine videos. Even Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles (or a member of his team?) is starting to run contests via Vine (see below). So, as Dylan sang, “Something is happening here…” even if we don’t know exactly what it is…

 

(FYI, Sir Paul’s next tweet said that the answer was ‘Mamunia’ from ‘Band On The Run.’)

On a more personal note—beyond my own app-aholic fascination—my litmus test proving Vine’s viability was sharing the app with a couple of 21 year old women who I met at a party. We had already established that these extremely charming social-media-active individuals were way into Instagram. But Facebook, not so much. Even as a very active Facebook user, I could appreciate their point of view, “There are too many people on Facebook posting opinions that we don’t care about.” I found this point of view to be refreshing! 🙂

When I showed them Vine and how easy it is to create multi-scene six-second mini-movie clips, they literally took to it like fish to water. Fun! Here’s one of my first Vine videos, shot (which in this case is the same as produced) at that party:

Reinforcing the “mixed reviews” theme, MarketingProfs’ Ann Handley says, “Vine: Stupid, Simple and Brilliant.” In fact, it was also Handley who tweeted the first clearly commercial Vine video that I saw. Specifically, this little ditty by the LA Dodgers in support of a new baseball star bobble-head promotion:

More Luscious Links

And last but not least, one of my favorite “social media gurus,” Jay Baer not only offers valuable insights with The 2 Ways Most People Are Misusing Vine but in this 4-minute video interview (embedded below), he tells us the bottom line of all the hype, i.e. Vine will not usher in a “new era of content marketing,” but it is an interesting new tool for serious social media marketers who are being strategic about their use of content marketing:

Bottom line, as Jay says, content marketing without a coherent strategy is not going to have a bottom line impact, no matter how nifty a tool Vine may be. And it is nifty, IMHO. After all, making video this easy to create and post is not a no-brainer.

Any comments?

“It’s a Wonderful Web” 2013!

cb-ipadThe first edition of our “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter for 2013 is out. It includes the following articles:

  • 2013: The Year of Anything is Possible
  • Special Offers!
  • Free 1-Hour Audio: Web Radio Interview
  • Luscious Links

If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to read it online.

New Internet Radio Interview: What’s So New About New Marketing?

One of the fun things about having written a book about Internet marketing is getting to do interviews. Thanks to Susan Scher of the BlogTalkRadio show, “In Other Words” for the opportunity to take a full hour to discuss why I think that understanding the new dimensions of online communications is so important. Among other things, the interview (linked below) covered topics like “what’s so different about New Marketing,” authenticity, the rise of online video, the empowered consumer, social media marketing, my Attract/Engage/Relate approach to sales funnels, content marketing, and much more. Please enjoy and let me know what think.

Listen to internet radio with Perfect World Network Radio on Blog Talk Radio

New Forms of Online Video and TV Advertising Empower Advertisers

In today’s TheTVNews “New Media / New Marketing” video report (which is embedded below at the end of this post), I talk about the tectonic shifts in the online video and TV advertising spaces. Video and TV advertising will never be the same as advertisers take advantage of new video-enabled advertising and marketing tools that are far more targeted and responsive than traditional TV could ever provide. Clearly, the old broadcast “shotgun” approach to advertising is rapidly going the way of the horse and buggy. Today’s advertisers rightly require accountability for their valuable advertising spends.

Native Video AdvertisingAlso, unlike, traditional TV advertising which is still extremely large in scope, the upstart online video advertising market is continuing to grow rapidly. According to one study, it grew 27% in 2012 and will grow at least 20% next year as well.

For your reference, here are a few links that provide more in-depth insight into these changes in the video-related advertising marketplace, including a new research study on “native video advertising” and a New York Times perspective on “programmatic buying.”

1. ReelSEO: Native Video Advertising Drawing Much Interest from Major Brands which references this Forbes study, “Going Native, How Marketers are Reinventing the Online Video Advertising Experience,

In the words of the Forbes/Sharethrough study, ” ‘Native advertising’ has emerged as the convergence between original brand video content and dramatically new approaches to distribution that ensure an ad matches the look and feel of a website and does not interrupt the viewing experience in the manner of a television commercial.”

My favorite native video advertisement is the Red Bull “Athlete Machine Kluge” embedded here, but click on “YouTube” in the lower right corner of this clip to view on YouTube… and turn up your volume! 🙂

2. NYTimes: The New Algorithm of Web Marketing
Not only are we living in the era of the empowered consumer, but we are also seeing advertisers take on new power as “programmatic buying” technologies allow advertisers, not media companies to set advertising rates based on the real value of the highly-targeted consumers.

This is a major new trend that I believe can be expected to accelerate rapidly. And, as with all rapid changes, there are those who are dragging their feet. The Times reports, “That shift is punishing traditional online publishers, like newspaper, broadcast and magazine sites, who are receiving a much lower percentage of ad dollars as marketers use programmatic buying across a much broader canvas. Some sites, like CNN.com, refuse to even accept advertising through programmatic buying because they do not want to cede control over what ads will appear.”

Everything old is new again, especially in the online video advertising and TV spaces. Here’s my video comments about what’s linked and discussed above:

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback!

New YouTube Video Invites You to Our Online Course in Internet Marketing

I don’t know how to get more personal than creating a 3-minute video invitation that explains the real value that I know will be available to those who join me in the four-part online course in Internet marketing, Start with a Solid Foundation: Building on the 8 Key Concepts of Sustainable Online Marketing. At the very least, I’m “walking my talk” about using online video; but I hope it’s more than that… By the way, I have a few discount coupons for anyone who signs up by Saturday. Please let me know if you’re interested.

Please check out this video and let me know what you think:

You can also click here to check out an online press release overview of the new book and the new course, “Internet Marketing’s Missing Links Revealed and Illuminated by New Book and Online Course.”

I hope you’ll join us! Any questions? Please use the Contact Us form and I’ll do my best to get right back to you.

“Demystifying Internet Marketing” – Free Webinar, This Tuesday, 10/30

I want to help you get a handle on Internet marketing. I wrote a book. I’ve designed a new online course. Now, I’m offering a free introductory webinar in partnership with another thought leader.

As part of the build up to my new online course, “Start with a Solid Foundation: Building on the 8 Key Concepts of Sustainable Online Marketing” I am joining with another small business marketing leader, author and consultant, Christy Strauch (http://www.smallbusinesswarrior.com ) in co-presenting a free webinar introduction called “Demystifying Internet Marketing.” 

This is happening in a web browser near you, or via dial-in phone, tomorrow, Tuesday, October 30th, promptly at 11:00AM PT. Click here to register now for this free Internet marketing webinar. And, yes, if you register we will also send you the recording, presuming that all the tech gods co-operate. 😉

We hope you will join us!

Or click here to read a press release that explains more and will also tell you how to get a free Kindle copy of my book!