Ever since we wrote The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Social Media, we’ve been itching to dig deeper into mobile social strategies.

After all, the evidence that we’re only growing more addicted to our cell phones is undeniable:

So when our friends at bit.ly asked us to partner up for a webinar on the very topic of mobile social media, we were delighted to say yes. We’d love to invite you to join us Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 12:30 Eastern; 9:30 Pacific, when we’ll share lots of data about optimizing social for mobile and all the tactics you need to get started.

Here’s a preview of some of what we’ll be discussing. Hope to see you there!

mobile social

Why Mobile Matters

Even knowing the above stats, it can be remarkably easy to underestimate the power our smartphones hold when it comes to marketing. I mean, I still work on a laptop for most of the day—maybe you do, too.

But beginning in early 2014, internet usage on mobile devices began to exceed desktop usage.

web vs mobile

These days, more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the U.S.  And Goldman Sachs has predicted that the number of people making purchases on smartphones and tablets will grow to nearly half of all e-commerce by 2018.

goldman mobile stats

Even better? The mobile web is super social! In a study of 2.4 million websites and more than 6 billion social signals, ShareThis determined that the mobile web is twice as social as desktop. (The numbers are even greater for iPhone users, who share at a three-times greater rate than desktop.)

Mobile users are ready—to share, to review, to chat, to shop. So the question is, how ready are you?

Is your content optimized? Are your social media posts mobile-ready?

I know I could use a little help in this area. Let’s see if we can find some tools and strategies to help out.

7 Tools to Optimize Your Site for Mobile

Before we can know if we’re ready, we might need to know what “mobile friendly” actually looks like.

Maybe Google can help. Early in 2015, the search giant rolled out a mobile-friendly algorithm update and offered some simple advice:

“Imagine a user looking at your site on a mobile device. Can the user easily read your page and find the necessary information or is too hard to use?”

google mobile friendly

Google defines “mobile friendly” with these characteristics:

  • Readable text without zooming
  • Content sized to the screen (no horizontal scrolling required)
  • Easy use of links and buttons
  • The absence of applications like Flash that can make mobile sites hard to use.

When Portent tested a giant batch of leading sites last year according to these characteristics, 40% of them failed Google’s ‘mobile-friendly’ test.

So how does your site stack up? Know how your content looks and loads on mobile and tablets with these tools:

Site viewing tools

1. Responsinator

A super simple way to test on the most popular phone and tablet devices. Just enter an URL to have a look:

Responsinator

2. Browserstack

A heavy duty tool, Browserstack lets you test in real browsers and has iOS, Android and Opera mobile and tablet emulators to help you test across a large range of devices.

3. Screenfly

Responsive screen testing on monitors, tablets, smart phones, and more. (Screenfly is part of a suite of neat tools that allow you to wireframe, build sitemaps and more.)

Screenfly

Other mobile tools

4. Google’s Mobile Friendly Tester

If you’d really like a simple “yes or no” answer to the mobile readiness question, Google has your tool (and a great resource of mobile information, too)!

Google mobile readiness

5. W3C mobileOK Checker

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops standards for the Web, and their mobile checker offers a lot of great information as well as a score to see how well you’re faring.

mobileOK Checker

6. mobiReady

A free visualization and testing tool, mobiReady not only shows you how your site looks on various devices but also gives you a score based on your mobile readiness and offers you lots of details on how exactly to improve:

mobiReady

7. Google Analytics

Google Analytics can tell you a lot about where your traffic is coming from. For example, 35% of the Buffer Social blog’s traffic comes from mobile and tablet users. That’s a big chunk!

Google Analytics mobile overview

Diving even deeper, we can see exactly which devices are most popular with our audience (Apple devices make up almost 60%!):

Google Analytics devices

7 Tactics to Build Mobile-Optimized Content

1. Understand your audience and their mobile patterns

One great thing to know as you get started building a mobile social strategy is how your audience uses mobile devices. What types do they use to read your content, and when? Are they in bed? At work? In front of the TV?

Here’s some great info from IDG on some overall mobile and tablet patterns—the full infographic has even more helpful data about how customers use mobile and what for.

time of day on mobile

Once you know that, you can schedule your distribution accordingly. (Maybe Buffer’s Optimal Scheduling tool can help?)

2. Start small

We’re big fans of epic content here at Buffer. But when you’re optimizing for mobile, it might be better to think small.

Many mobile thinkers recommend a total overhaul of the way we tell stories. When you plan your next major project for mobile platforms, you could try “chunkifying” your content by presenting it in mobile-friendly pieces: Start small with tweet-like messaging and grow into more in-depth pieces, rather than beginning with long-form articles and crunching them down.

You can add structure to each piece through facts, quotes, statistics, events or images.

3. Consider the mobile social experience

Lots of social media is already inherently pretty mobile. But there are a few small factors that, when given extra consideration, can make a big impact on your fans and followers. For example:

  • Design a desktop header image for your social media sites that does double duty—make sure it will also look good with a mobile overlay.
  • Check how your sites look on mobile periodically.
  • Add images! An eye-grabbing image is a great way to transmit lots of information in a flash. Since they can appear in multiple aspect ratios, an image with info in the center will look best no matter how it’s viewed. (P.S. Buffer’s Pablo tool can help you create social media images fast!)
  • Make it fun! Engage your mobile community by providing incentives for contributing photos or videos. Make it easy to contribute by using a unified hashtag for your campaign.

4. Expand your social media universe

You definitely don’t need to join every social network to be successful, but if you want to up your focus on mobile you could consider spending some time on emerging channels, many of which tend to have a mobile focus.

Create an Instagram presence; optimize your Foursquare account (be sure to check your reviews consistently!); experiment with Snapchat, Periscope, Blab, and even podcasts (most of which are listened to on mobile!). The social media universe is vast—and expanding rapidly!

5. Optimize share buttons and social logins

On mobile, things like signing in and sharing content can be a bit trickier. I know I’ve had the experience of being stuck trying to do both of those things on a mobile site.

A Gigya study found that 64% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 use social logins because they dislike spending the time to fill out registration forms.

So make it simple to sign in, buy and share—streamline the experience by optimizing your social logins and share buttons.

6. Add video

Video can be a great mobile strategy: Mobile users are 3 times as likely to view a video than desktop shoppers, and they watch video longer and share video more—92% of mobile video viewers say they share video. (Particularly if you can create a funny or unique clip–66% of respondents said they shared videos of this type.)

video sharing

You don’t have to be a video professional to get going here—even a beginner with an iPhone can create an awesome, shareable video. (And with Buffer for Video, you can upload video once and share it everywhere!)

7. Try an SMS program

You probably don’t have time to read your entire Twitter timeline every day, but I bet you’re way more likely to read all your text messages! In fact, more than 90 percent of people read a text message within first three minutes.

So why not try an SMS program? Connect with your customers and offer customized content that takes advantage of their locations.

It might not be as dissimilar to social media as you might think. Similar to Twitter, you only have 160 characters to get your point across. Convince and Convert has a great guide for getting started.

3 Brands Leading The Way in Mobile Social

1. Buzzfeed: Mobile-first strategy

BuzzFeed is often on the forefront of social media trends, and mobile social is no exception.

A core element of their team is Buzzfeed Distributed, which focuses on making new original solely for mobile-forward platforms like Tumblr, Imgur, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and messaging apps.

They also focus heavily on making sure each piece of content looks great on mobile, with a special preview function in their content management system that allows for mobile previews.

buzzfeed-mobile

The result? A mobile-first traffic pattern that’s markedly different than the rest of the web’s: In 2014, 58 percent of mobile time spent on BuzzFeed came from mobile web vs. 42 percent on apps, in stark contrast to the 84 percent/16 percent app vs. mobile web split seen across the web overall.

share-of-time-spent-on-mobile-internet-vs-buzzfeed

P.S. If you don’t quite have a content management system as mobile-prepared as Buzzfeed’s, no worries! You can also try right clicking any piece of content you’re working on and use the “Inspect Element” in your browser (both Chrome or Firefox should work great!).

Even if your site is responsive, you’ll want to check the size and load time of photos, embeds, infographics, etc.

2. Dominos: Personalized experience on any device

With a lovely responsive site and a personalized customer experience for each device,  Dominos is one of the leaders in the mobile social space.

Dominos mobile

Even beyond the basic mobile readiness, Dominos has embraced the idea that a craving for pizza can strike anywhere, and responded accordingly. With Dominos Anyware, you can order pizza from your Apple watch, your smart TV, or even by tweeting a pizza emoji. Pretty cool!

Dominos anyware

3. Zappos: Experimental customer connection

Zappos is among a handful of brands—including Sephora, Intuit, Starbucks, and others—that are exploring mobile not just as an element of an overall marketing strategy but as its own specific approach that caters to users along the entire journey.

For example, its Ask Zappos feature makes it easy to connect and ask a question from anywhere, so Zappos can be on a customer’s mind when they’re walking around town and see a great pair of shoes.

Ask Zappos

Over to you!

I hope this might have demystified mobile social a bit. I know this research has shown me some areas where Buffer can improve!

What cool stuff have you seen lately when it comes to mobile social? What strategies and tactics have been working well for you? What challenges have you discovered? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

And we’d love to see you Wednesday for our mobile social webinar!

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Written by Courtney Seiter

Courtney writes about social media, diversity and workplace culture at Buffer. She runs Girls to the Moon on the side and pets every dog she sees.

  • Awesome post Courtney!

    Mobile is HUGE and many businesses don’t seem to understand that. Most have been slow to move to mobile when many are already seeing 50% or more of their traffic coming from mobile. It’s pretty crazy to think of how much many are missing out on because they haven’t moved to make mobile a priority.

    When thinking about mobile, we need to remember that it’s not as simple as making a site that appears correctly on mobile. People do things differently on mobile than they do on the desktop. We need to keep that in mind when developing every part of our mobile strategy and implementation.

    This is also critical to take into consideration when creating social campaigns. It’s amazing how many companies are putting money into paid social to drive people on mobile devices to things like white papers and other long form content that people just don’t do on mobile. How often have you taken the time to read a 30 page white paper on your phone compared to on your desktop/laptop? The content itself is just as important as the mobile-friendliness of your website when it comes to mobile.

    I hope you continue to explore mobile more with future posts. It’s certainly a hugely important aspect for most companies out there and one that could use a lot more attention. 🙂

  • Greg Wilnau

    Awesome post! Thank you for taking the time to educate me on the topic; I appreciate it!

    I’m very interested in SMS, but all the solutions I’ve seen are pretty expensive.

    Maybe you could point me in the right direction?

    Thanks again!

  • Interesting stuff, and can’t stress on the importance of mobile enough. There are certain industries that fall completely flat on mobile, and certain that work the best on mobile – but here’s something I discovered when doing work with a client:

    We were running Facebook ads to drive traffic to a landing page. Our KPI was to just drive a certain amount of traffic, nothing attached to what happens after the person lands on the website. We’re not responsible for the amount of sign-ups, downloads, event registrations – nothing. That’s peachy, but not the way I usually like to work.

    We had access to the web analytics, and the numbers weren’t making too much sense. Facebook ads was driving a decent amount of traffic to the website. Approximately 70% of the traffic had come from mobile, 30% from desktop – and the cost per website click on mobile was far lower than on desktop.

    Not a lot of people were signing up however, even though the content was good. The major problem here – really, was that it wasn’t the website that wasn’t mobile optimized for sign-ups, it was the tool they were using to log registrations that was causing a problem with sign-ups. The tool itself wasn’t mobile optimized, and if you tried to register – it asked you to download an app instead to make your future sign-ups easier. It was pretty ridiculous.

    So it’s not just your website that you have to mobile optimize, but if you’re getting people to sign up to your newsletter, RSVP to events or sign a guestbook (if you’re in 1996 on Geocities) then you need to be careful about the tools and services you use and embed on your website as well, because they might not be mobile optimized, breaking your entire experience.

  • chriss

    thanks for sharing this amazing post i want to use social plugin for my blog i.e.http://www.techcloud7.org. please tell me which plugin should i use over it.

  • Geoffrey Wakeling

    Very impressive Courtney

    Such an interesting topic to read. Mobile is something very big and very complex and not everyone who use it understands this fact. But I am definitely gonna try these tools that you have mentioned here for mobile site optimization.

    I have heard of the Browserstack tool once, but never implemented it. I do not have a clear idea of it but you have explained everything in such an easy way that i am persuaded to use it in my field.

    Also, the tactics for building mobile optimized content are worth appreciating.

    Big thanks for sharing 😉

  • Suhem Hashmi

    Very informative post! I completely agree that mobile is the future, so not optimizing for it in this day and age seems to be a huge blunder. But while there are a lot of viewing and testing tools available to check if your website is mobile friendly, there seem to be none listed above to make it so.

    SalesPanda (available over at http://www.salespanda.com) is a software that I can personally vouch for. Not only does it automatically help in making your website mobile optimized in just a few clicks, but it also has a host of other features, including analytics to monitor incoming traffic like you mentioned above, all rolled into one tidy package! It helped in improving my social marketing website immensely, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot if you’re looking for something ergonomic and user friendly.

  • Adam Gray

    Courtney, thanks a lot. I enjoyed reading your post.

    The previous orator said that mobile is the future, but I say that mobile is contemporaneity. It has already conquered the world. Mobile-friendly website are a must-have for any businesses, as well as mobile applications. I would even say that app is a key tool in modern marketing. People spend most of their time of mobile phone usage in apps, as you are right to mention.

    If you have a responsive website, it is easy to convert it into an application. Watch this video by Mashable if you are interested. Another option is to build a brand new app. I would go for an independent app – it will bring you much more advantages, you can find out more here.

    I like your idea about starting small. That way you will be able to see the user reaction and develop your app further according to their tastes. It is also a matter of cost – developing a simple app with minimal design and basic functionality will cost less.

    Another great thing about apps is that you can place native ads there. It is the biggest hit right now and by the 2017 it is expected to grow. You can check out the numbers in this Huffington Post article.

    As you see, mobile social tools are not limited to mobile web.