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Mobile marketing: The basics

We're all very aware of mobile communication. It's hard not to be, when smartphones are such an integral part of daily life.

However, harnessing its popularity for business profit has proven more of a challenge. Even the ultimate technology success story, Facebook, has been slow on the uptake - so much so, it had to warn potential investors of its shortcomings before floating on the stock market. It has recently taken steps to fix this by opening the Facebook App Centre.

If you're feeling a little out of your depth with mobile marketing, therefore, you're certainly not alone. It's still a very new and evolving world, particularly when it comes to generating revenue.

But fear not - there are some basic principles which can help you create an effective mobile presence.

Think about how your business relates to mobile

Your mobile strategy will differ depending on your industry. For example, if you have a retail business, you may wish to sell products via mobile - so you need to make purchasing easy. Alternatively, if you work in consultancy, your primary goals will be convincing interested parties of your expertise and making it easy for them to submit queries.

However, while the design of your mobile presence should take these differences into account, there are some considerations which are applicable to all fields.

Speed and simplicity are the most vital of these, as it should be quick and easy for people to read, understand and navigate your mobile service. If it is crammed with excessive information and is visually confusing, users will lose interest fast and go elsewhere.

Creating a mobile presence

You also need to think about how far to extend your mobile service and how best to do so, as there are a few options at your disposal which can be mutually complimentary.

Mobile websites

Mobile websites are accessed via an internet browser, though shortcuts can easily be added to a smartphone's home screen. They tend to be simplified versions of standard websites, usually located either on separate domains such as www.site.mobi, or sub-domains such as mobile.site.com or m.site.com. For example, Facebook's mobile site is m.Facebook.com.

Alternatively, they might sit on the same domain as your main website. That's because a standard website designed for computer viewing can be designed to run effectively on mobile devices. This practice is known as Responsive Web Design and is a one-stop solution, if used correctly. It has become increasingly popular in recent times, as it cuts down on development time and maintenance; and therefore costs. It is also Google's recommended method.

Mobile apps

Got a smartphone? You'll know all about these, then. No smartphone? Well, apps - otherwise known as applications, to give them their full name - are items of software which optimise online services for mobile use. They are not web pages, but their visual design is often similar to that of mobile websites.

For example, a bank might choose to produce an app allowing users to access its most popular facilities, such as checking balances and making speedy payments, rather than the full range of services available via its website.

However, it is important to note that without an effective mobile website, people may not discover your app in the first place. Apps are primarily designed for existing audiences or customers - but, once downloaded, they can act as a reminder and thereby encourage repeat business.

Obtaining and engaging a mobile audience

The search engine optimisation (SEO) considerations for creating a mobile website are much the same as for creating any effective website, using relevant, high-quality content complemented by natural keyword use.

This will help search engines to prioritise your mobile presence when people look for products, services and information via their smartphones. Google has recently offered some detailed technical advice for creating mobile sites, for which HTML and CSS coding can be manipulated to produce the desired effect.

It is also essential to employ a logical navigation structure to encourage exploration and repeat visits.

Finally, you should ensure that people are aware of your mobile service via all means possible. To start with, this means highlighting it via networking portals such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest, where relevant.

How do I know my mobile site is working?

You can use platforms such as Google Analytics to discover how many people have visited your standalone mobile website; or hw many have used smartphones to visit your Responsive Web Design site. This will help you keep track of how your mobile audience is changing.

Like Facebook, you may find that your mobile users are increasing at a much faster rate han you might have expected, giving you the confidence to invest more heavily in your mobile marketing strategy in future.

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