Note from Karen: I invited Al to write this post because as a writer (most specifically an online writer) it’s vital to understand how to adapt your writing for the growing mobile market as needed. Enjoy.
guest post by Al Hanzal
Mobile access is more than a smaller screen. With mobile access, people want to experience the internet differently.
Which means mobile customers are forcing a change in our writing styles.
The 56 year old mother waited patiently inline at Barnes and Noble. She needed a graduation book for a high school reception that evening. When it was her turn, she gave the clerk the author’s name and title of the book. After what seem like an eternity, the clerk said, “I need more information to find this book!” The mother pulled out her smart phone, found the book on Amazon.com and showed the clerk the information. After a second eternity, the clerk return, “We don’t have that book in stock. I can order one for you.” Meanwhile the mother, using her smart phone, had located the book at another book store. She called, put the book on hold and left Barnes and Noble.
Welcome to the mobile economy!
Some believe the rules for good writing never changes. I believe the rules for good writing are undergoing a paradigm shift. By good writing, I mean writing that communicates, writing that gets read and writing that gets shared. Which ultimately means writing that makes a profit. Mobile access is the paradigm shift changing the rules of good writing in our digital world.
In this post I will share why mobile access changes the rules for good writing and how we can use this as an opportunity for our writing. Let’s start with how the Internet has already changed everything about writing.
The Internet and Writing
Ten years ago, the rules for writing for books and articles were dominated by high school and college English teachers. They taught us the rules based on the great literary works that have stood the test of time.
Publishing houses controlled whose writing got shared. Many a writer gave up rather than face the long submission and rejection process.
Then along came the Internet and people wanted a different form of good writing. People scanned rather than read internet materials. Short paragraphs became the rule with plenty of white space. Titles and subheadings were as important as the content. Many English writing rules were left behind.
If we wanted to get read, we needed Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A well-written piece with poor keywords would never get found. With billions of words on the internet, if our writing could not be found, it could not be read or shared.
Podcasting became another form of internet communications. People wanted the natural voice over the written voice.
Social media sites turned the internet into an interactive channel of communication. Social media reshaped our writing styles. Twitter emerged and now we were challenged to write in 140 characters or less. To be effective our writing needed to interact, ask questions, write comments. This became the norm for getting things read and shared on social media sites.
With the popularity of Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest, visual images became as important as text in communicating and in being found and shared. A good picture is worth a thousand words. Good writing became visual!
Internet E-books gave self-publishing a new form. E-books became a popular format for sharing all forms of writing. E-books broke the stranglehold publishers had on writers.
Mobile Access Writing—a Paradigm Shift
Now we have a paradigm shift, accessing the internet with mobile smart phones and tablets. By 2014, mobile access will be the standard way people will access the digital world and economy.
That bears repeating –
by 2014 mobile access will be the standard way people will access the digital world and economy.
Mobile access is more than a smaller screen. With mobile access, people want to experience the internet differently which means if you’re trying to make a profit with your writing online, you are going to have to adapt.
Let me give you a glimpse into the hearts and minds of mobile users. What do they expect from good writing? Like every form of effective written marketing, we need to give the customer what they want, when they want it and how they want it.
Characteristics of the New Mobile Customer
Customers Control the Business Relationship
The mobile customer controls today’s business relationship. Mobile customers choose how they will learn, where they will learn and when they will learn. 91% of smart phone users keep their phones within three feet. 51% of the mobile users continue to access the internet with their devices at home. Evening usage of tablets at home is even higher as people watch TV and use their portable device to multitask.
Mobile Customers Want Specific Information
Mobile searchers want specific pieces of information. Since they often view the information on the fly, they don’t have time to view long streams of irrelevant information. Business owners need to ask the questions, “What information is critical for my customers? What are the core items in my business offering?”
Simplicity is the key.
Mobile Apps Change Products and Services
Thousands of mobile apps are making people’s lives easier. Take the example of the home security industry. This industry was created with hard wiring of security sensors, alarms and home protection devices operated by keypads in the home. With mobile apps, security is now controlled wireless from a customer’s smart phone. With these apps, people can lock and unlock doors, open and close blinds, view children with home cameras, control the temperature of the home, and operate all security functions directly from the their phone, anywhere in the world. With mobile access, the home security products have been transformed into the home automation products.
Here’s What Mobile Customer Want from Their Internet Experiences
- Create a fast website–Mobile devices must load images or content quickly. Speed is important to mobile customers.
- Keep navigation simple–Make it is easy to navigate around a site. Don’t over clutter with buttons, images or links. Touch screens have replaced traditional hyperlinks for navigation purposes.
- Scrolling and pinching–Why make the reader work? Mobile readers hate to pinch and scroll on their mobile screens. They leave sites rather than work at them!
- Button Sizes–Nothing is more frustrating than to have buttons too small or too close together. People don’t want to touch one button and get another link by mistake.
- Limit images–While images are important in today’s internet world, too many images slow down load time and frustrates mobile users. You need balance between the power of images and having too many images.
- Avoid forms–Whenever possible, avoid forms. It is a pain to fill them out on a smart phone. If a form is needed, only require necessary information.
- Voice Activation—Will become a common way to send texts and emails. My wife does all of her texting via voice activation. When she writes she is careful about her punctuation. She doesn’t use the same care when she voice activates her messages.
- Make Phone numbers clickable–By making phone numbers clickable, a visitor can make a direct call to the business.
Mobile Access Means Shopping Differently
Mobile customers shop differently from desktop shoppers. Mobile shoppers are more immediate shoppers. They want to see their buying possibilities quickly. 75% of the mobile shoppers use their device while in a store to compare prices. Mobile ads and coupons are part of the mobile user’s world.
Mobile Customer’s Effect on Other Forms of Small Business Marketing
The new mobile shopper also forces changes in small business marketing. Did you know that 36% of the mobile phone users now use their devices to access email? Do you know how badly a traditional email looks on most mobile phones? For example, with mobile email, a 5 word subject is the limit.
Sharing on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become a major use for mobile users. The power to connect with others cannot be underestimated—check in’s, picture sharing, commenting. Facebook and other social media sites have embraced mobile access.
Frustration with No Return
The most telling statistic, “76% of mobile users will not return to a website if they have a poor mobile experience”. Currently 80% of small business websites are not mobile friendly. How much business is being lost by traditional internet writing?
While some mobile preferences do not directly relate to writing styles, the way mobile customers want to receive our message forces changes in writing styles.
Opportunities for Writing Skills with Mobile Access
Every change brings a new opportunity. Mobile access and mobile user’s preferences offer us new opportunities for our writing.
Make Your Internet Presence Mobile Friendly
If we sell our writing services on the internet, we must make our own digital presence mobile friendly. If people cannot view our services on their smart phones or tablets, we will not be found.
When we make the transition to mobile friendly, I suggest a “Mobile First” transition. Mobile First means we view every aspect of our business from a mobile access perspective. We are not just accommodating mobile friendliness. We embrace the changes mobile access brings. If we make our business Mobile First, we will separate our business from our competition. I have written a detailed post on the Mobile First process that spells out how small businesses can become Mobile First with their digital presence.
Writer Opportunities for New Mobile Access Business
Since the majority of small business websites are not mobile friendly, mobile access writing gives us opportunities for new business from existing customers as well as new customers.
For Existing Customers
If we already write for other internet businesses, we now have the opportunity to rework the writing to make it mobile friendly. Use Google’s free tool to see how these existing sites look on a mobile devices. Then create a proposal for rewriting the web content to be mobile friendly. Use the material in this article to help sell digital rewrites.
To Get New Customers
Create a new writing service as part of your broader writing services. Call it something like “Mobile writing for today’s digital economy”.
The rules for mobile friendly writing are just being written. Those who approach the market place first will get a large share of the new business. The next six months are a golden opportunity for writers.
Tablets are overtaking smart phones as the preferred way people want to experience the digital world. Go to any airport, any beach and you will find 50% of the people reading from their tablets. While the rules for writing content for these tablets may be the same, the digital formats are different. They use a different technology to prepare books for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Goodread, Google books, iTunes and other self-publishing venue.
Self-publishing has become as easy as pushing a software button to transform a word document into a KDP or “ePub” file. Because it is easy does not mean it should be less professional. See James Altucher’s excellent article for self-publishing in today’s digital world.
Final Thoughts on Mobile Writing
Mobile access is a paradigm shift within the digital economy. Every change brings new opportunities. The future belongs not to the biggest, nor the strongest; rather to those who are willing to adapt. The rules for mobile friendly writing are unfolding before our eyes. The next six months are a golden opportunity for writers.
About the Author
Al Hanzal works with small business owners to put their business on local internet Map by using local search listings. He has written a Kindle book, Driving More Customers to Your Local Business that outlines a three step process for local search listing. In the past six months, he has used his blog, www.localsearchmarketing-stpaul.com to explore the changes mobile access is bringing to the small business digital economy.