Is Your Brand Mobile-First or "Mobile-First"?

Mobile has utterly outstripped desktop in terms of content consumption. Do you have a real mobile-first strategy, and do you know what's next?

Matthew Klein
May 15, 2015 - 4 min. read

The latest numbers for Facebook use on mobile are fairly staggering— mobile daily active users totaled “798 million on average for March 2015, up 31% year-over-year, while mobile monthly active users were 1.25 billion as of March 31, 2015, rising 24%,” as reported by Variety.

Google also reached a mobile milestone, with more Google searches being performed on mobile than on desktop for the first time. This news comes on the heels of the company’s recent algorithm update, which penalizes pages that are not mobile friendly.

If the current state of mobile is booming, its future shows few signs of slowing down either. Forrester recently released a report on the future of mobile marketing, including predictions for mobile adoption. Forrester forecasts that the number of unique smartphone subscribers will reach 3.5 billion by 2019, representing 59% of the global population.”

The Forrester report also discusses the evolution of companies in terms of mobile marketing. They describe the first stage of mobile marketing, which involves taking desktop experiences and shrinking it to fit on a phone.

The next stage the report describes is a true mobile-first strategy for marketing—conceiving marketing campaigns and tactics that are specifically designed for effectiveness on mobile.

And the future of mobile marketing, they predict, will involve a transformation of the customer experience via mobile. Crucially, they state, smart marketers of the future will not see mobile as a separate channel, with its own campaigns and goals, but as a critical part of a more integrated marketing strategy.

How does this apply to social?

Forrester was looking at this from a broader marketing perspective. But their framework may also be useful for looking more specifically at social media and social content.

A major component of how social content is presented on mobile is of course in the hands of the networks themselves, rather than the brands that create that content. But that doesn’t mean that brands have no role to play in how well social “works” on mobile.

A lot of brands manage to create social content that is obviously conceived around mobile content consumption patterns. This Snapchat campaign done by Audi and Pretty Little Liars reached a young audience on their phones with creative content.

mobile first strategy

But many are still failing to plan all aspects of their social media campaigns so that they really work on mobile.

Some social content gets the basics right—it doesn’t, for example, link to an unresponsive site, but neither does it take into account other factors, like whether the content’s impact is as strong on mobile as it would be on desktop.

Brands may test for mobile, but it’s often a quick check just to make sure that things look okay, rather than a real assessment of how well it works on mobile. Is the text the right length for mobile consumption? Are the images cramped on mobile? Sometimes, technology is the issue. When creating posts for Facebook, with Falcon Social, you can preview how your post will look on mobile before publishing.

And too many brands are still linking from social to sites that may be functional on mobile, but are definitely not optimal. Or social campaigns with multiple steps—asking users to sign up for something, or to share user generated content—involve complicated userflows that are very unfriendly to mobile users.

The next stage for social mobile content

An early stage of improving mobile content is making sure that every aspect of the experience is conceived and tested with mobile in mind. But brands that will succeed beyond that are the ones that use mobile social content content as part of a broader integrated marketing strategy—one that takes advantage of the opportunities inherent in mobile without isolating it from other channels, in order to make marketing on the whole more effective.

This is a question of looking at several different things in parallel, including: Your goals for a social campaign, on one or multiple networks, the mobile userflow that will best help you reach that goal, your target audience, where it all fits among other mobile marketing efforts and within your larger marketing strategy.

It’s an imperfect analogy, since Facebook was the one that made the decision (and because publishers may be feeling some pressure from it), but look at the network’s recently released Instant Article feature. As a significant change in terms of how people engage with certain content, it could be instructive for brands that want to truly excel on mobile. It considers how users consume content on mobile (in their News Feed), how that experience can be simplified (integrating whole articles into the News Feed), and how the business can reach its goals (selling ads) in a way that works optimally with its audience’s mobile habits.


Introducing Instant Articles, a new tool for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.

Posted by Facebook Media on Tuesday, May 12, 2015


That doesn’t necessarily mean that all brand content should be self-contained within social feeds. Brands can improve the mobile content consumption experience by, for example, using deep links that point to app contents for users who have downloaded a brand app.

Also, Twitter and Facebook have both begun to introduce buy buttons with simple user flows, allowing brands to sell products on mobile better. Great video content that can grab people’s attention in a matter of seconds in a mobile feed, or native ads with publishers that have well-designed native products, are more in line with how people use their phones than other tactics brands use to reach audiences.

Things will continue to change for users and brands on mobile—content consumption trends, networks, content formats and more. The companies that will succeed as these changes happen are the ones that really understand their audience and its habits, and adapt their marketing to reach them on their terms.

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