Expand Your Organization's Reach Using the Mobile Web
[Editor's note: This article is based on Annette Tonti's session, "ASPCA, Department of State and the Securities & Exchange Commission: How to Create an Effective Mobile Web Operation," which she co-presented with Giselle Tsirulnik, senior editor of Mobile Marketer and Mobile Commerce Daily, and Ran Farmer, managing director for North America at Netbiscuits, at the DMA 2010 Nonprofit Mobile Day held in New York City Aug. 26.]
In the last few years, cell phones have become full-fledged computers with high-speed Internet connections. This is great news for nonprofits, as it will change the game for enabling distribution to a whole new, growing audience. There are approximately 4.6 billion mobile handsets in the world — this compared to only about 1 billion desktop computers. As mobile data plans become affordable, people are quickly becoming aware of how easy it is to get to a browser and, therefore, the Internet on their mobile phones.
As the mobile Web expands, strategy options for nonprofits using mobile as a distribution channel have changed too. For any nonprofit, the data is clear: Donors are on mobile. They are looking for your nonprofit on mobile. The good news is the mobile Web offers a solution that meets every tight budget and urgent fundraising need.
App vs. mobile Web
Due to the way mobile has evolved, many believe that the "app" should be the primary focal point for a mobile strategy. Apps, which are downloaded from a “store," reside on a mobile device and are very expensive to build and maintain. An app store is an ineffective marketing option — people have to go through many steps just to reach your organization. Although mobile applications are what organizations may think they need, building an app costs nonprofits an average of $15,000 to $50,000, and that is for only one platform! For most nonprofits, it just doesn’t make sense to go this expensive route for a mobile strategy when a mobile website can cost less than $100 a year to maintain.
More and more, companies, government organizations and nonprofits are designing sites built just for the mobile Web, and it is important to understand this new medium. The mobile Web is the best option for any nonprofit because unlike mobile apps you build only one site, and it can be optimized for nearly 5,200 different handsets around the world, at a fraction of the cost.
With an app strategy, you need to build a separate app for each platform (i.e., iPhone, Droid, BlackBerry). Donors finding you is also a hurdle. In order for donors to find your app, they need to search through app stores and then download it. If they can just find you by going to the mobile Web browser and typing in your URL, it eases their pain of interacting with you.
Having a mobile website reduces the steps necessary to connect with the brand. This is good news for nonprofits; it keeps costs down while getting the best possible reach. The mobile Web has greater reach than any app.
Building a mobile site
Nonprofits need to create mobile Web strategies that are complimentary to their PC Web strategies, but the sites do not serve the same overall purpose or context.
A PC-based site is built for a 10- to 15-inch screen experience. It just doesn’t work to squeeze this experience onto a 2- to 3-inch screen. You need to think about a mobile website specifically and design for your mobile viewer. It is important to get to the point, interact and ask for what you want with clarity.
Mobile Web users have a different thinking style — they are in a different mode. Context is everything in mobile. Mobile-optimized sites make the nonprofit’s content easy to find, since it is designed for a small screen and the message is adapted to a mobile viewer.
The mobile handset gives you new and interesting ways to interact with your supporters. For example, geo-positioning features on the phone make it easier to serve content directed to a location in the future, or make it easy to direct supporters to your physical locations. Further, you can make it very easy for donors to make donations via a mobile Web "shopping cart." This does not go through the telephone network carriers, who take a percentage; rather, it is a transaction directly between the shopping cart and your organization.
Using a mobile content provider
There are hurdles in the mobile Web, but they are not difficult to overcome if you use a mobile content partner who understands the issues. Compared to your desktop site, which may need to be viewed on 10 or so different operating systems and browsers (i.e., Mac- or PC-based Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.), there are approximately 5,200 different potential viewing platforms in mobile. There are 200 carrier networks, 300 user agents per device, 500 content formats, 15 mobile browsers, six mobile operating systems and 10 software revisions per mobile operating system.
Mobile content management provides the platform layer that helps a nonprofit develop a site once and not have to redevelop for each new platform. It gives nonprofits the capability to optimize and monetize a lot of what they are doing on the Web.
Elements of a successful mobile site may include site monetization via advertisements, SMS integration, payment solutions, site search, video and geo-targeting solutions. Management is an important aspect and consists of tracking and analytics, application hosting, content and media, and a device database.
Annette Tonti is CEO of MoFuse, a mobile content management platform provider who has worked with small- to midsized nonprofits such as the Toy Industry Association and Oklahoma Youth Ministries, as well as the State Department and the SEC, to help optimize mobile Web brands.