Two Toms and a Microphone: Data and Mobile at 2011 BlogWorld LA

November 8, 2011

Cross-posted from Social Studies

I’m here at BlogWorld & New Media Expo in Los Angeles ignoring the beautiful palm trees and weather in favor of sitting inside and listening to compelling speakers present on the latest digital, social and interactive marketing trends.

Tom #1: Data-Driven Insights
I was impressed by the opening Social Media Business Summit keynote from Tom Webster at Edison Research, who leads exit-polling for elections, among other things. Tom’s focus was on ways to sort through sheer amounts of data, research, studies and trends.

Tom says social media is great for casual listening but isn’t quantitatively effective in driving research and insights. Essentially, social media is great for asking questions but isn’t the best at ascertaining answers.

Tom has found that reframing issues and questions allows for brands to achieve better answers. Rather than asking, “What do you want,” he suggests asking “How can XX make your life better?” Then brands can track those answers and map out a strategy. Notice, this doesn’t say rely on broad trends or generic studies.

While it’s fine to acknowledge the latest eMarketer hype, Tom says all the data coming out about the best time of day to tweet, publish a blog post, or the best place to place a link in an article makes him cringe. He says these types of question assumes that there is obviously a best time or a best place.

But what if it is an incorrect assumption these can or should have obvious results? Instead, Tom recommends conducting scientific studies to confirm or disconfirm these assumptions.

Data for “content creation” is inherently incurious, he says. It takes time and disconfirming things to find the right answer. And Tom uses the word “incurious” as a vulgarity!

For example, a study came out that showed press releases distributed at 1 a.m. were the most effective. This study spread like wildfire across the social web and quickly became folklore and accepted as fact. But this study made an assumption that there actually is a best time to distribute a press release, and (according to Tom) the people sharing the results of this study were relying upon flawed “science.”

Instead, Tom recommends marketers “do their own work.” Rather than align strategy with another organization’s research or logic, he suggests analyzing where one’s customers are, determining what motivates them and driving your own research.

Tom #2: Mo-Money, Mo-Mobile

Another compelling session was Tom Hayden’s session on mobile engagement. Yes, another Tom. My schedule picking strategy was to only attend presentations from guys named Tom (or Thomas or Tommy), and I succeeded.

This Tom says marketers should focus on mobile behavior and not mobile technology. When you think of mobile behavior, consider what we do, how we live and why we use mobile in our lives.

Tom says humans are not designed to sit for long periods of time, to stare at screens full of synthetic illumination and host prolonged conversations through text. Mobile allows users to more natively incorporate brand integration into our normal lives.

Mobile integration is evolving to the tipping point (50 percent of users will have smart phones by January 2012). But when a new user acquires a smart phone for the first time, they aren’t installing FourSquare and Instagram. Rather, they are using it for what they are familiar with from their “desktop past” — email, web surfing and possibly chat.

And that web surfing? It’s mostly search. Tom says 70 percent of mobile search ends up in an offline action within two to three hours. Again, this goes back to mobile behavior, not the technology. Desktop surfing is rarely integrated with an offline action. This was a key takeaway for me as I consider mobile strategy for clients.

Below is Tom’s outline of mobile friendly sites and mobile ready sites:

What is mobile friendly?

  • Condensed content (4-10x reduction of desktop site)
  • Navigation limited to 2-3 actions beyond the landing page
  • Quick load time (you have less than 30 seconds)

What is mobile ready?

  • Responsive design (device detection and customized content based on user)
  • Data feed (API – location, device, A-B testing, time/date) with CRM and/or profiling platform)
  • Cross-platform tested (iOS, Android, RIM, Windows, Palm and across multiple years and OS updates)

Another variable to consider when planning mobile programs is that fact that humans are not only staring at screens less, they are typing less. Touch screens are harder to type but easy to facilitate face to face (e.g., FaceTime, Skype, facilitating an IRL meet-up). So we’re moving back to a preference of face to face while lessening our focus on the written word.

Of note, this is why people put “sorry for typos” on their mobile signature. Tom says we’re apologizing for bad technology and subconsciously will shift to avoid it. I know personally I have significant issues typing on my iPhone and iPad, and that’s why I’m actually typing this post on a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad.

Tom showed Forrester data that illustrates barcode scanners are the fastest growing app right now — beating weather, games, navigation and music apps. As native QR apps come out in operating systems, this is a technology that is happening and won’t go away anytime soon.

Humans are comfortable with the cameras on their phones and will understand how to scan a QR code as that technology grows. However, it’s important to include multiple mediums to reach the masses (URL, SMS, QR, etc.). Tom recommends including opportunities to scan, text and click in communications with potential or current customers, then keep good track of the metrics to adapt campaigns.

I asked a question about mobile commerce and its adoption. Tom says that even though Google Wallet and other start-ups have pioneered the space, there are technological barriers PLUS human behavior barriers that will delay widespread adoption of using your phone to purchase goods on a consistent basis.

Specifically, retail stores have one kind of credit card scanner that can scan every single brand of credit card, but the acquisition of unique technology for mobile commerce is complex and expensive. I personally think barcode technology will be a good stop-gap — allowing anyone with smart phone to scan and buy something, billed back to their phone plan. I guess we’ll see!

What’s your strategy for navigating data overload and trend-based laziness? How are you rethinking mobile strategy for a changing culture?

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