5 Tips for Writing for Mobile

When is the last time you saw someone waiting – on a park or city bench, at a café table or a transit stop – and he or she wasn’t staring at a smartphone? These hand-held screens are more than a modern convenience; for many Americans, they are our connection to the world, people and services.

Nearly two-thirds – or 64 percent – of people in the U.S. own smartphones, according to the 2015 smartphone use study by the Pew Research Center. Of those, 15 percent do not have many options for getting online other than their phones.

As mobile dependency increases, marketers need to take into account mobile search, responsive design and, yes, even content strategy for a mobile audience.

Why is Writing for Mobile Important?

We use our phones to find nearby amenities, look up directions, manage banking accounts, share photos, text and call people, read news stories, follow stocks, etc.

Consider these stats from the Pew mobile study on the habits of smartphone owners in the past year:

  • 68 percent followed breaking news
  • 62 percent looked up info about a health condition
  • 57 percent did online banking
  • 44 percent looked up real estate listings
  • 43 percent searched for jobs
  • 30 percent wanted to take a class
  • 18 percent applied for jobs

That means in the five minutes someone may spend waiting for a bus, there are endless, competing online tasks and information to fill the time. How do you make sure mobile users stay engaged with your website? A sleek, responsive design will absolutely help, but you need mobile-friendly content to round out the user experience.

5 Tips for Mobile Content

  1. Get to the point: As we’ve discussed, mobile users are often killing time or quickly searching for information. (And your content is competing with incoming texts and push messages). If they don’t think your site can quickly and easily answer their question or meet a need, they will move on, fast.
  2. Be simple and clear: Web writing best practices calls for easy-to-understand content (we aim for a 6th-grade reading level). For mobile users, it’s even more important to omit complex language and industry jargon. According to a mobile comprehension study from the University of Alberta, mobile users found it twice as hard to understand subject matter than desktop users.
  3. Don’t rely on your navigation: Mobile users won’t see the navigation bar that appears on your website. That means inserting strategic call-to-action links is key to facilitating the user journey. Sure, users can click on the “hamburger” icon to view page options, but keep in mind the quick, impatient, scrolling habits of the smartphone user. Deliver them helpful links, where they make sense, and it will pay off.
  4. Give them what they need: Mobile users are very likely to be looking for key information such as phone numbers and directions. Make these features easy to find and interact with.
  5. Craft super-powered H2s: These headers serve double-duty on the web: They draw in organic search traffic with keywords and phrases and organize content for rapidly skimming and scanning users. The act of thumbing down a mobile screen helps users move even more quickly through a page. Write compelling H2s to make users pause and read. But make sure they are accurate, or they may lose patience.

As a marketer, the best thing you can do is visit your own mobile site often. Many times, clients admit they have never even viewed their own content on a smartphone. Make sure you know how the experience is different from your work desktop.

Interested in learning more about mobile trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

The Rise of Mobile Chat Apps
Mobile Search Updates: Why You Need a Mobile Website

#RIPTwitter: The Future of Twitter and Your Brand

It took a week’s worth of bad news to make people talk about Twitter again. Today, you’re probably hearing a lot about the future of Twitter, and wondering whether it has one.

From the #RIPTwitter backlash to news that user growth has “come to a halt” – as a few media outlets put it – the company is fighting to prove it’s still relevant.

If you’re a marketer, you want to know what all of this might mean for your brand engagement on Twitter. Here’s what you need to know:

Twitter User Growth
Twitter released its fourth quarter earnings report late Wednesday. Not only has the company failed to increase new users since it went public, it has actually lost monthly active users from the previous quarter, according to news reports. Investors were clearly disappointed, as stocks fell in after-hours trading.

The timing couldn’t have been worse, as it arrived on the heels of the #RIPTwitter drama. The company’s fight is now two-fold: Proving itself to investors and preserving the loyalty of the angry users it desperately needs.

#RIPTwitter: What Does it Mean?
Twitter has been hinting for a year that an algorithm was in the works. On Friday, Buzzfeed broke the news that it would be introduced this week, sending the twittersphere into a frenzy. Enraged users created the #RIPTwitter hashtag to protest the change, officially announced Wednesday.

Why the revolt? Users say Twitter is copying the Facebook playbook. Until now, the real-time Twitter feed has been its key differentiator, setting it apart from other platforms. Now, users worry the algorithm will vet everything they see.

What is an Algorithmic Timeline?

  • How it works now: The feed appears in reverse chronological order. Users see the latest tweets from people they follow.
  • The problem: If you don’t log in for a while, your real-time feed keeps updating without you.
  • What changes: If you log in after a hiatus, the new algorithm will highlight the top missed tweets it thinks are most relevant to you, based on your activity and other factors. (Read more about the feature on Twitter’s blog.)
  • What stays the same: After these “top missed tweets,” users continue on to their normal feed.
  • Who has to use it: It’s an optional setting that’s rolling out in waves.

How Does the Twitter Algorithm Impact Brands?
So die-hard Twitterheads are upset. As a marketer, should you be, too? It doesn’t look that way.

Here’s what changes:

  • The algorithm will only pick tweets from a user’s followers. It will not select ads.
  • It will factor in organic engagement, so promoted tweets can’t cheat the algorithm.
  • The company promises it’s not moving toward a “pay to play” system for advertising, like what Facebook uses.
  • Your brand’s unpaid tweets are still equal to user tweets. They may appear as top highlights, if they get enough traction.

That means you should continue to invest in and distribute high-quality content. And who knows, maybe these changes will actually help you reach more people – that is, if Twitter makes good on its promise to Wall Street for user growth this winter.

Interested in learning more about social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles: