This is a guest contribution from Lesley Vos.
We’re being told constantly that mobile content is like a snack, long texts are dead.
People don’t read much now, and they just watch videos or scroll pictures. They’re time poor, they consume small bits frequently and move on. And as it goes on, things get more complicated: users don’t fix eyes on anything for more than seven seconds.
Well done! You’ve just read TOP myths about mobile users. And the worst thing is, many content marketers still believe these myths.
Yes, mobile users choose different content; yes, they use it in the different time and, what is more important, the different way. We all know that.
What exactly does this “different way” mean? There are dozens of opinions around that, most of which are delusions.
Writing Mobile-Friendly Content
Let’s check what statistics say:
- The number of mobile users exceeds desktop users (comScrore)
- Users choose smartphones for online operations, such as purchases, subscriptions, or downloads (KPCB)
- Users spend more time on mobiles than desktops (KPCB)
- Two billion consumers will have smartphones by 2016 (eMarketer)
So what does that mean for you?
- All users are mobile regardless their age.
- Most users opt for mobiles, giving up their desktop computers.
- If a website demonstrates a high percentage of mobile users, it’s worth looking up to them in everything. Including text posts.
That is to say, if you want more users to check your content, you should make your marketing strategy match mobile users.
Your content should be mobile, too.
What makes mobile users different [according to old-school marketers]:
- Mobile users have smaller screens to read texts, so they don’t want to read long-form content.
- Mobile users have dispersed attention. All they need is an answer to their questions, and they do not want to spend hours on looking for it.
- Mobile users read content only when a phone’s in hand, and calls or messages can distract them.
So, it appears that the best content for mobiles is pictures, infographics, or video – snack size content.
What makes mobile users different [in sober fact]:
- Users have those smaller screens at hand, which means they check mobile content 10 times more often than if they did it at computers. If you create compelling content, your readers will continue reading it even if something disturbed them.
- A smartphone is like an anchor. We all have a reflex of checking our phones from time to time to make sure we haven’t missed any message or news.
- As for dispersed attention, mobile users are rather focused on reading: text content takes 100% of their screens, so no ads or other blocks disturb them.
- Big time segments exist when users are concentrated on content: their way to work and home, lunch time, queues, waiting for transport, etc. All situations of waiting are perfect for reading from mobile devices; so, if you give them compelling content to check during this time, users will read your blog again and again.
- Plus, many users check social networks or read something from their mobiles before going to bed.
What does it mean?
If you provide people with good text, considering some specific features of mobile content, they will read more than those using computers or laptops.
They Read Long Text Posts!
To prove mobile users love for long-form content, two examples come to mind.
The first one is BuzzFeed’s article titled Why I Bought A House In Detroit For $500. It’s a very long story: it has 6006 words and 35,000 symbols. It has garnered 1,684,299 views, 47% of which were from mobile devices. Moreover, desktop computers users needed 12 minutes to read it, while mobile users spent about 25 minutes on it.
The second example is the popularity of lists such as 101 Things You Should Do Before You Turn 30, or 5 Ideas of Viral Content for Your Blog among mobile users.
I bet that a 5-things text will never get more views than a 101-things text!
What I’m trying to say is a reader considers the long-form content of higher value.
Mobile users who can spend more time at smartphones and come back to their small screens over and over again will be happy to choose long reads. Moreover, your content is more likely to win if you specify the size of your text at its very beginning.
5 Formulas of Writing Content for Mobiles
1. Look-at-the-Screen Scheme
Once upon a time, someone created a so-called map of clicks (a heat map), and the world found out that users check a web page starting from its upper left corner.
And then content marketing came, making the warmest place of a web page look like an F, which meant users scanned content by an F-scheme.
A user takes a smartphone, and the warmest place of a page is… the whole page. Well, okay, a center of that page is a bit warmer. It’s a center, not an upper left corner now.
Such changes are crucial for your content. Opening your post, a user will see its very center; so, plan and organize your content accordingly.
Mobile users want to read long but neat content.
In 2013, James Bennet, The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief and author of Against ‘Long-Form Journalism’, was right saying:
“Long-form, on the Web, is in danger of meaning ‘a lot of words’.”
Looking for more words and pages, journalists stopped editing their texts for making them compelling. Length became a virtue, saving writers from a need to choose right words and making the rule of “the more, the better” work.
As a result, long-form content turned into senseless babbling.
Too many words, too little sense.
Mobile content welcomes long-form but demands rigorous editing and head to toe sense work. If a user doesn’t get any sense from each and every line (as we know, lines are very short in smartphones), he will not continue reading your content.
Mobile users have inflated requirements to meaning. No one will rack their brains and scroll down the screen for something uninteresting, not useful, and of no value.
It’s like natural selection: only those with super ideas, super novelty, and major advantage will survive.
- Short paragraphs. Use 3-5 line paragraphs expressing clear thoughts users will understand. If they don’t get your point, they skip paragraphs one by one, deciding to close a page as a result. Don’t let them close a page!
- Short headlines and 2-3 words are ideal for subheadings. The more words you use, the more lines they “eat”, preventing readers from seeing the text of the post itself. One more thing: don’t use large fonts for subheadings.
- Short introductions. There is a difference between introductions for mobile and web content: while the latter needs a hook to catch readers attention, the first should answer the question “Is it what I want to read now?” 3-4 lines revealing the main idea is the best introduction for mobile content.
5. Visual elements
If you want to influence readers with your blog, avoid unnecessary visual elements because they will simply “eat” your content: a user will spend time on pictures, which could mean they skim or not read at all your post’s text.
We all know of visual elements to increase a content value, but this principle doesn’t work for long-form mobile content you want people to read. Don’t also make your images so big they take forever to load – because oftentimes your text won’t load either and your reader won’t stick around.
Infographics is a different story. If the info is hard to read from a small screen, it’s not an infographic but just a graphic. If you are lucky to make it readable at mobiles, it probably has very few elements. Ensure it’s readable from all devices.
The chances are, mobile content will have won ALL hearts by 2020. If so, we should align content marketing strategies with mobile users.
By Lesley Vos, a content strategist and blogger, contributor to publications on Internet marketing, writing, and social media.