Mobile Apps or Responsive Web Design – What’s Right for Your Business?

Touch screen mobile phone with business conceptMany business owners struggle with whether they should design a responsive website that works across mobile devices or focus exclusively on building a native mobile app. It’s a difficult choice to make since both options present advantages and disadvantages that must be taken into consideration when moving forward.

According to mobile industry reports, 7% of all website traffic worldwide came from handheld devices in 2011. In 2012, that figure rose to 12% and according to eMarketer (a leading digital media market research firm), more than 60% of adults will be regular mobile web users by the end of 2016. Tablets and smartphones are becoming the default choice for connecting to the internet. The web has become an essential part of our lives, and users are connected to their internet devices from anywhere and all the time.

It’s a tough call to make when deciding between a responsive web design or a mobile app, but in the end, it depends on the goals of your business.

If your organisation can afford it, it’s highly recommended that you build both a responsive website and a native mobile app in order to help your business work towards capturing the attention of your entire mobile audience. The native mobile app will provide a mobile centric experience for your existing and most loyal customers, while your responsive website can help provide an optimised experience to new and old visitors browsing your website or discovering it for the very first time.

Most organisations can’t afford to do both, which is why it’s important to understand the advantages of both options when addressing your mobile priorities.

Responsive design isn’t a cure-all

Responsive design is an approach to website development that creates a continuous user experience on all mobile devices, regardless of screen size and orientation. Responsive web design is certainly the most affordable option for your business as compared to the development of a mobile app. Take into consideration the initial costs of redesigning your website to be mobile friendly, then the cost of occasional upkeep and upgrades.

If visibility in search engines is an increasingly important part of your strategy to grow your business, then a responsive website is critical in helping grow traffic to your website. A mobile app lives in a closed environment and cannot be indexed by the search engines, which requires driving traffic to this app through alternate methods.

Depending on your web designer and the size of your website, a responsive Web design often takes far less time to create than a mobile app, since there’s no app store approval or extensive guidelines to follow as compared to what Google Play, the Apple app store and the Windows Phone app store require for launching an app.

If the goal of your destination online is to be universally accessible from any device, then responsive design is the solution. A mobile app is designed for a unique experience; exclusive to the operating system it lives on, which means it isn’t a one size fits all fix. However, don’t think of responsive design as the easy way out when it comes to optimising your website across mobile devices. Although a responsive website optimises your experience, it doesn’t incorporate all the smart phone features like the camera or GPS that a native mobile app can.

A mobile app will provide users with unique functionality and speed that can’t be achieved with a responsive website, but can be experienced on the operating system you choose to design your app on.

It’s better than not having a mobile-friendly version of your website, but it’s not the final solution for your customer’s experience with your business on mobile. Again, the choice between responsive and a mobile app depends on what your goals are for mobile.

Consult analytics to inform your native mobile app

A mobile app offers a compelling, unique and mobile specific experience for your customers, which is one of the main reasons why your company should consider designing an app over worrying about making your existing website mobile-friendly.

First and foremost, if you have existing data to analyze than it is important to use your analytics tools like Google Analytics to see what mobile devices are used the most to visit your website in the past few months. This can help inform what operating system you decide to design your app on.

Whether you decide to go with Apples iOS, Android, Windows Phone or another less popular operating system, it’s essential to match the features of the operating system with the type of app you’re looking to create.

Besides being able to utilise more of the features incorporated in a mobile device into the experience, a mobile app often has access to more data from a user and therefore, can provide a more personalised experience. This personalisation through data could play out in the types of push notifications an app sends you, for example recommendations, suggested content to view or other specific user-driven actions. When a user makes a profile on an app, it makes gathering data about a person and their online habits much easier for a business and much quicker and smoother for the user continually using this app to find events, watch videos and perform other tasks.

As of now, a native mobile app offers the best user experience for a person on a mobile device since there are still limitations to how wed design can be parsed on mobile. As the complexity of the responsive website increases, the more likely the user experience will begin to suffer. A native mobile app offers the best user experience to your audience, taking advantage of the phone’s functions and the expectations of customers using these devices.

A good social media policy can help your organisation fulfill its mission

social-media-policyAs organisations have increasingly turned to social media, policies to govern their use have become the new frontier. It can be difficult for organisations to find examples that fit their needs. A good social media policy will provide clear guidelines as to what staff should and shouldn’t do when posting and interacting with the community. A good social media campaign can help your organisation fulfill its mission, and there are many examples of organisations using these tools successfully. But there are also examples of organisations that have encountered pitfalls along the way. By developing a policy that provides guidelines for how and when to use social media, you can save staff time, improve the effectiveness of your efforts, and limit the risk of other potential problems.

Defining a Policy

Before you write the plan, think about who is going to follow the policy and whether it fits into a larger plan. Existing policies could influence your guidelines for social media, so give some thought to whether they need to match with regard to style. Similarly, your social media policy is your opportunity to guide staff towards a better fit with your organisation’s brand and values presence on social media.

Identifying and incorporating values

Think of your social media presence as an interactive extension of your organisation. It’s often the first and easiest way for stakeholders to learn about you and comment on, share, and applaud your actions. Start with your organisation’s mission, and identify a short list of values central to the work you do. Defining your core values helps ensure that you incorporate them into your social media guidelines.

Assigning roles

Who will be the person interacting with your community through social media? Who maintains the Twitter feed, and who posts to Facebook? Is it one person, or several? Well-defined roles and responsibilities among staff will help to eliminate the ambiguity that can often come with social media content creation. Remember, social media works best when it is current, active and responsive — it’s easier to allow for that when everyone is clear about who can post, when and how often. It’s often easier to keep content organised if the social media strategy is owned by an individual or small group.

Creating and sharing content

Whether you’re posting about your organisation’s work or events, there are plenty of topics to post about. Use your policy to narrow your focus to fit with your organisational goals. By finding your niche and creating or sharing mission-related content, you’re more likely to draw people in and entice them to return. This is also the time to consider what types of content should never be posted, or posted only with approval. This can be as simple as maintaining a certain image for your organisation, or as complex as protecting it from legal problems. A good policy that defines what can and can’t be posted can help prevent problems from arising.

Monitoring conversations and responding

Social media is a two-way conversation so your policy should not just inform external communications but how you deal with what people say to, and about, you. Creating and publishing content means it’s open to comments, both good and bad, and can be shared with other networks, often without your knowledge. You could choose to disable comments on your Facebook page, but then you’d miss out on one of social media’s greatest benefits. Instead, develop a strategy for monitoring and responding to comments, both positive and negative. Who will respond? Will you do it public or take the discussion offline? Responding thoughtfully can turn a bad situation into a positive “customer service” moment and publicly correct misinformation. If you receive a customer service complaint, determine who will handle it and what they will say. A good way to develop a response policy is to practice with a series of hypothetical situations.

Answering hypothetical questions

If you receive a complaint or a post with misinformation in it, you should take the opportunity to respond. Determine who will do so, and what they will say. Consider removing comments that will damage your community. Some negative posts are better left unanswered, especially if a response is likely to incite the poster into further action. Don’t just reply to negative comments — be a part of the conversation and reply to positive or neutral comments to create a rich, informative environment for your audience. Answer questions that arise, invite others into the conversation, and thank people for participating. Your responses put a human quality to your content and can create a feeling of goodwill in your community.

Protecting privacy

In an era where sharing content is so easy, and even encouraged, privacy concerns seem to be often overlooked or ignored. Part of the problem lies with the tools — new privacy complaints about Facebook and Twitter seem to pop up all the time — but it’s important to review your organisation’s privacy and permissions policies. Start by examining your existing policies for relevant information. When can you use photos or names of children, do you need their permission? Update your policies and waiver forms to include the social media channels you plan to use — there’s a big difference between getting someone’s permission to use their photo on a brochure, and using that same photo in a blog post or on your Facebook page.

Enforcing the line between personal and professional

In many cases, you want your social media presence to be as personal as possible. But you can run into problems when the line between the personal lives of your staff and your organisation’s goals are blurred. What type of personal information can be posted to your organisation’s social media channels? Do you only allow mission-related posts, or can staff express personal opinions or share information about major life events. Defining the boundaries in advance can prevent inadvertent problems, but make sure your staff understands how the policy relates to their own, personal social media use. Even if staff don’t self-identify as employees on their Twitter feeds or Facebook pages, in most cases, a good number of people still know where they work. To address that, your policy might train staff on the effective use of social media, and ask them to adopt strict privacy settings on personal pages.

 Creating your policy

You can’t foresee or protect against all possibilities, but being proactive and thoughtful when creating a policy can help ensure that your organisation gets the most benefit out of its social media efforts while avoiding many of the problems. The return on your efforts is likely to be worth the extra consideration. Start by identifying your team, and make sure all the right stakeholder groups are represented. Ask and answer the questions identified here to help get the conversation started, but don’t hesitate to ask other questions specific to your organisation’s work and goals. Your policy should ultimately fit your own use of social media, and your own needs.

International Social Media Marketing – Remember Research Helps!

International-social-media-marketingToday, every brand is a global brand. Customers around the world can access your content, discover and interact with other customers, and add their voice to the conversation about your brand. As a marketer you need to be conscious of the different needs of your audiences. This creates some challenges. How do you meet the needs of an audience that speaks multiple languages? How do you appear responsive when your customers are in several time zones? How do you segment and prioritise your social media efforts?

There’s a definite shift going on in social media at the moment. It comes in the form of a major move from seeing social media as something ‘ad hoc’ and tactical to seeing it as something that needs a framework, a strategy and an overall plan in order to actually deliver on its promises. One element of this is the desire by businesses to make sure that their social media works not just locally, but in every market in which they have a presence.

Facebook has indeed become the most popular social network in many countries, but the overall social media landscape is – even in countries where Facebook is no. 1 – way more interesting than that and Facebook shouldn’t always be the first choice. However, it’s not only choosing the right network that matters. If you want to improve your turnover with the help of international social media marketing, as well as increase your brand’s popularity, you’ll have to get acquainted with the culture of your target audience and take a lot of other things into consideration.

When you take a closer look at the social media landscapes in different countries, it becomes obvious that there are still many important players that marketers haven’t discovered as useful platforms to promote their brand. Although Facebook has 1.155 billion monthly active users and an established leadership position in 127 out of 137 countries. Last months Zuckerberg’s Army lost Latvia to Draugiem, which has 2.6 million registered users. In Russian territories there is a long battle between two main local players V Kontakte and Odnoklassniki. In China QZone still dominates the Asian landscape with 611 million users, followed by Tencent Weibo, Sina Weibo and RenRen. In Iran, where it’s hard to access Facebook due to state censorship, the leader is Cloob.

So, if you want to target certain audiences in a foreign country via social media marketing, you must first decide on which networks you should be active. International social media studies such as Wave 6 from Universal McCann will then tell you how appropriate social media marketing is for your target audience. In the recent study 65.2% of the respondents worldwide stated that they have been active on a social media profile in the last six months. Countries above this average were Brazil 74.3%, Russia 77.1% and China 68.9%, indicating that social media strategies should therefore be effective in these countries.

In principle the same rules apply for foreign audiences, as well as the domestic market, when it comes to content creation. You have to offer your fans and followers something valuable – that is, informative or entertaining content that would connect potential customers with the company. In general, there are a few rules of content creation for global brands. Don’t rely on Google Translate to create local language content. Always use a professional translation service and have a native speaker to check it. If you can use images wherever possible – pictures and graphics are much easier to digest for international audiences and relevance is critical. Local teams are not just your boots on the ground, but they’re your eyes and ears too. Setup regular conference calls or try to make sure teams or representatives meet face to face as often as they can.

There is something that you must keep in mind though, when targeting a foreign language audience: “foreign language” often means that there are cultural differences to be taken into consideration.  With this in mind you should thoroughly research what kind of content is good and what might be problematic. Brands need to be proactive about this and manage it strategically, without stifling innovation or ignoring local needs and nuances.

The management and measurement of these social media channels should also be a consideration. A social media policy is a good opportunity to ensure everyone understands how the organisation uses social media and helps to establish the ground rules for social media marketing. It also helps to clarify the crises procedure, where you can define what constitutes an issue and describes the escalation process.  Measure a global social media programme in the same way you would measure any campaign. Be sure to establish outcomes that reflect your business goals, then Key Performance Indicators to show progress toward those outcomes.

What is Native Advertising Anyway?

imagesPut simply, native advertising is “sponsored content”, meaning the practice of using content to build trust and engagement with would-be customers. Native advertising is a commercial message that is sort of “disguised” as content.

This includes sponsored content in your Facebook news feed, a promoted tweet on Twitter or one of those full-page adverts between Flipboard pages, but more commonly it is about how brands now work with online publications to reach people.

Native advertising can also include contributed editorial on some news sites, and now Tumblr and Linkedin are jumping into the fray with sponsored posts. When done well the content is relevant and targeted and as such gets more attention, because it’s placed where users are consuming their personal content.

The difference between display adverts online and native adverts is that the latter are in the flow of editorial content. Those publications that are pioneering native adverts are usually good at making sure the quality of the content is high. They won’t just commission content but work with individual writers or marketers so that it feeds an audience need. It also seems to be working. According to research from IPG Media Lab, native adverts are viewed for the same amount of time as editorial content and as such are more likely to be shared than a banner advert.

Many of us think that now banner adverts are weak, limiting and dated so this opens up a new opportunity for native advertising, and for many, this is the smart play.

How to use Flickr to raise your visual profile!

the-market-stall-photoFlickr is a social networking site that was launched to enable users to exchange photos and images. It is now one of the most popular social media sites. To fully exploit its marketing capabilities, here are some tips that will point you in the right direction.

Choose the Right Screen Name – The screen name you choose for your account will become your URL on Flickr, so you should use a few competitive keywords or your company’s name. Now you are ready to upload photos. Upload images that best relate to your business. Pictures of products, happy clients or even photos of conferences and seminars can be categorised to reflect your businesses target audience.

Properly Name and Tag Your Images – It’s very tedious and dull, but if you don’t tag your images, there’s no point in having a Flickr account. As users search for images they have better chances of coming across your images if they are properly tagged. The use of good keywords for the titles, tags, and descriptions is absolutely essential. Also, in the descriptions you can include URLs and direct users to your company website. Don’t forget to cross promote! Link your account to your website and also embed links in the photos, if you use a blog, and share them on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. You also have the option to embed sets or galleries of images in your website. Here lies the main marketing power of Flickr, and the reason why if used properly, it could greatly enhance your profile.

Take Advantage of Stats – You may request for stats to be activated for your account. This should take 24 hours. Once you have access to your stats you’ll be able to see metrics on the overall views of your photos, but more importantly on referrals. These allow you to see who is sending traffic to your photo collections.

Optimise your images and video for search engine rankings

Person-taking-picture-with-cameraWe have all heard about how marketers need to get more creative with their content by incorporating visuals, audio, and images. But how can we optimise all this new content for search engines?


1)     
Give your images detailed and informative file names

The file name can give search engines clues about the subject matter of the image. Try to make your file name a good description of the subject matter rather than its original identity. For example my-new-black-kitten is a lot more informative than IMG00023.JPEG. Remember instead of giving search engines a title that has nothing to do with the image, you can utilise your keyword research and rename the file with a keyword phrase that best describes it. London-2012-Double-Medalist-Mo-Farah-Adds-Midas-Touch-Team-GB For example if I was to upload an image of Mo Farah and his recent double Olympic success at London 2012, the file name would read London-2012-double-medalist-mo-farah-adds-midas-touch-team-GB. You can also add your company name at the start of every image description.

2)   Best Practices for Video

Like images, your video title should reflect the keywords that your users are searching for, and that, of course, aligns with your video content. Not sure what those are? Use a keyword tool to see what words and phrases people are searching to find your website. Keywords are especially important to the description you provide for the video. In YouTube make sure your first sentence includes the keywords you are optimising for, but also gives the viewer a reason to click-through.

Sometimes the best way for search engines to index non-written content is to make it written, you can do this by adding a transcription of your video. Most video services, including YouTube, provide this service for free so it’s really easy to include a transcription of your video on your website. Even better you can also use it as a blog post!

Do you need to write a blog? Here are some effective ways to promote it!

downloadSo you have done your research, written your article and optimised the content ready to publish. So how do you promote your blog post?

1) Ping it – Pinging notifies a number of services that your blog has been updated with new content, and these services can begin crawling and indexing your site for increased visibility. It’s so simple to use, just enter your blog URL into a box and click Ping!

2) Post it! – to the following social bookmarking services. These are free to use and provide a great platform to save, organise, and remember links to content that people find interesting on the web. Always remember to target your content to your target market and choose the most appropriate platforms.

3) Share it! – If you want to successfully grow your blog then you need to share your content on a number of social networks.

  • Facebook – Share your posts in relevant groups and ask for comments and feedback. Interaction is important especially within your business community.
  • LinkedIn – Share as an update on your profile and in relevant industry groups where followers may find the subject useful and may wish to interact with your blog post.
  • Twitter – Schedule a tweet of your post twice a day for 7 days, but remember to change the title each day!

4) Picture it! – Build a library of really interesting and distinctive images that illustrate your blog post content and use Pinterest or Instagram to share your expertise.

5) Email it! – Promote your blog by continuously building an email list of blog subscribers. This is not only a great way to market your own products and services, but it also allows you to build your brand and promote specific offers.

6) Guest Blogging and Comments – Promote your blog by subscribing to and regularly visiting other blogs within your niche. Actively participating in each blog community and adding valuable comments will help to raise your profile and offer their readers an opportunity to subscribe to your blog.