Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Year of the Mobile Device - Are YOU Ready?

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseWith the mobile device being so popular these days, is it any wonder that it was predicted recently that it will be the #1 device for browsing the web by 2013? Think about it, you have a device that has more processing power than many of the computers we used just a few years ago, is always connected to the Internet thanks to the ever-expanding data coverage by the mobile carriers and their screens are making it even easier to browse and experience websites right from the palm of your hand. This does not even take into consideration the plethora of apps that can be downloaded to further enhance your "mobile experience" (regardless of whether you are using an iPhone, Android-based device or Blackberry).

But, one of the things that still confuses many of my customers and people I talk to at conferences is the jargon that is associated with this expanding niche. So, in an attempt to help provide some clarity to this topic, I'd like to provide some of the key terms that seem to be most important. I recently presented at a conference for the Virginia Bankers Association, and these were some of the questions the crowd asked, so here we go...


SMS - This stands for Short (or Simple) Message Service, but we all probably know this more as a good 'ole fashioned "text message". This is the plain text message that you can send from one mobile device to another and for any of you who have teenagers, probably one of the biggest numbers on your monthly cell phone bill!

MMS - Similar to MMS, this is a Multimedia Message Service and a way to take SMS and enhance it with the ability to send images and even video over the text feature of your mobile device.

Mobile Short Code - Mobile message marketing is hot right now and many businesses are starting to allow customers to opt-in to receive mobile messages with updates, special offers and alerts. Probably the most common use is on contest shows like American Idol where you can "text" in your vote. The number that you send the message to (like a phone number, but shorter) is the Short Code and typically assigned to you by whatever mobile marketing company you are using.

Mobile Keyword - The second component of a mobile marketing system is the actual Keyword that you send to the Short Code (mentioned above). This tells the mobile message system what you "want". The system will interpret the Short Code and Keyword and according to the settings in the mobile marketing system, will send you a reply, forward your message as an e-mail to someone at the business, add your mobile number to a group for future information or even automatically re-direct you to a website. It's a great way to engage and keep in touch with those that want to learn more about what you do.

QR Code - Have you ever seen one of these funky looking black and white square images in a magazine or newspaper. More businesses are starting to use these Quick Response codes that smart phones with cameras can scan and interpret. The QR code can automatically take you to a website, send a text message or even automatically enter contact information into your mobile phone's contacts (great for adding to a business card!). If your phone does not have a QR reader, simply hop over to your "marketplace" or "app store" and pick one up, then scan this code and see where it takes you!

Mobile Friendly Website - When you have a website that is "Mobile Friendly" that typically means that the code used to create your site will play nice with many of the popular mobile devices. Elements like the styles used (from your CSS file - Cascading Style Sheet) and limitations on Flash and other non-mobile friendly elements are taken into consideration. This helps to ensure that the elements on your site are able to be interpreted by a mobile device, but the down side is that you have created a much smaller version of your site that may be difficult to navigate and "click/touch" on the right links (especially if these links are text embedded in paragraph text on your site).

Mobile Formatted Website - So, what's the solution for a mobile friendly website that may be too complicated to effectively browse on a mobile device... how about a Mobile Formatted Website! When a site is formatted FOR mobile, there typically is code installed that will tell the site if it's being accessed by a mobile device. When this happens, you'll be automatically re-directed to a new version of your site that will typically feature only the important information that someone would likely need from a mobile device (such as hours, phone number, locations, general overview, etc...). Plus, on a Mobile Formatted Website, you'll typically see larger buttons and graphics, making it easier to browse with your finger. One of the sites that I use all the time (due to my travel) is Delta.com and if you visit that site on your phone, it's much different from browsing on your computer. And by the way... I can help with a Mobile Formatted Website if that's something you're interested in (shameless plug, I know, but I gotta pay the bills - *wink*).

What mobile terminology have you heard recently and wondered what that really means? Post your comments and thoughts and let me know. Just like social media, mobile devices are not going away and while it may create a little extra work, it's going to be important to allow your customers to easily connect with you, regardless of what type of device they are using.

~Eric


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