Digestible content for a mobile appetite

mobile_dinnerAs web users, we quickly and mercilessly chew up and spit out sites until we find the information we need. As content creators, we often forget our own usability habits, getting lost in our day-to-day business priorities.

Though we’re constantly reminded of mobile’s ever-increasing importance, status quo internal business practices can allow us to sail by with the bare-minimum “mobile-friendly” requirements. If your view of the changing digital landscape hasn’t yet created a sense of fear urgency in your need to adapt, then I’m here to tell you that the time is now. And luckily, there is still hope (and time) to shake things up and still leave your users happy and satisfied.

‘Mobilegeddon’ is now

By now, you’ve likely heard about Google’s new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that began rolling out April 21. The new search rankings are causing a panic (“Mobilegeddon”) for many site owners, as pages with previously top search results may well be bumped to second tier if found lacking basic mobile experience criteria. USA Today estimates that as many as 40% of top websites today are not currently mobile friendly.

Google’s main objective with this shift is to improve the mobile experience for users. In its guidelines about mobile site requirements, Google mentions that a mobile-friendly site has the following: doesn’t use software incompatible with mobile (such as Flash), uses text that doesn’t require resizing, has responsive design (images and formats fit to the screen), and links are easy to tap (or not tap). I’m sure there are more on this list, but those are the basics.

To Google’s credit, they’ve sent out notifications about this in advance, have set up a mobile-friendly test page, and have created a mobile developer’s guide for all those looking for direction. Of course, there are legions of other resources online for how to create or improve a mobile site. But regardless of how your site stacks up, your mobile content strategy can almost certainly benefit from some TLC. With mobile optimization on everyone’s minds, now’s the perfect time to prepare for a very mobile future.

Changing user habits, content habits

Google’s timing is both self-interested (their annual mobile advertising revenue has tripled since 2012) and a sign of the times. A global survey recently showed that 80% of Internet users own a smartphone, and a recent Nielsen survey reveals that the average daily consumer time spent on a smartphone has now surpassed time using the Internet on a computer.

Though you might be in a position to hire a developer or fix-it service to “give you a mobile site” most content professionals are working on large, complex sites with their own development teams and processes. And likely, you already have some sort of mobile solution in place. For most of us, sadly, mobile is hardly been a key piece of the content development and management process puzzle—more of an afterthought when hurrying through the final stages of publishing or development.

As users are expecting more from their phones, they expect more from their mobile experience. Let’s break these bad habits of mobile apathy and dive into the day-to-day mobile work necessary for today’s content managers, creators, strategists, and editors.

Recipe for a mobile feast

Creating a successful mobile content strategy is obviously much more than shortening your sentences and paragraphs. While there are thousands of resources for how to get it right and do it better, what we’re concerned with here and now is building the elements of good mobile design into the framework of your content management. If you’re not supported (and supporting others) in an environment that truly allows for this, your hopes and dreams for shiny, exceptional mobile content will fall flat.

Education

One of the biggest problems is content creators’ lack of dedicated time to learn best practices. If you could be providing these resources to your team and you’re not, take advantage of the sea change to allocate some resources. If you can’t take advantage of company-sponsored webinars or resources on mobile content, then take the initiative and start honing your skills.

Scheduling

Creating mobile content takes time. At one time or another, we’ve all hoped that someone might force us to add mobile considerations to our routines, but if it hasn’t happened yet, then it’s time to have those conversations about deliverables and timelines when the additional work of honing content for mobile is involved.

Planning

To make mobile integration old hat, the use of templates or even visual examples can be extremely helpful. When learning a new skill, visualization is often key. Make it easy for others (or yourself!) to convert your content into a mobile-friendly format with checklists and templates that ensure you’re not reinventing the mobile wheel.

Testing

Do you really always test the mobile version of your page? Do you ever actually look at it and use it on a mobile device? None of your peers or superiors may view your content on mobile before it goes to production (or ever), but your users do and will. Start getting in the habit now and allow time for changes you’ll inevitably want to make once you see it on the small screen.

Innovating

Before you think you’ve conquered your mobile content, have you considered if there might be opportunities to engage users in the mobile space in ways that you haven’t considered? You may have a unique opportunity to guide the user into a pleasant and surprisingly satisfying experience—don’t leave them hungry for the site they never saw.

 

4 Essential steps for creating consistent support content (and happy customers)

How many times have you searched a company’s support site, but their help info didn’t answer your question, or worse – the information you found lacks sufficient detail? Then, you call customer service and they confuse you by giving conflicting information. Now what to do?

Or what about ‘web-only’ offers? You know the deal – it’s a nice offer for a product or service, but it’s only available online. Only online support is available for this deal – that’s how the company can afford to make the offer, and how you can save money. The accompanying support content is still likely to be lacking. You’re going to have to call them up. Only this time the customer service representative doesn’t know anything about the offer – it’s an online only offer after all!

Consistent ContentWe’ve all come across these situations. As a knowledge management professional, how can you make sure your customers don’t face these type of experiences when dealing with your organization?

Create a strategy to sync online and offline content

Following these simple steps will ensure your support channels have the same information to keep your customers (potential or otherwise) from getting confused and frustrated.

Identify and engage your content sources

Your content sources will most likely be Marketing, Customer Service, and a Communications team, if you have one. Remember that your customer service support teams have a lead time to get their content ready and their reps informed. Engage them early so they can prepare for the content updates, and update them as new developments occur.

Secondly, if you frequently make last minute adjustments due to the competitive landscape, you’ll want to consider establishing a fast-track publishing process. Identify the team, or a dedicated person, who can support this process.

Understand your lead time

Find out how long it takes for content to be created, approved and published. Ensure that anyone in your organization who makes changes to products or services builds this lead time into the project plans. This will make sure launches don’t occur without sufficient support content.

Collaborate with content creators

Build the right team of people to create the support content, both for the internal methods and procedures your support teams use, and for your external-facing support content.

Now that you know who’s involved and how long it takes, what about synchronizing the content between online and customer service? Easy. You need to collaborate! Sure, the content has different audiences and different levels of detail, but if both teams collaborate on the content together you’ll ensure they communicate the same message consistently.

Partner with your secret weapon

There’s one thing that will elevate your support content ahead of your competitors – incorporating the voice of your frontline employees. Your customer service representatives talk with customers all day, every day. They’ll know, more than anybody else in your company, the questions customers will ask. Create content that answers those questions and you’ve cracked it.

Improve customer experiences through internal engagement

A robust content process is consistent across channels. It answers the real world questions your customers have – not just the marketing driven questions. It helps your customer service representatives feel their opinions and knowledge are valued. Those agents will go to their peers and evangelize the work they’ve been doing, and everyone who supports your product or service directly with the customer is fully engaged.

If you’ve optimized your content to align customer-facing support with internal support, your customers won’t have to call you. But if they do, they’ll still get the timely and accurate information they need.

You don’t know me! Get personal with your audience.

Metrics Monday brings momentary panic as department managers get their first glance at the numbers from the week before. Spikes, dips, negative customer feedback and jagged red lines precede the rolling up of the sleeves. The content is fine – even good. After all, you wrote it yourself and you know your audience. Or do you?

Write for your true target audience

Ask any business owner who his target audience is and the response is often an emphatic, “Everyone!” Actually, it’s not. What are the odds that a 17-year old kid earning minimum wage at his after-school job will purchase a $30K car? Slim. He may, however, pocket his earnings to buy a new tablet or smartphone. Make your content matter to your true target audience.

Casting a wide net doesn’t help when it comes to content. Personalize…

Casting a “wide net” doesn’t help when it comes to content. Personalize…


Develop personas

A persona is a fictional character created by companies and marketers to help them identify their target audience. Companies often create multiple personas. Some even name their personas to humanize them. Developing personas is a long-haul process that may change multiple times. It’s also an excellent way to predict your customers’ decision-making and spending habits. You need information. Time to get nosy!

Many companies put a great deal of resources into creating personas. Others go the DIY route and tap into their email lists to perform surveys, request feedback and even contact a portion of their customers for information such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Income
  • Education
  • Profession
  • Family status
  • Spending habits
  • Internet/web habits
  • Social media habits

The more you know your audience, the more you can focus on what matters to them in an authentic way.

Cover your content bases

Customers want simplicity – don’t muck it up. While you may want to add the birthdate and name of the quality control worker who approved the product in your content, leave it out unless it’s pertinent. A wall of text that rolls off the tongue like a dissertation on dirt is a no-no. The average website visitor stays on a page for 15 seconds. While SEO is imperative for your audience to find what they are looking for, don’t stuff keywords. Just be real. Content isn’t only copy. Content is also imagery, social media, videos, blogs – the whole communications gamut.

Content communicates the message to the user, the visitor and the customer, who is also a person. The person cannot see your face or the intent in your eyes, so strategize your words and tone to send the correct message.

Content gaps + bad metrics = opportunity

Metrics Monday doesn’t have to be a pain. Consider bad metrics an opportunity to better understand your audience. Look for the gaps in your content. They are easy to find. The squeaky wheel complainers are almost certainly your Tour Guide to Gaps and Opportunities. Don’t just read their feedback. Read into it.