Mobile has arrived. Yes, smartphones and tablets were factors long before Apple sold 20 million iPads. Apple’s mobile devices comprise roughly half the total mobile traffic on the web. And of the world’s 4 billion mobile phones in use, 1.08 billion are smartphones.
At last weekend’s New Media Slam at the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute, something was clear – corporate America is beginning to fund mobile development as part of basic marketing programs.
Students are ready. All their year-end presentations at UGA revolved around mobile or Facebook apps.
Attending the presentations were executives from some of the country’s most relevant brands: AT&T, Hearst, NBC, Newell Rubbermaid, and new media professors from other universities.
The presentations focused on ways mobile can enhance brands, generate revenue and make life easier.
One used a scoring system to help students find compatible roommates. Another helped users navigate and purchase music from Athens-based bands. A third focused on how O: Oprah Magazine could target its library of content to individual subscribers.
There are three decisions a company faces in pursuing its mobile strategies.
1: Does it focus on apps or mobile websites?
Apps work on individual platforms like Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, taking full advantage of each phone’s unique characteristics. Users download apps from stores like those from Apple, Android and Blackberry.
Apps are more versatile than mobile websites but not as universally accessible. Mobile websites work on virtually any smartphone but don’t take advantage of phone technology like accelerometers.
2: Does it offer “content snacking” or content that’s richer and more expensive?
Most content-oriented mobile sites offer a few paragraphs per page and maybe a picture. But the future will be augmented reality where mobile sites allow the user to make decisions about what action to take.
The more complex the “content serving tool”, the longer the download times, with more complicated formatting and higher cost of implementation.
3: How do you make money?
A year after the iPad first appeared and Zinio began selling magazine subscriptions for tablets, many consumers aren’t renewing. Even News Corp’s The Daily newspaper for the iPad is struggling.
This is a question everyone is still grappling with.
So, what is the future of web marketing? Judging from the end-of-year presentations at the UGA New Media Institute – if you haven’t already started thinking about how your site looks on a smartphone or the iPad, then you are behind the curve.
An interesting subtext for the day: the debate about the future of Facebook. With ongoing (and legitimate) concerns about the way Facebook manages privacy and with emerging competing platforms, time could chip away at the value of Facebook’s 600 million subscribers just as the company takes steps to go public. But that’s a topic for another day.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting two schools recently to see their end-of-semester projects. Scott Shamp’s New Media Institute at the University of Georgia’s Grady School and Benn Konsynzki’s courses at Emory’s Goizueta Business School are brimming with fresh ideas.
At UGA, the focus this semester was on applications using Facebook’s API. The idea is to leverage existing code on the Facebook platform to create engaging ways to connect with customers.
The students worked on concepts involving four Atlanta companies: Delta Air Lines, Newell Rubbermaid’s Graco, Turner Broadcasting for Conan O’Brien and Home Depot. I won’t go into the concepts because of confidentiality, but Turner’s senior executive was impressed enough with the work that he committed to using it as part of their Conan promotions.
The presentations were, as one executive put it, “mature” in that the students understood most of the business restrictions and complications they’ll encounter after graduating.
But a big question remained about Facebook. Issues over the way Facebook has handled privacy as well as security concerns will likely hamper companies’ use of the API. Consumers are increasingly aware of the downside of sharing their personal information via Facebook.
Several of the students said “we didn’t care about that; we sign up for Facebook applications all the time.” The older adults in the room — those of us who have been in business for while — responded in unison: “wait until you’re out of college…you will care!”
At Emory, the eight teams presented their own mobile app concepts. While most were well planned, two of them in particular were useful because they relied on mobile platforms to work.
One team used GPS, a credit card attachment, a calculator that factored in the cost of gas and the Android platform to track a car’s route in real time giving carpoolers a way to determine their fair share of the tab — and pay for it on the spot.
Another team had a lofty purpose. It’s a way to help patients, doctors and hospitals manage clinical trials. For someone with a serious health problem, this mobile app represents an easy way to learn about nearby clinical trials. Health care professionals will use the app to manage the trials.
All this reminds me of 1995 when someone who could write HTML was considered a desirable hire. These students are entering a market that’s hungry for their skills, and colleges are rising to the occasion.
What's Up Interactive is a full-service interactive marketing and website design agency in Atlanta. What’s Up specializes in a variety of multimedia marketing solutions including: web development, social media marketing, search engine optimization, paid search marketing, and email marketing strategies. Find out more about us at www.whatsupinteractive.com.
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