For over a decade, digital strategists have been talking about the importance of mobile web strategies and meeting audiences where they are. And while most organizations have dramatically expanded their digital footprint and recognized the importance of having a digital strategy, the wants and needs of audiences continue to evolve.
Since before the first iPhone was released in 2007, organizations have been discussing the importance of making their content more accessible on mobile devices. Mobile-first was already becoming a popular topic in 2014 (Google Trends). By 2016, mobile web usage had surpassed desktop (StatCounter, 2016), and in 2019 Google started mobile-first indexing for all new domains (Google, 2019). So why is mobile-first still such an important topic?
People increasingly continue to prioritize mobile as their device of choice
A good digital strategy centers audience needs, and audiences are on mobile. Smartphone ownership is almost ubiquitous in the United States: 85% of Americans own a smartphone, compared to 77% who own a desktop or laptop computer (Pew Research Center, 2021), 48% of US adults ages 18–29 say they are almost constantly online (Pew Research Center, 2022), and on average, Americans spend 4.2 hours a day on mobile devices (Data.ai, 2022).
Expanding your audiences
As mission-driven organizations grow and change, so should their audiences. Groups looking to reach younger audiences, people of color, and people with accessibility needs will have the best chances of connecting with them on mobile: 72% of Americans with a disability own a smartphone, compared to 62% who own a desktop or laptop computer (Pew Research Center, 2021). And while 15% of Americans overall are smartphone-only internet users—without access to desktops or laptops computers—that number increases to 25% of Hispanic and 17% of Black populations (Pew Research Center, 2021).
To find and equitably serve diverse audiences, organizations need to think mobile-first.
A Mobile Strategy That Goes Beyond Your Website
Ten years ago, the conversation around mobile strategy might have stopped at an organization’s website. Today, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. And while it may seem daunting, the range of experiences made possible by mobile opens up a wealth of opportunities to form stronger, more impactful relationships with audiences than ever before.
Content beyond websites
88% of smartphone time is spent on apps (eMarketer, 2022). In this context, apps predominately mean YouTube, TikTok, and other social media, not custom apps developed by a single organization (Data.ai, 2022). Therefore, a robust mobile strategy involves going beyond mobile-first websites and a social media posting schedule to strategizing partnerships and creative ways to create mobile-optimized content.
Partnering for Betting Content Distribution
Large organizations like the Smithsonian and the V&A Museum in London have found success in partnerships to distribute content such as podcasts, short-form videos, and even shows on broadcast television. But even smaller organizations can think creatively about how the content they create can reach bigger audiences through partnerships with other organizations that focus on content production and distribution.
The Importance of Innovation
As the mobile landscape continues to evolve—as well as audience needs and preferences—organizations’ digital strategies must also evolve. Through experimentation, trial and error, and stepping outside of their comfort zones, organizations can find new audiences and higher levels of engagement. The media landscape is increasingly ephemeral, so even established institutions shouldn’t worry too much about taking chances and having fun.
Innovative Doesn’t Mean Expensive
Innovation can take many forms and doesn’t always mean using the latest technology. For many organizations, reaching out to underserved populations through more diverse programming and channels is innovative. And, innovation doesn’t need to be expensive. By looking outside of an organization’s industry or sector, there are many opportunities with incredibly low barriers to entry.
Consider the humble QR code, which has undergone a renaissance in popularity during the pandemic. They’re not just for restaurant menus! Mission-driven organizations with in-person fundraisers, events, or even public signage can use QR codes and mobile-friendly content to create new opportunities for audiences to engage.