With US consumers now spending more time on Facebook Mobile than through it’s website, the urgency is kicking in for marketers building out social programs on Facebook and other platforms. It seems that everyone is talking about how Facebook needs to build out its mobile advertising offering, but few people are talking about what marketers need to do to optimize social programs for distribution and engagement on mobile devices. Fortunately, marketers have several options.
1. Marketers can, to their peril, choose to ignore mobile in their social programs, which is unfortunately happening in most cases due to budget constraints.
+ Cost savings.
- The primary drawback is underwhelming engagement, which can be misinterpreted as being a problem with the platform rather than a problem stemming form a lack of program design and execution. With the scale of mobile usage, it should be considered a crime for a brand not to enable mobile users to engage in a social program. At Stuzo | Dachis Group we’ve seen 43.7% of total engagement come from mobile usage on social programs delivered in 2012 that were optimized for mobile. This is a significant number that will only increase as we move through the remainder of this year.
2. Marketers can stitch on mobile as an afterthought, a method that is all too common these days.
+ Cost savings.
- As with anything, when mobile is an afterthought of a program execution it will lead to a suboptimal execution and program performance. I see it time and time again, where clients want to, in the middle of the development phase of a program, take a social solution that has been fully optimized for the web in its design and cram that same user experience with all its corresponding features and functionality onto mobile devices. This never ends well, with consumers that are looking to engage via the mobile user experience paying the price for a poorly executed program, and the brand suffering from lackluster program performance.
3. Marketers can extend programs by building native applications for iOS, Android, et al.
+ Possible additional engagement from the native applications, however, this should be expected to be correlated with the level of media that is spent on promoting the applications on each platform.
- The primary drawback to building out separate applications on each mobile platform is the cost implications – that is, the initial increase in cost of development and then the added cost to maintain multiple experiences across multiple platforms. The increase in development costs can increase total program costs by as much as 3x when the program deployment includes separate applications across all of the leading mobile platforms. There are some solutions that enable cross-platform application development and deployment across mobile platforms, but they are often limited in the richest features of each mobile platform.
4. Marketers can invoke proper planning to build one solution, with a nuanced approach in user experience design and feature sets augmented to drive engagement of the experience across the leading mobile platforms.
+ The benefit to planning ahead and building an optimized solution enabling engagement across mobile platforms and devices can be profound. We have seen engagement in social programs launched in 2012 that were optimized for mobile outpace those that were not by an average of 26%. The gap in engagement is only going to increase over the coming months. Advanced planning will also ensure that costs are kept to a minimum.
- The one drawback with optimizing for mobile platforms by developing one solution is that lack of distribution opportunity through the app stores. This is, however minimal in consequence in most cases, especially since the real uptick in usage of branded campaign based mobile applications is driven by media. Facebook will further to minimize the significance of this with its launch of a unified application directory just days ago.
All in, at Stuzo | Dachis Group we prefer to plan ahead and to develop one solution that is optimized to drive engagement across platforms and devices. This not only drives better results, but it saves our clients money and us time in managing unneeded complexities. The only exception to the build once deploy everywhere thinking comes into play when clients have mission critical or evergreen programs that can benefit from platform specific features and individualized app store distribution. In such cases we opt for a bifurcated approach where we develop one solution that spans across devices, which is connected to an independent mobile application that is enabled to take advantages of platform specific features and individualized app store distribution.
The answer for marketers looking to engage consumers at scale on Facebook and across mobile devices is fairly straightforward as long as there is a well thought out plan and budget in place. With that said, which of the above approaches is your brand employing?